Being exclusively in HOA and Condo association management, we have learned over the years that it takes a very unique set of skills to make a great HOA manager. An individual manager must cater to a variety of people, with many different needs and wants, and deliver results in a very timely fashion, all while being in budget and executed with a smile. The position requires organization and attentiveness along with a balance of a variety of property management skills.
When it boils down to it, an association manager is really 5 jobs in 1. We have compiled a list of the essential professional skills that help go into making a good HOA manager.
An association manager must have a full understanding of the financial basics of an HOA or condo association. They must be aware of the standard monthly, quarterly, or annual cash flow that comes in for an association. Knowing these basics of course is crucial when creating the annual budget for the association. Without the basic accounting and financial knowledge, it makes it very difficult to plan for maintenance and other association related projects. Most importantly, they must be able to the answer the one question that every HOA manager faces on a constant basis, “Where does all of our money go”. A good manager will always have a nice, complete answer to this question.
Now obviously not every association manager needs to have their contracting license. What we mean is simply managers be familiar with contractors and how they operate. This means remembering a few keys things to help projects move smoothly and quickly. Your contractors are professionals in their line of work just like yourself. They deserve to be compensated for their time when they assist you. At the same time, the more you know about fence replacement, concrete work, landscaping, etc, the better off you will be as a manager. Understanding approximate costs of small projects, and the time frames that are associated with them, will help you as an HOA manager to better understand jobs specs and project bids.
One thing we figured out really quickly when we entered the association management business is that we are not really “property mangers” but rather we are “people managers”. A good manger must be able to communicate and work with people from all backgrounds, shapes, and sizes. Some boards of directors have a low touch or hands off approach while others love to be really involved, even maybe sometimes too involved. When you involve contractors and other homeowners as well, things can get complicated at times. An experienced manager will find that right mix of communication based on their audience and working with them over time. The better the communication between the HOA manger and the community board of directors, the more secure they will feel with you as their community manager.
Consultant / Advisor
Being a consultant and advisor is an important aspect of good community manger. Many times I will see managers play the role of order taker as opposed to truly advising the community. This happens for a few different reasons. The manager could be just taking the path of least resistance, and taking what the board wants or needs as gospel. The board of directors could also be very direct group who believes that have all the right answers. A veteran manager isn’t afraid to speak up if he or she sees the community headed towards a bad or risky decision. To simply sit back and watch a community makes mistakes that could be prevented is just simply a mistake. There again is a fine balance between acting as a quality advisor and assisting a community versus trying to completely calling the shots yourself.
Negation skills are something you would expect and agent or lawyer to have down, not necessarily your community manager though. Because quality HOA managers have to answer to many people with many different agendas, being able to negotiate and mediate different issues is very important. Weather it’s negotiating a better rate from contractor, solving a neighbor vs. neighbor dispute, or pleasing 7 different personalities on your board of directors, the ability to be a problem solver is priceless. Unfortunately to is impossible to please everyone. Our job as a HOA or Condo management professionals is to please as many people while still holding true to the responsibilities that we were hired to do: Maintain and improve property values, and help manage a community with efficiency, timeliness while still obeying being compliant with the regional and state laws of your land.
It takes a variety of unique skills to make a well-rounded HOA community manager. Not all HOA managers are the same just like no one our earth is exactly the same. Many have a set of specialty skills that we didn’t discuss here that only add to their overall value an association manager. We believe at their core, many proven managers and management companies embody these essential skills and characteristics.