For the second year in a row, CINC Systems has surveyed community managers, management company executives, and board members throughout the country to determine the State of the Community Association Management (CAM) Industry. The feedback and responses indicated several common concerns for the future of the CAM industry and highlighted a variety of interesting issues, including the fact that homeowner apathy contributes to nearly every issue community associations and management companies face today.
If there is one universal truth known to everyone involved in the CAM industry, it’s that homeowner apathy is a serious issue. Nearly every community association faces it to some degree, and when enough of a community becomes uninvested, it causes some dangerous problems for the HOA.
After conducting the 2023 State of the Industry survey, it’s clear that a vast majority of problems plaguing not only HOAs and condo associations but the management companies supporting these communities can all be traced back to a lack of homeowner engagement.
Why Homeowners Disengage
Community engagement feels like something that should just happen organically. If someone buys a home in an HOA or condo association, realistically they should be prepared to contribute where needed. But that isn’t always a clear connection that homeowners make. Just like “Community Association Manager” isn’t ever an option you’ll find at a middle school Career Day expo, “Attentive and Involved Homeowner” isn’t a job title you’ll see either. There is a gap in awareness and understanding because the average person isn’t taught to consider what it means to live in a community. As a result, there tend to be three main reasons why homeowners don’t engage in their communities:
- They feel they don’t have a voice or say in what happens within the community. Attending meetings can feel futile when difficult decisions are made or when costs are raised, especially if it feels like the majority of the community was not supportive of the changes or increases.
- There isn’t a clear reason for them to be involved. If others in the community fail to show up to meetings or don’t voice opinions or ask questions, it can be difficult for a homeowner to speak up.
- They aren’t sure how their involvement will benefit them. Despite being in a group community, there’s still a sense of personal benefit or gain that homeowners want to feel they have–this is where they live, and they want to know that their specific needs are being catered to just as much as the needs of the many.
All of these are because community associations aren’t something the average person is trained to consider.
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The Ripple Effect of Apathy
When homeowners stop caring about the community they live in, everything within that community eventually feels the impact of apathy. Uninvested homeowners tend to skip meetings and sometimes even fail to pay their monthly assessments. This not only hurts the HOA’s bottom line but forces board members into a difficult situation where improving the community is nearly impossible.
But the impact doesn’t stop at the board of directors. Community managers feel the sting of apathetic homeowners, too. Management companies are hired by communities to advocate for their best interests and offer sound advice to the community regarding improvements and finances. But if there isn’t any community involvement, that advice is effectively falling on deaf ears–a manager can only do so much for a board whose hands are tied by lack of support.
3 Ways Management Companies Can Invest in Homeowners
Homeowner apathy is not just a problem for HOAs and condo associations–it’s a problem that management companies face, too. HOA management companies need to find ways to get homeowners involved in their communities. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but based on candid feedback in the 2023 SOTI survey, stronger communication is the most important service a management company can provide to homeowners. These are the three major areas where residents find that they want management companies to show improvements:
- Participation – It’s not enough to offer advice from afar or silently manage community finances. Active participation and involvement within the community is important to homeowners, so showing up for and engaging during board meetings is crucial.
- Transparency and Consistency – Homeowners expect to be able to clearly and easily access relevant community information at any given time and without hassle. Financial information specifically is in the highest demand, with another respondent stating, “Anything we pay for, we should be allowed access to the info on it.” Of course, managers are already spread thin, so using the right tools to provide this is one of the most efficient ways a community manager can provide this level of increased communication.
- Positive Attitude – One homeowner also gave the advice, “be polite,” so the quality of your communication is just as important as your consistency. The workload managers juggle is increasingly overwhelming, and it can be difficult to be kind and polite in some of the sticky situations HOAs create. But that kindness can be the difference between a mediocre interaction and a positive experience for a homeowner.
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Help Your Homeowners Help You
As a community manager, your success is directly tied to the communities you serve. By investing in your homeowners, you invest in your community managers and directly back into your management company. As we spend 2023 Rethinking Community, consider the ways your managers currently handle community interactions and how you can better support the managers in their duties.
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