Can you imagine having served on more than 800 HOA Boards or having attended over 30,000 HOA meetings? Well Dave Norvell can. As a seasoned vet of the HOA and Building industries, Dave brings us a unique perspective from having worked in both industries. ProTec sat down with Dave to discuss best practices and discover his funniest board meeting out of 30,000!
Dave Norvell first started in the HOA industry in 1985 at N. N. Jaeschke. He moved on to become a principal in the mediation firm, Settlement Option Services, where he focused on keeping HOAs, their members and vendors from having to resolve issues in court. Later he was the Chief Operating Officer at The Prescott Companies where he launched the downtown San Diego hi-rise division. Dave then joined Pardee Homes. At Pardee, recently acquired by Tri Pointe Homes, Dave now manages the disclosure process and the development of all HOAs from initial planning through the Bureau of Real Estate process, vetting and hiring each HOA’s vendors and works with his communities to effectively resolve issues which may arise during and after their development.
Dave has also been active in the HOA community by creating, producing and co-hosting a live radio talk show called Condo Talk in San Diego.
The following interview with Mr. Norvell dives into hot topics surrounding HOA’s and newly built communities.
◊ What is the most important thing that Community Managers should know about taking over a newly built community?
Each new HOA is unique; you can’t treat them the same because each community develops its own personality and you have to be flexible as the community matures.
◊ What are the most common mistakes that Community Managers make at newly built HOA’s?
They don’t become familiar enough with all the documents including the HOA manual. Managers should bring the manual to every board meeting. The CC&Rs should require that the maintenance manual be brought to each HOA meeting and be included on the agenda as an item to be reviewed and addressed. Too often, the maintenance manual is left sitting on a shelf in the manager’s office and ignored. Following the manual protects the HOA’s common elements and can maximize the life of each element if properly maintained.
◊ What are the three most common mistakes that new Boards make?
Many boards rely too heavily on their manager. Even if you have a highly seasoned manager, HOA boards need to remember that this is the homeowner’s community, not the managers. If a homeowner agrees to serve on the board they need to commit to that service and become an integral part of the decision making process. And to be effective, they need to learn from their manager and other available resources such as each vendor, their attorney and the Community Association’s Institute. Managers, like most of us, are very busy people. It is imperative that Boards follow-up with their manager, as a partner, to ensure the work of the community is being done timely and effectively. The other mistake boards make is they should NOT rely on any one board member to do all the work; serving on a board must be a team effort.
◊ What is the most important “best practice” that builders should always implement at their new communities?
The builder must ensure that there is continuity between final maps, governing documents, irrigation plans, planting plans, the HOA budget and the common area turnover process. Not having good continuity has cost some builders millions. Having an effective Common Element Development process during the development stages of a community is priceless.
◊ Do you see Builders making common mistakes at newly built HOA’s?
I am not a fan of using templated documents for new communities. Boiler plating documents might be less expensive in the short-term but by creating governing documents and plans for the people in that particular community you are forced to focus on the accuracy and continuity of the common elements within each individual community. For example, I have seen multiple demands over the years to replace hardscape due to root intrusion. If a builder is planting trees near buildings and driveways why not include in the CC&Rs (and the HOA budget) the requirement to effectively maintain and remove trees, to prevent damage to other common areas. This puts the responsibility on the HOA to monitor and prevent such damage. It’s also important that the builder provide an HOA Manual and a Maintenance Matrix defining who is responsible for common areas and exclusive use areas.
◊ The recent consolidation of HOA Management firms, the wrap-up by Associa from Texas and FirstService from Canada is happening quickly. Do you think that this consolidation is good for the HOA industry and the building industry? What dangers do you see and what opportunities do you foresee with this wrap-up?
Large management companies can hopefully provide greater benefits, including effective training, to their managers which is good for the industry. The HOA industry is tough, as any manager will tell you, and having the resources available to keep managers and their staff well trained can only help the HOA industry and each community they serve. Many small companies are staffed by highly competent community managers and leaders, as well. Often it is a tough decision as to which manager to choose and then there are those times where it is very easy, due to the history and direct experience with a particular person or management team. But at the end of the day, it is the manager who makes their company look great, whether they work for one of the national firms or for a small management company.
◊ Please tell us the funniest thing that has happened to you at an HOA board meeting.
After attending over 30,000 HOA meetings (of all types) one of the most bizarre was a long battle, by seven homeowners, to serve on a board with five seats. Unfortunately, the governing documents required a new HOA board be elected every year. After weeks of campaigning, mudslinging and threats the community was poised on the brink…many operational and repair issues and the HOA assessment levels were at issue… the night of the annual meeting was here…and no one showed up.