The world of real estate is, if nothing else, always creating new challenges for the businesses that work in it or have a close association with it. For example, even something as simple as a spike in material costs threatens construction firms. That’s to say, nothing of things like changing interest rates cutting into people’s interest in buying real estate. Of course, for HOAs, the challenges look a little different. For them, the challenges often come in picking the right vendors to provide services directly or indirectly to residents. If you’re struggling with vendor selection, read on for an overview of the best ways to choose HOA vendors.
Review Your Governing Documents
Every HOA has governing documents. In some cases, the documentation is light. In other cases, there HOA has been around long enough for a formidable amount of government documents to accumulate. Yet, buried in those documents, you’ll often find at least some guidance on selecting vendors. In some cases, it may amount to very loose guidance. In other cases, you may find a detailed procedure for picking vendors. The important part is knowing what guidance is there before you begin. If there is a process, you need to follow it. If there isn’t a process, adhere to whatever guidelines the documentation provides.
Know Your Budget
One of the easiest ways for you to go wrong when picking a vendor is to choose a vendor that doesn’t fit within your budget. That is more likely in HOAs that run things a little looser. If your HOA doesn’t have a firmly established budget with specific allocations for services or vendors, it’s something that you should remedy. After all, it’s harder for someone to throw around accusations of financial mismanagement if it’s all down in black and white. Assuming you have a strict budget, look for vendors that operate within the constraints of the allocated money.
Get Several Bids or Quotes
You’ll often have a good idea of which vendor you’ll likely end up with. In many cases, there are just a limited number of options for many kinds of services. Even so, you should always get quotes or bids from several vendors. Getting multiple quotes is a soft-touch way of encouraging everyone to offer their best price. It also ensures that you uphold any formal fiduciary responsibilities you have.
Ask for References
Another of the best ways to choose HOA vendors is to ask for references. Granted, any vendor with their sanity intact will pick references who speak well of them. It’s still an opportunity to get an insider’s view of the vendor's operation. You can ask them about the average time it takes the vendor to respond to customer service calls or fix problems. Most people won’t have prepared answers to those questions, so they often provide useful information. Talking with references also lets you see the size of the communities a vendor normally works with. If the vendor gives references for much smaller communities than yours, it may be a warning flag for your decision-making process. Minimally, it's something you should follow up on with the vendor.
Depending on the precise service the vendor offers, they may be under regulations to hold any number of credentials. For example, the vendor may need a license or permit to operate in your town, city, or county. For example, plumbers need either state or city-level licenses everywhere in the US. In addition, vendors may have minimum insurance requirements that they must meet to operate legally. Most vendors will provide this information as soon as you ask for it or even provide some directly on their websites. Generally, you should avoid any vendor that gets cagey about providing their credentials.
Get a Contract
Ensure the vendor offers a contract for their services that specifies their responsibilities. Also, ensure the contract includes pricing information for basic services and any additional fees for special or off-hours services. As a basic sanity check, have a lawyer review the contract before signing it. While a contract may look fine, a lawyer may spot problematic clauses or clever legalese that don’t work in your favor.
Read the Reviews
While reviews for B2B services are often harder to find, they aren’t impossible to track down. Make an effort to look for reviews. Since reviews are easy to manipulate, you shouldn’t necessarily focus on one good or bad review. Instead, look for overall trends in the reviews. What kind of complaints crop up regularly? What kind of praise is common? This information can help you understand a vendor’s strengths and weaknesses.
Don’t Just Pick the Lowest Bid
A lot of HOAs immediately fixate on the lowest possible price. While getting a good price does matter, so does getting a good service. You don’t want to pick the cheapest option only to discover that they provide the minimum possible service to stay legally compliant with their contract. That’s a recipe for a poor relationship. Take those reviews you read into account and the information you could glean from their references. If possible, try to strike an overall balance between the quality of service and the overall cost of the service. In many cases, paying a little bit more often means getting a lot more.
HOA Vendor Selection
The best ways to choose HOA vendors are a broad combination of searching out purely factual information and less tangible customer service information. You want the facts about the service, such as credentials, pricing, and contract specifics. You also want to know about how the vendor operates on a more human level. Are they good at customer service and dealing with problems, or do they drag their feet? Do they stick rigidly to the absolute letter of the contract, or do they go above and beyond from time to time? Knowing this cross-section of information can make choosing vendors easier. If you’re looking for waterproofing services in Orange County or the surrounding area, consider West Coast Decking.