A key function of the HOA board is to maintain the well-being of the community. Usually, this entails having to outsource services that the board itself can’t carry out on its own. This can include everything from janitorial services and lawn maintenance to bookkeeping and security. However, with so many vendors available, it’s often difficult to choose the best one. Picking out the right vendor begins with a single step: an association management RFP.
Here, we discuss the purpose and contents of an HOA request for proposal when seeking vendors.
Association Management RFP Explained
An HOA request for proposal (or HOA RFP) is a document drafted by the board or community manager that formally requests a bid for services or materials. An RFP is commonly used in projects of all sizes as a way of detailing the work they desire.
As an HOA looking for services for your community, it’s important that your RFP conveys your association’s desires as clearly as possible. This way, you can collect all the necessary information without too much back and forth. Additionally, it acts as your criteria from which you can base your decisions. It’s efficient and consistent, allowing you to judge fairly across all submissions.
How to Write an HOA RFP
Creating an HOA request for proposal can seem like an impossible task when you’ve never done it before. However, as a board member, it’s one of your many responsibilities.
Schedule a meeting where all board members are present. If you have a community manager, invite them as well. It’s important to have everyone in attendance when drafting an HOA RFP so that you can get everyone’s opinions.
Data are easier to understand and appear to be clearer when they’re broken down into several parts. An RFP should have three main parts:
The first part of an HOA RFP must contain an overview of your entire request. This is where you would have a summary of the type of service or materials you require.
You must also enter your general expectations in this portion of the document. Make sure to describe the problem you have (i.e. what you need their help with), as well as the scope of the project. This is so potential vendors know whether they can deliver or not.
This is also where you would give them the location of the project. Sometimes, vendors won’t bother sending you a proposal if they think you’re too far. Indicate a clear deadline you want all proposals to be turned in, as well as the date you’ll make a decision. Other details include the time frame, desired methods, and any special instructions.
The third part of an HOA RFP should lay out the submission requirements for any contractors who decide to submit a proposal. While the overview covered general information on your request, this portion must be as specific as possible. Don’t be afraid to get into the nitty-gritty. In fact, the more detailed you are in your request, the better.
When drafting your requirements, ask potential vendors to explain how they will successfully complete the project. Ask them to get into the specifics. This way, you have a good grasp of what you can expect from their services.
It’s equally pertinent to include how much you expect to pay for their service. Let’s face it — not all vendors charge the same amount for the same job. Some offer premium services, while others are more affordable. By giving them a budget, vendors can work out whether they can work within that limit or not. In turn, vendors will send you a bid with their price.
Your RFP is also a chance for you to know more about the contractor. In addition to all this information, it’d be wise to ask for each vendor’s qualifications. What makes them suitable for the job? Ask for proof of proper licenses, adequate workers’ compensation, and certificates of insurance for general liability. Make sure that they are able to do the job on an operational and legal level.
Ask for examples of related jobs they successfully completed to get a sense of their experience and what they can do for your association. Request that they submit appropriate photos of sample work. If they have any, references would also add to their authority.
Tips on Evaluating Responses from Vendors
Now that the hard part is over, the responses should start pouring in. The next step is to evaluate your options and arrive at a decision at the appropriate time. Selecting the right vendor can be tough, though, so here are some tips to help you out:
1. Do Your Research
Sure, you asked the vendors to give you their qualifications, sample of work, and references. However, it’s not enough to hear it from them. Do your own research and look into each one. Find out how many years they’ve been doing this type of work. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to read up on reviews. Customer satisfaction must play a key role in your decision-making process.
If completing the project on schedule is a non-negotiable requirement, don’t award the contract to a vendor with a reputation for delaying schedules. In the same way, if the quality is important to you, it’s best not to go with the vendor known for subpar work.
2. Cheapest Does Not Equal Best
It’s tempting to award the project to the vendor with the cheapest bid. It saves the association money and gets the job done in the process. However, a low cost doesn’t always mean a favorable outcome.
More often than not, a cheaper price means the vendor is compromising somewhere. It could be the quality of the materials they use or the amount of time it takes them to complete the project. Low-quality work could even cost you more in the long run. For this reason, don’t go with the most inexpensive vendor just because they’ll save you a few pennies.
Furthermore, some vendors offer extras or inclusions that may make the higher price worth it. They may throw in a longer warranty, a faster timetable, or a bonus service.
3. Consider All Your Options
The number of responses you get will depend on a variety of factors. You may get only a few, which makes it easier to narrow down your choices. On the other hand, if you receive a boatload of responses, the thought of going through all of them can be nauseating. While it’s true that reading every bid can be time-consuming, it must be done. As a board member, you have an obligatory duty to prioritize the community’s best interests, which includes picking the vendor right for the job.
4. Ask a Professional
HOA boards typically consist of unpaid volunteers elected into power. As such, it’s not uncommon for members to have no experience in dealing with an HOA request for proposal. While some look to the internet for answers, others turn to experienced professionals. If you find you’re having difficulty with the process, it’s best to seek assistance from the board’s attorney or community manager.
Exceptions to the Rule
While seeking help from third parties is a normal occurrence in communities, it’s not always advisable to create HOA RFPs every time you need assistance. Here are two common exceptions you must consider:
- Low cost. If the job won’t cost you more than a few hundred dollars, drafting an RFP and choosing a vendor would only waste everyone’s time.
- An emergency situation. Don’t bother going through the entire process of an HOA RFP and bidding if the job is time-sensitive (i.e. an emergency). For example, if a fallen tree is blocking a road within your community.
For these exceptions, creating an HOA request for proposal would be unnecessary. The best way to resolve them is to go with a vendor you trust and with whom you have a good working relationship.
Start Writing Your HOA Request for Proposal
No matter what project you are planning to execute, HOA or not, every successful project starts with proper planning. Your association management RFP serves as the baseline of your project. It’s also a way to provide your contractor with a clear understanding of what you want. The more specific and informative you are, the higher the chance of your project being successful.
Crafting an HOA RFP is just one of the many aspects an HOA management company can help you with. If you’re interested, fill out our online contact form or give us a call at (855) 238-8488.
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