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Struggling to find reliable vendors? Here’s what community association managers should know

Community Associations

If you’ve noticed that finding reliable and quality vendors is harder than ever lately, you’re not alone. It’s affecting property managers everywhere, and it’s not a problem anyone wants to have. You trust contractors to partner with you to protect your community and its members, and nothing’s more frustrating than a negative vendor experience. But with the labor shortage making quality vendors more expensive and harder to find, it’s time to reevaluate your vendor management strategy.

Although the vendor landscape is changing, it is possible to form positive relationships with quality contractors. With just a few small adjustments, you can find peace of mind with vendors you can trust. Here’s your playbook for finding and managing reliable vendors.

Vendor Management Tips: #1

Interview Potential Vendors

Property managers are learning how to navigate the labor shortage on the fly, and it’s harder than ever to find qualified contractors when you need them. Build a Rolodex of trusted vendors in the services your association needs most often. Usually, that includes a reliable handyman, a plumber, an electrician, and an HVAC expert. But where do you find and vet all of these vendors? Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Ask for referrals. Talk to other association and property managers and ask for vendors they’ve worked with and trust. You can also ask realtors you know for recommendations — their reputation depends on having a network of trusted contractors to refer to clients.
  • Always meet in person. A referral is a great start, but always meet with potential vendors in person. Not only will you get to know the contractor better, it’s also a great test of their reliability and communication style.
  • Get multiple bids. It’s a great idea to meet with several vendors before making a decision. You’ll get an idea of the price range of your project and the different approaches you can take. Pro tip: don’t just accept the lowest bid. Sometimes, that low number is a red flag for the quality of the contractor you’re hiring.

Vendor Management Tips: #2

Do Your Homework

You’ve found the right vendor for the project so it’s all systems go, right? Not so fast. Many people skip doing their due diligence on a vendor for the sake of time. Especially in today’s competitive market, it’s easy to feel pressured to sign a contract before someone else gets to them first. But many of the vendor horror stories you hear from other property managers can be traced back to skipping these simple steps.

Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Check licenses. It’s crucial that your vendor is properly licensed in the city and state where the project will take place. Ask to see their licenses to make sure they’re up to date and everything is above board. You’ll also want to check for complaints filed against the vendor by conducting a background check or looking them up on Better Business Bureau.
  • Ask for testimonials. After ensuring the contractor is properly licensed, ask for testimonials from clients with similar projects. Get in touch with current or former clients and ask how the project went, what communication was like, and any tips for working with that vendor.
  • Read online reviews. When it comes to vetting vendors, social media is your friend. The unfiltered nature of online forums means you’ll get the big-picture view of your vendor. Search for reviews on neighborhood forums, Angie’s List, Yelp, and on their Facebook page. A few negative reviews is understandable, but look for a vendor with a high satisfaction rate.

Vendor Management Tips: #3

Protect Yourself

When it’s time to make things official, clear communication will protect both you and the vendor. This is a great time to get proof of insurance: you’ll want to see general liability, contractor liability, and workers’ compensation insurance. If you’re not familiar with liability coverage, it’s worth it to take a few minutes and learn how liability coverage could impact you.

Before signing the contract, take time to discuss the details of your budget, timeline, and materials—and get it all in writing. Documenting as much of the plan as possible helps eliminate potential disputes during the project. When it’s time to sign, make sure that everything you discussed is reflected in the contract. Once the project is underway, any significant changes should be added as an addendum and reflected in an updated estimated cost.

Vendor Management Tips: #4

Build Relationships

When you find a great vendor, don’t let them go! The real secret to managing vendors is to build long-term relationships so that you’re not scrambling to find help next time you need it. Even if you don’t need an electrician now, starting your search beforehand eliminates the headache of vetting vendors under pressure. Build your roster of trusted contractors for different services and do the legwork in advance to make sure they’re a great fit. Next time crisis strikes, you’ll know exactly who to call.

But we know what you’re thinking — who’s to say the vendor you want will be available? There are no guarantees, but if you’re putting in the work to build strong relationships, contractors are often willing to go above and beyond to help out. You’re looking for the ideal vendor, so do your part to be the ideal client. That means partnering with vendors to help promote their business by providing referrals and sharing testimonials. You’ll be rewarded with fair pricing, quality service, and far fewer vendor headaches.

Jillian Rodriguez

Jillian Rodriguez

Jillian Rodriguez is a freelance writer out of Detroit, Michigan. Jillian writes about everything from entrepreneurship to real estate to chocolate, and she loves every minute of it. Beyond writing, Jillian is an avid reader, a public radio junkie, and active in early childhood development. She earned her B.A. in Creative Writing & Sociology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

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