When it comes to running an HOA community, communication is key. Technology has created a way for people to stay connected and consistently communicate without even having to step outside their own home. As generations age, it is important to stay up-to-date with technology and adapting to new ways of communicating. As a result, this will help our next generation of HOA members feel comfortable with the decision of joining an HOA in the near future.
According to an article published by the U.S. Census Bureau, the baby boomer population, which consists of people aged 65 and higher has rapidly increased by over 34.2% in the last decade. It won’t be long until “Generation X (people ages 39 to 54) will soon take the place of our baby boomers by the year 2028.” We can be sure that this generation will be well educated in some of the more modern ways of technology. It is this generation that experienced the forefront of the internet revolution and was raised with the idea of technology in their own home and school.
So what does this hold for our future HOA’s and their coming generations? An article given by The Washington Post presents that there is a generational divide among the typical HOA baby boomer, Generation X, and millennial. A survey conducted between homeowners and their board members showed that “52 percent of baby boomers love their HOA, compared with 31 percent of Gen Xers and 39 percent of millennials.” Due to the lack of communication during HOA meetings, many younger generations have experienced problems and drawbacks in their inability to communicate with their HOA board. Other issues include opportunity and the inability to have efficient and effective ways to stay involved.
How can we help HOA members be more involved?
According to an online article from Independent American Communities, “Millennials and GenXers do get involved in government when they’re given the opportunity. Local governments that embrace technology are reaching more of their younger constituents through social media.” Experts also confirmed that younger adults are more likely to participate in their HOA by “viewing videotaping meetings, attending virtual town halls, and completing online surveys.” As the option to include new technologies into an HOA community continues,“Public administration experts say these communication methods boost participation across the board, and especially from younger voters.”
With all things considered, HOA’s that have not taken a leap in modernizing their technology and ways of communicating, will soon need to in the near future. As an HOA board member, it is important to consider technology options such as building an HOA website that could help your community in making these changes. An HOA website is often a community’s most effective tool for all sources of communication and business. It can also streamline and automate many of the responsibilities within an HOA board, making it easier on community members to stay in the loop.
Why do you need an HOA website?
Having a website with easy accessible rules and community regulations enhances transparency between management, the HOA board and their residents. It also helps to mitigate culpability should a community member claim they were not informed of the rules or updates within their community.
- State Law: In some states, HOA websites are required after a certain number of residents are living within the community. For example, according to the state of Florida, if your community has over 150 units then it must have a community website with a resident portal. It is important to check with your HOA states guidelines for any new updates or growth in your community that could affect your HOA eligibility for this requirement.
- Communication: Lack of communication is one of the most common problems that HOA boards face. Having an HOA website can help increase communication between HOA board members and their residents. Websites also allow members to have documentation of any important information in regard to their discussions or memos.
- Time equals cost: For example, HOA paper mailers. Rather than taking time and money to produce memos and mailers, a website can easily create reminders and updates to all your residents and HOA board members in half the time.
- Increases participation for all generations: Having a website allows members to have more opportunities to participate and be more involved in their HOA. For those that are unable to attend meetings, having a virtual meetup can allow users to attend meetings while in the comfort of their own home. This can also benefit elderly that may not have access to transportation or may need more physical attention. Due to COVID-19, this has become a valuable tool for many HOA’s and their community.
- Time: Busy work is something that takes time and effort. A website can cut many of the in-person responsibilities such as filing, organizing and creating memos from an HOA board member. Although these are only a few of the responsibilities that HOA board members face, the overall benefit is to help the HOA board and its members have a sense of security knowing that something will get completed.
What are common problems that HOA board members face when trying to build a website?
Regardless of the purpose, there will always be potential roadblocks when building a website. Specifically for HOA board members, if a member desires to design an HOA website themselves, they must establish certain constraints. It is important to discuss the following topics and questions with your HOA board before executing a website:
- What are the goals and needs of the community?
- Will building a website affect your overall annual budget?
- Have we informed our legal counsel on the idea of building a website?
- Has the board determined with legal counsel on what information to share?
- Are there any potential risks or regulations that we must follow?
- What are some additional costs that will need to be included in this project?
- Hosting fees
- Creating copy
- Building the website
- Photography and videography
- Continued website maintenance
- Will there be an open forum for community members to exchange information virtually among each other?
- Will the board members carry out the website by themselves or should they hire a website developer?
- Is there an HOA software in the market that can offer more options and features for building a website?
- Can the website integrate with our current accounting and payment system?
What are some key tips to building the best HOA website?
TownSq has researched the best condo and HOA websites of 2020 to inspire you to create the best website for your HOA. When it comes to designing an HOA website, it’s important to remember to keep basic site-building guidelines in mind. Keep in consideration that not everyone has the skills to build a website on their own. As words of advice, make sure to keep an open mind and advise help when needed. Some additional tips include:
- Having high-quality and professional imagery.
- File and image size: this helps with loading time.“40 percent of consumers will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.”
- Try to eliminate errors and redirects. Google prefers for the user experience to be enjoyable.
- All text should be preferably black with Arial, Verdana or Times New Roman as a suggested font. The key is to use a white background in any scenario so that it is easy to read. Having multiple colors can be distracting to some readers.
- Keep the layout informative simple, but easy to navigate.
- Optimize verbiage for organic Google search ranking making sure to include your community’s name in the website.
- Make sure your website is mobile compatible.
- Check to see if the website can integrate with different payment softwares and applications.
