We’ve talked a bit recently about the what it takes for a community association to undertake the task of self-management. It’s a hot-button topic as of late, as more and more associations find the resources and support they need to allow for self-governance.
But that’s just not every board’s cup of tea.
If you’re part of a condo or HOA board that wants to be an integral part of the success of your association, without having to sacrifice all measure of sanity or personal life, you should be heavily weighing your options when it comes to Property Management Companies (PMC).
What is a Property Management Company?
A PMC is a company that specializes in assisting boards just like yours by providing certified Community Association Managers (CAMs) to help undertake the workload of the association. Each manager typically has a portfolio of properties that they handle, meaning they’re wildly experienced and can help guide the community down the path of success and financial stability.
Managers who work for a property management firm are not establishing new rules or regulations for the association, and they're not creating new levels of penalty for violations. They're simply put in place to uphold the established rules and keep the association in good financial and legal standing.
How do I Find the Right One?
When you’re ready to begin searching for your first, or next, property management firm, here are three things you should ask about during the pitching process:
Adding a new community to their portfolio is not at all uncommon for a CAM in a PMC. As such, they should have a clear understanding of the kind of effort that would need to be expended to do so, what time frame they should expect to work within, and how quickly they can have basic operations up and running.
For a new community still in the throes of turnover, this timing doesn’t have to be immediate. But if you’re a board whose previous property management firm suddenly shuttered its doors, your timeline is critical, so the timeline you have to bring on a replacement is very different. Think about the needs of the community and ensure that the time frame works for the expected scope of work.
Vendors are an integral aspect of the success of a community association. Curb appeal wouldn’t exist without grounds maintenance vendors, pools and common areas wouldn’t be safe without consistent inspections, etc. Getting a list of each PMC’s vendor network will help the board understand not only the level of access the manager will come with already, but also what gaps they’ll need to fill and which of those gaps they aren’t prepared to own.
Some of the vendors that should be included are:
- CPAs - Accounting is arguably the cornerstone of community association success and health. Having a licensed CPA at the ready to assist is a huge benefit to any management company.
- Attorney(s) Versed in Community Association Law - The laws pertaining to the CAM industry are few and far between (and I mean that literally, because not all states have laws governing this industry, so some of those laws are physically far apart!) but that doesn't mean it'll be that way forever. As Florida, the largest home to community associations in the US (excluding CA), continues to push out more and more legislation concerning the industry, more and more states are following suit. Whatever state you may be in, having an attorney available to keep your association in good legal standing is incredibly important.
- Community Association Insurance Providers - Insurance is incredibly important to everyone, but especially to board members. As you are volunteering to maintain the health and stability of your association, you're technically also volunteering to take the blame if things go awry. Keeping yourselves and your managing partners covered is a good step in keeping the community and its homeowners safe.
- Technology Partner - The right technology will make all the difference in the management of any community. Search for PMCs that utilize an industry-specific software that can effectively and easily handle the specific needs of a community association. The solution should also be web-based for readily available access 24/7/365, so that any manager, board member, or other member of your management team can access it with ease.
This is super important in general, but more so in some states! For example, in Florida, it is illegal for an association to hire someone as a manager who is not certified by the DBPR. Even if your state doesn’t require that a manager be certified or licensed in some way, those titles and certifications speak to a serious understanding of the industry, which is the whole reason you're hiring someone in the first place. There should be an expectation of some kind of certification, title ascription (CMCA, PCAM, AMS, etc), or registration that proves the person you'll be working with knows how to best serve the needs of your community.
Making the Choice
Much like before, we can't tell you which PMC you should choose to work with for your own association. Every association has the same basic needs, and every PMC should be able to accommodate those basic needs. But it's the finer, more personal details that will truly make the difference. So when you're ready to hire a property management firm to help take on the responsibilities of the association, be sure to keep these topics in mind before making a decision.