Owning your own home is a truly wonderful accomplishment. Not only do you have a place to go and raise your family, but you also have a nice valuable property that you can use as an investment if that's something you are inclined to do. Whenever you purchase property (such as a condo) in certain types of communities, you may end up becoming part of the homeowners association. If you are inclined to take on a leadership role within the HOA, then you may find yourself dealing with the challenges and exciting opportunities doing so affords. It can be a complicated, nuanced process replete with its own unique challenges. Here's a short guide to HOA and community management.
HOA Management Defined
Inside many planned communities (usually condos or subdivisions) exists an organization known as the homeowner's association, or HOA for short. Within the confines of the HOA, there are various rules, bylaws, and fees that residents must follow/pay. When you buy a property inside one of these areas, you become an automatic member of that HOA and must pay dues and participate in the process. As such, you can volunteer to be part of the HOA board and eventually step up to be an HOA manager or hire an outside firm. Managers and management firms help the board do what it's supposed to do, helping with property maintenance, fee collection, admin, and more.
Challenges of HOA Management
After stepping into the role of an HOA manager, you'll likely face a number of challenges relating to how to run the operation, community concerns, maintenance requests, and much more. A few of the most common challenges HOA managers face in a nutshell are communication and poor bookkeeping. Poor communication from both the homeowners/members and the board members/manager can lead to issues, especially when the former doesn't understand why certain decisions are made or implemented. On the financial/bookkeeping end, poor accounting practices lead to potentially damaged finances that can have a lasting impact on the entire organization. There are plenty of other challenges, too, like increasing property values or allowing/disallowing pets in homes.
Responsibilities of an HOA Manager
Managers are responsible for the smooth day-to-day operations of running the show as well as fostering a sense of community with everyone in the association. These are just a few of the many difficult tasks managers need to address as part of their role:
Admin - paperwork, answering homeowner questions, keeping records, communication, and reviewing policy are all part of the job. Essential documents like an assets list (basically any public area such as sidewalks are typically considered assets) are maintained and rules for common areas can be established at any time.
Maintenance and repairs - a community should be safe, well-maintained, and in good repair. If there are any glaring safety issues or vital repairs, they should be addressed promptly through reputable vendors, pursuant to the HOA's established procedures.
Communication - both internal and external. This includes providing essential information to everyone from other board members to the homeowners in the community on a number of relevant issues.
Uphold bylaws and community rules - management and other board directors need to enforce and uphold the community's rules on a daily basis.
Managing finances - everything from budgeting to collecting dues requires some oversight from management. This can include paying vendors, procuring insurance, obtaining/paying off loans, hiring a CPA to do taxes, and any fiduciary concerns related to the HOA.
Using Software To Manage Your Community
The most efficient and essential means of successfully running your association is to use HOA and Condo management software. Why use software when you could outsource management to another company? Well, to begin with the software doesn't cost nearly as much as hiring an outside company. It also supplies more tools to run the operation with significantly more oversight and agency on your part. That's not a bad thing at all. In fact, it's incredibly useful to make it easier for your board to do right by your community. Software solutions include automation, reporting, analysis, budgeting and accounting tools, and some condo/HOA-specific tools to help you need to succeed.
Whether you're a seasoned HOA manager who's been at the bat for a while or you're a rookie who's brand new to the game, HOA management can be a challenging, but ultimately rewarding endeavor. Be sure to understand all of the bylaws and regulations, and use as many resources as you can-including HOA management software-to become a successful leader in your community. Remember that homeowners are all part of the community and using available tools to help you get the job done right will result in a better community for everyone.