Frequently Asked Questions
Vision Community Management, LLC. We are privately held, locally owned and managed, and serve community associations exclusively throughout the Greater Phoenix Area. Our hours of operation are 9am – 5:30pm Monday through Friday. Early and late appointments may be scheduled should a homeowner need to meet with us outside of these hours. Our after-hours emergency service is staffed by our own certified community HOA managers, 7-days a week. Unlike many of our peers, we do not use third-party answering services or have out-of-state call centers. Everything with Vision remains local and under our direct supervision and control.
Your name and position?
Darin Fisher, CAAM, CMCA. I am Vision’s Founder and CEO.
How long has your company been managing HOAs?
I founded the company in December 2003 when I combined my successful association accounting practice into a small HOA-management-only company which handled approximately eight associations comprising about 400 homes. The following year I rebranded the company Vision Community Management and have operated it ever since.
How many community associations does your company currently manage?
We manage 307 HOA's ranging from 8 doors to 2,606 doors throughout the Greater Phoenix and Flagstaff areas comprising over 45,700 homes. Our entire list of association clients is available for review on our website: www.wearevision.com/current-homeowners
How many employees do you have dedicated to managing HOAs?
91, including 35 CAAM and/or CMCA/AMS/PCAM certified Community Managers. Additionally, a total of 45 Vision employees hold professional certifications and/or licenses.
How many community managers and employees hold professional certifications?
Vision requires 100% of our HOA community managers to be both state (CAAM) and nationally (CMCA, AMS, PCAM) certified within their first year of service. As a result, Vision is one of only ~250 HOA management companies in the United States to hold the Accredited Association Management Company (AAMC) designation. All of our community managers complete no less than 40 hours of ongoing continuing education per year.
How long has your current corporate management been in place?
Our founder/CEO has been with Vision since its inception. Our VP of Administration joined Vision in 2004. Our VP of Finance and Technology joined Vision in 2006 and has both his accounting and law degree (taxation) from the University of Wisconsin. Our Senior VP has been with us for 5 years and in the industry 17 years. Our VP of Client Receivables joined us 7 years ago and has over 14 years of HOA industry experience. Finally, Vision’s VP of Field Operations came to us in 2013 after nearly a decade with her previous HOA management company.
What kind of liability insurance and/or fidelity bond coverage does your company have?
I carry $2,000,000 Liability and $1,000,000 Crime (Fidelity) coverage with $5,000 deductibles. We are fully covered for Worker’s Comp, automobile and E&O as well. Over our coverage, we carry an additional $5,000,000 Umbrella.
Do you have or maintain any partnerships, agreements, relationships, associations, or preferences with law firms, contractors, landscapers, collectors, or other entities you use to assist or recommend to HOAs?
Vision is strictly an HOA management company and does not require your community to contract with any ancillary service companies which work with HOA clients, or have exclusive strategic relationships with any vendors. Our contract has a written disclosure requirement built into it should any company recommended have a relationship to any employee of Vision as well. Many of our peers charge a “vendor fee” to any vendor which seeks to bid or provide services to a community association. Our position is that such agreements are unethical and constitute a severe breach of our fiduciary duty to our clients.
Do you have a list of approved vendors or are we able to utilize the vendors of our choice?
Vision has no exclusive partnership arrangements with vendors providing support services to its client associations. Further, upon transitioning a new community, Vision prefers not to have a wholesale change-out of all key vendors unless the board is adamant that it is in the best interest of their community. We believe that working with vendors in our proactive management system allows for increased performance, quality, and service. When it does become necessary to put contracts or services out for competitive bidding, Vision works together with the board to identify and bring to the table, the most qualified professionals in their industries. Ultimately, the vendors hired by the association are those specifically authorized by the board of directors.
Do you use any third party affiliates to accomplish your management work?
All work under our contract is performed by Vision personnel.
Please describe the primary reason your company is competent at managing Homeowners Associations (HOAs)
Our size allows us to employ a highly educated and very diverse group of professionals with backgrounds in accounting, law, high end finance, insurance, security, education, various management disciplines, and communications. These Visionary professionals are a key part of the value-added services we are able to provide within our standard management fee, thus saving our HOA clients substantially on outside personnel.
How often are Vision personnel in contact with the HOA board of directors?
Constant and complete communication is vital to the success of our partnership with your community association. In addition to phone calls, emails and web postings, our communities each receive a detailed weekly management report. This report, sent each Friday, is a summary of all relevant activities and functions going on in the community. It includes updates on all projects and timetables, landscaping overview, financial summaries, homeowner and/or vendor issues and concerns. Additionally, we endeavor to include relevant information related to your city or town, legislative activity, and trends and ideas which may benefit the board and the community as a whole. As a function of transition to Vision, we work with the board to develop the entire communication plan that the board wishes implemented.