- Research different website softwares and templates. For example, we suggest researching WordPress themes for your HOA website. WordPress is a free and open-source content website software that offers a variety of different themes and templates that one can easily access online.
- Hosting: A website host is an internet hosting service that allows individuals or organizations to make their website accessible to the worldwide web. Some examples of the best HOA website hosting sites include:
Build your customized HOA website through our TownSq application
What are some advantages of having a TownSq custom website vs. a public website?
When it comes to building the best HOA website, it’s important to weigh all sides. For example, the following are some advantages to building your own TownSq website vs. other options.
- Domain: TownSq provides you the option to have your own domain. For example, communityname.townsq.io. Here is where you can utilize your own URL (communityname.com) to go to your hosted TownSq website.
- Private user accounts: Board members, along with their community members have full access and are able to create their own user account. Board members are also able to manage website users so that it remains secure and monitored at all times. TownSq also has the ability to create secure and private sections that only registered users can use and access directly from a native iOS or Android app.
- Payment options: Unlike some public websites, TownSq is integrated with the main hoa accounting software and allows their users the option to pay online directly or on their website. For example, C3, Jenark, Yardi, Caliber Software, and VMS are all accounting systems that can easily integrate with your TownSq website.
- TownSq is user friendly: When in a community that may not be as up-to-date with technology, making your website easy to use or fix (if a problem were to arise) is necessary. This helps the user have a sense of comfort and knowing that their community is in their best interests.
- Technology issues and lack of resources: Like any website, there may come a time when your website may experience a technical issue. For example, an error in the code of your website can sometimes cost time and money for a website developer to fix. TownSq, as a specialized all-in-one app for communities offers not only high availability but is also always updating functionalities to help customers.
- Mobile and tablet compatibility: TownSq is available through Android or iOS smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. Mobile compatibility is an important feature for any website. According to Google, “61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing.” Mobile-friendly websites also allow community members such as your stay-at-home mom or elderly to easily access their HOA updates and news at all times.
- Push notifications: Having the ability to allow push notifications is an important feature many HOAs find beneficial. Push notifications also allow the user to be notified directly in their smartphones on high priority and time-sensitive information at all times. Unlike many popular website tools, where this feature may not be available with some templates and require a developer or person with specialized skills to embed. As a result, this can become costly and quite time-consuming to implement by yourself.
- Building and maintenance: When it comes to building your HOA website, time and money are always a large determining factor. TownSq offers the option for their HOA board members to build their own custom HOA website. Unlike some other tools to build sites, TownSq takes into consideration that building a website should be a stress-free experience. Anyone should be able to easily create their own website without the hassle of hiring a website builder, which can cost up to thousands of dollars for creating a site with no customization.
- TownSq is much more than a simple HOA site.
How can your HOA benefit with much more than a simple HOA website?
Having an HOA website is very important to make public information available to homeowners, but can be costly and hard to maintain.
Specialized HOA apps such as TownSq help you not only to have the public information available easily, but also to improve daily processes and activities for homeowners, managers and board members.
With gated information, constant updates, native apps and much more, everyone in the community is impacted positively, making the HOA a better place to live.
Presented below are some additional features that are offered through our TownSq application.
Residents and Groups: This feature allows the HOA board to create customized groups for their board and community members.
- Board members can also set permissions for specific groups, along with customizing different roles if needed, such as homeowners, managers, tenants, and so on.
Forum: The Forum is an open space for communication and collaboration. Unlike public social networks, only community residents can access this channel, keeping community happenings private.
- Encourages collaboration
- Private forum threads between specific groups
Announcements: News and events is an important feature that offers HOA boards and their members a way to stay up-to-date with any new updates that may impact their community. This has become widely important, especially since the change during COVID-19.
- Saves paper and time
- Instant email and push notifications
- Automatic reminders for important news items
- Allows users to build and customize their own events. For example, inclement weather updates, closing of amenities or creating community events.
Requests and Messages: TownSq offers the opportunity to send messages to their HOA board and community members.
- Homeowners can open and track private requests to the community managers.
- Board and community managers have the option to send private messages for specific issues such as violations or fines.
Polls: This feature is a great way for owners to be involved in decisions without having to call a meeting in-person.
- Provides graphs of results
- Voting limitation options
- Helps make quick decisions based on resident opinions
- Email and push notifications to increase participation
Package Control: This feature allows members to manage all orders and packages within their community.
- Order history
- Virtual signature
- Online mail protocol book
- Order registration by barcode reader
- Push notification to the resident when package arrives
Reservations: Owners have the option to reserve amenities such as grills, courts and spaces without the hassle of making a phone call or an in-person discussion with your HOA board.
- Automatic standby line
- Reservations, cancellations and charges report
- Complete acknowledgment of common area rules required
- Due to COVID-19, it’s very easy to reopen or close amenities in seconds. Managers can block out times if an amenity is scheduled to close early.
Documents: This feature allows virtual access to important documents, such as meeting minutes, financials and governing documents.
- Share account balances
- Customizable categories
- Increased transparency
- Access to important documents
- Private folders for management
- Can easily access bylaws, regulations
- Can make documents private or public
Payments: TownSq’s cutting-edge API allows for easy integration with the leading accounting systems. This feature allows community managers, board members and residents to manage their accounts or make changes if necessary.
- Online payments
- 24-hour access
- Account management
- TownSq is able to integrate with accounting software such as C3, Jenark, Yardi, Caliber Software, and VMS.