With the end of winter comes relief. No more snow or sleet or slush or sludge; it’s sunshine and windbreaker season, baby! But the board of a condo, cooperative or homeowners’ association cannot be content with simply waiting for April showers to bring the long-awaited May flowers. A lot of work must be done to get a community ready to celebrate the spring in good standing, and certain projects need to be started well before even the first thaw. Amenities don’t maintain themselves, and neither do grounds. The board that waits until the last minute to line up its vendors or survey its property to ascertain what work need be done can find itself up a creek, as contractors are booked and unit owners grow increasingly antsy to take advantage of the various accouterments and amenities for which they’ve paid a pretty penny.
No matter the size or demographic of your community or building, it’s advisable to start connecting with necessary vendors involved in preparing your property for the spring around the beginning of the new year, well before snow is out of the question. This gives your association a leg up on securing quality contractors at a fair price.
“We start shopping for vendors in January or February, when the bidding is a little less competitive,” says Randy Rosen, president of Rosen Management Services in Chicago. “This applies to pool management companies, landscapers and the like. Specifications need to be drawn first, and those can either be done by a property manager or an outside consultant. We need to anticipate how many cuts we’re going to need during the season, whether the vendor will handle aerating, seeding, weed control; will they turn over the ground and the flower beds? Are they going to do seasonal plantings? We take a look at the budget and review what we did the year prior to determine what needs be done now.”
Ed Hofeller, president of The Hofeller Company in Brookline, Massachusetts, advises boards to seek schedule flexibility from vendors, when possible. “A lot of vendors have set start dates, but spring is coming earlier and earlier each year,” he says. “I think that we’re currently three weeks ahead of when spring historically started. You need flexibility in agreements with vendors so that if you call them and say, ‘We need to get started earlier,’ you’re not going to run into push-back because a contract’s specifications get in the way.”
And Scott Dalley, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Access Property Management in Flemington, New Jersey, suggests boards start preparing for the upcoming season six months in advance. “If you wait until springtime to engage with landscaping vendors, or to consider an improvement project on your grounds, then you will be way behind the eight ball,” he says. “You can sacrifice both value and quality of work. For a big planting project, for example, you may want to be starting a year in advance, as you may want to get materials in the ground, depending on the nature of the work. A landscaping project undertaken in the fall can literally bear fruit, or at least the desired effect of your planning, when the spring arrives.”