Ask the HOA Expert: Professional Management Perks

Ask the HOA Expert: Professional Management Perks

All too often a homeowner association board of directors approaches problems as would a renter looking after the apartment building…reacting by crisis rather than by a long range plan. Guess what? Many HOAs are in constant turmoil because of this approach. A professional HOA manager can smooth out the bumps in this rocky road by building a sound foundation of planning, record keeping and policy making. Here a some of the major benefits:

Consistent Maintenance

One of the greatest benefits of a professional manager is consistent maintenance of the facilities. A facilities evaluation identifies and prioritizes maintenance needs. Needs that are creating damage are top priority followed by long range capital repairs and replacements like roofing, painting, etc. A good manager integrates both HOA and resident needs. By systematically reviewing the property, little things like sprinkler over spray that damages siding is corrected quickly before substantial damage results.

Mediator

One of the board’s biggest challenges is dealing with people that refuse to follow reasonable rules or to pay fees on time. Depending on the severity of the violation, the board may overreact and invite lawsuits or avoid dealing with the matter at all. In either case, the HOA suffers as problems com-pound. A good manager has no personal ax to grind and executes systematic enforcement to bring offenders back in line. The manager can also intervene between the board and a owner to defuse an escalating or longstanding conflict.

Continuity

Since homeowner associations are typically run by volunteers, consistency is a HUGE problem. Volunteers like to go on vacation and to sleep once in a while. Board and committee members come and go, often viewing their terms more like a sentence than a privilege. A good manager links these well meaning volunteer efforts together, filling the gaps where volunteerism falls short. The manager often provides centralized record keeping instead of the all too frequent box-of-files-in-the-coat-closet approach. The manager helps educate new directors on their roles to maximize their effectiveness.

Traffic Cop

The manager understands the overall HOA objectives and can direct requests efficiently. Most management companies offer a 24 hour emergency service that reacts quickly to minimize damage or disaster. By quickly assessing needs, they spend a little to save a lot.

Manager Costs

Charges depend on the range of services and the size of the homeowner association. There are three main factors to consider, the monthly management fee, hourly management rate for extras and the hourly maintenance rate.

The monthly management fee should be broad enough to include routine HOA business like attending board meetings, maintaining records, bookkeeping duties, responding to information requests and maintenance coordination. Most companies do, however, charge extra for duties not considered “routine”. Maintenance income is often the profit center of an HOA management company so scrutinize those costs carefully.

Qualifications

A good HOA manager must be patient, diplomatic, respectful and caring. A willingness to understand each client’s needs and philosophy is paramount. A good manager is flexible but persistent without being aggressive. Look for a company that specializes in homeowner associations. Typically, only a relative few in a given location do. Look for specialization, not just the willingness to manage. Call references, including both current and former clients. It’s fundamental to finding the right match.

As with any contractor, it is important to provide a list of expected duties (specifications) to each potential manager. This way, the board can reasonably compare the players. Easing the board’s responsibilities and protecting the homeowner association’s valuable assets make considering a professional HOA manager a prudent course of action.

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