How often do you conduct board meetings and are there extra fees associated with these?
Board meetings schedules are driven by the HOA board itself and not by Vision. While we prefer to meet monthly at the outset of any contract to ensure the successful implementation of our transition and community management programs, boards have the option to meet less frequently when they believe it is appropriate. Ideally, Vision feels meeting at least bi-monthly is necessary for the proper conduct of the associations plan, however, we do have boards that opt for quarterly board meetings providing there are provisions to hold additional meetings should circumstances arise requiring board action on an issue, or a specific homeowner request. We train our boards to be as open and transparent in their functioning as possible. Vision does not charge additional fees for extra meetings, attendance at key committee meetings, or for meetings that exceed two hours.
What is the most effective way for an HOA board to become aware of changes in laws or statutes that affect our community association?
Several members of our staff are certified instructors through Lorman Seminars and the Arizona Association of Community Managers. Vision team members have taught courses for the CAAM Certification program, Real Estate, Legal, and Accounting CEUs, the Arizona Bar Association, The Leadership Centre, and HOA Summits throughout the Greater Phoenix Area. Our in-house training personnel conduct training for our boards and any interested homeowners at no additional charge to the community association. Additionally, we will keep HOA board members apprised of free and low cost education seminars throughout the year.
What methods will you provide our association members to pay their assessments?
Community members may pay their assessments through the mail (lockbox), online through our payment portal with your bank which allows for payment by check, debit card or credit card, online bill pay services through their own bank, and via direct debiting services (SurePay) initiated through Vision. Vision never charges the homeowner or the community for any of these services. Additionally, Vision does not charge the community association any “rebilling” fees when a homeowner fails to pay by the assessment due date. Late fees are assessed by the community to the homeowner, and this fee revenue goes to the community – not the HOA management company.
What tools will you provide our association members to communicate their payment history and standing?
In addition to a large in-house staff which is available to speak live to community members throughout the day, homeowners may also choose to log on to our website and review their account from the convenience of their own computer. Additionally, at any time a homeowner may request a copy of their most recent statement be mailed or emailed to them. If a community selects statements as their preferred billing method for assessment collection, the homeowners detailed account history can be included on this.
What is the most effective way to motivate community members to keep their assessments current?
A continuous education process on both the importance of remaining current on their obligations, coupled with proactive programs to assist them should they encounter financial challenges. By making it easy and offering association members multiple ways to pay, we have excellent success in keeping aged receivables lower than industry averages.
Please describe what methods, tools, techniques, or processes you use to collect assessments and fees from association members who fall behind in their financial obligations?
We always keep every arrow available in your quiver to assist in securing payments from community members. Starting with concise, timely, and accurate invoicing of dues, homeowners have a clear understanding of their payment obligations and timetable. While boards can choose between using annual coupon books or statements for billing purposes, we have personally experienced lower delinquency rates with statements, as well as lower overall costs associated with reminder or late letters. One of the first steps Vision takes with a new association client is to sit down with the Board and discuss the current collection trends within the community. Together we formulate the most efficient and cost effective ways to meet slow-pay/no-pay concerns. We have a variety of in-house options, collection agencies, legal firms, and creative out-of-the-box solutions we can employ with the board to accomplish the goal of receiving timely payment. You are not locked into a “Vision only” collection option, and we will work to create the best options for you.
Do you represent a community association in small claims court, file liens and collect our judgments?
If requested by the HOA board, Vision has the personnel and experience to handle community collections from late notices to demands to liens to small claims court to post judgment collections. We are one of only a small handful of HOA management companies that meet the requirements under the new law to perform these functions. This ability not only saves community associations thousands of dollars, but it also saves thousands of dollars to owners who find themselves in the collection process. This makes it possible for Vision to run some of the lowest delinquency rates in our industry. In 2016 we filed 573 successful small claims actions (100% success rate). In total, our community association clients recovered over $4.00 for every $1.00 invested in our program. Our total collections exceeded $1.9 million and our average client wrote off less than $200.00 in bad debt.
What role does the HOA board play in this collection process?
Initially, the HOA board needs to ensure there is a clear collection policy in place for us to enforce on behalf of the community association. Once collection activities are approved against a member though, it is usually most prudent to allow the managing agent and board-selected vendors to execute the plan. This way, the HOA board preserves its ability to be the independent right of appeal vehicle for homeowners. You may remain neutral in the actual operations of the collection program and therefore are not seen as being adversarial to the community members should they wish to open a dialogue with you. At all times, the HOA board may log into our software and see the most current information regarding homeowners’ accounts and their status in the collection system. This augments the regular reports delivered in your financial statements.
Between the HOA board and your company, describe the most effective way to manage the accounting.
