You say Tomato, I say TomatoHave you ever gone to an HOA meeting. They can be very interesting. Or they can be very boring. Most times, they can often be a little of both. Hopefully, though, they will always be informative. However, before we discuss the meetings themselves, let’s make sure everyone knows what an HOA is. HOA stands for Home Owner’s Association. For planned developments, the HOA is the organization that controls the common areas of the community and oversees the management of the community covenants, which set the general rules for the community. For the large majority of the community development timeframe, the HOA is usually controlled by the developer.
And this is where the issue starts. You see, no matter how reputable the developer, most community residents seem to have an inherent distrust of the master developer the second they begin to discuss community expenses and community governance. It is kind of like that family dog that gets along with everyone until the mailman shows up. Then Fluffy turns into Cujo and you begin to wonder if an animal exorcism is in order. It really makes no sense. Consider the methodology of the home purchase decision. You find a community that you love. You love the neighborhood, the aesthetics, the amenities, the home plans and the elevations. In fact, the basic community elements, coupled with the affordability for your budget, are what drove you to buy a home in that development in the first place. Then, you sit in on an HOA meeting and all of a sudden you see neighbors finding a common enemy in the developer for doing nothing more than sharing information on the community governance that you were privy to when you purchased the home to begin with. Go figure.
There is, though, a way to make the meetings much more palatable for the community and actually increase the trust factor between developer and homeowner. The answer is actually quite simple. It is called transparency. To accomplish this, all a developer needs to do is include residents on the various community committees and then make them the reporting voices at the HOA meetings. Let’s take this step by step. Finance, Landscaping and Architectural Review. If residents are participants in these three major committees and are truly given the ability to understand, if not offer input, into the operation of these groups, then you are creating a platform to inform the community, creating transparency. I always take the approach that every home sold increases your number of partners by one. Think about how you need to treat your partners to keep them happy. Keep them informed. Once informed, these individuals become your advocates. They talk to neighbors, they spread goodwill and they let everyone know that you have represented the community interests in the management of the community by giving homeowners a voice.
Now, let’s get back to the HOA meeting. The developer has two choices to communicate information to the attendees. They can manage the meeting by being the lone voice passing along information to those in attendance. Or, and here is where the lightbulb over the head goes on, they can let the resident committee participants be the ones to convey community information to the other residents. It is amazing how the same information is perceived depending on who is conveying that information. Let’s go back to my Cujo reference. When the developer conveys information, there is always a certain degree of mistrust. Not necessarily justified, but it is what it is. Instead, if your neighbor who you have drinks with, and golf with and share a carpool with is the one passing along the same information, you are much more inclined to both accept the information as accurate and also feel that your interests are being represented. Everyone is happy, the sky is blue and there is goodwill towards your fellow man.
It is all in how you choose to communicate. Remember, Fred said Tomato and Ginger said Tomato, but in the end, by compromising together, neither was willing to call the whole thing off. (Really, you can check out the You Tube and see for yourself!)
Until next time…
Keep kicking the dirt!