How to Find the Best HOA Website Hosting—and Build a Great Site

If you want your homeowners association website to rank among the best and earn rave reviews from your residents as well as your community leaders, you already know that you need great content to make your site stand out. But when you look at outstanding examples of neighborhood websites for residents of other communities, the one essential that makes these HOAs’ online destinations excel is something you often can’t see at all, and that’s the HOA website hosting that powers their features.

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So what should you expect from your HOA website hosting provider? That depends on the full range of features your community expects. Before you even begin researching these providers, start with an internal research project of your own, one for which you may want to ask other community administrators, or even your entire community, to provide input.



It’s difficult to find the right HOA website provider—unless and until you narrow down the features you need so you can evaluate providers based on whether they offer what you want. You can have the most beautiful, compelling, and informative HOA website content on the internet, but if you use the wrong host provider, you may have trouble showcasing your descriptions and images. That’s because not all HOA website hosting companies offer a full range of features that combine user friendliness with the functionality that home owners associations expect.

Here’s how to evaluate these providers and find the right match for your homeowners association.

How a homeowners association website differs from an HOA website portal

How a homeowners association website differs from an HOA website portal

First, if you’re looking at management company websites as examples of what your HOA site should offer and how it should function, don’t. Property manager websites work very differently from homeowners association websites, and for very good reasons.

First, and in some ways most importantly, these sites don’t really serve individual home owners associations so much as they represent the plans, needs, and functions of the management companies themselves. Your community is their customer; their website is about them.

Second, management companies serve many communities, but they offer the same features for each one. That list of features typically doesn’t include any individual community branding. You log in and pay your dues on the same access pages that all of the company’s communities use. To an individual resident of an HOA, the experience feels anonymous and even bewildering, given that many of these HOA website portals don’t offer highly intuitive navigation systems and page designs.

Third, if these sites include news and information pages, they’re designed to talk about what the management company does, not to tell you what’s going on in your specific community—unless it’s to point out that new security patrol hours or a change in your recycling pickup day.

Of course, from the management companies’ perspective, their sites do exactly what they expect them to do: Collect dues from their customers’ residents, deal with violations, and work for the company whose name is on the site. In fact, the HOA website hosting providers that these management companies use may not be geared to serve HOAs, although the best of these providers do offer services to both.


Why "general-purpose" website providers may not be your best choices

When you come across what you consider to be the best HOA websites, take a look at how they’re built. You’ll find a few of them that use WordPress, the popular content management system that underpins many blogs and company websites. WordPress began as a blogging platform and has grown to become a general-purpose website construction option. So why should you steer away from it for your HOA?

If you, or one of your colleagues among the ranks of homeowners association administrators, have in-depth experience building WordPress websites, then you won’t face a steep learning curve if you decide to use an HOA website platform for your site. Sure, the basics of WordPress site creation aren’t all that complicated, especially if you work with a user-friendly theme and site builder, but to get your site to do what you really want it to do requires a greater level of experience, expertise, and time than most HOA administrators can offer.

But the really tricky part comes when you get to the HOA-specific bits and pieces, without which your site simply won’t do your homeowners association much good. For example, you may not have much luck finding a plugin that supports architectural review tickets, especially because this specialized functionality only applies to HOA websites. Plugin software developers tend to program for general-purpose—or at least widely used—feature needs so they can sell their higher-end or “freemium” versions to a larger customer base.


3 Ways Your Website Can Make HOA Administration Easier


And when you do find prefabricated plugin software that can supply some of the specialized features and functions you need, you quickly discover that to get those features, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid premium version—and by the time you accrue all your “freemium” plugins, you’ve spent a pretty penny on software products, some of which may not be compatible with each other.

What’s the ideal alternative? Look for HOA website hosting that specializes in homeowners associations, and provides a turnkey package designed to meet your needs.

How about free HOA websites?

How about free HOA websites?

Many administrators who take on the responsibility for building home owners association websites look to free HOA websites as a first resource. After all, the price looks great, and they assume that even if the feature set carries a few more limitations than some of the paid options, these alternatives must be worth the consideration.

Consideration, sure—but prepare for some disappointment when the reality of what they actually offer sets in.

You see, most of the providers that offer these free website tiers use them to attract customers to their paid HOA website hosting plans. To make their paid offerings look convincingly enticing, they place severe limits on the extent of the feature set in their free plans.

