Gated communities are synonymous with luxury, security and certainty. While they do share similarities with traditional neighborhoods, these communities are protected by a physical barrier. Gated communities usually have one or two entry points so that strangers cannot easily enter the property.
Members who belong to gated communities are also expected to pay fees and follow a unique set of rules. The fees and rules help preserve the value of the property, and as a result, homes in these neighborhoods usually sell for more than similar houses that are not gated.
Some of the most successful gated communities will have these 8 features. Together, they keep members safe, happy and connected.
8 must-haves for gated communities
1. Rules and policies that reflect the values and needs of the community
We mentioned that joining a gated community means having to pay fees and follow rules. That’s because every gated community is also a governed HOA. Gated communities are intended to be pristine, exclusive and attractive. In order to keep the community that way, members pay fees that are used for maintenance. In return, the owners enjoy access to swimming pools, playgrounds, parks, and other great amenities. They may also get snow removal and lawn care services.
Rules are supposed to serve the community as a whole. However, some HOAs are stricter than others. If you are currently looking for a home in a gated community, check the governing documents before you move in. Ensure there aren’t any limitations that would significantly impact the way you are used to living. For example, if you drive a truck, make sure you are permitted to park it on the property.
2. A digital communication system
Gated community members may be more active and involved than traditional homeowners. They probably expect more from the people who lead the community as well. As such, it’s best that the HOA uses a platform for communications so that messages can be delivered to all members instantaneously. The platform could have a simple feature for owners to view messages from board members or a manager, but they will be happier if they have a way to track events, participate in community forums, and reach management with maintenance issues they encounter.
3. A smart entry system
Most people are drawn to gated communities because they believe these neighborhoods will be safer. However, when a property is using the same old access code to open the front gate, and former members still know the code, gated associations feel less safe. To resolve this issue, communities are now looking to replace universal codes with unique access codes or smartphone-activated entry. Many modern access control solutions integrate with smart telephone entry systems that accept temporary digital passes or codes so that visitors can still get through the barrier.
With a smart entry system, security is increased without adding too many additional barriers for service providers, guests or couriers.
4. Security cameras
Security cameras can’t stop crime from being carried out, but they may dissuade people from doing something destructive or reckless. Cameras should be at all entry/exit points. They may also be placed in clubhouses, around parking lots, and anywhere else where property damage or vandalism is likely to occur. It’s important for the cameras to have the ability to capture high-definition images, even in the dark, and endure harsh elements.
It’s also important to install visible signs that alert people to the cameras. If criminals don’t know they are being watched, then they won’t feel a need to curb bad behavior.
Security cameras are most effective when a security professional is monitoring the footage live. The guard can catch incidents as they are happening and stop the culprit from doing more damage. That being said, it costs more to hire a security guard. At the very least, the cameras should work properly (it’s a big problem if the association is using dummy cameras).
5. License plate readers
This security feature is only a must if there are concerns about strangers or visitors entering the community to carry out unsanctioned behavior. Automatic license plate reader (ALPR) cameras keep track of cars that enter and exit the community by taking images of license plates. They also document the exact date and time each vehicle passes by the reader. Some systems also capture the make and model of vehicles.
Associations that use this type of surveillance tool might decide to have the cameras positioned outside of the community, or at the entrance gate. The motion-activated cameras take pictures of each car plate as a vehicle passes. In most cases, photos are only reviewed if there is an incident or if local authorities request to see the data. No one should be watching the ALPRs all of the time.
6. A platform for security
Security and concierge staff should have a platform that streamlines and automates manual processes for them. There is a lot of paperwork that guards must complete; completing logs, filling out incident reports, issuing guest passes, etc. These are tedious but necessary responsibilities, but they can take away valuable time that could be spent on more meaningful security tasks.
A software solution for the security crew takes on some of the manual grunt work, allowing staff to be more productive and accurate with reports. Many security software platforms have a mobile app so that they can work even if they are away from their office or post.
7. A process for regulating amenity usage
Gated communities have premium recreational facilities like swimming pools, clubhouses, and perhaps even mini-theatres or golf courses. But the pool would be less enjoyable if every community member showed up at the same time to use it.
Associations should have a way for members to book amenities ahead of time. Ideally, admins would create time slots, capacity limits, terms and conditions, and fees (if applicable) for each amenity, and then owners can book a timeslot online. Not only does this offer more convenience to members, it also guarantees that the facility or course will be available when they show up to use it.
8. Alternative resource options
In some states such as California, water and power are becoming scarce. Owners may face power outages if there is extreme weather, leaving them without air conditioning or the ability to use appliances.
Gated communities can overcome these problems by turning to natural energy options. Harvesting rainwater and installing solar panels are two solid options. If the power or water is unavailable, they can tap into these resources and remain comfortable in their homes. These developments may also give owners the option to install artificial turf so that they don’t have to use so much water on the grass.
Gated communities are appealing because of their exclusivity, security and value. But as with anything, not all of these developments are created or managed equally.
In order to optimize operations and give owners the level of service they expect, gated associations should consider taking advantage of software and technology that streamline services and automate tasks that slow everyone down. Since security is so important in these neighborhoods, management should also consider updating access systems and visitor management processes. If the entire community has been using the same pin pad code for the past five years, it’s time for a change.