COMPREHENSIVE HOA SERVICES
Phone: 919.932.0592 | Fax: 919.533.2446
As the owner and chief property manager, my team and I are more uniquely qualified to provide the best property management services, and results, to your HOA than any other management company in North Carolina. Because our management philosophy cannot be summed up in a few words, read my article, The 5 Traits To Consider When Choosing a Property Manager, for some insight into how we view our responsibilities to you, our valuable clients.
It's no secret...the primary key to our community management success is spending more time, physically, at your community. This means inspecting all areas of the buildings and grounds in order to prevent more costly repairs down the road; thus, saving the association’s funds, while preventing increased dues and/or special assessments. Computers, email, cell-phones, financial software and other modern devices have all made property management tasks a bit easier and faster these days, but there's no substitute for a proactive, capable property manager who is frequently on-site, inspecting all areas of the property. Someone who sits behind a desk all day simply cannot be an effective property manager. We actually enjoy getting out from behind our desks to meet the residents of the communities we serve. You might see us walking around your community during a rainstorm…checking on proper water drainage, or, during the evening…checking on the operation of the streetlights. Being on-site more frequently is how problems are prevented and how money is saved.
Residents of an HOA don’t like surprises. We all want to live in a well-run, attractive, safe and somewhat predictable community. By being on-site more frequently than other property managers, we’re able to: facilitate increased property values; reduce maintenance costs; improve landscaping results; reduce liability issues; foresee future spending needs; and prevent common violations of the rules and regulations before they become more serious.
There are many other specific tasks that we perform, depending upon the needs of each individual community, that make our services better and we believe that our approach is the best. We strive for excellence in all that we do and consider it an honor to be your management company of choice.
For a management proposal or simply to discuss the needs of your community, please email or call Ted Parenti at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 932-0592.
5 Important Traits to Consideration When Choosing a Property Manager
By Ted Parenti
Most HOA management contracts promise the same set of limited, basic services, but it’s the community manager - not the company he or she works for - who will ultimately make the biggest impact upon the success, or failure, of your community.
During your search for a community management company, you may be wined, dined and impressed by all of the promises from the president of the management company, but soon after your initial meeting, you’ll be assigned a property manager and the owner of the company will likely retreat to his or her office…not to be seen on the property again. Since nearly all of your association’s work, and communications, will be performed by the property manager assigned to your community, it’s essential for boards of directors to get to know their soon-to-be community manager, well-before signing a management contract. The seemingly, simple, but daily tasks that are performed by a community’s property manager, can define the financial success of the organization, the satisfaction-levels of the residents and the value of the property for years to come.
Interpersonal Skills Business Acumen Capable Dedicated High Standards
Despite having a great board of directors, your community manager’s social skills, business skills, capabilities, dedication and adherence to high standards will largely determine whether your community association will thrive, or is one that slowly requires more repairs, increased dues and whose homeowners tend to complain, instead of compliment. During your selection process, keep asking yourself if the property manager you are considering possesses all five of the traits listed here, or not.
Below are a few examples of what seems like simple and common management tasks/topics that don’t appear to have much effect on the success of an HOA, but as you read…consider how each trait, or the lack thereof, can ultimately determine the association’s long-term financial condition as well as the happiness of its residents. Use the questions and scenarios below when interviewing property management companies, and remember, the manager…not the company itself…is the more important decision.
“Is the property manager capable, and dedicated, enough to climb a ladder to inspect the work done by a gutter-cleaning company…?”
Why so important? If a manager isn’t willing or capable of climbing a ladder from time to time, how can anyone be sure that the gutters were actually cleaned in the first place? Managers must to be onsite frequently enough to check on vendors, and inspect the work that the association pays for, whether it’s a routine maintenance item performed by a trusted vendor, or a one-time job performed by a new vendor. Property managers should regularly inspect the conditions of the entire property, not just those that can be seen from the convenience of a car. If the property manager is not regularly inspecting every single area under his responsibility, then that manager is not being proactive...and costly maintenance and repairs will ensue.
This (gutter-cleaning) example is one where contractors, or their employees, are notorious for cutting corners. Some contractors might accidentally overlook portions of the job, while a few might, intentionally, not perform all the work that was agreed to, simply because they don’t think anyone will ever climb on the roof to check.
