5 Tips For Hiring A Good HOA Community Manager

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Choosing a community manager is one of the most important decisions that a HOA and condo board will make. Talk about pressure! You need to be careful in your selection because the people who work on your community’s management team—especially those on-site—will affect quality of life for residents. So it’s important to make a smart choice.

When you hire a community management firm, they run the day-to-day operations of your community. It’s crucial to do your research when hiring a community manager so you’re confident they have what it takes to fit into your community and run things properly.

Apart from having good communication and conflict resolution skills, community managers need to have certain traits in order to be successful. Here are five tips for finding the right fit for your community:

Evaluate your last manager.

Unless you’re hiring because your community is moving from a self-managed model, your existing manager either quit or was fired. So when you choose another community management firm, board members should evaluate the last one for clues about what was missing. Be objective in your evaluation. Make a list of what you liked about the last community manager and what needs to be improved under the new firm.

Shop around, with intelligence.

Your HOA’s other service providers likely work with a number of community management firms, so ask them for recommendations. Check with people you know living in other communities, too—happy residents usually have good managers. Make a short list of the best candidates and research their reputations. Search them out online; ask for references and follow up to see how they performed for past clients. Ask references about their strengths and weaknesses as a manager. Are they accountable? How are their accounting, deadline juggling, and communication skills? If you’re evaluating large management companies, ask for the names and credentials of the team members who will provide the actual service in your community (such as the senior manager, onsite manager, or administrator) so you can research them online and check their references.

Ask the right questions.

Find out exactly what services are offered by the different community management companies you’re considering, and ask for a complete list of management fees so there are no hidden surprises. Ask about their expectations from the board, too: sick days; time off for professional development; offsite meetings; etc. Ask about their vendor relationships (do they get multiple quotes for services and have relationships with multiple vendors for the same service?); back office skills (is a live person available 24/7 in cases of emergency? Are HOA finances kept by a qualified, certified financial expert? Are they up to date on all laws governing the running of a condo or HOA?); and about their experience as community managers (for example, a gated community HOA wouldn’t hire a firm that has only managed high-rise condos).

Look for experience and credentials.

Not all property management companies are created equal. Firms that have been in business for years have a longer track record of staying current with best practices and regulatory changes. But make sure their experience covers all aspects you need: landscaping, governance, pest control, waste and recycling, special projects, etc. Verify the firms’ and individual managers’ industry designations to make sure their credentials meet your standards.

Meet with them in person.

All board members should have a chance to meet prospective managers and talk face-to-face. This way you can evaluate how well they listen and relate to people. A good community manager needs great communication skills and the ability to interact with many different people and personalities, while keeping the community’s logistics in order. You want someone proactive and resourceful who is also personable and level headed. Someone responsive, who returns calls and keeps open lines of communication so everyone in the building—residents and workers alike—feel heard. (Bonus points: give extra consideration to prospective managers who are savvy enough to use Evercondo to communicate, manage, organize and optimize operations.)

Have you ever hired a property manager? How did you choose the right person or firm for the job? Share your stories in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Evercondo is the leading web and mobile platform that facilitates quick and useful communication between property managers, HOA board, and residents. Contact us for a demonstration or sign up for a free trial to see how we can keep your HOA and condo communities happy while saving your community managers tons of time.

3 Tips To Avoid Pet “Headaches” and Issues In Your Condo

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Source: https://fineartamerica.com

Pets are part of the family. But what happens when someone’s four-legged family member urinates in your condo lobby? Once the mess is cleaned up, how do you prevent Fido from making it a morning ritual? Beyond that, what actions can managers take to ease friction between pet owners and their neighbors who may fear or dislike animals?

In condo lifestyle advertisements, you sometimes see developers promoting their communities as “pet friendly”. For them it’s a competitive advantage—they offer rooftop dog runs, outside pet park areas, doggie spa baths. Anything to entice their target market: owners of pampered urban pets.

But being “pet friendly” happens on a spectrum in condo communities. Because the Condominium Act gives corporations the freedom to spell out specific pet policies for their buildings, rules range between pets being forbidden on one extreme, to pets being encouraged on the other.

The fact is, condo living and pets only coexist peacefully when the rules are clear and people follow them. And even though the rules are written into a condo’s governing documents, not all residents may be fully aware of what is and is not allowed.

Nor can you be sure everyone will follow the rules, even if they do understand them.

