Here’s the good news: hiring the right property management company is going to make your life as an HOA Board Member much easier. On the flip side: there is no shortage of property management firms to choose from, so selecting the best fit for your community association is going to take a little bit of work.
So how do you begin? Nail down your needs, advises Brian Duff, V.P. of Sales at FirstService Residential. “The number one reason Boards are unhappy with their property management companies is a lack of consensus of their needs,” he explains. “So before you begin the selection process, have all of your Board members do an assessment to determine the needs of your association and community. Start with any big projects on the horizon and focus on the residents – why they chose to live there, what they’re proud of and what they’d change.”
Once your homeowners association agrees on your needs, you can focus on finding a company to best fulfill them. Follow the tips below and you’ll be well on the way to finding the best property management company for your community.
1. Ask the companies the same questions.
Remember that old cliché about comparing apples to apples? You can’t effectively compare and assess the viewpoints and capabilities of your candidate firms unless you ask all of them the same questions. Create one list of solid interview questions and ask all of the firms to answer. What type of questions should you ask? We’re glad you asked…
2. Ask some basic questions.
In addition to finding out essential info such as whether each potential firm is local or national, how long it’s been in business and whether it’s licensed and certified, here are a few other important considerations to help you decide:
3. Ask some detailed questions.
Do you provide full-service management? What operations and maintenance services do you provide?
How many properties do you manage?
What are your staff and client turnover rates?
What do you think is the optimal solution to our needs?
What other communities do you serve in this area? Can I have three reference names and contact numbers from current clients?
Here’s where you should tailor your questions to the needs you identified in Step 1. In addition, ask them about any value-added services and capabilities they offer, such as budgeting, banking, insurance, state and local compliance, advanced technology, vendor relationships, combined buying power, 24/7 customer service, energy-saving programs and more. You’ll also want to do a deeper dive into how they would tailor their services to your HOA and community. For example:
4. Give each company a tour.
What other ways can they save your homeowners association money?
What do they think is the optimal solution to your needs?
How will they protect your property values and enhance your community’s quality of life?
How do they ensure safety and measure Board and resident satisfaction?
What is the best staffing plan for my community? How will you train team members and provide backup support?
FirstService Residential’s Brian Duff warns Boards to be wary of companies that take a one-size-fits-all approach to management. “Allow each management company to tour the community and ask questions. The better they understand your property’s unique needs and persona, the better they can customize a recommendation that accomplishes your goals,” he explains.
5. Check references.
Now that you’ve narrowed down your choices and gotten references, be sure to contact them to discuss how satisfied they are with the company you’re considering. You can do this by phone, but consider visiting their community in person. This will give you a first-hand look at the services each candidate firm is providing and the quality of life the residents enjoy.
6. Read every word of the property management proposal.
While a contract or proposal isn’t exactly anybody’s idea of a page-turner, it’s in your best interests to read each one very carefully. That way you get a clear picture of what each company is proposing as its scope of responsibility – and what its team expects of you. And while you’re at it, it’s also a good idea to request each company’s fee structure and a sample management contract so there are no surprises.
7. Look for value, not price.
Many times the lowest price isn’t the best option. Some firms may offer small monthly fees, but they come with a more limited scope of services. Other property management companies might work for fees that seem bloated compared to their offerings. What you’re looking for is value – the right number and type of capabilities at the most reasonable price (even if it’s not the lowest). Just as important is experience and insight – the best firms will have expertise in benchmarking spend and finding areas of cost reduction to optimize your budget and offset larger fees.
A good property management company will make your role as an HOA Board Member more rewarding – and it will make your community more inviting, attractive and desirable for your current and future residents. For more help in choosing the right firm to meet the needs of your homeowners association and community, contact FirstService Residential