React, Outsource, or Prevent? What’s Your HOA’s Maintenance Style?

Posted on Thursday April 26, 2018

Complete the form at the bottom of this page to download our complimentary white paper, Pay Now or Pay (More) Later? Making the Most of Your Reserve Study and Maintenance Budget.


Did you know maintenance can make up at least 25% of your association’s overall expenditures? That includes maintenance of your buildings, amenities like pools, common areas and roofing, essential equipment like HVAC and plumbing as well as “surprise” projects (including issues resulting from natural disasters). The good news? As a board member in your Arizona homeowners association, preventative maintenance management should not be your responsibility. Rather, you should partner with a proactive community management company that makes sure maintenance is taken care of on a consistent and ongoing basis.

Unfortunately, many HOA management companies and boards choose to delay necessary repairs because they don’t have the expertise, bandwidth or resources, and this ends up costing much more in the long run. Deferring essential maintenance can cause small problems to become much bigger ones later on, which can result in a need to collect special assessments from residents. To learn more, complete the form on this page to download our comprehensive White Paper, Pay Now or Pay (More) Later? Making the Most of Your Reserve Study and Maintenance Budget

HOA maintenance management falls into three categories, and there’s a good chance your association will fit into one of them. Read below to learn what your HOA’s maintenance style is. 

Maintenance Style #1: Reactive Maintenance

“Ignorance is bliss. Until something breaks.”

The most common maintenance style for HOAs is reactive. That means that the HOA management services company is focused on fixing equipment on a problem-to-problem basis. While this style of maintenance is tempting because it means your association isn’t spending money on ongoing maintenance, it is not cost-effective in the long run. The truth is, while it may save money temporarily, you’ll end up paying significantly more money in the long term. 

When you wait for components to break, it costs more money to repair them on the spot. Rodney Riepenhoff, corporate engineer at FirstService Residential, likens it to keeping yourself healthy with regular physicals versus seeing your doctor only when there’s a problem or for a quick check-up. He said, “Reactive maintenance is like going into your doctor when you get sick versus getting an in-depth physical on a regular basis. You may miss a critical (and potentially expensive) issue because your equipment is not being reviewed regularly.”

This often happens because many companies, in addition to community and general managers, have limited resources and bandwidth. Many community or general managers are weighed down with too many accounts and don’t have access to in-house experts in engineering, finance and budgeting. As a result, they don’t have the resources or time to develop proactive and cost-effective maintenance plans.

Maintenance Style #2: Third-Party Managed Maintenance

“It’s their job, not mine.”

Who is really managing your community’s assets and equipment? If it’s anyone but your management company, it might be time to reevaluate your approach. Many associations have a hands-off approach to maintenance, which means they rely on third-party vendors to fix what’s broken and maintain existing equipment in order to prevent future problems.
 
By exclusively working with vendors to solve maintenance issues instead of keeping it within your association, you lose some of the control and are not managing maintenance with the big picture in mind. Of course, partnering with trusted vendors is critical, but you should not be relying on them to manage your maintenance. They are not exclusively dedicated to your community (they have other clients, too). That’s your management company’s job. And it’s safe to say that a third-party vendor will not have the same amount of stake in your association’s financial state and continued growth and development as your management company. Finally, challenges can also arise if you have a maintenance project where multiple vendors are involved. If you don’t have a point person on your side, it will be difficult to determine which vendor should coordinate the project and whether it’s comprehensive enough for your needs.

Maintenance Style #3: Preventative Maintenance

“It’s not if, but when. That’s why we have a game plan.”

If your management company has a solid preventative maintenance (PM) plan in place, you’re in good shape. Adopting a proactive (versus reactive) approach to maintenance is the only way to go when it comes to managing a community, whether that’s a high-rise, a large master-planned community, condominiums, or a single-family home association. But how do you determine whether your association is set up for maintenance success? Start by evaluating how your management company responds to everything else. If you’re experiencing a lack of responsiveness when it comes to resident or board requests, those issues will likely flow into your maintenance plan. You may not have maintenance problems now, but if your management company’s culture is generally unresponsive, it’s only a matter of time. Riepenhoff said, “To evaluate whether you have a true preventative maintenance plan, you need to take a look at your management company’s overall culture. Is their culture more proactive or reactive? A management company with a reactive culture will only respond to problems as they happen, which saves money upfront, but will ultimately cost you more in the long-run.”

A full-scale preventative maintenance plan requires ongoing monitoring and inspections of all of your buildings, amenities, facilities and equipment by a trained professional. To make this happen, you and your board should partner with an experienced management company that has a network of valuable in-house resources and partnerships with trusted vendors and skilled engineers. Your management company may also enlist the help of a part-time or full-time project manager, depending on the scale of the issues. Having a thorough preventative maintenance plan in place positions you for financial stability and greater predictability. It allows you to think far enough ahead so that you can implement proactive money-savers such as green building practices or using more energy-efficient equipment and materials. 

How Do I Determine My HOA’s Maintenance Style?

If you’ve read this far, you probably have an idea of what kind of maintenance style your management company has. However, if you’re not sure whether you have a preventative maintenance plan in a place or if it’s robust enough and on track with your community’s needs, start with a conversation. 

In part two of our series, we explore a list of vital questions you can ask your management company (or prospective management company) to find out if your HOA is deferring maintenance, unprepared or planning ahead. The transition from reactive to proactive maintenance doesn’t always come easy, but it’s an important step to take in order to maximize your savings and minimize unpleasant surprises.
 
To learn more about the importance of a preventative maintenance approach in relation to your reserve study, complete the form below to download a complimentary white paper: Pay Now or Pay (More) Later? Making the Most of Your Reserve Study and Maintenance Budget.


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Complete the form at the bottom of this page to get a free guide, Pay Now or Pay (More) Later? Making the Most of Your Reserve Study and Maintenance Budget.