June 11, 2013

HRW as a Home Owner’s Association management company

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I have been looking at houses and condos for a few months. Whenever my Awesome Agent and I look at a condo or townhouse with a home owner’s association (HOA), we ask these questions:

  • What does the HOA cover and what is the owner responsible for?
  • How often are repairs, pest inspections, property maintenance (like painting, for example) done?
  • How often are dues increased? Have any special assessments been made in the recent past?
  • What is the current balance for the HOA? What is the current budget? Are there enough funds to cover any unexpected roof replacements, for example?
  • What percentage of the units in the community rentals?

I’ve looked at three condos where my Awesome Agent asked the above questions. Two of the HOAs answered the questions within a reasonable time frame. The condo I’m currently looking at is managed by HRW Inc, a property management firm based in Raleigh, NC. HRW is owned by Associa. My agent called HRW to ask them the usual set of questions. Well, the woman who represents the HOA was on vacation, so HRW representative who answered the phone referred my agent to the HRW web site. All of the answers are there, she said.

So both my agent and I went to the web site to look for information.

When my agent finally located the real estate agent’s information package, she was prompted to pay $45 to receive a copy of the documents. Supposedly the package includes budget information, among other details. (I don’t remember exactly what was included.) While an example package was provided, the sample documents didn’t have enough details to know if the package would answer our questions.

When I created an account, the form asked for my own home address, phone number, and the property I’m interested in. Okay, fine. I filled it all out and registered as a buyer. When you log on to their site, you have to know the abbreviation for the managed community. I entered the three letter abbreviation and was presented with something called a “Purchaser’s Research Package.” It was the only option available. This package includes: “Package includes Realtor information, Budget and Governing Documents when researching information on HUD homes or property foreclosures, with consent of owner.”

To continue, I was told I had to have the owner’s permission to get the package. So at first I didn’t continue. I don’t have the owner’s permission (although being on the market might be a kind of implied permission). I finally did press Continue Shopping to get to the next page. And laughed.

Here’s the kicker. You have to pay to get this information, and it ain’t cheap.

  • The Purchaser Research Package is $145
  • Expedited processing is $50 (I don’t really want to wait 5-10 days while they get around to sending me my request, especially not if I’m considering putting an offer in.)
  • Want a hard copy or a digital copy? Add $20.
  • Want it delivered Fed Ex? Add $35.

hrw_fees

There is no way I’m going to pay $145+ to maybe have my questions answered. I’m not going to ask my agent to pay $45 to have a chance at answering the questions. Why won’t HRW just answer our questions like every other HOA has?

When my agent did get hold of the community representative, the HOA person stressed how busy she was and didn’t want to take the time to answer our questions. She again referred my agent to the HRW web site and then hung up on her.

My agent’s experience with HRW isn’t an isolated case. HRW’s CitySearch page has four reviews (since 2006) that match our experience. There was one positive review, but that seems to be an outlier.

How can any company justify charging this kind of money to answer questions that should be freely available? I’ve called HRW directly, and of course, I was sent to voicemail. I will try back tomorrow. Their voicemail promises a call back within 8 business hours (whatever that means).

Seeing how this HOA is responding  makes me wonder if this is the reason the places for sale in this community have been on the market for 200-300 days.

Update: Follow up to this post

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