Kuester Management Group is fortunate to work with some incredible community managers. These individuals go above and beyond to ensure that the HOAs and COAs they support are running smoothly and efficiently. They take the time to get to know the boards and members and provide the services that fit best with their needs.
We sat down with Heather Lamberty to find out more about her role and how she assists nine communities in Wilmington, North Carolina in thriving. Heather has worked for Kuester for the past three years.
What made you get into community management?
I worked in community management for several years before shifting into education. When there were some operational and organizational changes in the company I worked for, I ended up interviewing with Kuester and got back into community management. I didn’t know this is where I would stay, but working for Kuester has been amazing. They really support their employees and value family. They have been very flexible in allowing me to balance work obligations with family obligations.
What is your favorite part of working with community associations?
I enjoy working together and helping boards to achieve their goals. We work together through these processes, and it is rewarding when they are able to see the fruits of their labor. Getting to know the people in the communities, their backgrounds, and who they are is also fun. I like learning more about the people who make up the communities because each community is different.
What makes for a good relationship between a community manager and an HOA?
Good communication, transparency, and follow-through are essential. Community managers and HOAs should do what they say are going to do and adhere to deadlines. This helps to build trust and confidence. When the board asks the community manager to do something, they know it will get done.
How do you ensure that you’re effectively meeting the needs of HOAs?
Sometimes that can be difficult because there are always homeowners who feel that they are in charge even though they are not part of the board. I work very closely with the board and check in regularly to ensure that they feel we are accomplishing their goals, keeping projects moving forward, and resolving problems. Every community has complainers, and you’ll never be able to satisfy everyone, but as long as the board is happy and you’re receiving positive feedback from the majority of homeowners, then things are going well.
It is so important for a board to get to know their manager and create open lines of communication. Before choosing a community manager, they should meet in person and go on site to make sure that it is a good fit and they have the same goals. Boards should go beyond just looking at a company on a sheet of paper, and managers should make it a point to meet the board and sit down and have a discussion about their vision for the community.
What are some tips that you have for communities looking to hire a community manager?
Definitely ask about the manager’s portfolio size and discuss the goals and vision of the HOA in working with a community manager. Bring together the whole board to meet with the potential manager so that you can see how the personalities work together. A one-on-one conversation with the manager will help the board to see whether they are the right fit.
Why would you encourage an HOA to hire a community manager instead of self-managing?
A management company is in the industry and is very familiar with current laws, rules, and regulations. Homeowners who self-manage often think they know these regulations, but they often do not understand them well enough. Community managers are professionals in the industry who have been trained.
Also, if you don’t have a management company, that volunteer position turns into a full-time job. A management company like Kuester can take a lot of that stress off of board members. We have a whole accounting department that does financials, collects and posts payments, and posts late fees. Self-managed communities would have to hire a CPA to do all of that, or a volunteer in their communities. Volunteers can quickly get burned out taking on so much responsibility. A management company conducts inspections, take pictures, and sends violation letters; this can be exhausting for self-managed community to do on its own. Working with a community manager makes volunteers’ jobs so much easier and helps reduce burnout.
It also helps to keep things running more efficiently. We meet quarterly to go over everything and can get a lot accomplished. We have specific software and programs that help to keep things organized and automated, so it goes more quickly. That allows the board more time to discuss important matters and also saves money.
What do you think is most misunderstood about community managers and their role?
We are not the decision makers for the community. The board makes the decisions; the HOA manager does not. We guide them and provide necessary information or documents to help them make informed decisions, but we do not tell them what to do. We may learn about processes and explain them to the board, but we have no decision-making authority. The community manager does not decide what landscape company is going to be used or who gets fined. Those are board decisions.
Another misconception also surrounds what the HOA is responsible for versus what homeowners are responsible for. As a community manager, I encourage homeowners to make sure they read HOA documents carefully and educate themselves about their responsibilities. For instance, homeowners will call to have the HOA fix a leaky door, but that is not the HOA’s job; that is on the homeowner and is stated in the documents. It is important for homeowners to understand the documents that are in place and what their role is as a homeowner.
What are some ways that you help HOAs that people may not be aware of?
We field all of the calls from homeowners regarding questions or concerns. Oftentimes we can resolve these issues, or we pass along pertinent information to the board to handle. We take our cues from the board regarding how much or little they want to be involved in the day-to-day, and how much they rely on us. Sometimes the calls we receive are unrelated to the HOA, but we do our best to support members however we can. We also prepare the statements for the communities which is a huge help in letting people know what they owe.
Community managers also conduct landscape tours and community tours to identify potential problems before they become more serious. Many managers also spearhead projects such as implementing community days to bring everyone together and encourage them to get to know one another. We can also help the board to start a Neighborhood Watch if that is something they are interested in doing. These types of activities bring owners together for a common purpose.
We also engage in ongoing professional development to keep our knowledge and training up-to-date. Just like other professions, we have certain requirements we must meet to earn certifications or designations. This allows us to better assist HOAs with improving communications via newsletter or other platforms, ensuring contractors are licensed and have the correct insurance coverage in place, negotiating contracts so that communities get the best bang for their buck, and much more!
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Heather is a huge asset to Kuester, and we are proud to have her as part of the team. If your HOA community could benefit from the support and guidance of a skilled community manager, contact Kuester today.