RealManage Insight

How Your HOA Board Can Help Improve Owner Retention in Your Community

by Jennifer Harvey on Jul 12, 2022 1:30:00 PM

Stability is part of the appeal of an HOA neighborhood. Builders and families looking to create a sense of timelessness in the consistent aesthetic, community parks, and manicured streets.

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We want that neighborhood experience of knowing our neighbors for years, of children growing up together as down-the-street neighbors and classmates, of honorary grandparents and next-door best friends. 

As the HOA board, you are looking to nurture exactly that kind of longevity in your community of homeowners. But that's hard to do when most people - even homeowners - move every two to five years.

Moving has become part of the culture, just like "job hopping" has become the norm. People try to find something better, to get a "change of scenery" and to solve problems by leaving instead of making changes.

If your HOA board is looking to increase owner retention, it's important to consider and combat these typical motivations to move.

How can you make your neighborhood more welcoming for homeowners to stay in the long-term? Fortunately, as community leaders, you are in the best position to increase longevity through change. Let’s get started.

 Improve Your HOA Onboarding for New Homeowners

Homeowner retention starts when a home buyer moves into your neighborhood for the first time.

From their very early experiences, they will form an opinion of the neighborhood including that reserve plan to move on if things don't seem friendly. So make becoming an HOA homeowner friendly and easy with an improved new homeowner onboarding process.

Update your welcome packet so that it is both visually appealing and easy to read. Start with an illustrated plain-language guide for succeeding in the community - the real rules to live by, which day is trash day, the pool hours, and any cool tips for neighborhood enjoyment. Then include the legalese CC&Rs, Rules & Regs, and Bylaws in a binder at the back or where to find them online.

You can also welcome new homeowners with a small gift basket or care package with things like tennis balls to enjoy the sports courts or meal delivery gift cards for those unpacking days.

 Create an Online Hub and Resources

  • Community Calendar
  • Digital HOA Documents
  • Copy of the Welcome Packet
  • Amenities Guide and Brochures
  • HOA Meeting Times, Locations, and Minutes
  • "Contact the Office" Page for Requests, Questions, and Suggestions
  • Community Message Board

Not having a neighborhood website and resources is no longer an option. HOAs have often lived in the past on this issue, but modern residents expect modern management tools.

They want to look up the CC&Rs online instead of keeping a paper file. If they want to participate in community events, they'll look for the community calendar online - no one will swing by the office anymore for a paper calendar each month.

So if you're going to go digital, do it up right. Make your homeowners - old and new - feel catered to with a community website that is attractive, easy to navigate, and provides more community resources than they expected to find.

Provide direct access to HOA meeting participation with times, locations, minutes, and maybe even recordings of past meetings.

Accept email messages through a contact-us page for homeowner requests, questions, and community suggestions that might just be worthy proposals at the next meeting.

Offer a guide for each amenity, like the pool and playground rules, and an illustrated map to make amenities easy to find.  And, of course, provide PDFs of the governing documents and a copy of the welcome packet to reference at any time.

Consider an all-inclusive resident portal like Ciranet offered by RealManage to get all of the above features and more. 

 Make Amenities More Welcoming

HOAs put a lot of effort and funds into maintaining community amenities, but often, these amenities go lightly used by only a few of the homeowners.

Have you ever approached a community pool to find it feeling more haunted than festive? Is there something about the way your sports courts are gated that keeps people out instead of keeping flying balls in? Is your clubhouse more of an office than a community center?

To increase homeowner retention, you want to increase the drawing power of every HOA's greatest assets. Make your amenities more welcoming. The goal is to make each neighborhood amenity more lively and inviting for homeowners to stop and enjoy the space, which will draw more people as they see fun occurring and want to join in.

This may look different in each community - or for each amenity - but consider: 

  • Allowing a local karate group to use the space for a free community class every Saturday morning. 
  • Forming a basketball hour for those 50+.
  • Hosting after-school water gun fights in the spring. 

You will be amazed at the difference activation in the community’s parks can make to the feel of the community. 

 Find Out Why People Leave

It is not always necessary to guess what might be reducing homeowner retention in the community. Sometimes, you can just ask. Consider building an "offboarding" process for homeowners who put their homes on the market.

Send an email or door flyer asking if they'd like to share why they are going and if there's any way the neighborhood could adapt to keep them or improve from their parting insights.

You can also survey your current members asking what about the community might cause them to think about leaving.  When you invite constructive criticism of the community, you may hear  - what little mistakes or details have not sat right with your community.

Homeowners often assume that HOA conditions are unchangeable, and don't realize that sharing their complaints or concerns can result in positive change that will make them want to stay.

Take a Fresh Look at Community Activities

You already know that some homeowners and their families love to attend the community barbecues and that the Halloween party is always well-attended. But there are always ways to improve the draw and enjoyment of your neighborhood events. You could plan more events, and work on your outreach methods to spread the word about events to modern homeowners who don't read door flyers.

Better planning software and a public website may be what you need, or to update your HOA's activity traditions to align with the interests of younger and more dynamic households.

 Respond to Feedback: Answer Emails and Make Changes

Owners want to feel heard. What's the point of being part of an HOA if their voices don't effect change? Your HOA board needs to listen and respond each time a homeowner reaches out. Monitor your emails, mailbox, and social media accounts for owner outreach and comments, and be sure to respond.

Owners want to be heard and to see their comments affect change. When you answer questions, you encourage discussion.

When you fix neighborhood damage pointed out by a nearby homeowner, they will feel like a more important part of the community and take pride in the neighborhood quality they help to maintain.

Increasing Owner Retention with HOA Management Services

Owner retention is an important statistic in any neighborhood. It determines the longevity of your community and whether residents know each other for a few years or a few decades of trusted community building. 

One way to help streamline the necessary changes, self-audits, and pandemic evolution is to work with an HOA management service.

A team of experts led by a community manager can help you both identify those issues that can harm or improve owner retention and put your best plans into action.

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