Properly maintained landscaping can affect home values and your HOA’s overall value by as much as 12%. For board members, ensuring your community’s landscaping is the best it can be is one of the most important things you can do to keep your community competitive and members satisfied.
A notable piece to making sure the community’s landscaping is the envy of all the communities around you is to help guide your owners on their landscape as you work to improve the common areas’ landscape.
How to Advise Homeowners Regarding Their Landscaping
Communication Is Key
At Boardline, we understand that there are two components to managing your HOA’s landscaping: creating the best landscaping for the HOA’s common areas and guiding your homeowners on the landscaping of their property. Our research has shown that many homeowners have questions about what is permitted and expected regarding their home’s yard work.
We recommend a solid communication strategy when sharing expectations, focusing on communicating these specific areas:
- Direct the homeowners to their CC&Rs for guidelines on what yard care is expected (and consider summarizing the most important points to make compliance easier).
- If they’re wanting to do any extensive landscaping, like adding structures or trees, encourage them to check with any local ordinances before submitting their improvement request (some cities may not allow owners to have trees on certain types of easements, for example).
- Stress that HOA regulations only exist to keep their community looking nice and property values high.
- If there are any other specific reasons an unusual rule is in place, explain the reason when communicating the community expectations.
Know that rules are different from HOA to HOA, and some HOAs include specific services as part of their dues, which can increase confusion for homeowners (especially if your HOA includes townhomes or a condo, or if a homeowner is coming from a townhome/condo background).
Townhome or Condo Living
If your association is made up of townhomes (or is a condo association), then more in-depth communication is likely required to get everyone on the same page. Since the association is usually responsible for some maintenance of the members’ areas, communication is even more important to keep the HOA’s efforts and the members’ efforts streamlined.
Special considerations to keep in mind when drafting a communication policy for your townhome or condo association include:
- Inform members what landscaping and outdoor maintenance is included with the HOA’s dues and what landscaping and outdoor maintenance is in the members’ responsibility.
- Include a summary of any contract between the HOA and the landscaper/maintenance vendor as it pertains to the owners.
- Stress that while the timing of certain services may not be as frequent as they might prefer, it will eventually be taken care of – without the owners’ having to do it themselves.
While there are a lot of advantages to living in a townhome or condo, these types of associations usually require more communication to keep owners, the HOA, and any vendors working together seamlessly.
In general, when it comes to advising homeowners on what they can and can’t do with the exterior of their home, most issues occur because of communication issues rather than because of the rules themselves. Keeping the above tips in mind will help make the board’s relationship with the membership smooth.
Once you have a solid communication strategy in place, you will begin to see an improvement in many of the homes’ outside appearance. While you work to create excitement and compliance within your community’s membership, it’s important to also focus on the landscaping of your common areas.
Tips to Consider When Assessing Your Common Areas’ Landscaping
Well-maintained common areas can make all the difference in how your membership feels about their community. Additionally, your common areas’ outside appearance can (and should) set the standard for how the homes’ within your community look.
While there are different aspects to caring for your common areas’ appearance, the landscaping your board chooses will make a big difference in how your HOA is perceived as a whole.
To get a clearer picture of how you can easily improve your HOA’s landscaping in a cost-effective manner, please see our top recommendations below:
- Hire a professional landscaper. (They can save you money by offering advice on the best plants for your budget and needs.)
- Formulate a master plan for your neighborhood.
- Stay away from formal landscapes.
- Hardscape the areas that make sense. (Your landscaper can help you decide which areas are best for hardscaping!)
- Work with other HOAs in your area to receive group pricing.
- Prioritize areas in your community with high visibility.
- Choose native plants, plant bulbs, and coordinate shrubs and bushes ideas with your landscaper.
- Choose the location for your plants strategically to reduce trimming needs and ensure all your plants get the right amount of sunlight and shade for their individual needs.
- Work with your irrigation vendor to reduce water consumption.
- Have a detailed request for a proposal.
As anyone who has ever worked with a landscaper knows, landscaping a large area is quite complex because of all the moving parts associated with it. These tips will help you formulate a way to serve your community’s landscaping in the most cost-effective way possible.
Perhaps one of the simplest, but most cost-effective suggestions on the above list is making an RFP, or a request for proposal.
How to Make and Submit an RFP
A request for proposal announces a project, describes it in detail, and solicit bids. It’s a document that will help give your project aim and focus while also communicating to potential vendors your needs and expectations.
