Anyone on a board of an HOA or condominium association knows the tremendous value of a quality reserve study. Not only is it a capital planning budget tool to help avoid financial surprises, but it also assists with planning the allocation of money to take care of concerns when the needs arise. It’s an ongoing effort to maintain, protect, and enhance the value of your community.
Equally important is partnering with an experienced and qualified reserve study provider. But what makes a good reserve study provider? Firms that specialize in reserve studies have a profound comprehension of living communities. They are also well versed in the challenges they might be presented with during the reserve study process and have a deep understanding of the dynamics of the associations they serve.
Many reserve study firms utilize engineers, and rightfully so. They have experiential knowledge in construction and building systems and a profound understanding of future repair and replacement needs of major building components. Engineers specialize in several different disciplines including but not limited to civil, structural, environmental, and mechanical engineering. Firms that employ a team of multidisciplinary engineers are able to match the proper expertise to each project, ensuring your community’s assets are properly evaluated and its capital planning needs are sufficiently met.
Community associations should also consider a reserve study firm’s local and national experience. Firms with local experience are familiar with environmental conditions that affect your community and are able to provide the most reliable capital project forecasts. In addition, partnering with a reserve study firm that has a regional or national presence in addition to local experience is beneficial. These firms have knowledge of industry trends that can be applied to your community’s capital planning needs. Their vast experience lends itself to having a fundamental understanding of different building components, including those that might be uncommon in your locale.
Each community’s needs are truly unique. A reputable reserve study firm will tailor your reserve study experience to meet your specific needs. This approach allows the provider to work by how their client operates throughout the process. Board involvement should be encouraged to ensure the study reflects the community’s needs and objectives. After your study is complete, many firms are available to answer questions and are willing to meet to discuss their findings and recommendations as needed. Their goal should be to develop a partnership that delivers complete confidence in utilizing the reserve study for years to come.
It is not uncommon for Boards to turn over between reserve studies. Because of this, it sometimes seems that staying with a current reserve study provider for future reserve study updates is easier than switching to a firm that can deliver a more reliable experience. Boards might feel like there is a big learning curve to bringing a new firm up-to-date on understanding the property’s history and other nuisances. If your community is not unhappy with your current provider, why switch?
Consider a new provider if you’re not seeing a return on your investment with your current reserve study firm. Does your current reserve study save you more time than it costs during the annual budget process? Is the report easy to use and understand, or is it complicated and cumbersome? Does it give you a clear understanding of how your property looks today and what you need to do to maintain it into the future? Does your reserve study provider make themselves available to you whenever questions might arise? If not, you have options.
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