Published January 15, 2002
Volume 10, Number 1

Jill Hammond's Career in Real Estate Management is 15 Years Old — and it's Just Beginning

By Jay Hipps
Network Editor 

If you talk to Jill Hammond about her career, it won't be very long until you hear the word "challenge." She has been faced with many challenges but she's still looking for more. 

Hammond grew up in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. She was married at an early age and had a baby shortly afterwards. Her husband joined the military, was transferred to Alameda, and the young family moved to California. Their relationship took different paths, however, and she found herself a single mom back in Denver. 

Jill HammondFaced with that challenge, she decided to increase her job skills in order to be able to attract the interest of potential employers. She took accounting classes through a community college and found a job as an administrator for a mutual fund company. 

During that time, she also worked part time as a bookkeeper at a nearby apartment complex. 

It proved to be a fortuitous coincidence when one of the assistant managers of the 450-unit complex left for another job. Hammond took the position, although a career in the industry didn't occur to her at that time. 

"The position came with a free apartment, more pay, and better benefits," she recalls. 

Little did she know that she was taking the first step in what is now a 15-year career in apartment management. 

Her previous time in the Bay Area, though it had been brief, had made a lasting impression, so she decided to return to California. She took a job with Prometheus Real Estate Group, a large firm which specializes in the development, acquisition, and management of commercial and residential properties throughout the Western U.S. 

It was while she worked at Mansion Grove, a development of 1,000 apartment homes in Santa Clara, that her ambitions in the industry began to grow. 

"I liked that there were so many challenges involved," she says. "I was an assistant manager and seeing what my manager was responsible for, that was just the direction I wanted to go." 

She continued in the industry by moving to DKD, a smaller company that had ten properties in Northern California, and worked briefly in their corporate offices before taking over on-site management responsibilities at Gatewood Apartments, a 200-unit complex on Stoneridge Drive. She was there for ten years. 

"I liked the industry, the knowledge I developed, and helping people find a home," she says. 

Her job there was also made life as a single parent much easier. 

"It was great there while I was raising my daughter," she says. "I could have her close by and it was very convenient." 

As her daughter grew into adulthood, though -- she turned 19 this month -- Hammond began to look for a position with more potential for growth.

"We didn't have to be aware of market conditions," she says. "The advertising and accounting came from our corporate office-- We didn't have to go out and market our community. I was looking for something more professional." 

Seeing the development of Archstone's Hacienda community as well as a second complex in Dublin caught her attention. 

"I researched Archstone, was impressed with their commitment to their residents and their service needs, and decided that I wanted to work with them." 

She was particularly impressed with Archstone's Seal of Service, five guarantees that the company makes to its residents. They include a one-day service guarantee which guarantees that an Archstone associate will respond to service requests within 24 hours and a relocation guarantee which offers assistance for tenants who desire to move to one of Archstone's hundreds of other communities in the U.S. 

"Archstone is very committed to customer service and that reflects the way that I like to do business," she says.

It has turned out to be a perfect fit. As community manager of Archstone Hacienda, Hammond oversees the operation of the entire 540-unit complex. Her job ranges from the bottom line responsibilities of running a business to making sure that tenants have not just an apartment but a home. 

She is equally impressed with the company's philosophy of doing business.

"This community is run a little differently than everything I've done in the past," she says. "The company is very inventive and they constantly come up with new and easier ways of doing things." 

One example, she says, is "safe rent approval," a program that lets her evaluate the financial records of potential residents instantly, so they know right away what will happen with their application. That makes her job easier and helps the applicants, who don't need to wait for days to find out whether or not their application has been approved.

Hammond also enjoys the challenge of the additional responsibilities that she carries in Archstone's management structure. 

"We do a lot of research on the competitive forces in the market to insure that our rental rates are in line with the market," she notes. "We also solicit feedback from our residents, which helps us provide them with the best service possible and provide them with a safe and secure home." 

Her biggest business challenge so far came as construction was completed on Archstone Hacienda and it came time to lease the units.

"We spent a lot of time researching companies in the area," she says. 

That focus on outreach marketing has been an important ingredient in Hammond's success at Archstone Hacienda and is continued today. 

"We visit companies that are nearby like AT&T and PeopleSoft and try to keep on top of market conditions -- what companies are moving to the area," she says. "We have to be aware of what's going on so we can market ourselves to those people. Every time a company moves in, there's an opportunity for us to help with their housing needs. We read the East Bay Business Times and all the area newspapers." 

Over the years, Hammond's view of her job has changed -- just as it has in the real estate industry. 

"Property management is viewed now as a career -- there are even degree programs offered in the field," she says. "It really is a career path for people." 

She is thrilled both with her current position and the opportunity to work for Archstone, now the nation's second largest REIT after merging with Charles E. Smith Residential Realty. One of her interests-- aiding the career development of team members -- also coincides with one of Archstone's values. 

"They emphasize employee development and education," she says. "I just became a member of the Institute of Real Estate Management and I'm going to be taking several courses through that organization this year." 

It's another milestone for Hammond but she won't be the only one taking classes this year. Her daughter started college last fall and her husband, an assistant golf professional at The Bridges Golf Club in San Ramon, is studying to become a head professional. If they have just half of Hammond's ambition and will to meet challenges, they should do fine.

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