Cash flow is limited among affordable housing developments to ensure the affordability of rents for residents, certainly, but owners, investors, and lenders have found considerable value in many affordable housing transactions. Accordingly, asset managers long focused on minimizing risk are now turning their attention to maximizing value and opportunity.

Here are 5 best practices characteristic of those seeking to make the most of their portfolios.

1. Target, Target, Target

Let’s face it, there’s always too much to do. The most effective asset managers target their time and effort to the properties and situations that present the most risk or the most opportunity for long-term value. Every portfolio has some high-risk deals, some high-opportunity deals, and a healthy number of stable, low-risk deals with limited long-term value potential. The targeting starts with an assessment of each deal’s relative risk and potential so that the asset manager’s most precious resources—time and brainpower—are most effectively deployed.

2. Understand the Deal as Well as the Property

To assess each deal’s relative risk and potential, the asset manager needs to look at the whole picture. Affordable housing involves managing complex capital structures and myriad stakeholders, in addition to the property itself, which is no simple matter. There is both risk and opportunity for owners, investors, lenders, and regulators in the property, the financial structure, and the relationships between the stakeholders.

The asset manager needs to understand the connection between property operations and regulatory restrictions, lender requirements, and partner tax positions—and how they affect the benefits and value of the various stakeholders. Asset managers who understand the whole picture can also provide very useful feedback to underwriters for the next deal. It’s easy to get lost in an analysis of operating expenses, but the key to increasing value may well involve bringing in a new partner or renegotiating the capital structure. Sometimes, it helps to “zoom out.”

3. Use the Budget Process

The annual budget is the time to ask the big questions about risk and opportunity—and to plan accordingly. The process of developing the operating and capital budget is the opportunity to review progress toward long-term goals for the property and investment, and to redirect asset management and property management efforts over the coming year if need be.

The budget also establishes realistic but aspirational standards and goals against which performance can be measured—and corrected— during the year (see below). It’ is also a powerful way of communicating priorities to far-flung site staff. Property-level budgeting can be time-consuming, but it’s is well worth the investment of staff resources.

4. Manage, but Don’t Micromanage, the Property Managers

Too many asset managers spend too much time second-guessing property managers. The most effective asset managers set clear direction for property management through the annual planning and budgeting process, and they hold property management accountable for results. The asset managers participate in the big decisions—about bids for capital projects, for example—but trust the property management staff to handle the constant stream of daily decisions regarding rent collection, staffing, and maintenance. If the property management company can’t deliver the agreed upon results, it’s the asset manager’s responsibility to find a different provider—not to do the property manager’s job.

5. Line Up the Right Resources

For the asset management job, the key resources are skills and data. Asset management groups need a mix of skills to process data, write reports, manage documents, analyze financial information, inspect properties, understand deal structure, solve compliance problems, strategize about recapitalization, and negotiate with stakeholders. It is rare to find all the needed skills in one person. Assembling the right team and assigning responsibilities to match the skills is critical to success. Data integrity and data collection systems are also important, but it takes people to review that data and make sure the numbers are correct.

Jenny Netzer is CEO of TCAM, an independent investment manager providing asset management, advisory, and consulting services to owners and funders of affordable housing.