Re: Property or Community Management Hire
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2018 08:51:07 -0800 (PST)
On Dec 12, 2018, at 10:20 AM, Christine Johnson <christine-johnson [at]> wrote:

> The quality of the management service you get from an association manager or 
> property manager (two different animals), depends not on what you pay but on 
> the 1)knowledge and professional care of the manager and 2) the support from 
> his/her company provides their managers. 

In support of what Christine advises and based on personal experience, my 
opinion only, others in my community disagree —

It is  probably not worth your time or money. I don’t know of a management 
company that will do facilities management without also doing the financial 
management, and even then the financial management won’t cover all the 
financial needs.

We pay $17,300 a year for both financial management and facilities management.  
In addition to that we have auditors fees and tax return fees.

Financial management is now done with web services that we could use ourselves. 
Somewhere in the archives is a post about all the things our management 
companies have done with our bills — not paying contracted companies without 
new invoices every month so they won’t return, losing utility bills and not 
noticing that they hadn’t paid them, paying inaccurate invoices— one for $4,000 
— that they had been told not to pay (a note right on the invoice), extra 
charges for everything they actually do like copying invoices, etc. 

I think we have a good financial management department in our current company 
now but I’m not convinced that we couldn’t do it easier ourselves. Condo fees 
are even deposited to a company that provides this service for management 
companies. They don’t do it themselves anymore.

What the facilities manager can do is give advice, which is usually good 
because it is based on what other communities do or have done — and it is 
comforting to know that  your problem is not unusual and the cost is standard.  
And they will make phone calls. 

Once you hire  a company, you are assigned a rep. That rep can be good or bad 
and they change frequently—we have had 3 in the last 4 years or so and I think 
we have a good company. It’s very hard to bring a new rep up to speed in 
cohousing, to even understand cohousing. All communities have different 
standards and expectations, but except for celebrity housing, cohousing seems 
to have higher than most. We are certainly more vigilant.

One manager told us that he sends out financial reports every month and meets 
with the board to discuss them. He said the board members come in with the 
packets unopened, and some are still unopened when they leave. Communities we 
called for references for management companies didn’t know much about whether 
they were doing a good job or not, even when they recommended the company.

They have gotten bids — a mixed bag in terms of whether the process was good or 
not. The rep may not be on site, for example, when bids are solicited. How can 
they ask questions, explain the job thoroughly, or be sure the person actually 
visits the site? They charge $100+ an hour to supervise on-site work. They 
don’t meet workers when they arrive, for example, to be sure they know what 
needs to be done. They do research by calling the companies they like and 
asking what would you do? That may be good or bad.

Example: Our reserves specialist had told us we needed to round off the sharp 
brick edges on top of the short walls around our piazza and tot lot. The health 
dept. would close us down if we left them the way they were. Rather than saying 
the health dept. will never see them, which is true until a child is seriously 
hurt, we got 5 bids from people to fix them. They _all_ said that grinding off 
would not work. They wanted to add tiles with round corners on the tops — very 
expensive. They gave a lot of reasons why. During the next reserve study,  we 
relayed our experience. The specialist said that’s because they don’t have the 
equipment to do it. He gave us the name of a company that could do it. A large 
company that doesn’t do small jobs. Catch-22.

So if your management rep is experienced, they know who to ask. If they aren’t, 
they won’t know more than you do. And if you have been self-managing, you have 
experience — good or bad.

So you not only have to interview the company, you need to interview the actual 
person they are going to assign you and find out, if you can, what their 
experience includes and how long they are likely to stay. 6 months? 2 years? 
Have already taken another job?

One tip that we have not been able to implement is to find a person who manages 
individual rental properties, usually for a realty company. A small office is 
more likely to be owner managed and thus more stable. We haven’t found one that 
would take us on, but they have been highly recommended. Or find a facilities 
manager for a larger condo who will meet with you 2 hours a month to advise you 
on things and do a walk through. They can tell you who to call.

The Property Managers Association here (dif. from the CAI) considers 400 units 
to be a small condo. With 30-40 units, cohousing can't compete, even if a 
company will take you on.

That’s a negative review and others would say yes, but… Some would rather have 
it done inefficiently and expensively than doing it themselves. But they also 
over estimate how much work is actually being done or what it should cost. How 
much money is a lot? For one person $50 a month is nothing, for another it is 
budget busting.

Having a professional manager sounds nice but lots of things sound nice. I 
don’t want to be too negative but to warn you that it may cost much more than 
it is worth. And what you really need is advice and reassurance. Can you pay 
someone $200 a month to meet with you 2 hours a month and call with questions?

If you are in an area with a CAI chapter, going to the monthly meetings would 
be a good place to pick up advice.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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