Most community associations don’t have the time or expertise needed to manage their assets, oversee day-to-day operations, and maintain regular communication with owners. That’s why they hire a community association manager to take care of all the different aspects involved in preserving the value and harmony of their property.
If you want to become a successful community association manager, but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a helpful guide with tried and tested tips on how to be the best CAM you can be.
1. Maintain the property
As a community association manager, your role is to serve the best interests of the homeowners association (HOA) that has hired you. This means ensuring that the communal property is well-maintained according to standards set by the association. While there are several competing wants and needs, your job will be to do what is best for the community as a whole.
Some of the tasks you must perform and oversee will include:
- Conducting regular inspection of the grounds, facilities, and equipment
- Scheduling equipment repairs or replacements when necessary
- Hiring contractors for services like security, maintenance, trash removal, and landscaping
2. Keep the community happy by staying on top of tasks
Show the HOA you’re the right person for the job by staying on top of important tasks such as:
- Meeting potential tenants and showing them around the property
- Collecting fees from tenants and owners on a regular basis
- Maintaining up-to-date rental activity records
- Making sure that insurance, maintenance, payroll, and taxes are paid on time
- Compiling financial reports and budgets
It can be hard to remember everything, which is why the best CAMs have some sort of system to keep them organized. Be it a scheduler, their phone, or community association management software, CAMs benefit from having tools that set them up for success.
3. Resolve disputes between residents
At some point, you will be called upon to resolve complaints and conflicts between residents within the community. While there are some disputes that should not be settled by the association, there are certainly issues that will require the CAM to get involved. The key to effective conflict resolution is to start by identifying the source of the conflict. Then, decide on the best time and place to have a discussion about the issue. It may be more advantageous to bring both parties together so everyone can be a part of the solution. But if there is a lot of tension between residents, the CAM may want to speak with each person individually.
Take an amicable approach to the problem and avoid blaming or accusing either party. Stick to the facts whenever possible. Allow each party to describe their feelings about the situation. Lastly, identify a solution to resolve the conflict, using the statues set out in the association’s CC&Rs.
This method won’t work all of the time, but should still be the first course of action as it attempts to defuse the situation and resolve it as peacefully as possible.
4. Safety first
Part of your responsibility as a CAM is to ensure that the community you manage is safe and secure at all times. This means regularly checking and monitoring security measures to make sure they’re working.
Some CAM software will have a security console. Having this integrated feature allows CAMs and security teams to collaborate from one platform. People who have used Patrol Points or a similar software solution prefer it because it allows them to conduct patrols, review patrol details, and maintain communication using their smartphone and an app.
5. Don’t underestimate your people skills
Some of the most important qualities you must have as a community association manager include:
- Good communication skills – You must be able to clearly explain the contents of your rental contracts and lease documents to prospective tenants so they know what they’re getting into. Failure to do so may lead to misunderstandings and disputes in the long run.
- Good listening skills – This is a must when you’re a community association manager. You’ll be working with people every day, so you need to be good at listening to their problems, complaints and suggestions.
- Problem-solving skills – This is also important considering you’ll be dealing with a fair amount of conflict-resolution and even legal issues throughout your tenure as a CAM. You may need to mediate disputes between homeowners and board members, on occasion.
- Organizational skills – Part of your job as a CAM is to coordinate the activities of all the contractors you hire to work on the property. Whether it’s a plumber, landscaper or electrician, you must hire them according to any processes laid out by the association, and maintain good relationships with them. You can often negotiate good rates when you have worked with a vendor for many years. Having these connections also makes you more attractive to prospective clients.
6. Study and master your association documents
It’s important that you know the association’s governing documents well. You don’t have to memorize them, but be conscious of the different sections and any unique rules. Be sure to always have them ready should you ever need to refer to a rule or bylaw. For instance, you may need to refer to your HO6 document when reminding one of your residents about their obligation to maintain cabinets or whatever aspect of the property they may have damaged.
7. Have a physical presence on the property
You’ll probably spend a lot of your time in the office taking care of daily administrative tasks. But, it’s equally important that you take time out of your schedule and walk around the property now and then. Greet residents with a smile and take an interest in their experience within the community.
Most CAMs prefer to do this on a Monday right before they step into the office. That’s because a lot happens over the weekend when the manager is not around. Be sure to take a stroll through the property with a camera and clipboard on hand so you can take notes and pictures of anything that’s out of place.
If you’re using association management software, you can create a work order or task straight from your smartphone. This will make your job easier once you get to the office, especially when it comes to hiring a vendor to fix the problem. That’s because you can share pictures in addition to written information, which gives the repair person a better idea of costs, timelines, etc.
8. Prepare for and attend HOA board meetings
Before each board meeting, you need to put together a ‘meeting package’ with an agenda, any items that the board will vote on, and vendor bids. Even if the vendors are slow to send their bids, you can always add last-minute appendixes.
Having this information available will significantly speed up the meeting because when you’re prepared, it’s easy to address questions from the board and get them up to speed. Plus, you’ll be calm, cool and collected throughout the proceedings as you’ve already done your homework.
This shows the board and owners you’re organized, efficient and committed.
9. Keep critical spreadsheets well-organized
If you miss a contract termination deadline, or payment, the problem can usually be fixed. However, these little accidents may cost the association more money. The best way to avoid such incidents is to regularly update spreadsheets for meetings, contracts, insurance renewal, vendor contact information, computer passwords, and other important information.
That way, even if you’re not at the office, you can delegate tasks to a member of your staff that takes care of the property when you’re not around.
The best part is you can keep your spreadsheets paperless by uploading them onto a digital file library or the cloud. A file library keeps documents secure, and allows you to set different permission levels for each of your files. This means staff can access documents and maintain productivity in your absence without compromising file confidentiality or safety.
10. Listen to your residents
Homeowners and/or tenants will often come to your office and complain about something. It’s easy to get annoyed or irritated when someone walks in to tell you about a half-eaten peach that another resident left on the stairs all weekend.
But, it’s important to keep in mind they’re taking time out of their schedule to come in and tell you about something that affects the integrity of the property.
While it might seem like they’re doing too much complaining, they are also giving you an opportunity to help. Plus, it shows that they care about the community as much as you do.
So, make it a priority to listen and show you care whenever someone comes to you with an issue or idea.
A community association manager is like the glue that holds a community together. They oversee the maintenance of the property, and its facilities, while managing daily affairs to ensure they have a smooth-running association.
Almost anyone can become a successful community association manager, regardless of whether they have a high school diploma, a college degree or a property manager certification. Some states may have specific requirements for CAMs, so make sure you’re up-to-date on the rules. If there are no licensing requirements, a CAM license will make it easier for you to secure work, but the “devil is in the details” as they say. All you need is to take care of all the little things that people take for granted and create a sustainable community.
This may seem like a lot in the beginning, especially when you fall into the trap of taking your work too seriously. But, managing an association is easier than you think once you get over the initial learning curve.
Stay on top of important tasks, keep everything organized, and maintain a positive mindset.