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Students master property management

By Shane Nelson

April 24, 2003 9:00 p.m.

They work seven days a week, 24 hours a day and go to school
fulltime.

That may not seem humanly possible, but with a part-time
property managing job it’s practically true.

For the past year, fifth-year economics students Angie
Villapudua and Chris Haro have managed 88 units in Westwood Village
for Xenon Investment Corporation. The apartments are spread among
six buildings, all within two miles of campus.

Since they work out of their small, but tidy, fourth-floor
apartment in one of the buildings, they are basically at work
whenever they aren’t in class. Even at school in between
classes, they are on their cell phones coordinating maintenance
requests.

And there is no excuse for turning off the emergency pager they
have with them ““ every day after 6 p.m. and all day on
weekends ““ to watch a movie.

“There is never really an ending time (to the day),”
Villapudua said.

“Even when you’re watching TV, you’re at work,
because there is always something to be done or on your
mind,” she added.

The two met about four years ago when they were both students at
UC Riverside. After a summer accounting internship where most of
the people they worked with were UCLA graduates, they decided to
transfer.

Though they didn’t plan to manage apartment buildings,
when they heard their manager was leaving, they figured it was the
perfect job to help pay the rent.

Xenon wasn’t excited to hire students for the position,
but after a few weeks of persistent inquiries, they said they got
an interview. And by the end of the interview, they had the
job.

Despite the responsibility, they love property managing, saying
it’s been great preparation for their future.

Both students plan to graduate from UCLA in June and move on to
careers in accounting. But with their Xenon experience this year,
they also see themselves buying and managing their own buildings
after they marry and settle down.

“You can never go wrong with real estate,” Haro
said.

In the meantime, the duo gain more experience every day
collecting rent, handling maintenance requests, and leasing
upcoming vacancies.

This is the busiest time of year for property managers, because
a majority of their tenants move out in June when they graduate or
go home for the summer, Haro said.

The two hold open house two hours a day Monday through Friday
and four hours each Saturday and Sunday to rent the 70 available
apartments.

Though prices run a little on the high side for the market
““ one-bedrooms top out around $1,450 while two-bedrooms
at $2,300 ““ renting the available apartments isn’t
hard, Haro said.

“All the buildings have a character all their own,”
Villapudua added. “Since it’s Westwood, we don’t
have to sell it, it’s just a matter of showing (the
apartment) to as many people as we can and eventually someone likes
it.”

Aside from open house, the rest of their daily work can be done
anytime because the job is relatively flexible, Villapudua
said.

About 90 percent of their tenants are students, so most of them
are gone all day anyway, she added. But some tenants say the
job’s flexibility within one day isn’t very much
flexibility at all; if something goes wrong, it has to be taken
care of right away.

Julia Reichert, a third-year art history and American literature
& culture student, said she’s had all sorts of problems
with her apartment since she moved in eight months ago. The student
manager’s number is always the first she calls.

First there were cockroaches in her apartment that “Chris
and Angie” sent exterminators to eradicate. Then at different
times in the year her toilet, dishwasher and garbage disposal broke
and had to be fixed or replaced. And then with the recent
downpours, her balcony flooded and had to be drained.

“I always tell them I wouldn’t want to have their
job. Just based on the number of calls that we elicit, I
can’t imagine how many they get from the rest of the
apartments, and go to school full-time,” she said.

Villapudua and Haro say they meet a lot of people like Reichert
who question their ability to manage six buildings and finish
school, especially parents helping their students look ““ and
pay ““ for a place to live.

“They always ask how we do it. Or they will say right in
front of their children, “˜I wish my kid worked,’ and
their kid’s right there,” Haro said.

But Villapudua said they tell them they have no other
option.

Both students get little help from their parents. In fact,
Villapudua said she works an extra job on campus six hours a week
so she can help her family. She is the first in her family to
attend to college.

Even with the hectic schedule, they do get a day off from time
to time, such as Easter holiday which they spent studying. They
rarely take off more than a day though because they are the only
ones who know what’s going on in their buildings, Villapudua
said.

Despite the students’ work ethic, Xenon President Rohit
Mehta acknowledgd the job is too much for people with “other
commitments.” When they leave, he said will hire someone who
can be on-site all day.

“Management’s intent is to take care of the
buildings. I don’t think it’s fair to students to have
to (work every day), but they need the extra income. It’s a
Catch-22,” Mehta said.

Regardless of their boss’ concern for both the buildings
and students’ welfare, Villapudua said the arrangement has
worked pretty well.

Reichert agreed, saying they’ve always been timely in
resolving problems and that she is going to miss them next
year.

“They’re students, so they can relate to
students,” she added.

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Shane Nelson
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