Friday, March 18, 2016

Paul Mengert: Greensboro exec passionate about property management, piloting patients

Article appeared 3/18/2016 in the Triad Buisness Journal:
From the local neighborhood to blue skies overhead, Paul Mengert is most at home when he's helping others.

As a businessman, his clients are groups looking to protect the value of homes for their residents. But as a volunteer pilot, his focus is flying patients to distant medical  appointments  in a fraction   of the five to  10 hours  of driving it would require  otherwise.

Mengert is the founder and president of Association Management Group, one of the Carolinas' largest homeowners association and condominium management firms. AMG cunently has 40 employees  spread  among its offices  in Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greenville, S.C., and Aiken, S.C. Together, they handle several hundred condominiums, town home and planned unit developments in N01ih and South Carolina.

Mengert launched the company in 1984 and said growth in neighborhood associations has been driven by the proliferation of planned communities with shared amenities  such as golf courses  and  swimming pools.

"By making the planned community into an association, (developers) could sometimes use land that otherwise wasn't buildable to make housing more affordable," he said. "The reason for associations stems from the affordability of land use and from amenities and from the sense of homebuyers caring about who they're going to be living   around."

Or, more specifically, what other homes in the neighborhood look like. Mengert said AMG works with a few neighborhood associations that go as far as prohibiting lawns from exceeding a certain height and requiring that homes be painted a ce1iain way. Not all associations are like that, he added, but they  all provide some degree of control over the environment.

AMG has grown steadily, working as a  facilitator  of  homeowner  associations.  It works  with the  leaders of the associations to expedite whatever services are offered . That  includes everything from  ensuring lawns are cut regularly, plants and shrubs are neatly trimmed  and  homeowner  dues are collected monthly.

Mengert said the competition to provide these services is pretty stiff.

"Like  a lot of industries,  it falls into a couple different categories where there are probably a dozen or so companies that are major players  in the industry in our state," he said. "Then there are some medium-sized companies. There are also companies that handle just one association. It runs the gamut."

Competition is one challenge in the industry, but so are factors that impact the real estate market. The proliferation of apartments, for example, doesn't alarm Mengert as much as the underlying reason that some younger adults are gravitating towards living there instead of buying homes.

Young potential home buyers aren't as excited about homeownership as a decade ago, before the latest recession hit.

"That said, home ownership has been one of the best long-term investments over a long period of time in the U.S.," he said. "I still think there are a lot of consumers who are attracted to homeownership not only because of the stability it gives them but also because of the long-term investment. Homeownership will continue to be an important part of most people's investment strategies."

Compared to other markets in North Carolina, including Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, the Triad is generally more resistant to the fluctuations of the economy and real estate market, Mengert said.

"Yes, we've had some downside in real estate values during the recession,  but I think  our market got hit less than a lot of other markets," he said. "And when you look at it from a homeowners association perspective, those that have more turnover seemed to be affected more by the economy. Communities where people have been there for a long period of time -like most of those in the Triad- seem to be affected very  little."

Mengert said that lately, one of AMG's big initiatives has been helping  associations  outside of the Triad  to maintain  or lift property values.

"It's always an undesirable situation if home values are declining," he said. "We really try to  work with different communities to help them devise strategies if their homes are decreasing in value. We look at why that is and what can be done about it. In some cases we've been able to facilitate a kind of informal group of Realtors to talk about what could be done to help the  prope1iy  values.

But Mengert said the biggest challenge at AMG right now is staying on top of all the rules the different homeowners associations want it to enforce. He said some of the complexity has to do with legislative effort that, in some cases, change what  communities  can and can't  do.

"I'm not saying whether those changes are right or wrong, I'm just saying it's a challenge," he said.

He cites as an example the big dispute over satellite dishes from a few years ago. Most neighborhood associations AMG worked for simply banned them because the dishes were unsightly.  Then regulators  basically  stated that  satellite dishes couldn't be  prohibited.

"Reconciling those kinds  of things is always a challenge," he said. "On the one hand we have    some owners who theoretically bought into that community because they didn't want to look out  their window and see a satellite dish. We have other owners who really want satellite TV service. Balancing  the interests  and rights  of all the members  is really important."

When he's not ensuring that lawns are manicured, hedges are tidy and satellite dishes are tastefully hidden, you'll often find Mengert in the cockpit. He has made multiple trips to deliver beds, toys and clothes to an orphanage in Haiti, but also has since 2009 volunteered with Angel Flight Soars. With the help of 1,000 volunteer pilots like Mengert, the nonprofit flies 2,500 missions a year.

Late last year, for example, Mengert flew Helen Lindsey, a quadruple amputee awaiting a bilateral  hand transplant,  from Atlanta to  Winston-Salem  for a doctor's  visit.

"I personally suffered (and fully recovered) from a condition that required medical treatments not available locally," Mengert says. "Because of this, I am very empathetic to those who are in need, or who have a loved one in need, of nonemergency medical treatment not available in their home city. Angel Flight  Soars facilitates transportation  for people  at a time of need.", the nonprofit flies 2,500 missions a year.

This article is from the Triad Business Journal:

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