Amenities. Comfort. Community-living. These are just some of the things that draw people to homeowner association communities. Most, if not all, of the benefits that homeowners expect to receive are provided by vendors. Nobody assumes that the members of the HOA board are going to be the ones out there mowing lawns and trimming hedges and that’s where vendors play their part. However, not every vendor is equal – not just in job description but in quality, price, and integrity.
It is the responsibility of the HOA board is to seek out these vendors and make sure they are the right ones for the job. Even if your association outsources their contract review and bidding responsibilities to a company such as Clark Simson Miller, the burden of obtaining vendors falls to the board. Board members are just volunteers though, what do they know about hiring landscapers, maintenance workers, and various contractors?
You might not know much now, but after reading this you’ll know the right way to go about it.
First Things First: Finding a Vendor
Sometimes a vendor might come to you and all you need to do is vet them (something you should always do). That’s an ideal world though, and almost always isn’t the one that you’re living in. That means it’s up to you and the rest of the board to find reputable vendors for your community by shopping around. In the day and age of social media and other helpful websites, it’s not that hard to find someone that’ll do the job.
If you’re in need of a landscaping company, for example, one thing you can do is post the job on social media accounts and bidding sites, like bidexpress.com. However, it’s important to be skeptical of responses to your posting and make sure you take the vetting process seriously. Certain bidding sites will verify the vendor but in even those cases, it can still be a scam. It’s important that you do your homework – don’t offer money upfront or sign a contract without meeting the vendor first. A safer way to go about finding a vendor is to consult with other businesses and associations in the surrounding area and use them as a referral.
Once you’ve compiled a list of possible vendors, you can then begin the vetting process with these three tips.
Do They Have a License?
Some vendors are required to hold a valid license to operate their business in your state. However, others won’t require one, so you won’t always need to ask this question. For example, a landscaping company might not need to hold a license to mow lawns and trim hedges, but a roofing contractor will absolutely need to. To determine whether or not the vendor requires a valid license, check with your state or local authority. Ensuring the vendor holds a license not only proves that they are qualified to do the job in the eyes of the licensing agency but also shows that they are legitimate operators.
Consider Their Reviews
Does this company have a long list of positive reviews from their previous (or current) clients? Can you get in touch with some of these people/entities to ask them about their experience with the vendor?
Reviews can be a great way to determine the quality of a vendor, but you shouldn’t take them at face value. A review can just as easily have written by the vendor themselves than by an actual client, so it’s important to take them with a grain of salt. However, disregarding positive reviews completely can also leave you saying no to the perfect vendor for the job. Do your best to contact the reviewers and talk with them personally about their experiences with the vendor.
On the other hand, the vendor might have some negative reviews mixed in with the good ones. It’s just as important to look at these as it is to consider the positive ones. Did the vendor respond to the person who left the negative review with an apology or explanation? Someone who takes pride in their business will almost never be okay with a poor review and will want to make sure they do everything they can to correct it.
Do They Care About the Money or Doing a Job Well Done?
It could certainly be both but one thing you definitely don’t want is a vendor who only cares about the money. Someone like that will almost always sacrifice the quality of their work in order to make more money. A reputable vendor should be paid an amount that accurately reflects the quality of their work but they shouldn’t be solely focused on how many zeros are at the bottom of the page. A good contractor will know that contracts are negotiable and open to review once they’ve spent some time working for the association. If they can prove again and again that the work they do is above par, then you can reopen contract negotiations. If they’re adamant on being paid an obscene amount right off the bat with nothing to show for their work, they might not be the vendor for you.
Partnering with a Remote-Management Company
Vetting a vendor can be a complicated process that requires a little bit of work, but with a remote-management company such as CSM, figuring out the contracts doesn’t have to be part of it. Clark Simson Miller will review contracts and manage bids so that the only thing board members need to worry about is finding the right vendor for the job.
If you’re looking to have CSM handle your association’s back-office responsibilities such as contract review, request a proposal today.