Reserve Studies – Where the Client is Not Always Right!

Conventional wisdom says the client is always right. Customer service principles support that concept: please the client, nurture relationships for repeat business, etc. But what if it is your job to provide professional counsel, and the nature of the news you deliver is that it often causes the client some discomfort?

Reserve Studies Explained

In the Reserve Study business, we assemble a document that identifies the current condition of Reserve Components and the current Reserve Fund Strength, and we recommend what Reserve Contributions are necessary to successfully offset the ongoing deterioration of the components. Outside of some minor flexibility, the state of the property and the Reserve Balance define the results.

In this field, it is not our job to please the client.

Reserve Fund Experts Are Objective Consultants

It is our job to deliver news accurately and clearly about the Reserve Component List, Reserve Fund Strength, and recommended Reserve Contributions, so clients can make accurate homeowner disclosures and informed budget decisions.

We would do the client a disservice and expose ourselves to liability if we altered our findings and recommendations per the client’s request.

Now – I’m not talking about a client asking for a change to increase the accuracy of the report, like telling us the building was last painted in 2007, not 2005 as they told us while we were on-site. We welcome that kind of appropriate request for change. The problem is when the ironwork is rusting and peeling and the Board requests we change our Remaining Useful Life evaluation from zero to two “because we don’t want to paint it now”, or when we recommend $5000/mo Reserve contributions and the Board asks us to change it to $3800/mo “because that’s what fits our budget”.

So for Reserve Studies, the client is not always right.

The fee the client has paid us doesn’t entitle them to “get it their way”. We will do the task they have hired us to do, independently, based on our experience and expertise. It is our name and logo on the cover of the report, and our liability and reputation that is at stake, so it should be our information inside!

The Reserve Study often does not match the Board’s position on individual components, or the Board’s plans to fund the Reserve Fund, and that’s okay.

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2 Responses to Reserve Studies – Where the Client is Not Always Right!

  1. We have a two-test method to determine how flexible we should be with our clients: 1) Are our physical forecasts “realistic” and; 2) Are our financial estimates “defensible”.

    If the client can demonstrate that we have not met this test (and sometimes they do) or we cannot support our assertions (and sometimes this happens), then there is room for further calibration of our data.

    As a consultant, I have always found that it is better to be respected than it is to be liked. We need to tell our clients what they need to hear and not what they want to hear.