While you will still need to evaluate the vendors who have submitted the bid on the basis of feasibility and their financial health, an RFP will help you determine your needs – and, as a result, will make it easier to choose the right vendor for your needs.
For a clearer picture of what components make up an RFP, please see below:
- The RFP describes the company or organization (in this case, an HOA).
- It includes the scope of the project and includes any relevant details.
- RFPs illustrate the criteria for evaluating bids.
- They outline the bidding process.
- The RFP provides the contract terms.
- It includes the expected timeline for finishing the work.
- RFPs advise bidders on preparing their proposals (including how to format and present them).
While you should not feel the need to outline every aspect of the landscaping job, like the exact plants your HOA wants and their placement, it’s important that the RFP is clear enough that the vendors bidding understand what work you expect of them.
Creating an RFP helps more than just ensuring you’re on the same page with your potential vendors, though. A well-written for your landscaping will bring your association many cost-saving benefits, including:
- Creating more competition, which help you find the most competitive price.
- The detailed instructions will help the bidder design and implement the right solution for your needs, the first time.
- It reduces the chances for nepotism or cronyism, which will help you find a quality
- Without an RFP, someone has to research and identify vendors for a project. You’re less likely to find the best fit if you’re going to vendors rather than having them come to you.
As anyone who has ever tried to manage HOA projects knows, project management is incredibly difficult, and finding cost-effective solutions to much-needed services is paramount. An RFP will help you get the services you need for the lowest price. To see an example RFP, go here.
Once you have selected the vendor who will work best with your needs, it’s important to work with them to help not only your community but also our environment, too.
Consider Your Recycling Options
While the benefits of certain types of recycling are hotly debated; landscaping recycling is a great way to give back to mother nature while saving some money.
To give you a better idea of what landscaping recycling in your community could look like, here are a few recycling ideas to consider as you revamp your community’s common areas:
- Ask your landscaper to use a mulching mower.
- Pruning any trees? Have them go through a chipper – you can use the mulch for the community’s garden beds.
- Ask your landscaper about creating a compost pile for plant debris. The soil created from the compost can help improve the look of your common areas.
- Don’t use weed barrier fabric unnecessarily. The only places where a weed barrier fabric is actually useful is under gravel or mulch walkways.
Learning how to recycle, reduce, and reuse your pre-existing landscaping materials will help your community’s bottom line and will help you embrace the principle of sustainable living throughout all your HOA’s endeavors.
If you’re not sure that recycling some of your landscape waste is right for your community, you could research the matter and report your finding to the board. Or, alternatively, you could create an ad hoc committee to research the matter for you. But is creating a committee the right move for your HOA?
Is an HOA Landscaping Committee right for your HOA?
Landscaping is usually the top line item on most associations’ budgets, and a community’s landscaping and outdoor maintenance is the first thing most people notice about an HOA. A landscaping committee designed to oversee your landscape can be hugely beneficial to your association.
Here are a few ways creating a landscaping committee can help your association:
- Creating a committee can give board members some time back.
- Creating a committee can give the HOA a chance to address specific landscaping and maintenance concerns in a focused way.
Enacting a landscaping committee will help your association meet its goals, but not every association may need to enact a landscaping committee in order to gain the benefits of improved landscaping.
We recommend organizing a committee for your HOA if your HOA meets the following conditions:
- You or your homeowners have noticed your landscape becoming more dilapidated.
- You think having help providing direction for your landscaping contractor could benefit your association.
- You have a landscaping project that’s doesn’t happen on a reoccurring basis, is expensive, and having some specialized oversight would be helpful.
Ultimately, organizing a landscaping committee can only be decided by your board, but generally speaking, a landscaping committee is a good idea when the community’s common areas need some extra care and the board is already stretched thin with other tasks.
The tasks that landscape committees typically help with include:
- Giving the board landscaping recommendations.
- Provide regular updates to the board.
- Communicating with landscaping vendors.
- Inspect the vendors’ work.
- Provide recommendations regarding addition or changes to the landscape.
- Research and recommend potential vendors based on apples-to-apples bids, references, insurance, and proposals.
Creating a landscape committee can be a crucial step in meeting your HOA’s landscaping needs and improving member satisfaction in their community. If you think creating a landscape committee could be right for you, we recommend checking out this article for more information.
Landscaping is a crucial piece to any HOA leadership strategy. We hope this guide has helped you create a plan to enhance your HOA’s landscape.