When my husband and I moved into our home 30 years ago, there were only four houses on our street. At closing, we received a set of HOA documents and were told to call the HOA manager to inform her we were new residents.
I didn’t think much about it. After all, the association was just this one short street—what could go wrong? Chances were it would be years before the street was fully occupied. I went about my business without giving the HOA a second thought.
Until I got the phone call.
The HOA manager introduced herself and informed me that we were now HOA members and one member of my family needed to be on the board. Which of us would it be?
My husband declined the honor, so I found myself in a four-person board meeting. The manager reviewed the budget, the guidelines, and our responsibilities. The only community property we had were the special light poles and the neighborhood monument, so there wasn’t much to review. The manager left. The neighbors shared snacks, gossip, and walked home.
We repeated this meeting year after year. New homes went up, new neighbors joined the community. We were busy, two-wage earner families with no HOA experience. Or interest in working on the board.
Being a busy bunch, we remained with our management company for many years. However, after a while, we weren’t sure being managed made sense for our smaller association without much really going on in the community. After reviewing the pros and cons of self-management, we decided to make the leap and take on the direction and management of our association.
We worked with the neighborhood developer to make the transition. Through previous employment, I knew the developer, so I was able to help him have confidence that we could manage the HOA by ourselves. We partnered to create success. We established a bank account and completed the paperwork to transfer all HOA management to the board. We notified all homeowners that an important HOA meeting would be held in the living room of a board member.
We thought we’d primarily discuss the transfer of power. Instead, we learned our neighbors had other priorities for us. We were about to get baptized into HOA management.
Gathered in the living room of my fellow board member, we were ready to discuss the association’s transition to self-management with our homeowners. Fortunately, this discussion went well, but another topic had come up for which we weren’t quite ready.
The argument was about the pool.
Our street’s HOA didn’t have a pool, but the larger neighborhood adjacent to us had one. Their association was voluntary. At the time, they had no provision for anyone outside of the neighborhood to join their pool community.
Residents on our street had asked to join and been denied. They wanted our board to do something about it—PRONTO! Texas is hot during the summer, and they wanted access to the beautiful facility five blocks away.
Phone calls were traded back and forth. We made a convincing argument—wouldn’t they like to have several thousand dollars more to add to their budget? We were met with resistance because of their HOA guidelines. We argued that guidelines could be changed; hadn’t we changed ours? Meanwhile, we had sweaty neighbors frequently inquiring about the state of our request.
Persuasion and money finally won the day, but we lost that summer’s potential swimming in the process. Still, our small HOA board had worked through our first challenge and emerged successfully.
As Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
Related Article: Self-managed Board Experience
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