It's hardly a surprise that new HOA trends have emerged across the country this last year, given everything that's happened. 2020 was one of the most tumultuous and unpredictable years anyone has ever endured. As far as HOAs and the property management industry, 2020 was full of twists and turns that required both property managers and HOA board members to be able to pivot at a moment’s notice.
The pandemic brought management companies and communities a slew of new problems to address, whether learning an entirely new and remote communication medium or maximizing razor-thin budgets for community boards; the last year saw a pivotal shift in the property management industry.
An increasing number of the trends we began to see in the industry over the last year have caused a ripple effect. A ripple effect of this magnitude is sure to spread throughout the course of 2021. With so many change-points occurring, HOA’s have been provided with an entirely new way of doing business. HOAs now have the freedom to utilize efficient communication methods and creative marketing strategies that meet the growing reliance on technology because of the pandemic. These new ways of doing business come with one purpose across the industry: increasing resident and homeowner satisfaction at your management company.
Below, we highlight four of the most significant trends that property managers and HOA boards should be prepared for as we navigate 2021. Using this simple guide, management companies and HOA boards can put themselves in the best position possible as they handle the transition from a pandemic year into a resurgence for the property management business.
Although creating and maintaining budgets is a prominent aspect of HOA management for board members and property managers, creating budgets that fit historic years such as 2021 deserve more significant focus than ever. With the pandemic hitting HOAs harder than ever fiscally, there’s undoubtedly been a big focus among boards to design annual budgets that consider emergency preparedness and relief significantly more.
HOAs have to maintain a headstrong approach for providing and maintaining necessary and adequate operating funds in 2021. Accounting for enough money in budgets to ensure smooth and gradual ease back into normal business practices is an absolute must for HOAs everywhere. 2020 either put many people out of business or pushed them to the brink of closing up shop. We will undoubtedly see associations on a tightrope walk in terms of planning for the short term. It's more important than ever for HOA boards to find ways to keep their business afloat. The best way to ensure this happens is by creating and executing a long-term game plan that ensures an event like COVID doesn’t drive an HOA or management company out of business.
Without an increase in technology-based services during the pandemic, most HOA’s would have gone under in 2020, and that's a hard pill to swallow. Perhaps the most glaring trend to emerge in 2021 is the continued increase in usage of technology services across the property management industry. From portal-based accounting software to third-party communication apps like TownSq, or even full-on virtual board meetings, HOAs in 2021 have become too reliant and efficient upon such services to revert to previous methods. One could make the argument that most HOAs were headed in a technology-based direction, which would eliminate many archaic practices that might still be present within an HOA; the pandemic undoubtedly expedited this process. And it expedited it fast.
It’s best for HOA boards and property managers who haven’t integrated their HOA’s with technology and portal-based services to begin treating such integration as a means of survival. As many business sectors within the U.S. figure out new and creative ways to make workplaces and customer experiences more efficient, it’s essential as a board member or manager to understand that trend will continue to increase.
Working remotely as a board member, improving marketing strategies to reflect online campaigns, or removing outdated accounting practices that rely too heavily on employees or volunteers are all necessary assets that technology can grant for communities when they choose to adapt.
2020 should have prepared HOA boards and management companies to see significant increases in homeowners engaging with management on a more frequent basis. 2020 allowed for homeowners to spend time understanding the ins and outs of their HOA’s, including everything from HOA fees to rules and regulations. That should send a message to board members and property managers: there is a need to be receptive, responsive, and transparent when communicating with homeowners moving forward.
Plenty of homeowners and residents faced possible delinquency fees and, in some cases, even evictions throughout 2020 as the pandemic raged. We saw homeowners become more engaged in community policies. We saw homeowners navigating changes to maintain their homes without suffering financially. These changes make the role of HOA board members more pivotal than ever before. Increased accountability on community boards will only continue to grow throughout 2021 as homeowners have a newfound engagement.
With increased accountability comes the need for board members and managers to be extremely well-versed in HOA policies, CC&R’s, and state laws so that an HOA can address any possible homeowner concern. When concerns are not addressed, homeowner satisfaction can drop dramatically. In an era of rapid communication and a plethora of information, a natural uptick in engagement and communication within a community is a phenomenal sign. If cards are played right in 2021, an HOA’s long-term growth and sustainability can be solidified for years to come.
Although the pandemic ripped apart some of our established norms and habits, one thing it accomplished was bringing people closer together in an unexpected way. An increased relationship between managers, board members, and homeowners is perhaps the best thing the property management industry could've hoped for.
Residents are now able to reach their board or management company more efficiently than ever. Board members and property managers increased their participation and engagement more in 2020 than ever before. These are the types of HOA trends that should stick out and matter the most. When communities come together, building upon new foundational strategies becomes easier and easier, even during a global pandemic.