Everyone wants to live in a happy community filled with friendly, kind neighbors. Board members and community managers work hard every day to make that dream a reality. But, such a lofty goal can seem near impossible when faced with the realities of CC&Rs violations, construction projects, and broken pool keys. When faced with a stormy sea of problems, which island should you focus on?
We hope to help answer that question here. Below, we’ll cover the top actions community leaders can take to promote a happy, supportive membership.
Mystery and suspense are great in movies, but not in the lives of your HOA residents. This is why creating and following an HOA communication policy is possibly the most important thing your association can do to make residents happier and more supportive of the association and its efforts to preserve and protect the community.
Beyond following state and governing document rules for sending association meeting notices and other required communications, your communication policy should cover guidelines for communicating upcoming construction projects, upcoming assessment increases, pool schedules, instructions for activating amenity access devices, meeting reminders, and other important information homeowners and residents need to know.
If your association can answer residents’ questions and assuage their fears before they complain, you’ll be able to prevent community dissonance from occurring. As many great authors and leaders have told us, our greatest fear is the unknown. So, make the unknown known.
Be Open to Feedback
To feel respected, we need to feel listened to. That’s why our second tip for keeping residents happy is to listen to their feedback and concerns. Providing clear communication upfront should stem the flow of complaints and concerns, but there will always be some issues brought to the association’s leaders for assistance.
The trick to effectively responding to resident feedback is to listen actively, then summarize their concern to make sure you’ve understood. Next comes the most essential piece: empathize with how they are feeling. Tell them that you’re sorry their pool key didn’t work because swimming definitely is the only way to keep cool in July. Assure them that you would also be frustrated if your neighbor parked their trashcan in your driveway every collection day.
Sometimes, when someone complains, the subject of their complaint may be very different than what has actually upset them, so it’s important to really listen. Maybe the hibiscus tree they’ve been nurturing for over a decade has recently withered and died, or maybe their preteen son is having trouble with a bully at school.
After you’ve empathized, but not before, you can offer possible solutions. For a problem you have the authority to fix, such the issue with the pool key that didn’t work, you can walk the resident through the steps to activate it.
Or, if the homeowner was providing feedback for a bigger or more general issue, such as their concerns about how effectively the current landscaper is doing their job, you can take notes on what’s bothering them and look into it. If you don’t have an answer on hand, it’s important to remember to reach out to the resident or homeowner once you have one.
For issues where the association doesn’t have authority, such as the example where a homeowner places their trashcan on the curb of a public street but in front of a neighbor’s driveway, you can provide advice the resident can use to politely resolve the issue with their neighbor.
Being a community leader can sometimes feel like you’re a mix between the head of an IT department and a guidance counselor, but resolving issues in the moment before they have time to fester will save the community from worse trouble in the future.
Be Welcoming at Meetings
Homeowner participation in association meetings is an effective way to keep members informed on important association business and aware of the decisions the board makes and why these decisions are made.
Bringing the members, board, and community manager together in the same building (or same Zoom call) for a meeting also helps build the sense of community in the association. Homeowners can get on neighborly terms with their board members and get to see first-hand how hard the board works to take care of the neighborhood.
If a lot of changes are being made in the community, and the board and community manager have experienced an onslaught of questions from homeowners, it may be wise to host a town hall meeting to explain the ongoing projects to everyone all at once, rather than talking through it with each person one at a time. Additionally, if a couple people have questions about something, it probably means many more homeowners and residents have the same question, but just haven’t reached out . . . yet.
Maintain Amenities Well
Homeowners and residents are proud of the amenities their association boasts. Whether it’s a park surrounded by gardens, a crystal-clear pool, or a clubhouse perfect for birthday parties and holiday socials, your homeowners want to see the amenities looking their best and to have them be consistently available for use.
This is why association leaders can do a lot to keep residents happy by completing any repairs and maintenance on the amenities in a timely manner and ensuring that the association always has enough money in its reserve fund to pay for needed repairs and replacements.
To stay on top of repair and replacement projects, the association should have a reserve study conducted every three to five years to gauge whether the association has enough money saved up to cover its upcoming repairs, whether the association needs to save more money to its reserve fund, and which amenities and other assets will need repairs and replacements at what times. A reserve study will also detail how much each of the association’s assets are worth and how that value will depreciate over time.
Host Social Events
Lastly, hosting community social events is another great way to build a sense of community in your association and to keep residents happy. Hiring an ice cream truck or snow cone truck to come out to the community during a hot summer afternoon, hosting a Trunk-or-Treat event at the pool parking lot to keep children off the dark streets on Halloween night, and holding a holiday decorating contest with an award party are just a few ideas your association can use to show residents that you go the extra mile when it comes to your neighborhood.
So, to sum up, you can take great strides toward the goal of achieving a happy, kind community by focusing on communication practices, listening to feedback, making meetings welcoming, maintaining amenities, and hosting social events.
For other, more specific ideas for what would make your residents happier, you could try a community survey for upcoming events the association should host, major concerns homeowners and residents have, or what homeowners are looking for in board candidates. Since each community is unique, no one will know better what your residents want than your residents themselves.
Boardline Academy is here to help make your job easier. By providing board members with professional-level training courses, we empower them to make informed decisions, improve their board procedures, run effective meetings, better manage association funds, and more.