Communities that are considerably bigger than your average neighborhood are, in the community management industry, referred to as large-scale communities. And, as you might imagine, the needs of these communities sometimes differ a bit from those of your standard-sized community. Depending on the size of these communities, the amenities they offer, the smaller communities they have present within the larger entity and their governing documents, running these large-scale communities can get quite complex and often all but requires the assistance of a professional community management company and onsite staff.
What are Large-Scale Communities and How are They Managed?
What constitutes a large-scale community? While there is no set number, typically any community with 1,000+ lots or units and an annual budget of $1 million or above falls into the large-scale category.
When working with professional management companies, smaller communities are typically assigned a portfolio manager. This means that your community is assigned manager who will visit the property a few times a month to do inspections, meet with vendors, attend meetings or do whatever other duties they've been assigned. On the other hand, when you have a large-scale community, you're most likely going to have an on-site manager as well as additional on-site staff. With staff present 8 hours a day, you have people dealing and coordinating with committees, working closely with the board, conducting the ARC review process and generally working full-time for that particular association. A good analogy to consider when thinking about a portfolio manager vs. an onsite manager is that when you get a portfolio manager it’s like buying a timeshare whereas when you have an onsite manager its akin to having bought the whole condo.
What are Some of the Amenities and Features of Large-Scale Communities?
Typically, large-scale communities have a lot of common areas, private roads, amenity packages, gated entries and even guards present at the entries. These larger communities also usually have a lot of committees to work on these different things. These can be everything from infrastructure committees, social committees, clubhouse committees, pool house committees, ARC committees, etc. They usually have an enhanced committee structure in general because there are just a lot of things to do.
Committees are especially essential to these larger-scale communities because they are volunteers and take away the need of hiring people to do a lot of these tasks. This is especially beneficial in communities where there are a lot of retirees who are willing to give of their time to be on such committees. In fact, many of CAMS' lifestyle and age-restricted communities are large-scale communities which have a lot of events and social clubs, so it works out well that there are volunteers present.
As you might imagine, enforcing the covenants, declarations and bylaws of such large communities can sometimes be an arduous task if not undertaken properly. That is why oftentimes these larger communities have what is called a master association and then sub-associations. The sub-associations can be either different neighborhoods or different types of units - say part of the community is single family homes and part of it is condominiums, the condos would have their own sub-association. However, some communities have opted to go about this a different way and handle everything under the master association and then designate different regions of the community "service areas" or “neighborhoods”. In this instance, all units are part of the same association and the same governance but in certain areas the assessment structure may be different because they may receive different services.
The exception to using service areas or neighborhoods in North Carolina, however, is going to be condominiums. This is because condos always fall under the NC Condo act and, even if they're within the master association, they still have to be under a sub-association that adheres to the NC Condo Act's regulations.
Overall, sub associations are always subject to the master association's governing documents as well as their individual association's documents. And, if there was a conflict between the two, the master association's governing documents would trump those of the sub-association.
If you're purchasing property in a large-scale community, be sure that you've received and read through copies of all of the governing documents that might apply to your property and that you understand what assessments you'll be responsible for. That being said, large-scale communities have a vast array of benefits, especially for those who are looking to live in a community that provides lots attractive amenity packages and opportunities to get involved.