HOAs come in many different types, sizes and needs. For those managing multiple communities, often referred to as a portfolio manager, it’s a juggling act.
As one experienced portfolio manager put it, “You have 6 owners in one ear, 6 trustees in the other - and none of them happy. Most people just think you’re a voice at the end of a phone or behind a keyboard.” Emergencies, like a water leak, can send even more balls up in the air! Here are our top tips for portfolio management success.
Reducing Portfolio management juggling
First, step back and ask - is a portfolio manager the ideal level of management for the HOA? For most, it probably is. But to keep costs down, many HOA boards are self-managed. Others place unrealistic expectations on a portfolio manager, in lieu of an onsite manager.
Size of the HOA is not always the determining factor. For example, a large Public Utility District (PUD) with 1,000 or more single-family homes may get by with a part-time portfolio manager. Its common area demands may be low with public streets and no amenities. Routine accounting and reporting may be all that’s needed.
Even with low-maintenance requirements, HOAs are well-advised to have a third party involved in covenant enforcement. Portfolio managers become front-line rule enforcers for board members, who also live in the community.
Non-confrontational board members are less likely to be strong rule enforcers with their neighbors. Confrontational board members have no problem with that, but risk creating an “us-versus-them” attitude among HOA members.
How do you know what level of management is best?
Management companies should look inward for some analysis. Along with a good sense of your client’s needs, it’s important to recognize the struggles of your portfolio managers who serve them.
Some companies attempt to keep their costs down, and risk portfolio manager burnout with too many accounts. Work-life balance is even worse if the manager is expected to take emergency calls 24/7. As a general rule, 6-8 HOAs can be managed by a single portfolio manager.
Facing too many owner complaints, missed deadlines, and unmet board expectations - other things should be considered, including:
- What’s the proximity of communities to each other and your office?
- Can some portfolio managers’ work be done remotely from home?
- Can contracts be renegotiated to reduce board expectations of the manager?
- Is there enough company staff or outsourced vendor support for ancillary tasks such as financials, maintenance, human resources, etc.?
Task, versus relationship-oriented managers
Successful management companies, and their portfolio managers, understand the importance of both contracted management tasks and strong client relationships. But that balance is often difficult to achieve or sustain.
Inability to keep up with office tasks, limits portfolio managers’ onsite time. With only weekly inspections, or once-a-month board meetings, it’s difficult to develop and maintain strong relationships with board members and owners. Without the foundation of these connections, member complaints come with an underlying mistrust that they’ll get satisfactory resolution.
A portfolio manager can sometimes feel more like a customer service agent: continually responding to a barrage of owner complaints. For a task-oriented manager, this can be a source of frustration - unable to keep up with anything other than phone calls and email responses. Conversely, a people-oriented person may have a real tough time with the daily grind of all the necessary job tasks. In both cases, job dissatisfaction can develop.
Sometimes, a tougher question must be asked
Is this the best career fit? Finding and keeping good portfolio managers is difficult. For many, it’s clearly not a good career.
High emotional intelligence (EQ) is a key component of a good HOA manager. EQ starts with self-awareness. A manager who is aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, can understand how those play into interactions they'll have with others.
When hiring HOA managers, strong candidates can give good examples of level-headed responses to very difficult circumstances that come with this job. Said another way, he or she must have excellent communication skills.
Strengthsfinder 2.0 can be a fantastic team-building tool. As the name implies, taking this assessment will highlight the reader’s personal strengths. Some may realize their job dissatisfaction comes from working outside of their natural strengths. If possible, move them into roles that take advantage of their strengths.
These tools strengthen management companies’ value to their clients, while hiring and keeping strong portfolio managers.
More interesting insight from our experts
HOA Budget Planning: Guidelines for a Smooth Budgeting Process
Homeowners association budgets have many elements, which means difficult decisions are often part of the budgeting process. If you’re wondering how your HOA can navigate through some of these decisions, you've come to the right place.
HOA Banking 101 - Choosing the Right Account for your HOA
Choosing the right bank accounts for your HOA can be a challenge, so we've put together a guide to help you decide which account is best for your needs.
Managing Multiple HOAs: Top Tips for Portfolio Management Success
HOAs come in many different types, sizes and needs. For those managing multiple communities, often referred to as a portfolio manager, it’s a juggling act. Here are our top tips for portfolio management success.