Many in the condo industry can attest to the fact that unit owners commonly complain that boards of directors are too secretive. One simple way for boards of directors to address this complaint is to improve communication.
But unit owners aren’t the only parties that boards of directors, committees and property managers need to communicate with in the condo context, according to the recent Springfest seminar Demystifying Condo Living Through Communication. Realtors, purchasers and professionals also made the list of speakers Catherine Murdoch, district manager at Del Property Management, and Laurie Adams, regional manager at Brookfield Condominium Services and vice-president at the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario (ACMO).
Acquaint realtors with your property
Realtors, said Adams, need to understand a property so that they ensure it meets their clients’ needs. There are a variety of ways to help realtors understand a property, including holding information meetings every few years and making an information package available to realtors when they arrive on site with clients.
“The best way to get quality owners into your property is to make sure that they’re getting quality information from the people that they’re working with to buy,” Murdoch said.
Condo corporations may also want to include their auditor’s and solicitor’s contact information in the “Other” section on status certificates in case those working with purchasers have any questions concerning the contents of the certificates, she noted.
Attract and inform purchasers
New condos have the heft of developer advertising behind them. To compete in the crowded market, said Murdoch, existing condos ought to consider using the same types of marketing materials, such as brochures and websites. Some corporations even have marketing committees headed up by real estate agents who live in their building.
Prospective buyers will also typically want to see a building’s pool and guest suites, but it may not be ideal to have people constantly touring through these facilities. To address this, Adams offered the idea of installing a monitor showing images of these facilities outside the management office.
Communicating with prospective purchasers is not just about selling them on the community. Often, purchasers buy into a community unaware of its regulations, such as pet owners who unwittingly buy units in buildings that don’t allow pets.
“You’re able to remove the cloud right away so people coming in knowing what the rules are, what they can and cannot do,” said Murdoch.
Communicate with owners on a continual basis
On a day-to-day basis, owners need to know about work occurring on the property, such as window-washing and water shutoffs. On a monthly basis, some owners may want to review a summary of board meeting minutes. On a quarterly basis, some condo communities have newsletter committees that distribute newsletters to residents.
“When you think you have communicated enough, communicate some more,” said Murdoch.
In communicating with residents, it’s important to consider a building’s demographics, added Adams. The rise of technology has enabled new means of communication, such as auto-emails and text messages, but seniors, for example, may still require paper notices. It’s also important to consider potential language barriers.
As well, Adams pointed out that owners often don’t realize that the property management office is a place to bring their concerns.
“It’s far easier to just complain and talk about it in the elevator than it is to actually come to the management office and say, ‘I have a concern,’” she said, “so encourage individuals to come to your office and ask you those questions.”
Equip professionals with accurate information
Professionals require accurate information to be able to provide boards of directors sound information on which to base their decisions, said Adams.
“If we don’t give clear communication to the experts, you are not going to get quotations that are apples to apples,” she said. “You are not going to get the service at the best price for our condominium corporation.”
Ultimately, communication improves transparency, knowledge, credibility and accountability, all of which gets at the frequent complaint from unit owners that boards of directors are too secretive.
Adams offered a few final words of wisdom: Communicate clearly, concisely, with caution and common sense, and perhaps most importantly, with a smile.
Michelle Ervin is the editor of CondoBusiness.