Finding and Partnering with the Best Reserve Study Firm for Your Community

A community association’s reserve fund helps the board of directors properly anticipate and budget for the future. The reserve fund provides an association the power to maintain necessary and expensive parts of your infrastructure, including roofing and paving projects.
“Proper budget planning, coupled with a quality reserve study provider, will protect the entire association in the long run,” said Adam Cichon, regional director for FirstService Residential. “Finding that quality provider is an endeavor in which the lowest bidder is simply not what is truly safe for the association. Your ultimate goal should be for the association to form a partnership with their reserve study analyst; our ultimate goal is to help you find this critical partner.”
Here are seven steps to find and partner with the best reserve study firm for your association.
1. Perform some background work.
Any prospective firm that genuinely wants to partner with the association’s board of directors will want to know everything about the association. Collect as much detailed information as possible for the entire association and develop a complete profile of it. Make sure to include the location, number of units, description of buildings, list of amenities – anything specific the Association would like incorporated within the study is also crucial to define and have incorporated within the scope of the study. Having this information readily available will help reduce the overall expense of the actual study and decrease the time required for it to be accomplished.
2. Find your firm.
Searching for candidates is relatively easy. Good property management companies maintain a list of qualified firms. Check with your community association manager to ask for a recommendation. Another option is to check with your local chapter of the Community Associations Institute or check their online directory by going to
3. Ask the right questions.
Decide what criteria you’ll be using to evaluate your candidates. Develop a clear picture of the end product by asking about details such as number of years the firm has been in business, number of studies they perform each year, the company background, specific experience with communities that are similar to yours, funding methods provided, pricing structure, how information will be provided to the board, turnaround time for a survey, level of association or management involvement and types of guarantees. Identifying the most important factors to your board will help determine the most appropriate candidates. 
4. Make contact. 
Reach out to the list of candidate firms with a request for standard information. Ask for items such as examples of previous reports they’ve done. Then ask the questions developed earlier, carefully recording the answers. As your board of directors interview more firms, the questions may evolve as well, and it’s okay to go back to earlier interviewed firms to follow up if needed. Don’t forget to request three references of boards they’ve worked with previously. 
5. Compare.
The research is now done; now it’s time compare potential candidates. One option is to use a matrix. Here’s a simple suggestion: prepare a spreadsheet that lists the hiring criteria in the left-hand column, then list the candidate firms across the top, horizontally. Use the research from each firm’s interview to fill in the boxes. At this time, it’s also important to have the management company’s accountant review the sample reports the candidates provided to make sure they meet the association’s threshold requirements. When the matrix is complete, eliminate those firms that don’t meet the most basic requirements. The rest are up for evaluation and discussion.
6. Reach out to references. 
Contacting the remaining firms’ references should involve brief conversations of no more than about 10 questions. Ask simple questions such as whether the association was pleased with the firm’s work, whether their association is similar to yours, when the study was performed, if overall expenses were in line with expectations, if the study was delivered on time, if there was something they wished the firm had done differently, whether they considered hiring other firms, what factors they used in choosing this firm and whether or not they’d hire them again. Be efficient, friendly and respectful of their time.
7. Decision time.
The candidates have been chosen and evaluated. The interviews are completed and non-contenders have been eliminated. The candidate matrix is now an effective tool; coupled with the reference responses, you have all of the information you need to make an informed decision. It’s time to choose the firm that will help solidify long-term financial security for your association.
Partnering with a reserve study firm can have a huge impact on the future of your association. Follow these steps and the board of directors will be working with a quality firm that meets and hopefully exceeds expectations. For more help in contacting a reliable reserve study firm, contact FirstService Residential, the DC Metro area’s leading property management company.