For a while, it was hard to believe spring would ever come. Old Man Winter insisted on sticking around for April. However, spring seems to have finally sprung! Spring is perhaps the busiest time in property management – and this year there’s a shorted window. 15″ of snow on April 13; 72 degrees and grass greening on April 23 leads to a very busy May!
Your manager is busy making lists of things to be addressed following the long, cold winter season. Such as the inevitable list of crushed downspouts, and there are plenty of pet and plow sod damage letters to be written. Summer project planning starts ramping up and spring/summer meeting schedules start filling up. One thing each Association should consider is a spring walk-through of the buildings and grounds. Each Board is different in how they handle it. Here are a few common approaches.
* Together – some Boards like to walkaround together with the Community Manager. More eyes can be a good thing. Additionally, it is nice to be reviewing things together to gain consensus on project and how to prioritize tasks. The difficultly with this approach, however, can be finding a respectful understanding with your Community Manager. Scheduling can be difficult (remember that managers are already work evenings for Board meetings and emergencies), managers have a check list and methodology they follow, and the distractions of homeowners coming out to say “Hi” and the inevitable “say…while I have you here, could you look at this,” can make for an extremely long and cumbersome inspection.
* Board – Board members only. Sometimes it is helpful without the manager, who sees the property on a frequent basis and is always looking for maintenance items, for a “fresh set of eyes.” As managers, we can be guilty of developing tunnel vision. If a Board is going to take this approach, it can be helpful to divvy things up. If it is a large and expansive association, print a site map and assign areas. Or, if doing it together, assign components. Larry looks at landscaping, Carla contemplates concrete, Ryan reviews rule violations, etc.
* Manager – sometimes the Board doesn’t want to be involved and leaves it up to the manager. There is something to be said for this approach. The manager is not bias, he/she is trained for this activity, and has tools and templates to make it an effective and efficient inspection.
* Expert – another approach to truly getting a fresh look and a professional perspective is to bring in expert. If you’re looking at a specific issue, take roofs for example, many roofing companies may offer to do a free or low-cost inspection. Another option is to utilize Atlas Construction for a small fee to do a comprehensive site inspection and detailed assessment report.
Speaking of documentation, this may be the most important component of a thorough spring inspection. If you’re doing it as a Board, utilize a spreadsheet with columns of important items to check (windows, landscaping, etc). Be sure to take pictures. Lots of pictures! They can be incredibly valuable for rule violations, warranty claims, contractor negligence, repair bidding, and more. If the site visit is left to the manager or an expert, you can be assured they have their methodology for documentation.
Whatever route you take, spring inspections are incredibly important to document winter issues, and to prepare, prioritize, and position the community for a great summer season.
Happy Spring Walking!