One of the most important responsibilities a community association’s board of directors can be faced with is selecting a professional management company. Choosing a management company is somewhat like an interview process - your board needs to know what kind of experience the company has, what kinds of services they offer, who they have on staff and how they conduct business. We've come up with 8 questions your board should consider asking when on the hunt for a community management company.
1. How many years has the company been in the community management business?
Perhaps one of the most important things your board will want to ask when interviewing management companies is how long the company has been in business. Community associations need management companies who have a wealth of experience in the industry and who have a solid reputation in the area, and this is something you can inquire about when reaching out to a potential management company. A company who has been around for decades and who has a proven record of success is much more likely to provide the management services you need versus a brand-new company who has just entered the community management industry.
2. Do the company and their staff have the proper designations?
"What designations?”, you may ask. Well, there are many designations that community managers can receive through the Community Associations Institute (CAI) as well as other entities. Many of a reputable management company's staff members will boast designations like CMCA (Certified Manager of Community Associations), AMS (Association Management Specialist), or even the PCAM (Professional Community Association Manager), which is the highest designation you can achieve through CAI. To earn these designations, managers must go through rigorous training and pass tests to show that they truly know their stuff when it comes to association management. Furthermore, companies themselves can have the AAMC (Accredited Association Management Company) designation, which indicates they are an outstanding business in the industry. When investigating management companies, check to see that they and their staff have some of these designations - if they do, it’s pretty likely you'll find yourself in good hands.
3. What support staff do they have?
A community manager can't be everywhere at once, so another thing to check into is whether they have a support staff. Do managers have assistant community managers? Is there an accounting staff with segregated responsibilities to ensure internal controls? A community support team to be available during the day to assist owners and to provide emergency and afterhours services? If the company you’re vetting has various types of staff, they’ll be available to back up your community manager and work together to ensure your community and homeowners can have their needs met quickly and easily.
4. What are the company’s core values?
These days, most companies have a set of core values in place. These are a set of values that all members of the organization live by when it comes to conducting business. If every member of an organization is dedicated to the same set of values and providing outstanding service to clients, it's much more likely that your community will receive excellent service every step of the way.
5. Does the company have proven processes in place?
Processes are essential to the smooth running of any business. When considering a management company, ask what types of processes they have in place. If you choose them, how will onboarding be conducted? Do they have a plan in place for integrating your association into their system? Does this process sound like it will make for a smooth transition? If a management company has proven processes in place to make things easier for your community, that is a good sign that they know their stuff and will be able to take care of your association for years to come.
6. What types of management services do they provide?
Not all community associations are looking for the same types of services, so this is yet another good question to ask. Some companies offer varying levels of services so that boards can pick which ones will best fit their community's needs. For example, there can be full service options where the management company will handle mostly all of the community's business needs or an accounting-only service option where the board will handle the day-to-day operations of the community but the management company will assist in budgeting, collecting assessments, and preparing the financial reports for the association.
7. What types of communication do they provide? What types of technology do they use?
The utilization of technology is essential to running any business. Selecting a management company that has an array of technology options for boards and homeowners will ensure that everyone in your community can easily access their information, make payments and reach members of the management team. Does the management company provide online portals for board members and homeowners? Are community members able to see their statements, make payments and put in maintenance and ARC requests through these portals? These are all things to consider as ease of contact is an essential commodity in the 21st century.
8. How do they handle maintenance? Do you have relationships with trusted local service providers?
Maintenance is one of the most important facets of properly running a community association and understanding how maintenance will be handled is vital to choosing a management company. Exactly what is maintained and how it will be maintained will, of course, be largely controlled by your association's governing documents, but there are still some questions you should ask. Does the company have a list of trusted service providers they use? Are these service providers licensed and insured? Having answers to these questions will allow board members to rest easy in knowing that whoever is doing work in their community is the right person for the job.
There may be other questions that come up when interviewing a community association management company, namely the fees associated with their services, but that shouldn't be of the utmost importance. The most important thing is to assure you're choosing the best option for your community and ensuring that the property will be well-maintained by industry experts. Trusting your community to experienced managers with good reputations will only protect property values in the long run and give property owners peace of mind in knowing that their community, and therefore their bottom line, is being well cared for.
If you’re interested in learning more about CAMS’ Proven Processes and what our team of experts can do for your community association, please reach out via our website or at 877.672.2267.
Mike Stonestreet, CMCA, PCAM, AMS, is Founder/Co-Owner of CAMS (Community Association Management Services). CAMS began in 1991 with Stonestreet and a few employees in a small office in Wilmington but has since grown to over 300 employees serving eight regions across North and South Carolina.
His current role at CAMS focuses on mergers and acquisitions, culture alignment and high-level business relationships. Stonestreet is an active member of the NC Chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) and has spent time on their board of directors, serving as the chapter President in 2019.
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