HOA leaders understand the importance of prioritizing responsibilities such as property maintenance, financial management, and risk mitigation.
Not only do boards have a fiduciary duty to care for the association, but failing to properly manage a governed community can have serious financial and legal consequences.
However, with so much to do every day, it’s easy to forget about why association managers and boards do what they do. It’s not just to maintain property values – it’s to uphold the expectations and experiences of the people who live in and pay for the community.
5 key elements for an outstanding HOA experience
- Prioritize communication
- Provide modern conveniences where possible
- Uphold HOA rules
- Remove barriers to information
- Have a vision and mission
If you’re uncertain about how much owner satisfaction matters, just remember this: The more unhappy owners are, the more they are going to complain. And when you are a board member or HOA manager, those complaints will be brought to you.
Conversely, you will hear less from happy owners, and may even find they are more eager to participate in HOA matters. So here are 5 key elements to work on in order to deliver an outstanding HOA experience.
1. Prioritize communication
No matter what you are doing, or what your role is, clear, consistent communication is always important. Without it, the relationships between board members, owners and staff will break down.
Communication, or difficulties communicating with owners, is often cited as the top issue experienced by HOAs. While management might think they are sharing enough information with owners, members don’t feel the same way.
The first step is to assess your owners’ communication preferences, and the primary channels you are using to send messages or notices. Do these things complement each other? For example, if your community consists of people who are in the middle of their working careers, they probably prefer to receive information and requests via email or text messages as opposed to paper letters and forms.
Associations are encouraged to use a variety of communication channels, including owner portals, email, and traditional paper letters (when requested) in order to effectively reach everyone in the community.
On that note, make sure owners are getting the information they need to actively participate in their community and make informed decisions. You may need to send out more notices than you have in the past, but the more people know, the more they’ll want to be involved.
Keep owners in the loop about upcoming projects, scheduled events, board or committee meetings and annual meetings. And don’t forget about smaller items like water shut-offs, bulk trash days, and street cleaning and repairs. This way, members can proactively plan for disruptions instead of reacting to them.
Next, ensure owners have a way to have their concerns or questions heard. Communication is a two-way street after all, and they should have an opportunity to contribute to conversations or issues as well. Private forums, surveys and moderated social media groups are all good options to consider.
It’s equally important to respond to emails or requests from owners in a timely manner. Even if you don’t have the answer right away, a simple acknowledgment confirming that you have received their email goes a long way.
2. Provide modern conveniences where possible
Anything you can do to make life easier for owners is a plus. Offering online payments or other online services will certainly please most people.
Here’s where HOA software will serve you and your owners well. Many platforms not only allow for online payments, but they also enable users to book amenities or submit service requests/work orders from a mobile app. That means if they see something that needs to be looked at while walking to their car on their way to work, they don’t have to wait until they return home to report it.
Not only do self-serve options on software platforms elevate the experience for HOA members, they also help to lighten the workload for staff and management. Instead of having to print, distribute, organize and manually update work order forms, new digital submissions can be viewed directly from the work order feature, assigned to staff, and updated within seconds. Plus, the owner who submitted the request is also automatically notified when an update has been made. It just makes sense to manage an association this way.
3. Uphold HOA rules
Believe it or not, HOAs are happier (as a whole) when rules are fairly and consistently enforced. While the person who broke the rule may not be thrilled about receiving a fine, responding to rule violations using the process laid out by the HOA demonstrates that the rules are taken seriously, and that there are consequences for breaking them.
Conversely, if a member has complained about a neighbor who has broken a rule, and they see that no follow-up actions have been taken, they are going to be upset with that person and with the manager or board for failing to investigate.
Additionally, selective enforcement will strain relationships between owners and board members. Not to mention the fact that some states prohibit selective enforcement.
All owners who violate the rules should be subjected to the standard enforcement process. This typically involves an official notice from the HOA, followed by fines, suspension of privileges, revoked rights, or pursuit of legal action.
4. Remove barriers to information
Another issue with relying solely on paper is that it is not very convenient. If an owner wants to review the CC&Rs, or take a look at last year’s budget, they must come into an office, probably during inconvenient work hours, to access the information they’re looking for.
Instead, build a digital library or database for your members so that they can view HOA materials at any time, from the comfort of their homes. Again, having this self-serve option helps owners and staff since they won’t need to search for these items every time someone asks to see them.
5. Have a vision and mission
HOAs are kind of like small businesses. And every successful business needs to create goals, as well as a vision and mission in order to drive members forward. These statements give communities direction, and remind staff and members of why it is important for everyone to work collaboratively. They can also help HOAs create relevant and realistic goals to help ensure future success and happiness.
Creating a vision and mission may also help prospective buyers understand what makes your community different from other associations in the area.
Prioritizing owner satisfaction is a worthy pursuit. After all, you are trying to maintain property values and balance budgets for the sake of the owners who live in the association.
While it is impossible to make everyone happy all of the time, HOA leaders can elevate the experience for the majority of owners through better communication, consistent rule enforcement, and modern software solutions.