Homeowners associations are a relatively new way to organize residential living, with origins that can be traced back only to about the middle of the 20th century. However, in the construction boom that took place in southern California in the 1960s, HOAs quickly began to gain significant traction.
Homeowners associations were a smart solution for residents because they addressed a few crucial needs. They were a way of organizing the growth of communities that were not yet surrounded by extensive municipal development and to introduce amenities and resources to communities for whom local municipalities did not have the resources to maintain. In short, they were a way for homeowners to control their newly-developed communities and achieve a standard of living that their cities could not yet match.
Since their introduction, the expansion of HOAs throughout the U.S. and the world has been explosive, with Community Associations Institute reporting that as of 2018 61% of new U.S. housing built for sale is in a community association.
Organic Growth of an Industry
Single-family home HOAs are the most common associations, but there also are others. Each serves a specific purpose for the protection of property values and preservation of a particular type of community living. Here are the most common types of associations:
Single Family Home Association Planned Unit Developments– In these HOAs, members own their homes and property, but the common spaces and amenities (i.e. gates, clubhouse, pools, landscaping, etc.) are controlled and maintained by the association.
Attached Unit Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) – This is a hybrid set-up that lands somewhere between a condo association and a single-family association. In this scenario, a member owns the land and physical structure, while the association maintains certain shared spaces and structural features.
Condominium Associations – In these multi-family dwellings, which are generally attached to one another, members technically usually own the “air space” between the walls, ceiling, and floor. This style of ownership has specific implications for who is legally and financially responsible for what, with regards to plumbing, roof, exteriors etc.
Stock Cooperative – Most often found in high-density urban areas (ex. New York city), the association (a nonprofit corporation) owns the land, common area and structures, while each member owns only stock or shares in the association which gives them the right to occupy their unit.
HOA management evolved naturally in response to the needs of each of these different types of association. Small, localized “mom and pop” shops emerged to service the associations in their own areas. There was no sweeping legislation in place to govern the rights of association members, nor was there enough investment from large firms to establish clear best practices for the industry. As such, these original management companies were left to develop their own standards and practices.
HOA Management Today
Today, developers and homeowners recognize the value of HOA living, especially in an area with continued expansion, such as Southern California. Bigger HOA management companies have emerged, ushering in a new era of smart business practices and more efficient management techniques.
So, what defines “modern community management”?
Exceptional customer service
These days we can order an item from across the country with the click of a button and have it land on our doorsteps the next day (or in some cases, the same day!) As such, homeowners are beginning to expect the same level of service in all walks of life, including HOA management.
The expectations for the modern HOA manager are more extensive than in the past, so the person filling the position must provide a sophisticated level of service. Today’s managers are expected to not only complete items on the punch list and provide excellent follow up and follow through, but provide advice, guidance and a sympathetic ear. This is why finding the right managerial fit is so important. Today, it’s not enough to react to the needs of a community. A manager must be knowledgeable and experienced enough to anticipate community needs and proactively take action.
Efficient electronic tools
In the “old days” community managers would walk the grounds with pen and paper hand, noting areas that needed attention. From there, they would head back to the office, type the list up on a word processor, print it out, store it in a binder, contact the right vendor, fax over the work order, etc…
While this may have been the most cutting-edge process for its time, HOA management companies now have many more digital tools at their disposal to drastically improve the efficiency with which they serve communities. The purpose of today’s technology tools is not to simply add bells and whistles. These tools create greater ease and transparency for managers, residents and board members. It’s a self-powering cycle. As demand for service goes up, the quality of technology and demand for modern tools also rises. Consequently, as the demand for these technologies increase, so does the level of innovation.
User-friendly board portals now make it easy for board members to access important documents like meeting agendas and minutes, community budgets and vendor agreements. Online member portals allow HOA residents to pay their assessments, find out about community events, track the status of architectural applications and more.
What once required a phone call can now be completed in a few clicks. While phone calls are definitely still welcome, association members can now access information in an instant instead of waiting for a return call from their manager.
There are also many back-end tools used by HOA management companies that homeowners never interact with directly but benefit from nevertheless. A manager may now walk the grounds with an iPad in hand, recording maintenance needs that are logged digitally and directly transmitted to the vendor. Intelligent account management software now enables instant access to a homeowner’s file, so the management company’s customer service team can answer questions immediately without having to track down the manager. Accounting software makes it easy to generate integrated financials. Finally, smart applications of modern technology from third-party vendors (ex. roof inspections using drones, bar-coded landscape maintenance) make property maintenance more efficient all around.
At Keystone, we believe that property management is ripe for disruption: there is opportunity to usher in a new era of modern management techniques and tools that further deepen the relationship between management company and homeowners. We continue to invest in manager education, board member training and innovative management tools that set a new standard, thus propelling the entire industry forward. Wave goodbye to painstakingly slow processes of the past. The modern era of HOA management is here.
Are your HOA operations stuck in the past? Let our property management experts bring you up to speed.