You want your community association management company to respond when you need them. It’s important that they take care of requested work orders and problems as they arise. But what if your association wants more than that? Shouldn’t a good management company be able to foresee some of your association’s needs and meet them before you ask?

That’s the principle at the heart of proactive service, when emergencies are prevented rather than responded to. The best service is proactive, but its very nature – preventing problems before they arise – means that it can be hard to spot. So how do you know that your community association management company is being proactive on your behalf?
1. They create and follow a preventative maintenance plan.
Preventative maintenance is one of the easiest ways for a community association management company to be proactive. By carefully inspecting and maintaining expensive equipment and systems, your management company can extend the useful life of those items, saving you money in the long run.

Many common sense approaches to preventative maintenance follow the seasons. It’s important to work ahead of the season so that nothing breaks down during it – for example, tune up your air conditioning systems before it warms up and make sure boilers are in tip-top shape before the snow flies. Working ahead may positively impact your budget too; some contractors will give a break on price if the work is done during a slower time for them.

Stephan Kaganzev is a community manager with FirstService Residential, serving a townhome community in the southeastern Delaware town of Selbyville. He said that salt air in the region, close to the shore, affects his preventative maintenance planning and scheduling. “When you’re looking at the beach areas, the salt air eats away at everything. So when we’re looking at the outsides of buildings, we’re always looking for early signs of corrosion,” he explained. “We are always looking at our railings and railing bolts. Is there a white chalky feel to them? That’s corrosion. Each fall, we have to look at the ‘roofs’ of the buildings. When nor’easters come through, they bring 60, 70 mile per hour winds that will lift shingles. We’re always keeping an eye on that.”

Kaganzev said that it’s important to keep lists and schedules of everything that needs to be maintained, and to follow them. The best way to keep items from breaking down is to keep them running smoothly to begin with.

2. They keep an eye out for problems.  
Related to preventative maintenance, regular site inspections are part of a proactive management philosophy. “Every day, as I drive into the community, I do a tour of the property, looking at the fronts of the buildings, make sure things are as they should be,” Kaganzev said. “This is a heavily seasonal townhome community, busiest in summer. At certain times of year, an open garage door or window may be a sign of trouble.”

Kaganzev said that it’s important to him to be proactive. In addition to the daily inspections, he does a more in-depth inspection once a week, as well as taking a close look at nearby areas whenever a work order comes in. “Any time we get a work order, I personally go the area that needs the work and look for anything else around it that may be out of whack,” he said. “Sometimes one problem indicates that there’s another one nearby, related or not.”   

3. They always look to improve your vendor contracts.  
No vendor relationship or contract is sacred. The right association management company, behaving proactively, will regularly review your vendor agreements and look for ways to get better service or more for your money, or to reduce the cost, optimizing your operating budget.

“You can’t be complacent sitting with one vendor,” Kaganzev decreed. “It’s essential to have a second or third one in your back pocket in case a change needs to be made. You have to be willing to reach out and build great relationships with potential new vendors too. This past year, I had a sewer backup in the building on New Year’s Eve. I got back to the property and got a plumber there five minutes later, thanks to the great relationship I had with the plumbing company, which was expanding into the area and wanted our business.”

4. They watch your association’s finances.  
Proactive service isn’t limited to the physical aspects of community association management. The right management company keeps an eye on your finances too. In addition to the vendor relationship management mentioned above, that means conducting regular reviews of your financial statements, looking for ways to get the most out of your budget.

“Keeping an eye on the association’s finances starts when you’re bidding contracts, making sure fees are appropriate and continues to looking at work orders and making sure that the bills you get are correct, that the work you’re billed for is the work that is done. We negotiate hourly rates with contractors, as well,” Kaganzev explained. He said that it’s important to review insurance every year, make sure that it is the right coverage for your needs at the best possible price. “I try to make use of every facet of FirstService Residential for my community,” he said. “By bringing in our cash management and insurance experts, I know that the association is getting the most financial bang for the buck.”

Benjamin Franklin summed it up perfectly: “A stitch, in time, saves nine.” By being proactive, your community association management company can extend the life of your major systems, fix problems before they get out of control, ensure that you are getting the best deals from your vendors and improve the bottom line financial health of your association.

To find out more about how working with a professional community association management company can do all of that and more, contact FirstService Residential, Delaware’s leading community management company, today. 

Monday June 05, 2017