Five Questions for Boards to Ask a Potential HOA Management Company
HOA Boards face a difficult task in finding a new HOA Management Company in Denver and nationwide. Here are some pointers from an industry insider.
We meet with many association Boards of Directors looking for a great HOA Management Company here in Denver. Often, these boards are dealing with a host of issues which lead to a variety of questions during the sales process. Here are a few questions we think HOA boards should ask when screening a Management Company.
1: Ask them when monthly HOA financials are provided, and if the delivery is guaranteed within a certain timeframe.
You need monthly HOA financials to be delivered early in each month in order to govern. When we meet a new HOA, some complain that they aren’t getting their financials on time. Recently, a board told us their management company was three months behind on financials, with no expectation for when the books would be current. This is unacceptable.
We have a built-in guarantee to deliver HOA financials on the sixth business day monthly. Not every company needs to be this aggressive; many boards are satisfied with HOA financials being available five or so days prior to a board meeting. We suggest you ask for a guarantee or at least a clear expectation of when you’ll have your documents in-hand. Then get it in writing.
2: Ask your potential HOA Management Company to give examples of how they are proactive and accountable.
The top concern we hear in Denver, from almost every board we meet, is that they want a proactive, collaborative, engaged management company. Many have been burned by overworked managers unable to stay ahead of issues. Others feel they’ve been neglected. Others feel they’ve had to do the manager’s job for them.
Great HOA Management Companies are proactive, and use tools like strategic plans, maintenance schedules, checklists, and the latest online solutions to make management efficient and proactive. These HOA Managers report to boards, rather than waiting to be asked. They streamline workflows and move collaboration out of endless email cascades.
3: Ask them how their accounting department functions, and if there are onsite AR and AP desks.
This question relates to customer service. Accounts Receivable generally works with homeowners regarding their ledgers. Accounts Payable works with vendors and the Board regarding invoices and payments. Each spend a lot of time working by phone and email, which is why we keep ours here in Denver. Ask if owners can reach these desks directly and if they are staffed in-house or outsourced. We feel most HOAs appreciate in-house customer service, without a ticket system.
4: Request a demo of the HOA web portal and other software, and make sure it provides the latest features for owners and boards.
The HOA management industry in Colorado is finally moving into the digital age, with modern websites offering everything from text message communication, package tracking, reporting, management plans, online payments, and much more. These save everyone time and money. But not every HOA management company has embraced innovation. Ask what they’ve implemented and if you can take it for a spin.
5: Ask who answers the homeowner phone calls (and emails / work orders) for property issues.
This is another important question relating to HOA customer service. Property Managers are too busy with a host of projects to deliver excellent customer service hour-by-hour. That’s where support staff come in, to assist owners immediately with common needs, like access to documents, information on how to submit architecture requests, board meeting dates, etc.
If the calls and emails all flow to the HOA property manager, that may be a red flag. HOA Managers are often in the field, meeting with boards, walking properties with vendors, drafting budgets, compiling board packets, interpreting reserve studies, overseeing projects, and on and on. When they’re out, the phones don’t get answered, emails aren’t read, and owners become frustrated. They pass that frustration on to the HOA board of directors.
A few other tips:
Take online reviews seriously, but with a grain of salt.
In this industry, owners often conflate the management company with the HOA itself or take their anger at a new policy or vendor out on the manager. Even the best management companies suffer from poor online reviews because of this confusion.
The price is going up, in Denver and around the country.
The best-run HOAs are seeking excellence in their association management company. Delivering that means employing career professionals, seeking the latest innovations, providing support staff, building modern accounting systems, CFOs, cyber security, IT, mobile solutions, and building secure yet functional HOA websites. This excellence comes at a price that mom-and-pop shops do not carry.
The question “How many HOAs does each manager have in their portfolio?” is probably the most common we get here in Denver, but the answer may not be as helpful as you think.
This question is asked because overloaded HOA Managers do a poor job. However, the needs of a single HOA can vary wildly. 10 HOAs can be less work than 5 other HOAs, depending on the characteristics of each.
To get a better picture of quality control and workload, we recommend you also ask what commitments or obligations managers have to the board and owners. Are they measured on certain monthly deliverables, like a report, or a certain response time to board members? Do they maintain some sort of strategic HOA plan? Does the management company have support staff to assist owners when the manager is in the field? How do managers spend most of their time?
As an HOA Board Member, finding a new HOA Management Company can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Most Mangers do a good job, most strive for excellence, most want to build a strong working relationship with the HOA.