Another important aspect to consider in this example is…what’s the financial impact to the community when a manager does not fully inspect the completion of such a job? For argument’s sake, let’s say an HOA of 100 townhomes pays $1,500 for gutter cleaning, that’s performed twice per year…for a total of $3,000 during the year. However, 10% of the gutters get overlooked (or intentionally omitted) and the manager doesn’t find out because he didn’t inspect the job. Pretty soon, or during the next rain, some residents are going to report overflowing gutters and the manager is going to have to react by paying someone to come out and clean more gutters. Since, in this example, the manager never inspected the job after its completion, then there’s going to be some level of mistrust, or doubt, between the manager, the board of directors and the vendor who swears that, “my guys cleaned all the gutters”. Now, the HOA pays another $200 for a few extra hours of gutter cleaning, and if this occurs twice a year, for example, then the association will be $400, or about 13% over budget for this particular service. Now, imagine this lack of management oversight occurring in other, more important, areas of your community...or over the course of several years, and what the impact will be on the association’s funds. As you can guess, such obscure failures in proper community management will result in unnecessary budget increases, higher homeowner dues and constant maintenance surprises that have to be dealt with. If your property manager is capable of getting on the roof, in a crawl space or other difficult areas to access, and dedicated enough to actually climb up those rungs, then you’re on the right track to selecting a good manager.
What about Rampart? We’re not afraid of getting dirty! In fact, we keep an extra set of clothes and shoes in our cars for climbing on roofs; rolling around in crawl spaces; walking in the rain; and other important tasks required of a property manager. But we don’t only check on the work after it’s completed, we make sure that the vendor understands our expectations in the first place. But how do we make sure the vendor’s employees understand our expectations too? Before a job like gutter cleaning begins, we’ll meet with the people who are actually doing the work…not just the company owner…but the guys who are cleaning the gutters and we’ll make sure that they understand our expectations too. It’s simple really…if the vendor fully understands the manager’s expectations and if the vendors knows that the manager will be checking on the work, then the Association’s money is not going to be wasted. Once the work is completed, and the job is inspected, then and only then, does the vendor get paid.
Checking on the performance of all jobs, not just gutter-cleaning has additional benefits for the HOA. For instance, once a manager is on the roof, she might as well take advantage of looking for other potential problems, like: lifted or missing shingles; deteriorating vent boots; damaged ridge vents; poor flashing; unsafe satellite dish installations; siding and trim rot; and anything else of importance.
“The Annual Meeting is coming up in a few weeks and the board of directors and the property manager believe that a disgruntled homeowner is going to show up and make a spectacle of things. Does the property manager have the interpersonal skills to deal with such a situation…?”
Why so important? The Annual Meeting is a business meeting and can be, to a lesser extent, a social gathering. The Annual Meeting should be taken seriously, but occasionally it’s used by some as a time to grandstand, argue, point fingers of blame or embarrass others. Since the Annual Meeting is often the only time that a sizable number of residents get together, the actions of one or two people can make it appear to other residents that the entire community is falling apart when, in reality, things are being run quite smoothly. Sometimes, things can get downright hostile and even dangerous, but an experienced and mature manager with excellent interpersonal skills can either take control of the situation or properly advise the board of directors on how to deal with such disruptions.
If the property manager and board of directors are aware that such a disturbance might take place, which is often the case, it’s in everyone’s best interest to try and deflate such a situation before it arises. A dedicated and socially-skilled manager can usually resolve this situation in a number of ways. The property manager should try and meet, in person, with the homeowner and hear what he has to say. Often, just meeting with, and listening to, the owner can entirely resolve a problem or misunderstanding. If the homeowner remains determined to cause a disruption at the meeting after talking with the property manager and/or board of directors, at least both parties will know what to expect and be prepared to react properly, instead of letting a meeting get out of control.
An experienced property manager, with good interpersonal skills, should know how to deal with a variety of situations and personalities. Furthermore, a skillful manager should be able to determine when they are dealing with someone who may have a legitimate concern, versus someone who is simply angry. A dedicated manager, who has good social skills should help to protect the members of the association and its’ assets by understanding people, their motivations and advising the board of directors on how to deal with such difficult people, and issues, as they arise.
What about Rampart? Your Rampart manager will recommend solutions to your Board of Directors and will take appropriate actions on the Board’s behalf to improve any tensions among residents. While “resolving conflicts” is not necessarily a task most managers feel comfortable doing, we at Rampart, can act as a mediator, to a certain extent, and bring understanding and calmness to an otherwise tense situation.
“Our association’s insurance coverage is one of the most expensive items in our budget and it keeps increasing each year. Does the property manager have the business acumen to keep our premium from increasing so much from year-to-year?”
Why so important? This scenario examines the ability and commitment of the manager in saving the association money. Do you want to hire a property manager who buys a car without even attempting to negotiate, because it makes him feel uncomfortable or takes too much effort? The same goes with insurance and other services your manager will have to negotiate and contract for. HOA insurance premiums typically increase from year to year without most property managers doing anything about it. Why? Because it takes the manager lots of time and effort to solicit bids from other insurance agencies. The fact is, there’s plenty of money to be saved by bidding out the association’s insurance policies each and every year. Insurance agents do have some degree of flexibility in winning an association’s business, but unless your manager asks for a reduction in premium, increased rates are usually a sure thing. Insurance, like other services, doesn’t necessarily have to increase in cost from year-to-year. Regularly pursuing competitive offers can result in reduced premiums and better coverage than before. A property manager who has not bid-out his associations’ insurance policies is, likely, wasting the association funds.
