How to Apply the Right Criteria to Evaluate Property Management Companies



The homeowners in your association depend on you and other board members to look out for their best interests. That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly research and compare property management companies before selecting the one that will best meet the needs of your community. After all, the choice you make today can impact your property for years to come.
 
But believe it or not, you’re already a step ahead of countless other associations. Many of them aren’t even aware of the benefits they would gain by partnering with a professional management company. The fact that you’re in the evaluation process at all means you understand how a management company can
  • Help you enhance property values
  • Offer services that you might not otherwise have
  • Assist you in creating a more realistic and actionable budget
  • Mitigate your association’s exposure to a variety of risks
  • Improve resident lifestyles
For you, the question isn’t whether you should work with a property management company. The question is “How do you decide which one to select when there are so many to choose from?”
 
Carefully assessing each company’s ability to deliver the service and value your community expects is critical. The following eight questions are designed to enable your association board to apply important criteria to your evaluation process.
 

1. What services will be included?

A full-scale property management company should be able to handle all of your day-to-day operations, accounting, preventative maintenance and resident communication. It should also help you with your strategic planning and offer value-added services you may need, such as staffing, training and engineering. Be sure to get a breakdown of the services that are included before you sign a contract.
 

2. How will you help us better manage our money?

Look for a company that has in-house budgeting and financial management expertise. See if they’re willing to share that expertise through training programs designed for board members.

Find out if they offer any unique opportunities for saving your association money. Perhaps its buying power translates into discounts on products and services for your community. Or maybe it has partnerships with organizations that translates into favorable insurance premiums, attractive interest rates on loans and higher yields on investments. Any of these advantages will be sure to stretch your association’s dollars.
 

3. Do you have the resources to adequately support our community?

A good management company should have the resources to quickly address your needs and offer specialized expertise when necessary. This is demonstrated by the company’s
  • Strong leadership
  • Collaborative, team approach to property management
  • In-house legal, accounting, information technology and human resources professionals
  • Strict internal processes to protect your association’s finances and data

4. What kind of training do your associates receive?

Some states and provinces require property managers to be certified. However, even if it is not mandatory in your area, the company you work with should encourage staff to earn these credentials. Look for certifications and designations from professional organizations like Community Associations Institute (CAI) and the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), which let you know that you will be in the hands of well-trained professionals.

You also want to see that the company offers continuing education opportunities to its associates. The property management industry is ever-evolving based on new research, new legislation and the changing needs of communities, so it’s important for your management team to stay current.

Check to see if the company offers training classes for board members as well. If it does, it’s a strong indication that it is deeply committed to helping board members do the best job they can.
 

5. How will you deliver customer service?

Expect to have access to a customer service center that you can call anytime to get information, ask questions and report urgent issues. In addition, find out if
  • You will receive proactive communications on a regular basis
  • Someone from your management team will be attending your association board meetings
  • Financial reports and statements will be provided to the board on a frequent basis

6. Do you offer a web-based platform to connect residents, board members and our property management team?

The management company should offer an online platform that can be customized for your community. Ask for a demo to see if it is easy to use and enables residents, board members and the management team to communicate, resolve issues and conduct community business anytime, from any device.
 

7. What safeguards do you have to protect our association?

The company should have the ability to separate financial responsibilities, as well as provide other internal controls to safeguard your money and protect both the association’s and homeowners’ confidential information. Investigate the company’s level of transparency and accountability. Keep in mind that a publicly traded company will be held to strict standards and will be subject to annual third-party audits – all of which help to further protect your community.  
 

8. What can you offer to help us be more competitive?

Companies that manage similar communities in your area will be able to collect and report on a significant amount of information. Find out if the company can provide you with benchmarking data so you can assess how your community measures up to others like yours. This will allow you to make informed decisions about improvements and upgrades you can make to help your community stay competitive in a vibrant real estate market.

Posing these questions will not only provide a vehicle for applying the right criteria but will also create consistency so you are truly comparing apples to apples when looking at how different property management companies stack up. 
 
If you want to learn more about how your association can benefit from a professional property management company that meets all your criteria, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company, by filling out this form today.