Small and medium size community associations have many choices when they consider how to manage the day-to-day operations of their properties. Do they keep fees as low as possible and save money by being self-managed? Or find a way to pay for the complete services of a major management firm? Or look at some middle ground as the best option?
Just as a benevolent dictator may be a republic’s most effective ruler, a committed and talented trustee may be a self-managed association’s best key to success.
In the real world, associations run the gamut from 100 percent trustees/volunteers doing everything to 100 percent “call the manager.” And community boards are known to switch from one to the other, testing the water at either end. Just as certain criteria will identify a successful, efficient management company, there seems to be certain essential qualities among board members or trustees who are doing successful management themselves.
Measure the Value
Self-managed condos tend to have a higher incidence of dysfunction, notes Richard D. Vetstein, Esq., founding partner of Vetstein Law Group in Framingham, Massachusetts. In self-managed properties, he states, “you have people in charge who are not professionally trained, and their own personal perspective can get in the way of their decisions. For example, the building may need a $15,000 roof replacement, and the trustees are deadlocked because one 75-year-old member, who’s been there for years, is adamant about avoiding a major expenditure, and potential assessment, and he’s pushing for just a patch job instead of long-term replacement.”
In smaller properties, he continues, “such as converted multi-families and three-deckers, every unit owner is on the board of trustees… managing everything themselves. This is where we see the worst situations, where failure to agree [on an action] escalates into a fight—like, literally fighting.