Owners to boards: "Drop dead!"

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The New York Times published an autumn check-up on the local real estate market this weekend, finding that while inventory has stabilized, asking prices are down 24% since a year ago. 

But what's good for buyers may spell more bad news for boards, if this year's pitchfork-packed annual meetings were any guide.

“There was a lot more contentiousness at the annual meetings than in previous years,” says Paul R. Gottsegen, the head of Halstead's property management division, of the meetings held in May and June.

Gottsegen, who oversees the inner workings of 80 full-service buildings in Manhattan, blames the unrest on falling property values and a down Dow--two reversals-of-fortune that caused owners to take an unusually hard look at the way their buildings were being run.

“I wouldn’t say they were issue-oriented as much as anxiety-oriented,” says Gottsegen.  “Everyone was a little upset, saying ‘Let’s do something, let’s change the board.’ Some boards got completely overthrown and some were completely untouched.”

The common rallying cry was transparency—the word that led us to Gottsegen in the first place, after reading a quote from him in Habitat magazine’s annual management survey, in which he argued for a better balance between openness and privacy in board matters.

It turns out he thinks there’s a bit too much transparency--at least on building websites.

“Don’t confuse transparency with uninformed chatter,” warns Gottsegen. "Informational websites are great, but discussion websites are not. Anyone can get on and they’re reinventing the wheel—and in some cases they’re just uninformed. These issues have been discussed by the board, and there’s a good reason a rule was created--but they don’t know it.”

To hear more about Gottsegen's views on transparency as well as what went down at this year's annual meetings, take a look at this informational video interview posted on Habitat's website (scroll down to find Gottsegen's name).

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