After 15 years working side by side with homeowners associations throughout Utah, I’ve spent a lot of time considering the idea of “the perfect HOA.” It may sound like a pipe dream, but it’s a very real goal to strive for–one that would increase property value, simplify the home-selling process, reduce board member workload, minimize frivolous lawsuits, and provide a level of peace to your community. In this series of articles, I talk about what an HOA needs to be perfect both on paper and in practice so that all of these results can be seen in your community.
Communication is the key to success. Period, full stop, end of story. Without quality, consistent, transparent communication, relationships of all kinds crumble, including those in community associations. Boards have a responsibility to the community to keep everyone informed and involved in the decisions being made. Communication in the perfect HOA should cover a lot of ground:
HOA communication should be accessible. This sounds like it should be obvious, but it’s sometimes a challenge to make happen. Communications for some communities are handled through a dedicated HOA or condo software platform, so it’s easy to get the word out there. But other communities only have email or phone call communications. Others rely on a community bulletin board. Not all types of communications are truly accessible, which results in some residents missing key information and feeling like they’re being excluded from the community.
HOA communication should anticipate homeowner needs. Proactive is always better than reactive. Of course, there are times when reacting is the only option, but when possible, it’s important that a community is given a heads up about important decisions. If homeowners only ever receive communications letting them know a choice was made rather than being able to contribute to that choice, they will feel as if they have no voice in their own home.
HOA communication should build relationships. Your community is built upon trust and camaraderie. You may have all started as unwitting strangers, but that isn’t how a good community should operate long-term. Your communications with your residents should encourage a sense of belonging and inclusion and should support the greater home-life experience for everyone.
Implementing Effective Communication in the Perfect HOA
Living in an HOA or condo association can be really stressful. As a board member, you probably have a little more knowledge and experience than the average person when it comes to understanding the nuances of community living, but the average person has a lot of “unknown unknowns” to face.
Here are some foundational communications the perfect HOA should provide to residents and prospective new homeowners:
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) – a FAQ page is a must-have for community associations. Prospective new homeowners have a lot to consider when buying into a community association and don’t always know the right questions to ask. Although some will have a lawyer at their side recommending what they should look for in an HOA, many are stumbling in blind. Being forthcoming with information is a great way to establish trust and rapport even before this person potentially joins your community. It should include information about:
- Voting rights
- Tenant rights and restrictions such as pet regulations and rules, physical appearance requirements for the property, rental permissions, etc.
- Assessment costs including both monthly and special assessments
- Whether or not your community is involved in a court case
- Welcome Letter – A good first impression can go a very long way. And while this won’t be your actual “first” impression on a new homeowner, it’s can be the first official interaction you have with them. Creating a standard welcome letter (and accompanying packet, detailed next!) is a very simple way to start a new relationship off on the right foot without investing a ton of effort every single time someone joins the community.
- Welcome Packet – Along with the Welcome Letter, a packet of important information can make a very good impression on a new homeowner. It can include things like:
- The basics, such as a copy of the FAQs and Rules and Regulations, information about trash and recycling days, and hours of operation for community components like pools and tennis courts
- A resource page that lists contact info for local utilities and area service providers
- A list of local necessities like grocery stores, hardware and home improvement stores, coffee shops, and shopping centers
These are only a few items that will help create a strong foundation of healthy communications in the perfect HOA. There are plenty of other options, like email newsletters, bulletin board flyers and posters, physical mail, and text messaging that condos and HOAs can adopt. Finding the right combination for your homeowners will be important and will differ from community to community.
Building Blocks for Success
The perfect HOA isn’t just wishful thinking. HOA Strategies has 15 years of experience guiding and supporting community associations to help them achieve success. If your community is struggling to effectively communicate with homeowners and build strong community relationships, call us today for a free strategic evaluation. We’re ready to help you achieve perfection.