Estate Affairs: “Estate Management” Is a Profound Understatement

By Jeff Wing   |   July 9, 2024

“Estate Management.” You just know this is one of those deceptively tidy terms that contains worlds. Surely one approach to grasping the Estate Management space would be to put the question to an actual Estate Manager. “What constitutes a typical day?” Or maybe not.

“Every single day is different,” says Kelly Warner with something like joy. She is Founder and Managing Member of Warner Management, Inc., for some 28 years a premiere boutique Estate Management company here in Montecito (with several properties further afield). “You’re being pulled in 15 different directions, constantly making decisions over and over and over. There’s a very high standard that we’re being held to, so there’s always something that needs doing.”

Blue-chip Estate Management is not only about maintaining, but foreseeing. “A lot of the mentality with these properties is about making sure a thing is taken care of before the winding down of its useful life.” Useful life is a term that describes the depreciation of an asset – or in plainer, more relevant language, the wearing out of something vital to the Estate. Warner elaborates. “In your own home, you have a water heater that might live to be 8 to 12 years old. When it finally fails, you’ll call somebody and get it fixed. In my homes, that can never happen. We make sure that we’re staying ahead of things like that. This applies to plumbing, to HVAC, to so many things. It’s always about staying 10 steps ahead.”

This combined daily ritual – being stretched like taffy while staring meaningfully into a future staggered with uncompromising deadlines – may not be for everyone, but it certainly seems to suit Kelly Warner. Throughout her description of the endlessly looping rigors of Estate Management, Warner is grinning like a lottery winner. This multi-multi-multi-tasker has long since found, and mastered, her professional purpose. The depth, variety, and dynamism of Estate Management makes every day a series of summits, and Warner wouldn’t have it any other way. The work is a cornucopia.

“It’s about keeping the household in harmony as well. So we’re talking about housekeepers, we’re talking about rosarians working with landscapers, we’re talking about working with painters. You need to have the people skills to positively engage, to really keep spirits lifted and their energy high. You want to assure, for instance, that your property stays a top priority for the subcontractors on a given project. You’re juggling different personalities all day long, and at the same time you’re trying to keep the homeowner happy.” 

People may think that an Estate Manager is just a property manager whose “property” is estate-sized – but the difference between the two is much more than one of scale. A country and a village are of two different scales, but that is not their chief distinction.

The Institute of Real Estate Management describes the Estate Manager as “…responsible for overseeing the daily operations of a residential property, ensuring that everything runs smoothly. This includes managing staff, overseeing maintenance and repairs, and ensuring that the property is secure. The Estate Manager also handles financial matters, such as budgeting and financial reporting.”

The Estate Manager is thus a sort of mega-steward with encyclopedic know-how – and the deep bench of connected experts required to leverage that know-how as the estate’s needs dictate. The Estate Manager mobilizes resources in the interest of protecting, maintaining, and even enhancing the value of the property. This necessarily involves financial astuteness, deep property management competence, and (yes) excellent people skills.

By way of illustration, Warner Management, Inc., self-describes as “A Boutique Management Company – Offering Detailed Personalized Services.” Detailed is a polite understatement. Dividing their service suite into the Estate Management, Personal Assistant, and Concierge categories, what Warner Management offers is…everything  –from Provide project management to Event planning, organizing, coordinating, and flawless execution on day of the event, to Prepare home for arrival and secure home after departure. Even the Estate’s non-humans get the red-carpet treatment with a starkly-stated service proffer that you just know manifests as a cooing labor of love: Manage pet and equestrian care. The range of responsibilities is vast, and reliant on professionals comfortable with a degree of deeply informed autonomy.

“When it comes to project management and construction,” Warner says, “I often act as the liaison, or owner’s rep, between the homeowner and the general contractor. That entails finding the best subcontractors, collecting proposals, negotiating, reviewing invoices, overseeing the work and the craftsmanship, and keeping things running on schedule.”

Estate ManagerKelly Warner loves every minute of it, and has spent 28 years perfecting a granular, acutely organized regimen (and network) that gives her the 10,000-foot view necessary to, effectively, be everywhere at once. Allying with gifted in-house professionals is also absolutely key, of course. Warner greatly relies on powerhouse Administrative Associates Claire De Fabio, Katie Ortiz, and an amazing team of housekeepers and subcontractors to make all this possible. 

Warner manages a business whose nonstop array of responsibilities is almost civic in scope. What tangibles can an Estate Manager offer the previously beleaguered owner of a private estate? Oh, just peace of mind. Warner Management is all over it.

“My properties glow,” Warner says, not boastfully, but matter-of-factly. “I love seeing my client really pleased when they arrive, or after a big construction job. Something within me drives me to perfection, if you will. It’s just something that’s innate in me. I really take pride in my homes and in my clients, and I’m just happy and blessed to have this job.”  


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