What about Rampart? In early 2014, we saved two associations over $25,000 in combined insurance premiums while improving the coverage provided. How? One community that had been managed by a different management company had a policy in effect that seemed substantially higher than what it should have been. Within 45 days of managing the community, the policy was put out for bid and the premium was reduced by $15,000. Insurance policies, coverage, and renewals can be difficult to understand, but a property manager who has business acumen will know how the system operates. That savings of $15,000 was a nice surprise for the board of directors who could now redirect those funds to other areas.
At Rampart, we’ll always use our business skills to save your association money, but we also recognize the value of getting what you pay for. Not all insurance companies, landscaping companies, power washing companies, etc., are the same, but when interviewing a property manager, ask for ways that he might work to save the association money. Simply negotiating a few service contracts, or cutting unnecessary expenses, might make the difference between a financially sound HOA, versus one on the verge of failure.
“Our townhomes are getting pretty old. Do we just have to accept things like a little erosion; marginal landscaping; some rotten siding; and some old, ugly mailboxes, or should we expect higher standards?
Why so important? While property managers and Boards of Directors should operate within the approved budget, they should discuss their individual expectations for the property. Sometimes, a manager’s expectations are higher than the board of directors’, and sometimes they’re lower. When a vendor, like a landscaper, is not performing up to expectations, perhaps the community didn’t expect much from their landscaper in the first place, or never spent adequate funds to realistically meet the needs of the community. Despite having limited funds, however, a property manager and board of directors should still have high-standards for their community.
Some property managers have difficulty meeting the expectations of the community they represent. For instance, an inexperienced manager with somewhat low standards for cleanliness might end up frustrating a board of directors who complain about slightly dirty carpets, or the occasional leaves that make their way into the common area during the fall. An experienced manager must do more than take orders and react to the complaints they receive. A manager must be capable of knowing what standards are expected by the unique clients they serve.
A specific example of this comes to mind, when one day, I arranged for two men from a trusted maintenance company to pick up trash throughout a townhome community. After meeting with them onsite to show them where to start the work, I discovered that one of the crew's standards for trash removal was drastically different than mine. After explaining my expectations for the work and walking 50-feet or so, I had picked up two dozen small pieces of trash, but one of the other men picked up none. He wasn’t lazy, but what I considered trash (small wrappers and cigarette butts in the grass) was acceptable to him. Similarly, property managers are only familiar with what they’ve been exposed to and they must be capable of delivering high standards to whatever type of community they manage – whether it be million dollar single-family residences or $60,000 town homes.
What about Rampart? We at Rampart always demand the highest levels of service for what the association pays. We recognize that having higher standards does not always translate to higher costs. Doing things smarter, more efficiently and with more care doesn’t require more money, but it does require a manager who pays attention to the services provided to the client. When hiring a property manager, consider the manager’s experience in delivering first-rate services to high-paying clients, as well as the ability to maintain high-standards for lower-paying clients. Given the above examples, Rampart Management believes that there is no acceptable level of trash on the grounds of any association’s property.
The best way to determine the standards of a new property manager is for the board of directors to literally “walk the property” with the manager for about an hour, or so, and listen to what the manager has to say. Does the manager notice things like: mold or mildew (anywhere) on the siding; pavement or concrete issues; erosion or drainage problems; poor landscaping; peeling paint; dirty or aged entryway signage; faded street signs; leaning stop signs; safety issues/trip hazards; missing downspouts; clogged vent ducts; uneven gutters; missing downspouts; windows painted shut; overgrown trees or shrubs; trash strewn about the property; firewood stored around the home, or other such conditions that could lead to termite or insect infestation? Furthermore, does the manager notice common resident violations, like: too many personal belongings in unauthorized places; untidy conditions on porches, decks and backyards; incorrect window-coverings; parking issues; unauthorized activities or business, etc.?
T. Parenti, 2014
NOTICE OF RIGHT TO VOLUNTARY MEDIATION
Pursuant to Section 7A-38.3F of the North Carolina General Statutes, all members are hereby informed that you have a right to initiate mediation pursuant to the terms of the statute to try to resolve a dispute with the Association. Both the homeowner and the Association must agree to mediate the dispute, and each side is responsible for splitting the cost of the mediation, including payment of a professional mediator. The mediation process is an opportunity to reach an agreement to resolve a dispute – neither side gives up their right to go to court to have a judge resolve the dispute if the parties are not able to reach an agreement through mediation. The specific process to initiate voluntary mediation is outlined in Section 7A-38.3F of the North Carolina General Statutes.