As a condo owner, I’ve been asked on several occasions at AGMs to consider the benefits of having a professional property management company take over running our self-managed condominium. Every unit owner in our building knows that this will mean an increase in our monthly condo fees, but will the benefits make the extra costs worthwhile? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each type of condo management.
@2007 Heather Cuthill
There’s no doubt that hiring a property manager will cost more than having the condo board manage the building. The condo fees will need to cover those costs, and no unit owner likes to hear that his or her fees are going up. So self management is an attractive option to the owners in general.
However, if you calculate the value of the time the Board members put into looking after condominium issues, it becomes apparent that there’s also a large personal cost to those folks that the other owners don’t see.
And the condo association will still have to hire professionals to look after legal and accounting issues, as well as contractors and suppliers for building maintenance and repairs. These are jobs that Board members cannot do themselves unless they have the skills, training and expertise.
2. Service Levels
Individuals who serve on condo boards are typically career people who work during the day and must rely heavily on contractors and resident volunteers to take care of situations that arise while they’re at work. This can be frustrating to an owner who has a plumbing problem and can’t reach the Board members directly.
In emergency situations when time is of the essence, it’s very important for the affected parties to contact plumbers, electricians, or other service people quickly to mitigate the damage as much as possible. This could be difficult in a self-managed scenario if it occurs at a time when all Board members are at work or away (such as over Christmas or a long weekend – we had just such an instance during my last stint on my condo board).
That’s when a professional property manager, with a 24/7 emergency line, is ideal. Owners can rest easy knowing that no matter what happens, they’ll be able to reach someone to deal with the problem – day or night.
3. Disputes, Violations and Sanctions
Managing a condo sometimes means acting as a collection agency, an enforcer, or an arbitration panel. Imagine having to fine one of your neighbors because they’ve violated the Bylaws. They won’t think kindly of you for doing so.
Those are the kinds of situations that condo boards frequently have to deal with. If the sanction is coming from one of your neighbors instead of a third party management company, it’s much more personal and is more likely to result in a strained relationship between the parties, if not an outright rift.
It’s also stressful for the Board members when they have to deal with unpleasant matters like collecting overdue fees and assessments or issuing warnings to fellow owners over infractions. A property management company can handle these situations in an impersonal and detached manner, which allows the Board to maintain a neighborly relationship with the other owners.
4. Community Involvement
A self managed building relies heavily on its volunteers. Getting other owners involved in running the condominium creates a deeper sense of community and instills an even greater pride of ownership among the unit owners. The people in our building routinely volunteer to look after flower beds, help out with sanding of the parkade ramp in winter, run the trash compactor, and sort recyclables.
A condo management firm does not have the same relationship with the owners that the Board members do, and in a self managed condo the Board has the opportunity to solicit help and support from other unit owners in a way that an outside management company could not accomplish.