Remember this time last year, when the biggest problems facing community associations included short-term rentals, emotional support animals, and short-wave radio antennas? Those were the days!
2020 taught us that there are much bigger things to worry about in this world. Half of us got our own emotional support animal (or at least thought about it!) The other half were eying those ‘eyesore’ antennas so you knew where to go, ‘just in case.’ Hey, we won’t judge!
And while 2020 was a nightmare roller-coaster of a year, there were some trends that came out of it for community associations that are likely to stick around for the foreseeable future. We wanted to take a look at some of the positive trends brought forward from 2020, as well as a few consequences of the past year that you should watch out for:
The community association industry can be slow at adopting new trends, be they technology-based or otherwise. So when the nation went into lockdown and the industry was forced to move forward, some very positive results came about – ones we expect to stick around.
One of the barriers to getting new board members to serve has always been scheduling. It’s hard to find a convenient time for officers to drop everything and get together in a room for an hour or more each month. Under lockdown, Condos and HOAs were forced to move board meetings online, via Zoom or other tools.
While there’s something to be said for face-to-face meetings, we’ve seen some really positive changes as a result of online meetings. Side-chatter and parking-lot meetings are all but eliminated. Attendance has improved due to easier access, and meeting times overall have decreased. This is one trend we think has been a net positive for busy board members and is sure to continue past the pandemic.
Consider the tree’s worth of printed paper reports every month when board members received the monthly financials a thing of the past. The lockdown prompted community associations to move from paper reporting to PDF reporting, and guess what? The world didn’t end!
Tools such as CINC’s document imaging module allow community managers to take the association’s records paperless – creating board packages in no time flat, and storing them in the cloud for board members to access any time. This is a great example of a technology we’ve had for years, yet the industry was slow to adopt. We say, it’s about time! (And the planet thanks you, too.)
(More Deliberate Online Tools for Homeowners, Board Members)
One can consider the community association digital landscape as the Wild West. Some communities have thoughtful, content-rich, useful online tools like websites and homeowner portals. Some communities rely on social media groups for communication – unfortunately, these groups can lead to gossip mills and angry rants.
With the lockdown, homeowners and board members needed easy, electronic access to community data. Enter online portals. From supporting online dues payments, to document downloads, to activity tracking, online portals simply make it easier to run and live in a community association.
During lockdowns, new home construction across the country slowed down to a fraction of the rates in prior years. That doesn’t mean the demand has slowed! So expect 2021 to bring in increased demand for homes, likely raising property values and making community associations an attractive option for potential homebuyers.
Of course, not all trends that carry over from 2020 will be positive. Community associations should prepare for the consequences that we’ll be dealing with once the virus is conquered. Here are some things you need to consider carefully:
One result of the worldwide lockdowns is that many companies have discovered they really don’t need a physical office to get things done. Already, some major players have implemented long-term remote work policies for their workforce. One source estimates that 25-30% of the US workforce will continue to work from home post-pandemic.
For HOAs and Condo Associations, this means the pivots they have had to make to accommodate home workers during lockdowns are likely to stick around. While we see this as a positive trend for workers and residents, boards will need to put some thought into what this looks like long-term. For example, if your community has restrictions on running private businesses from home you may need to review and revise your CC&Rs to accommodate the new workforce.
With more homeowners staying in, the cost of everything in the community goes up. Utility usage and Internet access are at all-time highs, while facility usage in the community is likely to increase once the vaccine becomes more widely distributed. This can lead to increased costs for the community, which you may not have accommodated for in your budget.
With millions still out of work, many boards have opted to not raise assessments in 2021. While this sounds admirable and certainly is welcomed by homeowners, there is a potential downside for the community association overall.
By choosing to keep assessments low, many communities will be short funding their reserves to make up budget differences. This can have long-term consequences for the community. While the decision is up to each individual board, remember, a ‘fingers crossed’ approach to financial management is not healthy for any organization, and if 2020 taught us anything, it’s the value of preparing for the worst-case scenario.
The Pandemic already brought us things like foreclosure delays and other legislation to help keep people in their homes. However, the long-term effects of the pandemic are still unclear to us at this point. What we do know, however, is that lawmakers will be looking at all angles of the problem to try to help the economy recover. While some states have significant legislation regarding HOAs Condos and Co-ops, others have barely even recognized the industry. That could change in 2021 as lawmakers look for ways to ease financial burdens on homeowners.
We are all looking forward to 2021 being a better year than 2020, but there is value in learning from the past. We hope that we’ve given you some insight to prepare for the road ahead.
One thing we know will help – CINC Systems. CINC’s cloud-based community management software provides the online tools that management companies need to support their clients now more than ever. CINC users suffered no technology gaps or loss in service due to the lockdowns. All their accounting and management tools were already in the cloud! Talk to your management team to see if they should Get in CINC today.