How severe? Well, imagine going to buy a new car and having to pay extra for windshield wipers, a heater, and a steering wheel. Never mind leather seats and a premium sound system: We’re talking about the basics of vehicle functionality. Those free HOA websites come with limitations that are just as stringent. If your community has more than a certain number of residents, you may need to upgrade to a paid plan to support your full membership—and you can forget about using most free HOA websites to collect online payments. Eventually, instead of figuring out what you can do with a free HOA website hosting plan, you’re stuck trying to work around constrained feature sets.

Of course, free trials are not the same thing as free HOA websites. Many providers that offer affordable but full-featured HOA website software also give you the option of a hands-on demonstration period and even a free trial. In fact, those demo periods and free trials offer you the best opportunity of all to ensure that a specific provider meets your community’s needs. While you conduct a free trial, ask the provider about software updates and new features. The last thing you want to do is to sign up with an HOA website hosting provider with outdated software that’s prohibitively difficult to update, much less enhance with new capabilities.

What's the best way to evaluate HOA website examples?

You’ll find two obvious sources of community website examples. Both will require some research on your part to identify, but the research will pay off in the long run.

First, look at the websites of other home owners associations. Start with communities in your own neck of the woods. Look at how they present themselves, the types of features they offer, and, perhaps most importantly, identify their HOA website provider. You’ll need to rank them based on community size, because some features may require a different implementation for a large community than for a much smaller one.

For example, smaller communities may not try to automate some aspects of community administration simply because of the small number of properties in their neighborhoods. Their HOA website hosting provider may offer these features, but they may decide not to take advantage of them. Conversely, larger communities may consider administrative automation to be a must-have feature.


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By “administrative automation,” we’re talking about HOA website software that automatically sends out invoices for routine, recurring dues and fees, and that also transmits late notices as well as payment confirmations. Frankly, even smaller communities should take advantage of these types of conveniences, just because of the amount of administrative time they free up for other tasks that may not lend themselves to an automated approach.

Along with other homeowners associations’ websites, your research into HOA website examples should include the sample or demonstration websites that we’ve already mentioned from HOA website hosting providers. You can make some informed decisions about the appearance and flexibility of an HOA website hosting providers software offerings based on demonstration sites. They build these demo sites to showcase their capabilities, so you should expect to see virtually every feature they offer on display.

It’s not enough to know whether a specific HOA website hosting provider offers a particular feature. You also need to see how thoroughly they implement and integrate that feature into the rest of their software. Their demonstration sites are a great way to discover these things.

How important is association website design?

Another common denominator among the best association websites is outstanding design. Regardless of whether you visit these sites on your phone, a tablet, or a laptop or desktop computer, these sites smoothly adjust their configuration to look good on screens of any size. The feature set that makes this possible is called responsive design, and any HOA website hosting provider with software worthy of your consideration will offer this capability.

Association website design also relies on user-friendly design features. You’ll see that term bandied about quite a bit, so it’s important to know what it really means. In the truest sense, “user-friendly design” means that the site builder interface through which you create, modify, and update pages and content offers intuitive ease of use. You can tell how to use its controls by looking at them, or at least you have a very good chance of understanding how to use them without too much assistance. With user-friendly design, you receive access to professionally design page templates within your choice among a range of website themes designed for easy customization into a unique site that reflects your equally unique community.

In addition to an easy-to-use site builder, one of the other essentials of homeowners association website software is a well-developed set of learning and help resources. Even though the software is easy to use, you still need documentation that can guide you through all the procedures and help you reach the results you want to create. Ideally, these software support resources include various types, ranging from detailed verbal directions to illustrated guides and feature videos. In addition, you’ll want access to professional support to help you get started and work your way through basic site development.

Find the right website software and HOA website hosting

Find the right website software and HOA website hosting

You want to build a website for neighbors, not become an expert on website design. The HOA website hosting provider that earns your business should be one that focuses on homeowners associations, understands their unique and specific needs, and recognizes the unique role that volunteers play in homeowners association administration.

Look for an HOA website hosting provider that can help you create a full-featured neighborhood information website, one that provides everything from event and amenity management to secure online payments. Expect to find a member directory feature that respects residents’ privacy with opt-in display of personal data such as e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information. You also should see support for committee management and architectural review tickets, both essential to association websites.

Not all neighborhood websites require every one of these features, but your criterion should be to find an HOA website hosting provider that offers more resources than you need—right now. Every community’s needs continue to grow, even HOAs that are fully built out and owner occupied. Without more options that you can add as you go, it’s tough to build community websites with the real-life ability to keep up with their communities.

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