Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Considering Hiring a Hoa Management Company?

We have been providing Hoa Websites to both management companies and self managed Hoas for many years now. While we don't provide Hoa management services, we do have a good understanding of what to look for if you're considering hiring one. Many of these companies will work hard to get you to sign a contract, but once you do they all but disappear. A poor management company will make it difficult to collect fees, correct community problems and provide ongoing relevant communication. In our experience you don't always get what you pay for.

Things to do and questions to ask
  • Interview several (at least four)
  • Ask pointed detailed questions
    • How are dues collected?
      • What's the process for non-payment?
    • How often do you visit the community for covenant control?
      • What's the process for non-compliance?
    • Can you provide a community website?
      • What features will it provide? At a minimum you should be able to view covenants and financials and have an easy way to communicate with the board and management company.
      • How often is content updated?
    • What's included in the monthly price we pay you?
      • Some management companies charge fees for any extras such as mailings, bulletins, etc.
  • Ask for referals and follow up with them.
  • Drive around a few of the communities in your area that they manage.
    • Look at overall condition
    • Look for compliance issues such as unkept properties
    • Question them about your findings.
Red Flags
  • No HOA Website. 
    • Some management companies don't want hoa owners to have access to a website where their actions or non-actions can be easily identified (how often are financial docs posted, etc? What's the status of violations in the community?)
  • Stale HOA Website.
    • Old outdated material.
    • Recent expected docs not posted.
    • Recent important communication not posted on the site
    • Low owner participation
  • Slow or no response from management company

Our experience has shown that in many cases if you have the energy and experience you are better off self managing your home owners association. If interested please contact us and we can set you up.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Understanding the violation maintenance module in your Hoagateway website

Hoagateway makes association software for hoa's and condo owner's with many advanced features. Properly utilized, violation maintenance can save you significant time and effort. This article will provide a basic understanding of Hoagateway's violation module and how it can benefit the hoa website administrator.

The violation modules come in two parts. The first is located under the "resident" menu called "report a concern" and can be accessed by members as well as administrators. This is where any home / condo owner can report a concern in the neighborhood. General landscape & maintenance concerns for common areas as well as concerns about individual owner properties can be reported here. The person reporting can simply identify the concern category, time and date noticed and location. They can  remain anonymous and can even attach images showing the violation or concern. Once submitted, the concern is immediately available to the violation committee, board of directors and management company for investigation.

The second part is located in the "administration" menu called "violation maintenance" and is only available to administrators (management company, etc) of the hoa webiste. Here administrators can validate concerns by viewing uploaded images and reading details about the violation or concern. Once the concern is validated, it is tracked through the system where administrators can automatically send notices via email or regular mail. Administrators can even recall violation templates which have been tailored for the concern or violation. This module also makes it easy to keep track of violation history by owner or location. If utilized properly concerns and violations can be processed in a fraction of the time as the old manual methods saving you time and money.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Things an HOA Should Consider for Staying Healthy

