5 Ways to Make HOA Self Management Easier
Has your homeowners association considered engaging the services of an HOA management company? Are you trying to decide whether you can do it yourself or whether you truly need the roster of professional services that an outside company can offer? Before you make that decision, consider how much of your administrative workload you could handle efficiently yourselves with the right HOA website software platform.
Architectural change requests
One of the most fundamental jobs of a homeowners association is the governance of architectural change requests. You set up your community to conform to a specific appearance, and the only way to ensure that that happens is to verify that any and all architectural changes receive thorough review before residents alter their properties.
If you’re still stuck conducting architectural change review through a combination of e-mail messages and phone calls, you know that you’re sacrificing a good bit of the documented back and forth that becomes an absolute necessity in the event of any disputes about what a resident requested—and how you and your fellow administrators responded to that request.
The best approach to this process is an online review cycle that captures every exhibit that a resident uploads, every comment that a resident or administrator makes, and then enables administrators to add private comments that document their concerns without making these observations visible to the resident.
A well-designed homeowners association website includes this type of functionality within its feature set. Unfortunately, not all of the HOA website software platform providers you find when you research this type of product include these features as a part of their basic feature set – or offer them at all. But you have more choices than either a limited website or a management company.
Dues and fees
Most homeowners association administrators dread, or at very least dislike, the entire process of assessing and collecting dues and fees from community residents. The reason for that dislike is fairly obvious, given the time-consuming nature of the process and the fact that almost nobody really enjoys chasing after people to collect payments.
Rather than use e-mail to send invoices, or post a notice on your website and expect everyone to visit the site in a timely manner and therefore recognize that they owe you a payment, what you really need is the ability to send invoicing directly through your website. Next, you want to be able to accept online payments so you can take advantage of people’s willingness to comply with an invoice the moment they receive it.
Of course, online payment capability in and of itself isn’t enough. You need a secure process that protects the privacy of your residence personally identifiable information. Otherwise, your residents quite rightfully will mistrust the process and avoid it—and your desire to simplify your dues and fees setup will result in making it more complex, not less. Don’t let these concerns and considerations narrow your view of the situation, because you definitely have more options than relying on a professional manager to expedite your payments.
As any HOA administrator can tell you, a community that communicates well operates well. When community members feel that HOA management keeps them up to date on what’s going on in their neighborhood, what’s new and what’s important, those open lines of communication go a long way toward fostering the kinds of smooth, pleasant relationships between homeowners association administrators and residents.
To build those lines of communication and give residents the ability to reach you quickly and securely, you need a website that includes private chat features, a newsfeed that provides updates of general interest, and the built-in ability to reach all or a select subset of residents by text or e-mail message directly through your site itself.
How do you handle the process of accepting reservations for community amenities? It goes without saying that every homeowners association administrator recognizes the importance of amenities to enhance the value of community life and attract new residents. But what’s just as obvious is how much of a hassle the process of amenity reservation processing and approval can be.
If you’re still relying on e-mail to process amenity reservation requests, you know that it’s not really suited to the kind of thorough, prompt, well-documented response you need to offer when a resident submits a request. In fact, e-mail isn’t much more than a single step beyond the old-fashioned paper form thumbtacked to a cork board in a community clubhouse—and nobody wants to go back to those bad old days.
Instead, wouldn’t you rather set up an online reservation process that you can customize with the specific days and hours that residents can request access to each amenity, one that enables you to apply age limits where applicable and even restrict the sizes of gatherings?
A fully featured HOA website software platform includes all of this amenity feature set, but you’ll quickly discover that not all website providers who target homeowners associations accommodate this essential provision. Worse, some platforms “part out” their features so they can price an introductory feature set at an attractive price, charging extra for the functionality you need the most. Don’t get stuck choosing between paying a lot for this “a la carte” approach or relying on a management company to handle your amenities.
Ironically, this is the one aspect of homeowners association website development that most communities think of when they begin the process of setting up a site. That’s probably because it’s typically the easiest part of the HOA management paradigm to put online, given that it’s more static and less interactive than features such as payments and amenity reservations.
If you work with a professional HOA management company, however, you’re apt to wind up with a website that’s heavily based on a template that leaves little opportunity for the real personality and charm of your community to shine through.
So what’s the ideal choice for your HOA? At HOAStart, we admit that we’re biased in favor of self governance – but that’s probably because we specialize in providing the kind of homeowners association website software platform that can accommodate all of the processes you need to manage your community well. In addition to our robust feature set, we offer a 30-day free trial so you can test out our features—without so much as a credit card required to sign up. We’re confident that if you try out our modern, secure, easy-to-use software and website builder, you’ll see how a well-designed website can make self governance easy.