5 Easy Ideas to Connect with Residents

If you are a property manager or rental agent you know that Customer Service is the New Marketing. And I have to agree. Social media and online reviews only seem to be getting bigger and bigger…so amping up your customer service arsenal only makes sense. But what does that really mean?

For some, it means increasing your number of resident events. Our industry saw a big jump in resident event programming in 2013 and you can plan on that only getting bigger and better. Residents want to connect, not only online but in person. What can you do to help foster that connection? How about at least one monthly activity that’s focused on getting your residents to know one another, and one activity that focuses on you and your team serving your residents better.

5 Easy Ideas to Connect with Residents

  1. Ice Cream Sunday:  A make-it-yourself sundae bar for everyone at your property is always a hit. You might want to wait till the weather breaks in those colder states, but this is a guaranteed winner.
  2. Pre-Pool Party Opening: Nothing makes people feel like Winter is on its way than either a pool opening bash or a pre-pool opening bash. Shorts, tees , picnic food, limbo contests…who cares if there is still snow on the ground in your market? Give people something to look forward to and they’ll appreciate it.
  3. Gate Giveaway: Instead of the tried and true “Breakfast at the Gate”, offer something along with the goodies that makes the giveaway more memorable. How about a St. Patrick’s Day theme in March with green cupcakes? Or even McDonalds’s Shamrock Shake coupons? And if you’re a high rise, you know you just do this in the lobby since you don’t really have a ‘gate’.
  4. Pet Portraits: Give your residents a chance to have their best friend photographed in the best possible light by offering pet portraits. If you contract with a photographer, you don’t have to pay a thing, and your residents only pay if they like the portraits!
  5. Move Night: Get some family friendly flicks to show on the flat screen in your clubroom. Let the families bring the blankets and the pillows and you serve the refreshments and popcorn. Start off with something the little ones would like and maybe work your way up to some scarier fare for the teenagers and Moms and Dads (so the little ones can go home and miss the scary stuff!).

It’s important that you plan your activities well in advance so that your residents can make room for them on their calendars. The more time they have to plan, the better turnout you will get for your event.  These tips can also be used with the HOA board to bring residents together.

Written by Lisa Trosien.  Originally posted at PayLease

Elected to the Board…Now What?!

You’ve been an active community member for a few years. You served on a Committee or two and shown you have the right stuff to be a community leader. A neighbor who already serves on the Board suggested that you should run for a vacant seat. You finally decided to raise your hand at the Annual Meeting and volunteer to serve on the Board of your condominium or HOA. Enough of your fellow unit owners voted for you and you are now on the Board. Congratulations! Now, what?

If you think it is simply enough to “do your best” while serving on the Board, you may be in for a rude awakening. The call to serve is a noble one. If you want to give yourself every opportunity to succeed, I strongly suggest you visit the national website of CAI at caionline.org. Ideally, you will join and encourage all of your other Board members to join as well. But, even if you don’t join, CAI provides some great tools to help you succeed. You will need the internet to access these tools.

Start with the Governance section on the CAI website –http://www.caionline.org/info/help/governance/Pages/. Here you will find quick links to everything you will want to learn about as you begin your career as a community association Board Member.

Download Community Association Governance Guidelines and familiarize yourself with the 12 principles that can help association leaders build better communities. These guidelines help community association volunteer leaders create and sustain an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. This increases harmony, reduces conflict and builds stronger, more successful communities. There is no cost to download this 1-page document but the advice is priceless!

Download Rights and Responsibilities for Better Communities. This 2-page document details a series of principles and practices developed by CAI to promote harmony and minimize discontent. Countless associations have formally adopted the principles; many more use them for guidance. I regularly refer to this document when I need a refresher. It is fantastic!

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Check out your local chapter of CAI. Throughout the year, local chapters offer quality training and networking events where you can educate yourself and share your experience with others. Your Chapter’s local website is chock full of important information that can help you succeed. Everything from the latest information on state and federal laws to a directory to help you find the perfect business partner for your next big community project is at your fingertips. I have found these websites to be a useful and indispensable tool. Bookmark it and visit often.

Getting elected to the Board is the easy part. Making a difference for your community and deriving the full satisfaction of a job well done takes more than just “doing your best”. Make CAI part of your success story!

Written by Bob Gourley Originally posted at MyEzCondo

What’s the Difference between Delinquency and Delinquent See

Over the past few years, I have been advocating that community associations add a new line item to their budgets – Delinquency. Did you heed my advice? Did you help protect your community from facing new financial consequences by preparing for the inevitable delinquencies and financial shortfalls caused by missed common fees and increased foreclosure expenses? If you did, then I congratulate you on your far-sightedness and prudent planning to avoid a budget delinquency. If you didn’t, then I guess you’re budget is delinquent, see?

