With the end of winter comes relief—gone are the grey skies and slush-puddles, and the promise of balmy days and sunshine is in the air. But the board of a condo, cooperative, or homeowners association cannot be content with simply waiting for April showers to bring the long-awaited May flowers. Amenities don’t maintain themselves, and neither does landscaping, pavement, or any of the host of other elements a board of trustees has to keep tabs on. The board that waits until the last minute to line up its vendors or survey its property to ascertain what work needs to be done can find itself in a tight spot as contractors are booked and unit owners grow increasingly antsy to get outdoors and enjoy their community’s amenities and features.
No matter the size or demographic of your community or building, most pros recommend getting a head start on springtime projects and maintenance around the beginning of the new year—and that includes connecting with the vendors and contractors involved well before snow is out of the question. This gives your association a leg up on securing quality work at a fair price.
“We start shopping for vendors in January or February, when the bidding is a little less competitive,” says Randy Rosen, president of Rosen Management Services in Chicago, Illinois. “This applies to pool management companies, landscapers, and the like. Specifications need to be drawn first, and those can either be done by a property manager or an outside consultant. We need to anticipate how many cuts we’re going to need during the season, whether the vendor will handle aerating, seeding, weed control; will they turn over the ground and the flower beds? Are they going to do seasonal plantings? We take a look at the budget and review what we did the year prior to determine what needs be done now.”
Ed Hofeller, president of The Hofeller Company in Brookline, Massachusetts, advises boards to seek scheduling flexibility from vendors, when possible. “A lot of vendors have set start dates, but spring is coming earlier and earlier each year,” he says. “I think that we’re currently three weeks ahead of when spring historically started. You need flexibility in agreements with vendors, so that if you call them and say, ‘We need to get started earlier,’ you’re not going to run into push-back because a contract’s specifications get in the way.”
And Scott Dalley, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Access Property Management in Flemington, New Jersey, suggests that boards start preparing for the upcoming season six months in advance. “If you wait until springtime to engage with landscaping vendors, or to consider an improvement project on your grounds, then you will be way behind the eight ball,” he says. “You can sacrifice both value and quality of work. For a big planting project, for example, you may want to be starting a year in advance, as you may want to get materials in the ground, depending on the nature of the work. A landscaping project undertaken in the fall can literally bear fruit, or at least the desired effect of your planning, when the spring arrives.”