Interviewing a management company is no doubt important – finding a true partner beyond the facts and figures matters for a mutually beneficial working relationship. But before any company can confidently say how they can best serve your community, they need to know and understand as much as possible. That’s why writing a detailed request for proposal and allowing a management company to interview the board is so important: if you provide necessary information up front and answer all follow-up questions to the best of your ability, you streamline the selection process, set expectations from the very beginning, and ensure a truly productive and long-term partnership.
Of course, you should be prepared to address the basics like total number of homes, type of community (townhome, condo, single family) and provide a list of amenities (pool, clubhouse, gates, deeded parking, etc), how frequently you meet, the number of board members, and if assessments are billed monthly, quarterly or annually. Beyond those fundamentals, and before asking for a price, be forthcoming about the boards’ expectations and management strategy by providing the following pieces of information to any management partner you’re considering:
- How frequently the association changes service providers and how frequently the board goes out to bid. What dollar amount determines if you will bid out for a project or just use an existing vendor?
- Explain whether the board’s approach is to problem solve with their vendors, attorneys, managers or other service providers or if they prefer to move on with another provider after one strike.
- Communicate whether the board understands the difference in service levels between a dedicated manager, semi-dedicated manager or portfolio manager or if they need an explanation.
- Make it clear whether the board allows the manager to use their company’s internal resources to help them complete work or do they consider it a conflict (e.g. general maintenance providers, construction divisions, the company’s newsletter program, etc.)
- Be direct about the board’s understanding of the financials, if the board is engaged in the financials, or if they prefer to just be informed about the financial state of the association from a 30,000 foot altitude.
- Explain if the board prioritizes their work and stays on time and on task, or they take more of a "du jour" approach with action items.
- Have an honest conversation about expectations being in alignment with the fees they have budgeted or can afford to pay. Let the bidders know if the board wants Nordstrom shoes at Payless prices.
- Clearly state whether board meetings run on time and on task or if the board functions in a more social way at meetings.
- Tell the prospective bidders the expected volume of email traffic and the expectations for responses.
- Let the prospective management company know how much business is conducted between board meetings.
- Explain whether the board wants the manager to be part of the community or just a business agent.
- Make sure to identify whether the board is unified and cohesive or if there is friction and major differences between board members.
- Tell the bidders about the board’s management philosophy. Do they want to direct the action to a manager or manage the action themselves?
- Be direct about how the board wants to do business with regard to approving and paying bills, sending items out to bid, etc.
- Let the prospective bidders know the culture of the community and the most distinguishing characteristics of your board (or community).
- Sum up the reasons the board has decided to entertain bids and seek new management and explain the single most important thing the board wants to accomplish.
- Explain the community’s biggest challenge.
- Advise the prospective service provider of the top three issues the Board has spent their time on in the last twelve months.
- Always let the bidder know if the board is currently considering any special assessment or an increase in annual assessments.
- It’s wise to advise the prospective service provider if board meetings have been adjourned in the past because business cannot be conducted due to board member disagreement or disruptive homeowners.
- Be candid about how many management companies the association has had in the last five years.
While providing all the information outlined here might seem like an overly detailed approach, all of it will help ensure any partnership between your community and a management partner begins well and goes on to be productive and pleasant. In short, a well-written RFP can help both the board and the prospective managing agent save time, energy and resources and ultimately find the right fit for the board, the homeowners, managing agent and all the other stakeholders involved in making your community a great place to live.