1)     Does your homeowners association have a clear vision policy?
There should be a written document outlining the vision and the association’s goals for the community. This should be disseminated throughout the community, so that all the members understand what those goals are and why they are important. This will foster better understanding when policies and rules are enforced  that effect each individual member
2)     Does your board keep on the lookout for replacement board members?
It is important to have a smooth transition as board members are replacing and changing over time. It is a good idea to have terms overlap for different board positions so that terms for multiple board members do not expire simultaneously leaving several vacancies in one year.
3)     Does your association regularly review its contract for vendors?This includes frequently review of insurance needs and coverage along with careful review of your Management Company’s performance. If self-managed, you should be analyzing vendors for maintenance, IT and other providers on a regular basis.
4)     Does your association financially healthy and funds available for sudden expenses? One of the worst surprises to a homeowner is notification of a large special assessment which they may not be prepared for. You should have specialist and engineer reports done to help estimate when large expenses items (i.e. new roof, new parking paving, new paint, etc.) will likely occur and make provisions to set aside funds for those items as they will eventually occur. A small gradual increase in dues now is so much better than a thousand dollar assessment all at once.
5)     Does your community score well on curb appeal?
It is necessary to keep the common areas always attractive, so that potential new home buyers will want to live in a community that looks like yours. This will also help keep property values up for current residents when they are ready to sell.
6)     Does your board frequently communicate with all of the residents?In today’s world of IT, it is a must that every HOA must have a website that will allow members to stay in touch with their community, get necessary information, share ideas with one another and a host of other benefits. HOA websites have become so affordable (as little as $10/mo. for the whole community  or even free if there is a techy on board that can host it for free on Google) there is no acceptable reason not to have one.
7)     Does your association occasionally review its policies and procedures?It is really a good idea to review rules, restrictions and get input from all the membership to determine if some of these are still applicable. Nobody likes unnecessary rules just for the sake of having rules.
8)     Does the association have safeguards in place for avoiding embezzlement?Unfortunately homeowner associations are all too frequently the target of embezzlement schemes. There are often significant amounts of money in association bank accounts and many times this falls under the prevue of one person. There should be checks and audits to insure that everything is as it should be.
9)     Is there a focus on building a sense of community?We live in a very social world, i.e. Facebook, etc. and the reason is people like to socialize. Shouldn’t that extend to communities where people spend a lot of their time? Organizing outings, sporting events, parties, clubs to share common interests is not that terribly difficult given the help that today’s technology provides. From utilization of association websites to electronic invitations for parties, the tools are there to make it easier and more efficient than ever before.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Does your HOA use a website?

If your hoa doesn't use a website, it might be time you considered it, given the advantages over the old bulletin board and snail mail option. The advantages of moving to an electronic alternative are many, but boil down into two major benefits, saving time and money.

As a board member or management company you know that time is money. Using the old manual method of getting information out to home owners and condo owners could be a slow process and require a lot of effort. Even if it's provided on a public bulletin board, or mailed to owners, the possibility of it getting lost in the mail or removed from the board still exist. A good hoa website will allow you to store any document quickly and efficiently, reducing postage and mailing cost significantly.

Any information stored, should be available on demand by individuals with proper permissions. This becomes an important concept because if all required information is online and available on demand, the board or management company can just direct any individual who claims they didn't get it or lost it to the website.

We are not saying that having a website will reduce your board's work to zero. You will still have to manage the site, upload documents, email residences, etc. However, properly managed, it will reduce your work load and result in a much better community satisfaction level.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hoa Website Management

So you have your HOA website up and running. Now what? It’s of no use if your members don’t log in and use it. A quality homeowners association website will make it easy to provide updated relevant information to your hoa users.

First, let’s talk about why it’s important to have a website at all.  Simply put, this is the way people expect to manage information.  Think about the way you use websites.  You go to the places that interest you and help you make your life easier.  A quality homeowners association website will make it easy to provide updated, relevant information to association members, visitors, title companies, realtors and board members.

One of the biggest issues that we see at HoaGateway is websites outdated material. You can’t expect your members to take the time to log in if your financials, meeting minutes, etc. are out of date. Document storage and access is a big part of an HOA website. A good rule of thumb is to review and update documents bi-monthly. Meeting minutes and financials should be published right away. 

Another issue that we often encounter is the lack of information on websites.  Again, think about how you look for information. If we can’t find what we are looking for, most of us are quick to become frustrated and look elsewhere.  Having the tools that make it easy for board members, committee members and HOA managers to publish information will help you ensure the right information is available at the right time. 

As with other areas in life, controlling clutter is key to success.  Websites that have that are bloated with old, outdated information are a sure way to drive away interest and traffic. Let’s face it.  It’s irritating when members log in to see announcements that are two years old, or newsletters from 2005. You don’t want your members to have to wade through tons of irrelevant data to get to the good stuff. Having a data retention policy and regular review of the website bi-monthly will help you keep your site fresh. 

Probably one of the biggest issues with some of our clients is under utilization of their HOA websites.  The tools are there and will help you be more successful.  Take advantage of the resources available to manage and track violations, create and re-use document templates, establish and maintain committees and customize their websites.

Remember, an effective HOA website is there to make your time more productive and save you money. Spend some time to learn how to optimize your tools and make them work for you!