Properly managing your community’s budget is paramount when you are on the board of directors of a condominium, cooperative, high-rise or homeowners association. Undoubtedly, you already know you must prioritize efforts to secure the best rates and to save money while ensuring a high-quality standard of service.
When your budget is tight, saving even a few hundred dollars is welcome. But what if you could save thousands? Consider these examples:
- One association in Chicago’s West Loop saved over $15,000 a year in vendor contract fees.
- Another Chicago association saved thousands in maintenance costs.
How did they do it? Despite vastly different sized buildings and property types, they were able to save money by partnering with a professional property management company. In fact, properties that work with an experienced management company fare better in terms of year-after-year financial savings.
If your building or community is currently self-managed, you may want to consider hiring a professional property management company. Benefits such as bulk buying power, vendor relationships, efficiency programs and lessened burden on the board generally outweigh any up-front costs.
Do you already work with a property management company but are not sure you are receiving the value and cost savings you should be? Continue reading to learn about the high-level of service your residential management company should provide to improve your association’s financial fitness and help you get the most bang for your buck.  
1. Engage in vendor bids to analyze potential savings.
There is nothing worse than a vendor who overpromises and under delivers. Finding a reputable, responsive vendor that will provide value for your community takes time and effort. Vendors that seem like a great deal at first can end up nickel and diming you as the project progresses. Or they may perform the work incorrectly, leaving you with a greater financial burden.  
When you partner with the right property management company, you benefit from the established relationships the company has with the best local vendors. The other perk is that you can take advantage of the management company’s negotiating experience and skill, as well as its ability to achieve value-added savings for your community.
For example, Ilir Mehmeti, Illinois regional director at FirstService Residential, was able to save one of his condominium associations more than $25,000 per year by successfully renegotiating and analyzing the building’s contracts, including those for:
- Snow removal
- Landscaping
- Elevator maintenance
- Property maintenance
- Internet service

Ilir engaged in a thorough bidding and negotiation process to secure significant savings and lock in lower rates without sacrificing quality or service. For snow removal alone, Ilir performed a detailed analysis of past costs and bids. As a result, he secured a price that was more than 50 percent lower than the one offered by the nearest competitor.  
2. Review existing contracts and services.
Are you paying for more services than you need? A property management company can make sure you don’t. For example, one of the experienced property managers at FirstService Residential was able to identify and eliminate redundancies for one condominium association. Following an internal audit of the building’s internet service, the manager saved the association more than $500 per year.
Locking in a two-year or multi-year contract can oftentimes be a cost-saving advantage, too. For instance, FirstService Residential helped one Chicago high-rise enter into a two-year mechanical maintenance contract with its current vendor. Not only did the association save on annual cost increases, it also found that at the next renewal, the re-bid from the current vendor was the lowest bid—more than $1,000 less than the other vendors.
3. Plan proactively.
Consider all of the mailings and notifications that your building sends throughout a year. FirstService Residential saved one condo a lot of administrative time and postage costs by recommending that the association schedule all board meetings in advance. A single mailing to owners then satisfied the legal notification requirements.
4. Take advantage of rebates and grants.
Have you been delaying necessary projects in your association or community due to lack of funds? Utility companies sometimes offer rebates for energy retrofits, and historic preservation organizations may award grants for restoration projects. Additionally, there are often federal, state, municipal or private organizations that offer grants for residential communities’ improvement projects.
For example, one FirstService Residential property manager noticed that the trees were dying in the master-planned community he manages. The cost to remove and replace the trees was beyond what the community could afford, so he informed the board about a grant that would enable them to replace the trees and restore the property’s value. The board welcomed the manager’s insight, and they were thrilled to secure the grant and complete the project.    
Although grants are publicly available, they can be difficult to find and usually involve a complex application process. The right property management company will know where to locate them and can help your association properly fill out the application.
Energy-efficiency projects can also produce fantastic long-term savings, as one high-rise condominium in the Gold Coast discovered. Working with FirstService Residential, the condo board ordered a third-party energy and lighting audit to see what kind of cost savings were available. Thanks to the condo’s property manager and the director of engineering at FirstService Residential, Robert Meyer, the association was able to save $32,979 annually in lighting expenses by replacing their old, inefficient lighting with LED lights. They received nearly $3,500 in rebates from the utility company and expect to save more than $144,985 over the life of the new LED lighting. The investment payback rate was less than a year.
With the assistance of a great property management company, it is possible to save thousands of dollars every year, as the examples above demonstrate. To learn more about how to stretch your association’s budget, contact FirstService Residential, the leading property management company in Illinois.

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Friday January 08, 2021