Communicating to Residents the Benefits of a Community Association
Guest Post by Barry Yatovitz, President of Association Management, WPM Real Estate
"Why can’t I paint my house orange? Or have a giant flamingo in the front lawn? Or build a triple-story playground in the backyard?"
As a community management professional, you understand the value of belonging to a community association. Homeowners, however, are sometimes more aware of the rules and restrictions that community associations bring, rather than their benefits.
So what are the benefits of HOAs? And how can you communicate these benefits to residents?
Benefits of a Community Association
The benefit of having an HOA maintain the integrity of a community’s original design is that buyers know what to expect, which can lead to a higher future resale value. For example, if you compare two communities—one with and the other without an HOA—it is immediately obvious which is which. Communities maintained by an HOA are held to a consistent, high standard.
And that means that bold aesthetic choices—such as vibrant paint colors, wild lawn art or unapproved architectural additions—are not allowed. While that’s bad news for that individual homeowner intent on having an orange house, it is good news for the overall community – and for everyone’s resale values. The reason is simple: while some may have good taste and would likely maintain their property perfectly with or without an HOA’s oversight, it is certain that not all will.
That’s why each HOA creates its own covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that cover:
- Resident behavior, such as noise ordinances;
- Architecture, like rules about the height and material of a fence, for example; and
- Common responsibilities, such as fee schedules.
Each restriction is developed not to penalize individuals, but to benefit the greater community. In fact, that is precisely the broader goal of an HOA: to add value to a community. Residents should think of HOAs as far more than a policing agency that nixes your paint color choices.
HOAs enhance the quality of life in a community. They maintain shared spaces and amenities that individual owners might otherwise be unable to afford. They allow residents to have a stronger voice in governance, as opposed to a local government. And they create a stronger sense of community among residents.
Communicating the Value of an HOA to Residents
So, if HOAs bring such value to a community, why do they still occasionally get a bad rap? Two reasons: money and inconvenience. Residents resent both the annual fee and being told how to keep up their residence.
That’s why communication is key. Paying the fees doesn’t hurt so much when residents learn and understand what those fees support. Association boards should be proactive and specific in reporting that the fees actually cover necessary and important things that improve the lives of residents. Even the annoyance of being fined for a property violation may be mitigated if the letter is accompanied by an additional note about all of the good things their HOA has accomplished that year!
How can HOAs be more communicative with residents? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Community website:
This could be a dynamic portal of information maintained by a board member or paid staff member. Or, if the community already has a message board, regular posts to this existing site could help ensure that the business of the HOA is shared with residents regularly.
2. Letter from the board:
Traditional snail mail is an effective, succinct way to share association business with residents. And considering that most boards are volunteers, it’s a good option, as it doesn’t require too much time or money. Then too, since some folks are less tech-savvy, they might prefer reading their news in print, rather than on a screen. And of course, the really important association information should always be shared via mail.
3. Community newsletter:
A newsletter may include articles about neighborhood life, photos from the last community gathering, or news of upcoming events. It is a way of generating community goodwill among neighbors and make them proud of where they live.
So share the news! A community association is a good thing. And not just because it kept your neighbors from painting their house orange.
Barry earned a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Maryland and has CMCA®, AMS® and PCAM® credentials. His management and accounting experience includes working with Marriott Hotels Corp., Po Folks Restaurants and as Controller for Premier Design Systems, a firm specializing in Computer Aided Design Systems. Barry has over 24 years experience in property management.
*Image credit: Nigel Swales via flickr