Advocating Accounting

By on Feb 13, 2020 in People

AccountingIn honor of National Apartment Careers Month, we shine a spotlight on professions within the multifamily housing industry. Accountants embrace a multifaceted career that stays relevant even when the winds of change blow their hardest. Their versatile skills sets prove useful in various arenas of the field, offering the professionals options for growth and new challenges.

Across the board, accountants enjoy the dynamic atmosphere of the housing industry. It’s not a matter of sitting at a desk for hours, pushing paper and crunching numbers on the same tasks day after day. Tiffany Godley, Senior Accountant at Avison Young, values the flexibility offered by the field because it allows her to remain passionate about her job and interested in her continued growth. “It’s not monotonous by any means. There are new challenges every day; the market is changing every day. Real estate offers so many different avenues to take: apartments, retail, hotels, commercial properties, building–once you’re in, you’ve got so much flexibility. It’s actually hard to get bored.”

That flexibility comes in the form of vertical and latitudinal job tracks. Real estate firms open a world of career options for accountants. Sandy Roberts, Controller at Thomson Companies, discovered that her degree and experience qualified her to wear many hats within the company. “[A controller’s] responsibilities can vary, from financials from the beginning to the end of projects, as well as human resources, payroll and beyond. Accountants are under a large umbrella with lots of potential.” Such endless possibilities make accountants an invaluable part of the housing industry. “Accountants become the go-to person that’s always in demand,” she says.

Such demand has not seemed to dwindle in face of increasingly sophisticated software. Rather, advances in technology have enabled accountants to perform their jobs more efficiently without causing a direct threat to job security. Roberts, who holds 32 years of experience, has seen plenty of changes in the industry that have made day-to-day operations more manageable: “Computer enhancements have made my job easier. I converted our company, 15-20 years ago, to our own computer based hardware so we didn’t have to ship out our accounting to a third party. Then we began interfacing Yardi’s Voyager product with our apartments, which changed the process drastically. Such programs make it easier to keep track of things and communicate with clients and tenants.”

Learn more about Yardi Voyager, a fully integrated accounting and property management solution.

Godley believes that advances in technology have added to the staying power and capabilities of accountants. “Changes in technology generally help,” says Godley. “Certain reconciliations we would have to do manually through Excel and similar programs. Now, there is software that handles it for us. We manipulate the data into a coherent whole but much of the crunching is automated. It’s a big change in the way that things are done. Work moves faster. More automated processes—ACHS, electronic signatures, better software—means smaller paper trails with more efficient results. Accountants can accomplish more, faster and better. That adds to our value.”

The outlook for the immediate future seems positive for the multifamily housing industry. Multifamily housing has opened more career opportunities for job seekers. Housing has rebounded from the tough times at the turn of the century. “Everything has come full circle for me. The volume now is what it was in 2000.” reflects  Richelle Losch Bell, CFO, Traton Homes. “I saw the height and the downfall of the industry and now we’re back at a somewhat level playing field. It’s a good time, I think, for accountants to take the plunge into the world of housing.”

But before strapping on a degree and diving in, there are a few things budding accountants should know.  Losch recommends creating a network as early as possible. “If someone really wants to get involved in housing, they should join their local chapters for real estate professionals because the networking in priceless. Start your networking very early and then get in with a real estate company or builder as soon as you can to get your foot in the door. Networking is part of what makes our jobs flexible. The right connections and openings can help you go in a lot of directions.”

Similarly, Godley recommends selecting an employer that can offer the widest range of career paths under their company name. “Consider all aspects of the company and what their client base is. Get an employer with a variety of clients so that you can gain as much experience as possible. Get an employer with a variety of services, so that you have the opportunity to cross-train. Cross-training makes you more valuable as an accountant. We become the person to go to for just about anything relating to a property and there is a sense of accomplishment and security in that. And challenges, always challenges, but those overcoming those challenges will add to your value, opening even more doors in the future.”

To learn more about the range of possibilities available for accountants in the housing industry, visit Association of Women Accountants in Real Estate and Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business.