How can I get the best service for my property? That’s a question community associations wrestle with regularly. Some self-managed community associations believe they can’t afford to hire a professional property management company to manage and maintain their community’s operations, assets, finances, common areas and other day-to-day activities. However, as you’ll learn in this article, a professional property management company is one thing many communities can’t afford to be without
What Kind of Service Does Your Community Expect?
Getting the best property management service that is also effective and cost efficient requires 24/7 attention, knowledge, experience and, most importantly, action across a broad spectrum of areas, such as operations, maintenance, finance, collections, legal compliance, community activities, customer service and more.
In self-managed communities, these critical responsibilities are handled by board members, which are almost always volunteers. If board members have the right experience, knowledge and time to successfully fulfill these duties, homeowners’ property values will remain strong and the community will thrive. However, there are many situations in which a professional property management company can provide added value for communities by teaming up with board members.
The Right Experience Can Increase Your Property Values
A full-service property management company can increase your property’s value by closely managing operations, maintenance, finance, accounting, billing, collections, insurance, contract negotiation, landscaping, staffing and compliance with changing federal, state and local legislation.
The best property management companies typically have extensive experience managing hundreds, or even thousands of residential units of all sizes and types, developing deep expertise, skills, knowledge and best practices in this broad range of areas.
With years of service, these professional companies build strong relationships, develop a circle of trusted vendors and partners, and continuously evolve new and tailored products, services and tools designed to maximize property values and enhance the quality of life for homeowners.
The right association management company will use these relationships to negotiate costs for property maintenance and improvements, and create a plan specifically for your community to save money and realize its goals sooner.
Help You Do More in Less Time
Your board members’ time is valuable – it should be invested wisely. Between calls, complaints, and routine maintenance issues, responsive management can easily consume all of the board’s free time. A professional property management company can help by providing full-time on-site teams, including a community manager, maintenance staff and support team to deliver responsive service. They can also provide front desk personnel and a concierge for high-end, luxury communities. This level of personal service is what truly distinguishes the best property management services.
As an additional benefit, some of the top residential management companies complement their full-service property management with special services available only to their managed communities. For example, at FirstService Residential, North America’s leading residential property management company, a full menu of exclusive services are offered, such as preferred banking, lending and insurance services, along with advanced technology and combined buying programs, which ensure clients receive the highest quality and lowest prices for third-party vendor services.
In fact, in many cases, the cost savings and value received from these services outweigh the company’s management fees.
Everyday Issues Are Covered – But What Happens in a Major Emergency?
The best property management company should not only handle routine tasks attentively and proactively – they should have a comprehensive emergency plan in place to handle major events, such as a storm, earthquake or other disruption. Unforeseen emergencies and natural disasters can cause multiple units to suddenly require more intensive attention – and take much more time and energy than your board members may have, especially if they themselves are recovering (emotionally and physically) from the disaster.
For self-managed properties, just one major event can severely strain the budget with overtime pay for staff, after-hours service calls, and replacement cost for damaged fixtures and equipment. Having a property management company that can execute your emergency plan immediately will help your community tackle this burden head on.
Is Your Community Association Protected from Legal Issues?
Busy board members may not have sufficient time to dedicate to thoroughly understand their community’s covenants and bylaws. If you choose to self-manage, your board must have a thorough education in community association management to ensure you are complying with all federal, state and local laws. For example, will you know how to properly incorporate? What about paying annual corporate registration fees and filing federal and state tax returns? Did you know your vendors are required to sign a W-9 tax form and that you must issue them all 1099s?
While smaller communities may save money by handling all these responsibilities themselves, one bad mistake or dishonest vendor can wipe out any potential gains. In addition, if board members make critical errors or omissions, not only may individual property values suffer, but board members and homeowners may also be at risk for personal liability. Do you carry D&O (Directors and Officers) insurance? If you are not sure, then you may benefit from the service of a professional property management company.
Don’t Lose Control of Your Property
The right property management company will have all of the major resources you need, with qualified local managers and vendor relationships that you can trust and count on. They will develop a personal relationship with your board, and will assign a well-trained manager to serve your community, taking care to ensure the manager is the right fit for your community association.
Remember, property management companies work under the direction of the community’s board, and do not make community rules, sign contracts or enter into other legally binding contracts on its behalf. Rather, these are the responsibilities of board members - and property management companies are hired to enforce the directives they have set in accordance with the community’s legal documents.
In other words, the property management company with the best service understands that your board members know what they are doing, and will work to ensure your community is run they way you want it to be.
To Self-Manage or Not?
So, should your community association self-manage or hire a professional property management company?
If you feel that your board could use some help to effectively protect the value and enhance the quality of life for your community, a professional property management company is likely to be the best investment you can make.
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