The community you are managing has requested that you find a reserve study professional to complete the reserve study for their community. Where do you begin and what should you be looking for? We are going to go over this for you so you can confidently find present the reserve study professionals that are going to make you look best.
There are many reserve study companies to choose from so to narrow the list down to several that are likely to provide reliable bids and studies to the community we recommend following:
Step 1 – Ask your Associates – The best predictor of future performance is their past performance. A company that has provided accurate bids, shows up on time, treats all parties with professionalism and provides a top quality product is likely to do so in the future as well. Other Property managers will be able to provide their experience with different reserve study companies and with different property types. This is a great starting point.
Step 2 – Look for Experience – Companies which have reserve analysts which have years of experience will often be able to provide a more comprehensive reserve study as they will have more experience with various property types and have likely seen a community just like the one you are managing. This helps to ensure the component list is more accurate.
Step 3 – Look for a Designation – There are two designations in the reserve study industry which are widely accepted as helping to elevate the industry standards and professionalism. The Community Associations Institute (CAI) has the Reserve Specialist (RS) designation and the Association of Professional Reserve Analysts (APRA) has the Professional Reserve Analysts (PRA) designation. A designation ensures the reserve analyst is following ethical and industry specific criteria in providing comprehensive and reliable reserve studies to common interest communities. Obtaining these designations require significant amount of work related experience, references and/or ongoing educational requirements to keep up on industry trends.
Ensure that the reserve analyst actually completing the study has a designation as some companies hire inexperienced staff to complete the site inspections and write up the report and have one experienced & designated person trying to review all their work. While this business model is more profitable for the person who owns the reserve study company the final product is usually less accurate than if an experienced reserve analyst completed the work from AtoZ.
Step 4 – Find Local Professionals – It has been our experience that in the past there has been many reserve study companies that appear and then disappear never to be seen again. These are usually out of state reserve study companies which are run by people getting into the field to make ends meet before going back to their usual industry. Often they are contractors, engineers, architects, builders, etc. who are not familiar with many of the concepts of the local statutory requirements or National Reserve Study Standards. We have seen many reports which do not even meet the minimum statutory requirements for reserve study contents in Washington State. Additionally when questions arise or revisions are requested many communities have a difficult time getting answers in a timely manner if at all.
Step 5 – Confirm Turn Times – Often reserve studies are ordered at the last minute and are needed by specific dates such as a Board Meeting or to comply with the end of year Disclosure requirements. Let the reserve study company know of the date the study will be needed by and confirm they will be able to meet the deadline. This ensures you have done your due diligence which in the end makes you look better to the community which you are managing. Reserve study companies can often get backed up during the summer and fall months so make sure you let them know of the deadline you are needing the report back by. There is nothing worse than having to show up at a Board Meeting to discuss the reserve study with the Board and have nothing to review.
Step 6 – Confirm the Studies Meet Statutory Requirements – Even though laws have been passed in Washington State for Reserve Study Contents we still regularly see reports which do not meet these minimal requirements. A reserve study which does not meet the minimal requirements is likely not going to provide the community with the necessary information to complete the annual disclosure requirements to the community membership. In the end this will be a negative reflection on you as a property manager who they have entrusted to find qualified and professional vendors.