Urban living has become an increasingly popular choice in Texas. From 1980 to 2010, metropolitan areas throughout the state experienced an 88.2 percent growth rate
, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.
As a board member for your condominium association, you understand why many Texans choose the vertical lifestyle. High-rise and mid-rise buildings – especially those in the heart of Houston, Dallas, Austin or San Antonio – provide a range of conveniences. These may include easy access to work and play, maintenance-free living, full-service amenities and security and front desk staff around the clock, to name a few.
However, for your building’s features to have a positive impact on property values and resident lifestyles, your operations must run smoothly and be well managed. And that means choosing the right property management company. If you’re currently in the market to hire a new company, look for these key signs that you’ll be getting the high-quality service your association deserves.
1. Commitment to providing a general manager suited to your needs
Susan Ward-Freeman, vice president of high-rise management for FirstService Residential’s Texas region, emphasizes the importance of asking how the management company will assign a general manager for your building. “A company committed to your association’s success should take a strategic approach so you are matched with the right person for your community,” she says. “Behavior based interviewing using property-specific case studies will offer helpful insights into how the manager will perform on the job.” The association board should also be directly involved in the hiring process to ensure the manager will be a fit for the personalities and demographics of the residents in the community.
2. Preventative maintenance and asset management
A high-rise property is an expensive and complicated environment to manage. Therefore, it’s crucial for any property management company you are thinking of hiring to have proven operational best practices that clearly define how they manage and prioritize maintenance
– both routine maintenance and urgent issues. Ask the company if they have established procedures for maintaining the mechanical assets of the property such as plumbing, HVAC, electrical, etc. An experienced company should be able to provide you with guidelines for asset management and present a proactive preventative maintenance schedule.
3. Emergency preparedness procedures
What happens when disaster strikes? It’s important for a management company to be prepared to respond quickly and keep residents safe. Inquire about their approach for dealing with emergencies. A top company will have strategies in place to help mitigate risk by meeting the safety needs of the residents while also protecting the property. The proprietary dot system created by FirstService Residential is a great example of an approach that when implemented can allow a management team to respond to an emergency situation in minutes, potentially saving the association time, money and lives.
4. Vendor management
A good property management company will proactively seek the highest quality and the most cost-effective services and solutions for your association. When hiring third-party vendors or contractors be sure to get answers to the following:
5. Leadership development and training
- Do they have a vetting process for qualifying vendors?
- Do they maintain a list of preferred vendors?
- Is it common practice to solicit multiple bids and do they negotiate to get the best possible price?
- Do they have a depth of resources to tap into vendor networks or national agreements that would benefit your association?
Proper training makes all the difference in how well your team is able to manage your building’s operations. A well-trained staff will not only know how to handle your regular day-to-day activities, but will also be better equipped to resolve urgent issues promptly and professionally.
Look for a management company that develops proprietary in-person and online classes to support its associates’ continuing education. Your general manager should also be committed to maintaining memberships and receiving ongoing training with professional organizations like the Community Associations Institute (CAI). A manager who is up to date on developments in the industry, including changes to laws and regulations that could impact your association, will be better able to provide reliable and useful guidance.
In addition, the company should offer training specifically designed to help board members perform their duties more effectively. This might include classes for new members, as well as seminars covering hot topics such as legal, financial and successful community management.
6. World-class service
Most management companies will say
they provide great service, but their definition of great
may not really match your expectations. “Delivering service excellence is all in the details,” says Ward-Freeman. “Ongoing associate training that focuses on building relationships and anticipating resident wants and needs, and likes and dislikes, is vital to making residents feel at home.”
Responsiveness is also key to truly amazing service.“While personalized local service is ideal, residents should be able to speak with a knowledgeable person anytime,” says Ward-Freeman. “A truly service-oriented management company will provide access to a customer care center that’s available around the clock.” She notes that it’s also important to find out how effectively customer service representatives are able to resolve inquiries.
7. Lifestyle programming expertise
With so many new high-rise buildings going up in Texas cities, it’s important to have amenities and relevant programming that keep up with current lifestyle trends
appeal to a variety of urban dwellers. “It is vital to have robust lifestyle planning, but equally crucial that residents know they can be as involved or as independent as they choose,” says Tanya Mendenhall, vice president of consulting and management for FirstService Residential. “A good lifestyle program will help neighbors find personalized ways to connect through activities and events.” A management company with expertise in this area can offer valuable insights and help you implement programs that will keep residents happy and make sure prospective residents are attracted to your building.
8. Demonstrated understanding of the value of curb appeal
First impressions do
matter, especially in a competitive market. The last thing you want is for your property to look tired and worn out in comparison to other buildings. Look for a management company that is committed to keeping your building, common property and amenities in top shape
so your property stands out and the value is protected.
9. Technology to keep you connected
Face-to-face interaction is essential for delivering five-star service. However, great technology enables residents and board members to stay in contact and conduct business anytime and from anywhere. The right property management company will provide your condo association with a customizable community website where residents can access documents, view account balances, submit service requests, receive package notifications and more.
Ideally, the company needs to offer a resident alert system. This enables your general manager to send immediate, simultaneous voice and email messages to residents in case an emergency or other urgent issue arises that may impact everyone in the building. A system like this can help disseminate the right information quickly to keep residents safe.
10. Insurance and financial savings
Insurance premiums can be one of the biggest budget items for a high-rise property. A management company with connections to quality insurance partners can mean big savings through lower premiums for your condominium association. Good financial planning should also be a significant factor in your evaluation. Banking and investment products through financial partnerships can yield higher interest rates on reserve and escrow accounts and provide additional value to your association.
Many factors go into choosing the best property management company for your building, but this list is a good place to start. Whether you are looking for a company to manage your building for the first time or you feel your current company is not offering everything it should, FirstService Residential is prepared to show you how genuinely helpful, world-class service can make a difference.