What are the most important aspects of your community association? Enforcing bylaws, collecting assessments, conducting meetings? All of these items are essential to the operation of any community association, but what makes your association better than the rest and one of the most desirable places to call home? The amenities, betterments, and improvements in community associations make them stand out from the rest, attract buyers, and foster a higher sense of community pride.
Looking to the future to improve your community is always at the forefront of many homeowner, board, and community manager’s minds. After proper planning, both legally and financially to begin a capital project, what is the next step in the process? This step is crucial whether the project is large or small, adds something new to the community, or maintains/improves current elements in the community.
What exactly is an RFP, and how should it be leveraged for success? In the most basic sense, an RFP ensures that everyone understands what a project entails. This document(s) is used to give specific guidelines to vendors as they bid on the project for the community.
At a minimum, the RFP should include the following elements: detailed scope of work, start/end dates, payment terms, insurance requirements, site maps, plans, and contact information. It may seem cumbersome to put together all of this data; but it is worth it when the project goes off without a hitch because of your careful planning and execution during these initial steps. Many times, when a large project undertaken without an RFP, there are unhappy board members, co-owners, vendors, and a stressed-out association manager. It is important to remember that when an RFP is completed it should be reviewed by all parties to ensure it is all-encompassing prior to being sent out to any vendors.
How is an RFP created? The most important part is getting the scope of work correct and agreed to by those requesting the proposal. Often times this requires the consultation of an outside specialist, whether it be an engineer, architect, surveyor, etc. Once the scope of work is agreed to, a target start date should be selected based upon the project itself and the timeline for completion. Be sure to remain realistic when selecting these dates and keep in mind that they should be used as target dates, not definitive dates. Another key component of the request is gathering the proper site maps, plans, and drawings that are crucial for successful completion of the work. It’s important that these supplemental documents are clear, specific, and enhance the information provided in the scope of work. After all of this information is put together, the next items to focus on include: payment terms, insurance requirements, and contact information for questions. These items are especially important to ensure the contractor is able and willing to meet the requirements the community sets forth.
When is an RFP created? This question is highly dependent on the project itself. In some instances, RFP’s can be sent out and returned in just a couple weeks, allowing a decision to be made and a contract awarded within a month. Some larger scale projects may take several months from the time the RFP is created until the contract is awarded. The best way to determine this timeline will be to look at the scope of work, projected start date for the project, and the timeline for completion.
Some other considerations to include in a Request for Proposal are:
the timeline for contractors to return it,
how to set up a walk-thru
the interview/presentation dates for contractors to go in front of the Board.
It’s important to remember that the RFP should provide all relevant information for a project, but they should not contain information/data that takes away from the clarity of the RFP. It is essential that the RFP is concise, clear, and provides all relevant information the bidding parties.
Once you have the RFP created, its best to send it in electronic format to vendors. It’s always beneficial to send the RFP to more vendors than you want proposals from. If you ultimately want three proposals to make the contract award determination from you should send the RFP to at least six vendors. Not all vendors will submit proposals, be able to work on the project, or meet the requirements of the RFP; it’s important to have more proposals to turn to if that is the case rather than having to go back out for more proposals.
When reviewing the proposals submitted, ensure that they all are presenting the same thing in regards to materials, timelines, scope of work, etc. The best way to ensure this happens is to have a precise RFP that gives clear expectations and even gives a sample contract so all vendors are filling out the same information. If you get several different proposals that vary significantly in cost, they likely are not “apples to apples” comparisons. If that is the case, you should determine which proposal most closely matches your expectations and ask the other vendors to match the specs in that proposal.
It is important to remember that these proposals are not contracts. The community should ensure a contract based on the proposal is completed and includes all of the terms that both parties agree to. It is never a good idea to make verbal agreements in business, it should be in the contract or a written addendum to the contract.
By creating a concise and thorough Request for Proposal you are helping to ensure a successful capital project. Starting an improvement project with all of these recommendations in mind makes the community that much better as you move forward. Continually improving your community will ensure that it is one of the most desirable communities to call home.
Author: Lee Powers | CMCA® | AMS® | PCAM®
Director of Operations
KS Management, Inc.
Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Columbia Southern University with Degrees in Business Management, Business Technology and Marketing. Joined the Community Association Management field in 2016 as a Community Association Manager with a portfolio between 12-25 communities. Obtained CMCA® credential in 2017 and AMS® credential in 2018. Obtained PCAM® credential in 2021, the highest professional credential for Community Managers, and one of only 12 in the State of Michigan. Has served on the Michigan Legislative Action Committee as a Delegate since 2019, has served on the CAMICB CMCA® Exam Development Committee since 2021. Elected to the Board of Directors for the Michigan Chapter of CAI with a term starting on July 1, 2023.