HOAs are legal entities that are created to manage planned communities. Planned communities can be anything from condominiums to gated communities. The HOA operates to maintain the upkeep of common areas, enforce provisions in the grant deeds and overall maintenance of the community.
To facilitate this duty, HOAs charge monthly fees which can be a few hundred a month or over a thousand. Therefore, any HOA management company must be prepared to collect fees, enforce covenants, maintain the premise and manage the community. These are a lot of duties to entrust to one entity.
HOAs are composed of volunteer members of the community and thus lack the time and experience to properly execute all of these obligations. However, as you can imagine, maintaining a planned community is a daunting and complicated endeavor. Therefore, most HOAs will hire a company to manage the day to day issues.
You cannot entrust your community to just any company. To guide you, here are a few questions to ask any potential HOA management company.
What services do they offer?
Believe it or not, many HOA management companies may exclude certain management responsibilities, such as overseeing a new development or expansion project, for example. You can count on most HOAs to offer these services:
- Collect and manage HOA dues
- Handle collections for unpaid dues
- Create monthly reports for the HOA board
- Manage and appropriate budget
- Handle maintenance requests
- Find and manage contractors
If a potential HOA management company does not offer one of these services, drop their bid and move on. These are the bare bones services that all management companies should provide.
Discuss the Approach They Take to Maintenance
Maintenance is the most critical service any HOA management company can offer. It is the most visible and therefore the most crucial to maintaining the satisfaction of the community. Ask specific questions about what the company considers “maintenance.” Consider the unique characteristics of your neighborhood.
For example, will the company pick up discarded cigarettes? How about clean-up after a locally hosted event? How do members communicate maintenance needs, is there an email or message system? How long will it take to respond and resolve issues?
While on the topic of maintenance, ask about the company’s policy regarding repairs. Does the company use its handymen or do they contract out for specialty jobs? Consider this scenario: would you hire a handyman for a plumbing issue or a plumber? Your approach to property maintenance should be similar.
Always Ask About the Pricing Structure
Some companies will operate on a straight flat-fee per home pricing model while others will include markups or hidden fees and add-ons. A low-cost management company may sound great but when you examine the services, they offer, it is barebones compared to other more comprehensive and expensive management companies. Always request a complete fee schedule which ensures that you are aware of every possible charge.
Are they experienced in managing HOAs?
HOAs are significantly different from apartment complexes. HOA management companies must be experienced in mediating conflicts and operating with long-term goals in mind.
Homeowners are much more invested in the long-term well-being of their communities than short-term residents. The management company must be prepared for the level of involvement from your homeowners and be experienced in mediating these conflicts.
Finally, it is critical that the property management company focuses on collecting dues and maintaining common grounds. The management company cannot allow troublesome residents to skirt their duties because that brings down the entire community and defeats the purpose of hiring a professional manager in the first place.
References, references, references
Ask the HOA management company for a list of references, preferably other HOA communities it operates. Call those clients and ask about their experiences. What did they find satisfactory? What do they wish was improved? How did the relationship develop?
As you can see, selecting the right HOA property management company takes time and research, but it does pay dividends. A good HOA property management company will safeguard the value of your community and increase property values.