Vision was created first, as an accounting practice within this industry. We employ a full charge method in the accounting cycle to give greater ownership of the responsibilities to our community accountants. While we employ well documented internal control procedures that have been reviewed by more than a dozen CPA firms over the past 12 years, we choose not to segregate into separate A/P, A/R, G/L, and closing functions. Only cash control and reconciliations are broken out of the cycle as an audit step. By utilizing a full charge method, our commitment of zero defects in our reporting is maintained through a thorough understanding of all transactions occurring during the reporting cycle. Upon pre-closing of the monthly/year end statements, we use a two-tier internal approval and review going first to our accounting supervisors, and finally to our Corporate Controller for final review before publication to the HOA board. Accounts payable review and processing as well as check signing authority is discussed and established with each of our new association clients according to the HOA board’s preferences and comfort level. As part of our internal controls, each month you will receive (electronically unless hard copies are requested), a complete financial package including bank statements, reconciliations, copies of all invoices paid with their approvals, copies of each check issued, general ledger, A/P distribution, detailed receivables and collection reports, utility payment and billing logs, and all standard financial statements. In addition, we are happy to produce any other reports the HOA board deems appropriate for the financial review portion of their fiduciary responsibilities.
Between the HOA board and your company, describe the most effective way to manage legal records.
Vision maintains, at no additional cost, all physical records required by legal authorities. Additionally, we keep complete scanned document histories for the association property, vendors, and homeowners. These records are always available to the HOA board or membership via email without any cost of copying and mailing. As part of the transition process, Vision will work with the HOA board to create document and record retention policies that ensure compliance with all regulations and statutes.
Between the HOA board and your company, describe the most effective way to manage the maintenance of the common areas.
While this is not truly a short-answer question, we follow a fairly basic scheme. The HOA board’s role is in establishing standards and the overall vision for the community. You also sign all contracts for vendor services. Vision’s role is to execute policy directives and strategic decisions on behalf of the HOA board. We will supervise all vendors, ensure work is completed per spec, contract, and financial terms, regularly walk and drive the community to inspect for issues and concerns, and proactively bring ideas and solutions to the HOA board for consideration. Weekly management reports are given to all HOA directors so that you are continuously kept in the operational loop. We will regularly monitor activities against budget and against reserve studies to ensure fiscal compliance with the association’s goals. All community managers are equipped with tablets which they carry at all times. Work orders can be issued on the spot to vendors, complete with GPS plotting to send vendors to an exact location.
What is the most effective way to prepare the community association for high expenditure repair or upkeep costs?
The first step is to have a thorough understanding of all the assets of the community association from landscaping materials, irrigation systems, gravel, recreational equipment, etc. Next, if you have a current reserve study, it is continually monitored to ensure we are appropriately budgeting not just for next month, but for the next quarter, year, and 3 and 5 year periods. We will ensure the HOA has an adequate funding plan built into the budgets that we develop with you, and, in the event of financial shortfalls, will bring alternative financial options to the table to discuss and employ.
What is the most effective way to manage member complaints?
Simple solution: answer their phone calls and emails. The number one complaint I hear from homeowners during presentations is a lack of responsiveness. There are a myriad of ways we ensure communication with homeowners, but the two greatest factors are the low property ratios we keep (an average of 6 communities per manager) and the continual education programs in which all of Vision’s community managers are required to participate. Additionally, each community is assigned a field operations supervisor, an accountant, and a community administrator. This maximizes the amount of time community managers can spend on association property, while at the same time always maintaining in-house personnel who are available to our customers. Vision employs 35 full-time field managers, supported by 43 full-time in-house staff members and 13 field and training support staff members. At all times, members may log directly into their own account portal. There, a complete history of their lot is maintained from payment info and status, architectural applications and disposition, work order history and even photos of violations. We also track all communication (phone, mail, email) in order to review correspondence on an owner by owner basis.
What is the most effective way to manage member violations?
Consistency. First, we work to educate association members about the responsibilities they have under their documents. Second, we educate them about possible enforcement in relation to violations. Third, we are always available to talk to them and offer them solutions to their issues and challenges. In concert with the HOA board, we find that when homeowners open a dialogue with us, we are able to solve more than 95% of all community challenges.
How often do you perform site visits and monitor compliance?
Vision’s community managers visit their associations’ properties and perform a complete compliance inspection every single week, usually multiple times. During these visits, we meet with vendors, inspect the common areas, follow up on work orders and projects and meet with homeowners and/or HOA board members when requested. Additionally, we complete all resale inspections within 72 hours. The average Vision community is visited multiple times per week by the community manager due to the tight geography of their portfolios.
Do you have online tracking of violations?
Yes. Through our technology offerings, HOA board members have access to all of our community management software and reports. Homeowners as well, have access to information related to their specific property. Photo documentation is stored at the homeowner level as well. 100% of this information is available at your manager’s fingertips as they tour your community. Color coding of the online maps shows the community manager exactly what the violation or architectural status is of every home as they perform their inspections.
