Independence (and its Value to the Association)
Independence in the Reserve Study process means freedom from control or influence. Independence means the Reserve Study professional is able to provide their complete findings and recommendations without interference. Common problems with lack of independence are when management influences the size of Reserve contributions (trying to make their budget or financial oversight “look good”), when an individual or the Board influences when projects occur (in an attempt to save money or press a personal agenda), when the Reserve Study provider has an interest in doing some follow up work ("By the way... I can do that re-roofing that needs to be done"), or has an interest in managing the Reserve Funds ("Let me help you get a higher interest rate on your Reserve funds..."). But taking independence to the extreme, suggesting the Reserve Study professional perform their job in an absolute vacuum (avoiding all aid, contact, or assistance), is counterproductive to the Reserve Study process.
By its very nature, a well done Reserve Study requires a coordinated team effort consisting of three parties: the Reserve Study professional, management, and the Board. As a Reserve Study professional, to do our part of the job well, we need to ask questions of the other two parties. The result is a better, more accurate Reserve Study. Client involvement (Board or management) is essential so we can find out when the roof was last replaced, how much the new hallway carpet cost, how many months per year the pool is used, etc. We ask a lot of questions, and by nature we sift through what we hear.
Examples of comments we may not use are: “We don’t plan to replace the carpet for two more years”, or “We’ll just wait until we see deck problems and special assess at that time”, “Don’t you just hate the color of the wood trim”, “The Board needs their Reserve contributions to drop a bit to meet their election promises”, etc. We apply our experience, expertise, and National Reserve Study Standards to give the association what they paid for – an independent evaluation of their physical assets, the strength of their Reserve Fund, and a recommended Reserve Funding Plan.
Our logo appears on the cover, so we control the content of the report. We value your input. But just because we’re listening doesn’t mean we will incorporate all your suggestions and lose our independence. There’s an important difference between researching, and being influenced. Count on an independent Reserve Study professional to respectfully ignore your suggestions or recommendations that do not in their opinion reflect the true physical or financial situation at the property.
So if we don’t incorporate all your suggestions about when projects should happen, how much things should cost, which components should (or should not) appear in the Reserve Study, or where you’d like to see the Reserve contributions go (up or down), don’t take it personally. We’re just doing our job of giving you the independent expert opinion you paid for!