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How to find the right managers for your HOA

Posted: July 3, 2012 7:13 p.m.
Updated: July 3, 2012 7:13 p.m.
 

Dr. HOA,
After nearly seven years with our current management company, our HOA is in the process of looking for a new company.


It seems like many of the companies offer the same services. Do you have any advice on what we should be looking for and how to differentiate one company from another? We want to make sure the selection process is thorough and comprehensive, so any advice you could give us would be appreciated.
—Avi B.

Hello Avi B.,
Selecting the right professional management company with the expertise necessary to help guide your association is one of the most critical decisions your Board of Directors will make.
While there are numerous management companies to choose from, and many appear to offer the same types of services and hold similar credentials, I have found that there are considerable differences to consider when vetting management companies.


In addition to simply requesting the traditional proposal for management services that are usually presented with the company’s marketing information, I would suggest doing some less traditional research to help select a management company that shares your community’s values.
Many management companies appear to offer similar types of products and services, including assessment billing, monthly financials, property tours and association oversight; however how the company operates, its culture and how it approaches and executes on its services varies significantly.
Therefore, it is important to research beyond a company’s proposal and marketing information to better understand its actual values and culture. Honesty, integrity, innovation and their commitment to service are all important attributes that set management companies apart.  


While reviewing marketing brochures and company websites are great ways to initially learn about a management company, including services provided, the information is stagnant and filtered, only showing you what the company intends to convey.


Internet research and social media sites, such as Yelp and Facebook, are other valuable tools that are far more fluid, updated regularly, and less filtered, providing another valuable perspective. Whether the company has an active Facebook account with fresh updates and homeowner participation tells you as much as the actual updates and messages. Regular updates and engaged clients indicate a commitment to service, communication and innovation.


In order to thoroughly evaluate a management company’s commitment to service, I always encourage board members to assume the role of one of their homeowners, placing several calls into the potential management company’s office and conducting an unannounced office visit.


Spot calls and visits will give board members a better understanding of a typical homeowner experience. When you call into the office does a live representative answer the phone or do you get a routing or answering machine? When you visit the office are there friendly, helpful representatives to assist you or an empty reception area with a bell you must ring for service? Companies that operate from a P.O. Box or that do not permit walk-in clients probably do not share your association’s commitment to customer care.


Always request a list of active board member references to interview. I am always surprised when I see vendors listed as management company references. Clearly a vendor that works regularly with a management company is not a legitimate reference. You will want to speak with current board members at similar associations. I recommend you get specific and ask references how their management company would handle specific scenarios as opposed to simply asking whether they would recommend the particular company.  


By combining less traditional vetting methods outlined above with the typical request for proposal and company marketing information, your board can rest assured that your association performed proper due diligence to ensure a well-informed selection is made.


For information on how to prepare and distribute an effective management Request for Proposal (“RFP”) please do not hesitate to contact me.


Readers can submit questions to: drhoa@pmprollc.com.Brad Watson is managing director of Property Management Professionals which is located at 27413 Tourney Road, Suite 100, Valencia. He can be reached at 661-295-4900 or www.pmprofessionalsllc.com. The column contains general information about HOA practices and does not represent the specific CC&Rs of each HOA or replace the advice of an attorney. Watson’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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