Do you have an on call service for homeowners to report issues and are there fees associated with this?
During business hours, all callers are greeted by live receptionists. There are no automated menu systems to navigate through. During weekends and after hours, Vision has emergency phone coverage staffed by our own community managers—not a third-party service that has no concept of our business operations. We strive for no more than 20-minute response times for all emergency calls. Our community associations do not incur any extra fees by using these services, and they are part of our industry leading service package.
What methods, reports, or processes does your company use to show financial transparency to the HOA board?
HOA boards are given remote access to our management and financial software (read only privileges). You may at any time log on and see exactly what a Vision employee sees in the Caliber system. You will be able to drill down into transaction details and even see phone logs within our system. We require that at least one association board member receives copies of bank statements mailed directly to them to ensure they are not manipulated when compared to the copies provided in your monthly financial package. We do not require you to adapt solely to our procedures. We will work with each HOA board to develop systems that are suited to their level of desired involvement and comfort with us as a management partner.
What separate roles do the HOA board and your company play in establishing and maintaining an operational budget?
I have 307 HOA boards which probably have 50 different ways to approach budgeting. Starting in July, we secure from the board their goals for the next fiscal year. Coupled with the reserve study, we will generally take the lead in creating an initial review draft, complete with all supporting documentation and financial schedules. A budget meeting our hearing is often scheduled for September or October to review and make appropriate adjustments. The goal is to have a budget adopted and sent to the homeowners by early to mid-November in order to prepare them for any potential assessment changes.
Who are the recommended signers on the bank accounts?
Under Master Management Agreements with financial institutions, there are typically two authorized individuals from the management company who are not involved in cash receipts or reconciliations, on the accounts. Vision requests that no fewer than two HOA board members are also signers on the accounts. Regardless, check signing authority is established by board policy upon execution of our contract.
Does your contract have automatic price increases? What is your cancellation policy?
Vision DOES NOT include an annual escalator in our association management contract and we highly recommend and advise HOA boards against them. Our philosophy is that when we believe the value of the service we provide exceeds the current contract fee, we discuss this with our board during budget season. Boards are then free to approve, modify or deny any negotiation. Our contract also contains the strongest protection for the community association related to contract termination. The HOA board may terminate our contract at any point in time, simply by delivering a 30-day written notice.
What newsletter support is provided in the standard contract? Describe.
As part of our monthly or quarterly statement process, we provide at no additional cost, a 1-page black and white newsletter that is mailed as part of each homeowner’s statement. Should the HOA board wish to have a more robust newsletter with pictures, in color, on glossy paper, etc. we will make the arrangements and facilitate layout with you. We will assist with providing articles in addition to those from the HOA board, vendors and community members. This will then be outsourced to a vendor of your choice with the cost paid by the association.
What support is provided for community events? Describe.
We can plan, organize, facilitate and make staffing arrangements for nearly any types of events your community desires. We have arranged everything from community fairs, to garage sales, to BBQs, to holiday snowball fights and hayrides. “Movie in the park” nights are very popular as are community sports, Bunco, or poker leagues.
Identify companies that have related ownership to Vision.
Our CEO owns a real estate brokerage and rental property management company. Related to those companies, are an Arizona Licensed Insurance Brokerage (VCM Advisors) and a licensed commercial/residential contracting firm (Western Vistas Maintenance).
Please list industry affiliations and trade associations of which your company is a member.
We are members of the Arizona Association of Community Managers (AACM) – our CEO is a board member, Immediate Past Chair and the former Ethics Chair. We are state and national members of the Community Associations Institute (CAI). We belong to the Alliance of Community Association Managers (ACAM-CEO), and have an executive who serves on the Board of Directors of The Leadership Centre, which is a non-profit organization that provides education for boards and residents of Arizona community associations.
What is the most compelling benefit your HOA community management company offers that stands out above all other management companies?
Flexibility. While we are one of the larger community management companies in the valley, and therefore able to offer technology, services, and educated staffing levels associated with that, we do not have a “standard” community management program that we will require you to fit or adapt into. We customize our approach for each board and community association based on its unique needs and personality.
What questions should we be asking when selecting a management company?
When considering an HOA management company, it is essential to get an understanding of their corporate culture and how they value their employees. You should ask about turnover, retention policies, educational and benefits with the company. Companies that give great service to their employees also tend to give great service to their clients. I also strongly encourage you to visit the offices of any HOA management company you wish to consider further. You would be surprised at what you will find on occasion when you make this request. At Vision, you are not required to make an appointment ahead of time unless you wish to meet with a particular person. Unscheduled visits will tell you volumes about the professionalism practiced in the HOA industry.