Deciding to hire a property management firm rarely comes easy, but with the changing times more and more Boards are finding it to be not only a wise decision, but the best decision, for all parties involved.

Many small communities are able to self-manage with little trouble. However, Boards in larger communities often find that managing a community of that size takes resources, knowledge and experience that they just do not have. And many, who choose to live in “paradise” to enjoy the lifestyle and quality of life, soon discover that running an association is more than they bargained for. Added to that, as these communities begin to age, the amount of work needed to maintain them only grows exponentially.

The result: many community association Boards are finding that hiring a property management company can mean the difference between success or failure for their community. But once the decision is made to go the professional management route, what should you expect from your property management company?
  1. First and foremost, your property management company will review your association documents, rules and policies to make sure that they are clearly defined and communicated to residents. Once they have done so, they will need to ensure that these rules and policies are enforced in a consistent manner. This step is particularly important because you never want there to be the perception that residents are treated unfairly or that issues aren’t addressed in an efficient and timely fashion.
  2. Perhaps the most difficult task that Boards that self-manage face is the financial administration of their association. As if creating a budget and learning about reserves aren’t hard enough, having to collect past due fees from your friends and neighbors is never easy for the Board. A property management company is an impartial third party whose sole purpose is to carry out the policies set forth by the Board. With no personal stake in the process, property management companies can be much more effective in collecting fees than the Board of Directors. Plus, having a property management company handle your association’s finances mitigates the risk of fraud.
  3. In addition to establishing policies and handling the financial aspects of running an association, the property management company will also have in-depth knowledge of industry and state regulations and laws specific to HOA or condominium associations. Something that should not be expected of volunteer Board members. This is especially true in Florida, where associations abound, and many with their own regulations. Not only is a property management company more knowledgeable when it comes to these laws, but also more likely to be connected to other professional contacts should they need additional legal guidance.
  4. And speaking of connections…a property management company that has been in business for some time is undoubtedly going to have a circle of trusted vendors and partners that provide services and products your community will need. Your property management company should be able to review the rates you are currently paying for certain services, establish if those rates are in fact competitive, and if not, negotiate lower rates and/or better service levels for you. This can result in significant savings for residents and the association as a whole.
  5. When it comes to savings, a good property management company will analyze your entire operation and implement strategies to reduce costs. For example, your property management company may propose upgrading your current air conditioning system, which may cost money upfront, but will result in significant savings in maintenance and electrical bills going forward. With increased savings in certain areas, your community may be able to invest in projects that have been put on the back burner without additional cost to residents. And consider this: when supported by a property management company that has significant project management experience, knowledge and the proper support system, your projects are more likely to be completed on time and successfully than if you “go it alone.” This ultimately translates into dollars saved for your association.   
  6. Property managers are also well-versed on maintaining properties, that includes everything from maintaining the grounds to implementing a maintenance plan that will, over time, result in cost savings for the association. And as we mentioned before, the preservation of aging properties now requires access to specific expertise in multiple professional disciplines, which is too much to expect for volunteer Board members, but is within the scope of services for a good professional property management company. Plus, a properly maintained community is not only appealing to the current residents, but also to prospective residents, which can translate into higher property values and sales prices for those looking to sell their homes. And increasing property values are not the only concern. The influx of new homebuyers are now expecting professional management services in place since they are used to modern standards of business operation in other areas of their life.   
  7. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of hiring a property management company is that they make it a priority to ensure that the association’s liability exposure is low. One such way they do so is by removing the burden of legal compliance that comes with managing and paying employees. Imagine the risk and complexities of being an employer – from wage and hour laws and health coverage plans to hiring, disciplining and terminating employees. The right property management company will handle all of these “details,” allowing the Board to focus on the “big picture.”
  8. While it may be possible to put a dollar amount on many of the services provided by a property management company, there is nothing quite as valuable as the experience and expertise it offers. Not only will it likely possess an in-depth knowledge about most issues that arise when managing and maintaining a property, the managers also receive regular training due to professional certifications and designations needed to do the job. Added to that is the years of experience that money can’t buy, making property managers an invaluable resource to the community associations they manage.
  9. And of course, there’s the human element to property management. This is something that can rarely be substituted by volunteers or automated by sophisticated systems. Property management, is after all a “people” business with the sole purpose of keeping residents happy. A good property management company is going to work hard to keep those residents happy and to make their community one they are proud to call home.  With so many associations having trouble getting enough volunteer support, and the increasing responsibilities falling on a few, hiring a property management company seems like a sound decision.
  10. Property management is not a one man/woman job. It takes a team of experts behind the scenes, armed with a breadth of resources, to support on-site staff to effectively manage a community. Good property management companies should offer you their expertise in finance, safety, banking and insurance, talent acquisition and development, to name a few. With these resources at your fingertips, the Board is free to focus on other important tasks.
It’s important to point out that it is the association Board that establishes the rules and policies that govern a building or community. While the property management company is tasked with enforcing those rules and policies, it is the association who makes them and decides the penalties for non-compliance.

Hiring a property management company to handle the day-to-day operations of your property can mean several things for your community. For the Board who is charged with making the decision, however, it means resting assured that your community is in good hands – hands that are not only capable, experienced and ready to take whatever comes their way, but also eager to do so. For more information on how a property management company can assist your association, contact FirstService Residential.
Tuesday September 13, 2016