Investing In Communities

Kevin and Annie Byrd have taken Baltimore’s housing revitalization market and turned this hot commodity into a lucrative business venture — Signature Management & Realty L.L.C. Signature Management is a residential property and management firm that owns and manages multifamily dwellings in the Greater Baltimore–Washington, D.C. area. The firm uses digital documentation and a customized, property software management program to provide its clients with state-of-the-art service. Signature Management, which posted revenues of $250,000 in 2004, offers real estate investors an array of services including leasing, management, maintenance, and construction.

In addition, the Byrds educate investors about real estate opportunities under their parent company, Fortress Investment Group L.L.C. The seven-employee firm works with a roster of subcontractors who specialize in electricity, plumbing, and roofing. Fortress’ client base consists primarily of professionals who have an interest in purchasing investment property, but lack the time or expertise needed to manage the properties.

Prior to moving to Maryland, Annie was an administrator at Harvard University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute, while Kevin worked as an insurance agent. In 2001, the Boston natives uprooted to Baltimore. The duo realized that despite many of Baltimore’s impoverished areas, the city still had potential for growth and revitalization. “We saw the possibility of Baltimore becoming a ‘comeback city,'” says Annie, 37, the firm’s president.

Relying on faith, the couple resigned from their jobs, put their house up for sale, and relocated to Maryland. Kevin, 48, was soon hired as an inspector for the Housing Authority of Baltimore. He worked in this capacity for a year and a half prior to his current role as senior vice president of operations for the firm. A few months later, the couple took $18,000 from their 401(k) plan and used the money to buy their first property in Southeast Baltimore. The next year, they sold the property for $50,000, nearly three times its original price.

To familiarize herself with the industry, Annie studied aggressively and became acquainted with Maryland’s real estate laws. By the end of 2001, Signature Management had 25 properties under management. The company’s motto is, “How your property is managed TODAY will determine its value TOMORROW.”

Determining ways to manage the company’s rapid surge in growth has been a challenge. Like many entrepreneurs, the couple is responsible for all aspects of their business. However, in order to sustain and promote growth, they quickly realized that they must relinquish some of their duties and delegate more responsibility to their staff.

Over the years, the firm has built strong alliances with personnel and staffing agencies in an effort to attract, hire, and maintain qualified employees capable of handling the rigorous demands of the business. The firm also provides its staff with ongoing training and mentoring programs to keep them abreast of industry changes.

Today, Signature Management has more than 175 properties under management. Within the next five years, the Byrds plan to take their company national by opening additional offices in other major metropolitan cities.

Signature Management & Realty; 3222 Belair Rd., Baltimore, MD 21213; 410-563-0400;