As a residential land developer, activating the Homeowner Association (HOA) and handing over responsibility for the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) to it is a big step. On the plus side, it means your project is well-advanced, and it’s also one less thing on your plate. On the down side, you’ve made a tremendous investment in the project and may be nervous about how effective the HOA will be at maintaining your vision.
It’s true that most residents don’t get excited about meetings filled with talk of sidewalk repair, lawn maintenance and annual budgets. It’s also true that many of the 55 million Americans* who live in developments ruled by an HOA aren’t aware of their CC&Rs and don’t participate in the decision-making process.
But there is hope! From my experience living in an HOA community, I’ve discovered some tips you can provide to your burgeoning HOA to help them engage residents and build the kind of community everyone can be proud of.
All you have to do is ask.
After ignoring several blanket email requests, last year I had a board member of my HOA call me directly and ask me to participate on the community events committee. Of course after she complimented my beautiful flowers and my adorable children, I was merely a pawn in her game. But it worked and I’ve been happy to help organize quarterly “get to know your neighbors” events ever since.
Build a sense of camaraderie.
Speaking to the above mentioned “get to know you” gatherings, nothing encourages engagement more than building relationships. My husband and I lived in our community for five years and didn’t know anyone beyond our next door neighbors. We participated in HOA meetings merely by mailing in our ballots and sending in our check. One year the new board implemented more opportunities to gather for social events (cut to a talent show filled with dance routines and a bagpipe serenade) and we quickly realized the great neighbors we were neglecting to meet. Several have become valuable resources both professionally and personally.
Extra, Extra! Everyone likes to stay informed, so keep the communication coming!
Beyond emails and flyers, you could start a community facebook page - delegate a board member or volunteer to post community updates, upcoming events, notices about missing pets or warnings of suspicious activity. It does not have to be a significant time investment and could be another tool to sharing valuable information.
Be sensitive to time investment.
Most HOA positions are volunteer. Clearly establish and share the time involved and stick to it! Define expectations of preparing agendas for all meetings, especially those requiring decisions. Set realistic goals, timelines and budgets. Establish guidelines that set them up for success as a community for years to come.
Recognize True Leaders!
All too often eager board members are the nosy or outspoken neighbor. Educate members to be proactive team players who can help mediate as opposed to being prone to confrontation.
Say 'Thank you!'
I recently sent a note to the woman who manages the use of our community clubhouse. I told her the the facility had never looked better and it was due in large part to her efforts and diligence. She mentioned her appreciation for the recognition. We all have a common purpose, to keep our communities safe and an incredible place to live!
By following these simple tips, you can get the HOA off to an effective start and breathe easier knowing the community you worked so hard to develop is in good hands.
*source - Bankrate.com
image source - © Can Stock Photo Inc. / rmarmion
What lessons have you learned about enhancing HOA engagement in your developments? Please share them here!