“We’ll build it ourselves,” some HOAs say, either because someone in their administrative organization has a background in website design or because they assume that the DIY method with a content management system—typically WordPress—always saves either money or time. They begin with a series of meetings to determine exactly what they want their HOA website software to do. The list grows longer as the meetings progress, but the final set of features includes secure online payments, member signup and profile management, voting support for everything from casual surveys to board elections, a place to store documents for easy retrieval, and an online solution to manage amenities and events.
Next, the person who’s designated to put the website together, or at least to corral all the software elements required to get the project moving—let’s say that’s you—spends week after week researching WordPress HOA plug-ins, payment processors, and website themes. You quickly discover that no one add-on solution turns a generic installation of WordPress into a WordPress HOA website with support for all the features you want.
Of course, unless you have a website hosting account, all that HOA software research consists of reading plug-in descriptions and assuming that all of them accurately depict these products. If you have a way to test out the software, you quickly discover that most WordPress HOA plug-ins reserve their most-desirable features for paid versions of the software that need to be renewed (translation: paid for) every year. At the same time, some of these plug-ins—each developed independently of one another, with no guarantees of mutual compatibility—cause problems when they run at the same time as other plug-ins on the “we want this” list.
And then comes the biggest challenge of all, bigger than trying to convince a long list of WordPress HOA plug-ins to collaborate harmoniously to create the full-featured HOA website software solution your community really wants: The quest for the ideal payment processor to handle online transactions for HOA dues and fees.
You can’t just press a button and accept online payments. It’s not as if you can set up a folding table with a metal lockbox and a sign that says, “Annual Dues, $500,” and suddenly enable your residents to go on your website and handle their financial obligations. No, you have to find a payment processing package that offers security, charges as small a per-payment fee as possible, and integrates seamlessly into your HOA payment software.
And that last hurdle often proves all but impossible for even an above-average amateur HOA website software manager to handle. For one thing, most of the short list of best-known solutions force you to make an obvious transition off the website on which you initiate the transaction, onto the website that processes your payment, and then back to where you came from, all without a hitch. When you get past the major players on the list of payment options, you’re stuck wading through confusing terms and conditions that leave you unsure what these services actually cost.
So yes, it’s possible to do it yourself, but without expert assistance (translation: a professional HOA software solutions integrator whom you must pay for consulting services), it’s the definition of difficult.