We often urge readers facing all manner of issues in dealing with the day-to-day operation of their condominium, cooperative or homeowner’s association to consult with a trusted, professional property manager. The best and brightest of these pros will guide a board and assume responsibility over a great deal of a community's well-being, alleviating some pressure from the volunteers who dedicate their free time to the association while also juggling their own personal and professional affairs. A competent, responsive property manager is worth his or her weight in gold to an association, be it large or small, urban or suburban, cash-strapped or wealthy.
If that's the case, then why would a community opt to run their associations in-house, with the board assuming the full weight of governance, administration, and day-to-day chores? That seems crazy, right? Maybe so—but communities that choose to self-manage have sound reasons for doing so. Whether they just feel they have the time and expertise, they've had bad experiences with outside management in the past, they're a small enough operation that the lifting isn't as heavy, or it might just be as a cost-saving measure, certain boards do choose to self-manage, for better or worse.
Of course, some boards and associations are better suited for self-management than others. And any board considering a step away from professional, off-site management should be aware of some basic tenets of the job before diving in headfirst. We've put together a primer that will help you decide if your association is the strong and independent type, or one that would be best served via outside consultation.
One of the first things that needs be assessed when considering self-management is sheer feasibility, and the dominant factor in determining that is size. A condominium with eight or nine units by its very nature will have a much easier time keeping track of day-to-day business than a 446-unit behemoth. In some cases (and in particular places), a smaller association may actually have a harder time even finding professional management, and thus going it alone may be the most readily accessible option.
“If you're a seven-unit condominium, trying to get someone to come in and professionally manage you could be difficult; you may not be able to find a service, and it may not be cost-efficient,” says Charles A. Perkins, Jr., a senior partner at the law firm of Perkins & Anctil in Westford, Massachusetts. “Now, certainly, if you're in that situation, you can do things to protect yourselves. You can hire a company that's going to at least go over your books, records and checks, just to keep that in order and act as a second set of eyes.”