Joking aside, delinquency is no laughing matter. Successful implementation of adding the line item to your budget is not an easy sell. If you are not already communicating the problem to your residents, I suggest you use your condominium newsletter, HOA newsletter, bulletins, websites, and any other communication tools to do so.

The facts are really quite simple. The country continues to have a high unemployment and underemployment rate. Property values have decreased in many communities so it is not uncommon to have individual homeowners within a community holding mortgages that exceed the liquidation (foreclosure or short sale) value of their unit. If any homeowner gets behind in their mortgage or common fees, the foreclosure process is likely to begin and the community will incur a delinquency in the form of uncollected common fees and/or increased legal expenses to try to collect those fees.

Unless your budget includes money set aside for these occurrences, that delinquency will directly impact your ability to pay for other items that are in your budget. Since I live here, let me use Connecticut as an example. In December of 2010, Connecticut had a foreclosure rate of .073%, resulting in 1050 filings. Granted, not all of these filings made it all the way through to foreclosure but many did. If you had one or more foreclosures in your community, you already know the bittersweet process of filing a claim to collect your share of the proceeds and figuring out how to cover the deficit created by delayed or lost revenue. It is at best a burden, at worst a disaster, to any community’s budget.

So how do you stop delinquency from crippling your budget? Education is always your first line of defense, so why not start by explaining how the budget process works in your community association. I maintain that community association budgeting is part math, part guess, and part crystal ball. I begin with the known factors, based on last year’s historical records. I work with my property manager to make a best guess as to what things are likely to cost this year. Then I consult with my crystal ball, that is, I take a good look at outside factors that may influence what goes on within my community. Foreclosure rates, local economy issues, etc. are all considered before the final budget is prepared.

In preparing last year’s budget, I decided that 5% was a reasonable number to use for our Delinquency line item. That meant that after the Annual Budget was completed, I added 5% to the bottom line and called it Delinquency. Of course, that meant a majority of all unit owners in attendance at the Annual Meeting had to agree that they and their neighbors would fork up an additional 5% to their common fees for the entire year. They may not have been happy about that but when one of our homeowners went into foreclosure, we found ourselves consistently running a 5% shortfall over predicted revenues each month. Thankfully, our advanced planning for delinquency meant we still had money to pay our bills and the increased legal fees to chase the uncollected common fees that were owed us.

We may not think of ourselves as salesmen when it comes to serving our communities but I can assure you that the successful implementation of adding a Delinquency line item to your budget will require a certain degree of salesmanship as well as conviction on your part. You first need to sell yourself on the idea that your budget needs to address the likelihood of Delinquency striking within your community. Then you need to tell the story well and often, using your condominium newsletter or HOA newsletter to your fellow homeowners so that they accept the need as well. You can turn Delinquency into Opportunity and your community will be reaping the rewards that come from prudent financial planning.

Written by Bob Gourley Originally posted at MyEzCondo

Tell Everyone How You Maintain, Protect and Enhance

Maintain – Protect – Enhance. This is the prime directive for Boards of Directors of Homeowner Associations across the country. By maintaining, protecting, and enhancing the assets of the association, the Board ensures that property values are maximized and owners’ interests are served. The majority of your association’s common fund will be spent on maintaining common elements of your association. The many details of this story are seldom told to homeowners yet they need to hear it.

Take a look at your association’s budget for the current fiscal year. Where is your money being spent? I am willing to bet you have several line items for large ticket items that involve maintaining your association’s assets. Landscaping, snow removal, Pool and Tennis Court maintenance, sidewalk and concrete, blacktop, roofing materials, gutters, etc. and on and on it goes. How many homeowners take for granted that the common elements of your association will be maintained, protected, and enhanced for them? All owners have a chance to look at the maintenance items in the annual budget at your annual meeting. Have you ever considered presenting them the story in a way that is both informative and timely throughout the year?

Do residents know the process for how vendors are selected to maintain, protect, and enhance your association’s common assets? In most instances, line items in budgets are the results of careful vendor selection via a process of bid and review. The Board is charged with making the best selection from the submitted bids of qualified vendors. Sharing this information with your residents can help them understand that their common fees are being spent in a judicious and effective manner. It also helps them understand the need to raise common fees when prices rise on line items in the budget. (Please note it will not help them LIKE that their common fees are being raised, but it will help them understand the process.)

The story of maintaining, protecting, and enhancing the community assets may not be the most glamorous story you’ll ever tell your members. However, if you tell your story well, your association members will be fully informed as to how and why their money was spent the way it was and why it is necessary to save today for tomorrow’s maintenance projects. A community that has the financial resources in place to keep its association’s common assets looking great and working properly makes for a happy and successful community association.  That’s a story that you’ll want to tell again and again!

Written by Bob Gourley Originally posted at MyEzCondo