4 Things To Consider When Switching To Onsite Support
Whether you have a mixed-use urban village or a sprawling master-planned community, there are unique benefits to having a team in-house that can manage your property effectively. Your community is unique and has distinct values and needs. And as your community grows, those needs can change and often multiply, leaving your community with a need for more personalized attention.
So how do you know if your community should make a move to sited management? We’ve gathered a shortlist of questions to help guide you if you’re thinking about making a change.
How many homes are there in your community?So, how big is your community? Consider how many homes were on the ground when you signed your management contract versus homes currently in your neighborhood. How many additional phases have been added? Is there or will there be a change? How drastic is that change going to be?
Generally, master-planned communities with at least 1000 homes should have a sited manager, and for every 1000 homes, they should have an additional staff member. However, keep in mind that each community is different, so the onsite needs will differ. You could very well have two communities with the same number of units but a different number in staff.
For example, one community can be 1600 units but only have a General Manager, while an 1800-unit community can have a General Manager and an Assistant General Manager based on their desired level of service. On the other hand, you could have a community with much less than 1000 homes or units, yet due to higher demand, the staffing needs could be higher than that of a larger community.
What is the workload of the current Portfolio Manager?Portfolio managers are associates who manage several different communities simultaneously. This means portfolio managers must dedicate a certain amount of time each day to each community. As communities physically grow or experience an increase in resident expectations, those under portfolio management will naturally experience decreased responsiveness. This isn’t a failing of your manager’s multitasking ability but rather simple math. It takes much longer to handle inquiries from 2000 residents than 200, and any person will simply run out of time during the week to address every need.
What Does A Capable Manager Look Like?
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While FirstService Residential-managed communities have access to support tools like the 24/7 Customer Care Center, CONNECT web portal and resident app, even the best manager and technology solutions can get overwhelmed by incoming requests. This time crunch only grows if the demands of all the manager’s properties are also increasing. Layer that onto allocating time for each community in a portfolio, and you can see the need for dedicated management if your community is ready for it.
The easiest way to see if your manager is feeling overwhelmed is to have an honest conversation with them and ask. It may be time for your team to analyze time invested versus issues resolved to determine if additional service is needed. And since FirstService Residential managers are not paid on a commission per community basis, your manager should be confident in recommending a move to sited management if it’s in the community’s best interest.
Is it in the budget?Budgeting for the transition to sited management requires careful planning and conservative estimates of both revenues and expenses. Ask your management team to review your budget. You may have more room to support a staff salary than you think, but it truly depends on the board’s community goals. With an analysis of possible budget savings combined with strategic planning, many communities are able to add staff with little to no assessment increases.
There could be other costs to consider beyond a staff salary. Office supplies, additional sanitation supplies, or slightly higher utility bills for occupied office spaces are a few. Also, remember that having physical space on your property is also important when considering your budget.
Think about it. Logistically, where will the sited person or additional staff be housed? If you don’t have a facility or building that can accommodate them, you might be looking at the use of additional funds to create office space. And while finding room in your budget may seem impossible, it’s worth requesting a proposal from your management team to determine your options. After all, there’s zero risk in simply getting a quote.
What level of attention does your community need?Every community has needs and deficits that ought to be attended to. Conducting a community assessment will aid in identifying the appropriate resources needed. Ask yourself, has there been an increase in board or resident requests? Think about the type of resident feedback received. If you find that owners are sending more emails, expressing dissatisfaction with response times and wanting to have in-person time with the manager, then more hands-on attention may be needed.
Residents may build a deeper level of trust and perceive greater service with a manager they can see on property daily. A dedicated person onsite is often more approachable. Similarly, a sited manager can become familiar with the property itself and proactively identify issues and solve them before they become a problem for the community at large.
Consider your current and future amenities as well as any special accommodations. Perhaps your community needs extra help for pool season or at holiday events. A community may require particular staffing that suits unique needs, like a courtesy officer manning gated subdivision or a facility maintenance director, if there are multiple amenity centers.
Scenario: An active adult 55+ community is much smaller than the average master-planned development. However, the residents have made it clear that they expect a person onsite to handle questions, amenity reservations and lifestyle programs like book clubs and group events. The small size would suggest this community should stay in portfolio management. Still, the desires of the residents and their day-to-day expectations make it necessary to have a sited manager instead.
What are some misconceptions about transitioning to sited staff?
- You’ll see instant changes. While this could happen, it will take 30-60 days to see the difference in manager workload and resident satisfaction in most cases.
- Loss of knowledge. A good management team will ensure that the manager handover goes smoothly as they transfer their “community knowledge” to the new sited staff. This is where technology solutions like FirstService Residential’s proprietary CONNECT platform really shine, as new managers can quickly catch up to the status of their new community online or on the mobile app.
Benefits to transitioning:
- Communities with highly attentive service needs can greatly benefit from having an onsite management team.
- Can increase resident satisfaction scores after making the transition.
- Because they are onsite daily, onsite managers are generally more accessible to the board and association members, often developing close personal relationships with homeowners.
- Residents love the extra service that they’re getting.
- Onsite management teams focus on long-term strategic planning, recreation planning, and elevating the community’s brand to maintain competitive property values in the market.
- Transitioning can be a flexible process. Your management team can work to provide a gradual increase in hours until staff is working full-time at the property.
- In a developing community, onsite staffing can be critical to attracting buyers to the neighborhood.
It’s important for the board to figure out what their goals are for their community. There also needs to be a mutual understanding before transitioning. “We just need more help” can mean so many things. So, identifying the problem and looking at where specific struggles are, is important so that your management team can be more specific in their offerings and set the proper expectations.
An onsite management team can make HOA living easier by devoting full-time attention to your community, keeping things running smoothly so that you don’t have to. FirstService Residential is flexible enough to provide unique and creative solutions that help meet the community’s needs and expectations and can help your board make the best decisions for your community.