To avoid untenable scenarios, managers and boards need to make sure that pet ownership rules are as transparent as possible for residents. These three tips can help you define it:

Clarify the pet policy in the governing documents.

Make sure the condominium by-laws have a section dedicated to pet policies that spells out specific rules for pet ownership. For example, the maximum number of pets allowed per unit; forbidding commercial breeding; requiring all pets to be screened and registered before they move in. The more detailed you are in your by-laws (and the more transparent you are with residents), the easier it is to lay down the law.

Beware of “grandfathers” condo bylaws.

Condo bylaws are amended and pet policies change over time. For example, a community may decide to prohibit certain dog breeds and enact a new law to that effect. Existing pet owners are usually protected by “grandfather” bylaw clauses, which can make the rules seem ambiguous and certainly harder to navigate. Make sure the rules are spelled out clearly for residents, new and old. Include relevant dates that establish exactly when grandfather rules apply. Managers should get to know which residents fall under these special cases so they don’t try to enforce new rules on current pet owners.

Plan out violation procedures to help alleviate conflict.

No one wants to be the pet pariah of the building. But that doesn’t stop certain people from sneaking their 45-pound dog out at night because the condo bylaws state a 30-pound limit. This can lead to awkward conflicts between neighbors and detract from the community’s overall quality of life. To alleviate this, make sure you have established procedures for dealing with pet owners who flout the rules—and a communications plan for notifying them of what to expect if it continues.

Do you consider your condo to be pet friendly? How are conflicts over pet ownership rules resolved? Share your stories in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Evercondo the leading web and mobile platform that facilitates quick, useful communication between property managers, the condo association or HOA board, and residents. Contact us for a demonstration or a free trial to see how we can keep your communities happy.

How To Write Emails That Get The Job Done

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How many times have you ask yourself “Why doesn’t she get back to me?” I mean, seriously, how long does it take for someone to reply to an email. It only takes a few minutes but why does it take so long. Getting someone to do something is hard, it’s even harder when you’re asking your customers (a.k.a. the board members) via email. The importance of writing a good email cannot be overemphasized. Things need to get done and your emails to your residents need to be good. Period.

Formalities aside, a good email is a simple one. Easy enough to be understood by a 5th grader (i.e., 10 year old). Here’s a good example, why use 5th grader when you can clearly choose to use “10 year old.” In other words, why make the reader think?

To master the art of effective email writing, property managers can borrow from the lowliest form of communication: direct mail copywriting.

Direct mail copy is, well, direct. It’s persuasive, politely blunt, and makes it easy for recipients to respond. All those flyers and letters that go from your mailbox straight into the recycling bin—they’re a goldmine of inspiration.

You simply transfer those direct mail attributes to your email writing, and bammo. Timely responses in your inbox. Here’s how:

Use short, simple language.

Write your emails for clarity to avoid confusion on the part of recipients. Be succinct. Clearly explain what you want using the fewest possible words. (Top tip: remove unnecessary qualifiers – words like “very”, “really”, “extremely” – that lessen the impact of your message. It’s better to use one powerful word than two or three mediocre ones.) Long blocks of text are subject to the “tl;dr” (too long; didn’t read) phenomenon. Instead, write short, to-the-point sentences. Use bullet points to break up long paragraphs that list things. Limit paragraphs to four or five lines so they’re easy to skim—you should see lots of white space in the email message field.

Focus on a single topic.

People have short attention spans. Don’t overload them with too much information crammed into one message. Each email you send to board members should include details only relevant to the specific point you’re trying to make. Resist the urge to add a “p.s.” or ask about other (unrelated) issues.

Be specific in the “Subject” line.

A good subject line lets recipients know what your email is about right away. Write subject lines using detailed language instead of vague phrases like “Questions for you” or “Ideas to consider” and instead use something like “Feedback needed: Agenda items for 2017 AGM.” (This also makes emails easier to find if you have to search your inbox for them later.)

Remember that size matters.

There’s a reason direct mail copy uses bold lettering, big headlines, and fine print. It guides the reader’s eye to the most important messages. For email, make sure your messages are readable on a mobile phone, where most people will open them. This means using precise language to keep copy as short as possible; using at least an 11-point font for body text and a 22-point font for headlines; and having a clear call to action in the subject line.

Have an obvious call to action.

Create a sense of urgency that encourages board members to act right away. Whether it’s a contract deadline, a maintenance issue, or an event they should attend, explain in 10 words or less exactly what action you want them take. Make sure to use “active voice” rather than “passive voice”.

