Managing startup condominiums and communities is a unique job. There should be a community manager with experience working as part of a team, and that team should include other professionals in addition to the developer.
Typically, the development team will hire surveyors, engineers, architects, land planners and other specialists to lay out and plan the community’s or condominium’s infrastructure, buildings and stormwater system, among other things; a professional community association management company (such as CAMS); and an attorney to draft the governing documents.
Early decisions made by the developer will determine what common elements the association will have, such as: if there is a clubhouse or a pool; if the streets are private or public; if the community is gated; and if there will be landscaping at the entrance.
Many times the community manager will review the governing documents prior to recordation to provide input. The community manager will determine if a covenant, restriction or rule is realistic and effective throughout the initial development phase, as well as over the long-term.
Another important role the community manager plays is drafting the operating and reserve budgets. Drafting an initial budget for a new condominium or community association requires expertise because the budget process usually occurs before any construction activity, including installation of the infrastructure of the community or building construction of a condominium project.
Generally, it’s good practice to draft the first budget based on build-out, or as if the community or condominium was complete, regardless of where construction stands. The advantages of preparing a build-out budget is that it sets realistic assessments when the community is finished. If assessments are artificially low due to developer contributions during the construction phase of the development, the property owners face large increases in the annual assessment in the future.
Once the build-out budget has been approved, then a phased budget should be drafted based on when amenities and other common facilities will be constructed. Associated expenses and assessments should be included based on when they will come on line. The phased budget lets the developer know what developer contributions will be needed each year based on sales projections.
The community manager also makes recommendations on a number of operational decisions, such as types of grasses that are successful in the area, whether irrigation should be provided using metered water or wells, if on-site personnel will be required, the cost of various types of streetlights, and more. Answers to these questions are critical for creating a realistic budget.
A developer of a condominium or community association wears two hats: as the declarant and as a member on the board of directors. A professional community association management company skilled in new development can protect the interests of future membership by guiding the developer on many issues, including the architectural review process, collection of delinquent accounts, identifying qualified service providers, and so forth.
Developers should be aware that serving on the board of directors and as an officer of an association brings fiduciary responsibilities that require them to make decisions that are in the best interests of the community and its members.
Once everything above is completed, the management company’s role in the start up of a community is to handle the day to day operations of the association so the developer can spend time on construction, marketing and sales.
CAMS can help you get started and through this entire process. With unprecedented experience in helping property owners associations in the Cape Fear region, we can make the entire start up easier for you.
Mike Stonestreet is a 26-year veteran of the professional HOA management industry who has achieved one of the highest education-based designations in the field, that of Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM). Community Association Management Services (CAMS) has been a leading association management company since its inception in 1991. CAMS is a trusted provider of management services for more than 265 associations throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. To find out how CAMS can benefit your community, call 910-256-2021, email [email protected], or visit www.CAMSmgt.com.
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