The numbers are in–and nobody's walking away with big money.

According to the results of the 2004 NMHC National Apartment Management Compensation and Benefits Practices Survey, apartment companies are continuing to cut costs in myriad ways, including slowing the pace of company-wide salary increases and reducing short-term incentive and bonus payments.

"For about two years, merit increases have been trending down," says Karen Hollinger, senior director of human resources for AvalonBay Communities in Alexandria, Va. "Increases were cut to 1.5 percent to 3 percent, or zero in some cases. Before 2002, it would have been more like 3 percent to 5 percent."

Slimmer Paychecks

While multifamily employees are still getting raises in today's concessionary market, those increases are getting smaller and smaller. From executives to housekeepers, pay raises are expected to slip again in 2005, continuing the trend of the past several years.

Unfortunately for multifamily employees, bonuses aren't making up the difference. This year, the NMHC survey includes a matched-sample comparison that measures yearly changes in both base salary and total compensation for companies that participated in this year's and last year's survey for each of the 34 positions evaluated.

According to the data, average base salaries increased this year (up 3.8 percent), but because short-term incentives and bonuses were generally down in 2004, overall total compensation for multifamily employees rose by just 3.1 percent.

Fewer people are getting this extra money as well. The average number of employees receiving short-term incentives and bonuses in this year's survey fell 5.3 percent. The amount of the payments also slipped, but only slightly, by .2 percent.

This lower bonus trend shows up across the apartment property management employment spectrum. For example, property managers of communities with 300 to 500 apartment units saw their base salaries increase by 4.5 percent, but because of lower incentives and bonuses, these employees reported an average total compensation increase of only 3.3 percent.

Similarly, maintenance managers at same-size properties (communities of 300 to 500 units) received an average base salary increase of 3.3 percent, a figure slightly higher than their overall average total compensation increase of 2.9 percent.

Of course, average actual compensation does vary. Salaries and bonuses for key property management jobs depend on local rental and job markets, so they can vary significantly across the country based on what's happening in those specific cities.