Examples:

  • Hit “reply” and type “Yes” to RSVP today.
  • Feedback due ASAP to meet next week’s deadline.
  • Reply to accept this meeting time or suggest another.

Do you find that board members are responsive to your emails? How do you encourage timely responses? Share your stories in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Evercondo the leading web and mobile platform that facilitates quick, useful communication between property managers, the condo association or HOA board, and residents. Contact us for a demonstration or a free trial to see how we can keep your communities happy.

6 Practical Communication Tips for Busy Condo & HOA Managers

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Effective, regular communication is your key to an efficiently managed condo or HOA community and happier residents. In fact, an official “communication plan” will help you better manage risk and relationships in your job. Here are 6 practical tips that you can start using today.

Poor communication is often the cause of tension or conflict within a managed community. Proof can be found in a multi-year survey of condo owners in Ontario (which collected data from 40 percent of the province’s condo corporations).

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Almost half of the respondents (49 percent) said “lack of communication from boards of directors and/or managers” was the most common problem. Respondents cited frustration, fear, and other negative feelings due to:

  • Lack of information about board meetings
  • No response from boards and managers to enquiries or requests for information
  • Confusing accounting reports
  • Unexplained fee hikes/maintenance costs/special assessments

With all the other responsibilities a property manager juggles each day, good communication tactics may not be top of mind. But clear, open communication that speaks to your audience actually makes your job easier.

Good communication improves retention rates, builds community bonds, and educates residents about property management policies and procedures.

Fortunately, effective communication is a skill that can be developed easily and enhanced even more with the right tools. So get started on a communication plan for your community with these helpful guidelines:

1. Know your key message

Be clear in your communications by sticking to a single topic in each “message transmission” sent to residents. This is true no matter what format you’re using to communicate. Whether it’s an email to a single resident, a bulletin board post, or a seasonal report, have one clear message to avoid confusion.

Topics that matter to residents include:

  • Work orders and service requests
  • Amenities bookings
  • Problems and complaints
  • Building events
  • Condo board meetings and AGM
  • By-laws and fees
  • Fire safety and emergency testing

2. Use plain language

With millions of words in the English language to choose from, it’s easy to be misunderstood if you use unfamiliar words to get your point across. Vocabularies differ in size. The number of words (and their meanings) each person knows will vary due to environment, culture, and life experience. But when you speak or write in “plain language” you’re using words that everyone knows—a core vocabulary of about 300 familiar words used most often to express meaning and intent, usually without misunderstanding. Plain language excludes jargon, acronyms, legalese, and slang. The simplest, shortest way to say something in plain language is usually the best way.

3. Broadcast your achievements

Use your community blog or newsletter to let residents know what a great job you’re doing. Share good news about building improvements and upgrades—the freshly painted lobby, blooming garden, new hallway carpet—anything that residents will appreciate. Making the news public shows your commitment to open communication as well as your responsiveness to property maintenance.

4. Plan ahead

Map out a yearly timeline in your plan for communicating with residents and owners. Monthly meetings, calendar events, regular maintenance procedures that require alert notices—anything with a clearly defined date can be scheduled ahead of time to be posted or sent automatically. Organize all notifications, announcements and communications in one place for a strong, unified sense of ownership. Post information on discussion boards to kickstart conversations between owners/residents and property management, the board, and each other. The open communication creates a positive feeling of community—notifications, events, news, and other updates can be shared among residents and owners quickly and easily.

5. Encourage feedback (and provide feedback channels)

Communication goes both ways. Make sure residents know that your property management team is available to hear their questions, comments or concerns. Arrange annual meetings with residents/owners to get feedback in person to better understand their priorities. You can also send out surveys (online, or printed) to track how satisfied residents are with the property management and to suggest areas for improvement.

6. Technology is your best buddy

Maintaining a good flow of communication is not easy, especially when you are dealing with a community of hundreds of residents. Luckily, we now live in a world where you can even feed your dog through a smartphone. Take advantage of technology. Make it your best buddy to help you communicate better with your residents. (Shameless plug coming) A community management platform like Evercondo helps you send emails, SMS, push notification and voice broadcasts to your residents in just a few clicks.

Do you have any other communication tips for property managers? If so, let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Evercondo the leading web and mobile platform that facilitates quick, useful communication between property managers, the condo association or HOA board, and residents. Contact us for a demonstration or a free trial to see how we can keep your communities happy.