Have you ever walked into the lobby of a hotel and received a “feeling” of positive building energy? A place where the entire staff always greets you as you walk by. Interaction between guest and staff seems genuine, sincere and consistent. A sense of teamwork is noticed and felt.
A positive building feeling usually starts at the top of an organization – ownership empowers corporate staff, corporate staff empowers management and management empowers all hotel staff members to provide exceptional customer service to each guest and each other. Believe me; you can “feel” it when you are surrounded by it.
Back in my hospitality days, I could feel the different energies of each property that I was responsible for. On a local level the tone was set by the General Manager (GM). The GM who managed by walking around, interacted with the guests and staff members, would roll up their sleeves and help anyone with any task, established a positive tone and led by example, those were the properties that “felt good”. I could feel it the moment I walked through the front door. The opposite is true for the GM who spent most of their time in the office, managed by memo, and rarely walked the property to interact with staff members and guests. Those hotels did not exude much positive energy when entering their doors. They had a more generic feeling and some felt downright depressed. Those were usually the hotels that were not performing to corporate standards and eventually a new GM was hired.
All this to say, as goes the Board of Directors for a high rise condo building, so goes the building. One can literally “feel” an ambiance when entering a building. The Board of Directors sets the mood of a building.
A Board should provide to the managing agent the community expectations and levels of standards. The Board should remain aware of the physical structure and facility needs. A good Reserve Study will provide a Board with a road map to success but they should also plan for additional needs of the community – not just the physical structure but also the lifestyle expectation. If a building begins to look neglected, chances are it is being neglected and will eventually “feel” neglected to all who enter the front door.
When touring various condominium buildings compare the conditions of the common areas. If both Building A and Building B are approaching 10 years in age, one can usually make comparable observations when visiting both. If the Board responsible for Building A has successfully maintained, preserved and enhanced their property, it will probably appear and “feel” more positive than Building B where the Board has not.
While under Developer control, the primary focus is to sell condos by impressing those who enter the front door. Amenity areas, common area carpeting, walls, baseboards, fixtures, etc. are usually kept in very good condition. If issues are noticed or if residents complain to the Developer, usually resolution is swift. The Developer wants you to buy into the lifestyle that is projected through brochures, advertisements and sales agents. He is not only selling a condo unit but the building lifestyle that comes with the condo. Eventually he will turn control over to the Homeowners and move on to the next project. Developers develop…they typically do not manage condo associations.
Once a community transitions to Homeowner control, the game changes. The Developer is no longer responsible for the finances, common area maintenance, building operations, reserve funding, community planning or maintaining the lifestyle he sold you. All these responsibilities are transferred to the homeowners.
The homeowners must elect a representative body to govern/operate the building/association. Those who are in charge of the decision making process become your neighbors. These people are elected to a Board of Directors by the membership to represents each homeowner’s best interest for the community.
If you have a complaint, you are dependent upon your neighbor to handle it. Keep in mind that the neighbor volunteering as a Board member will likely have limited experience, if any, with operating the nuances of a high rise building/community association. Things will move more slowly, if at all. Budgets will no longer receive developer funding if shortfalls exist. The focus usually becomes one of controlling the expenses. Aspects of the purchased “lifestyle” begin to be ignored.
Eventually frustrations will surface over common areas not looking as pristine as they once did or the increase in association dues to cover expenses. Who is to blame? The Developer is no longer at fault, so one cannot target him. This only leaves one governing body to hold responsible – the Board of Directors, a volunteer group of individuals who are neighbors. THEY are the bad guy and must be stopped!
What happens when you perceive that the lifestyle you bought into is slipping away, the beautiful common areas are in disarray and assessment increases are cutting into your pocketbook? What the Developer sold you is not what the building now “feels” like.
- Do you talk to the Board about it?
- Do you volunteer to help the Board with issues?
- Do you constantly complain to people you meet?
- Do you conduct an open dialog about your concerns with others?
- Do you hide in your condo and hope things will get better?
- Do you create an anonymous way to communicate your concerns to undermine the Board?
- Do you rally neighbor against neighbor?
How you handle your response will speak a lot about your character and ability to work with others in achieving positive results for your community.