A Condo Association often has maintenance activities that are not covered by the Association but nonetheless are quite important. Things like HVAC inspections, dryer vent cleaning, etc. – all should be done on a regular maintenance schedule. This lead Owners to ask a logical question of our Board – can we organize a shared buying pool, where many units go in on the same service to get a better price? Our answer has been that the Association will not do this for a variety of reasons (chiefly, liability and responsibility for items outside of the Association’s purview) – but that we encourage Owners to self-organize and create a buying pool. Buying pools can be a great way to save money for your condo association.
Here are some steps that you can take, as an Owner, to organize a buying pool and save everyone some money:
- Find out from the various vendors you’re looking at if they’ll give you a bulk discount, and how much it is. No point in going crazy for a 1% savings on the service, but 5-10% or more may be worth your time.
- Make sure this is a project you want to take on. You’re going to be herding a lot of cats for no compensation.
- Advertise via your Association’s outreach methods (i.e., electronic and physical bulletin boards, word of mouth, meetings, etc.) and see how many people you are realistically going to get, and correspondingly how much of a savings that will lead to.
- Work with the vendor to get a situation where you sign up the units, but the company handles scheduling and billing. Depending on the number of units you have and the size of the company, this may or may not be feasible – you’re going to need to do some research to find a vendor that wants the business such that they’ll handle the extra administrative work. But you really don’t want a situation where an Owner is collecting money for multiple units – that’s a recipe for disaster.
- Keep a running list of units and emails who participated to make future years easier to organize and execute.
- Save money for your Association and be an unsung hero
I’ll be honest – buying pools have not been successful in our building. The time investment that an individual Owner has to make to be the organizer, coupled with the challenge in dealing with vendors has been prohibitive. We’ve had some limited success with very small groups of Owners – half a dozen or so – who knew each other well enough to organize. That said, many larger Associations do have substantial buying power if the Owners self-organize, so there are opportunities for saving money among Owners if you can get over the administrative hurdles.
One final piece of advice to Board members – this is NOT an activity I recommend you getting involved in. As soon as the Association becomes the middleman, people will start using the Association as their first line of complaint, not the vendor, and that will become a drain on staff time, and could even open you up to liability if there is a problem with the vendor since the Association facilitated the process. But you should encourage members to save money for your condo association Owners by setting up buying pools.