What does the future hold for your community association? If you’re a board member, you might already have a pretty good idea – most likely because you’ve developed a plan for it. But what about issues outside of your control? How will they influence the strategies you develop to ensure your community is a great place to live for years to come?
The trade organization Community Associations Institute (CAI) conducted a panel discussion with industry professionals and stakeholders to address some of these questions. They published their findings in CAI’s publication Common Ground, and we’ve added some of our insight to the equation as well.
“The next two decades promise to be a time of transformation for our industry and for association living in general,” said Kevin Pennington, Vice President of Community Management for FirstService Residential in California. “By developing strategies for addressing these topics now, we can preserve and enhance the values of association living, which is what initially attracted residents to your community.”
With that, let’s see where the coming decades will take us.

1. Progressive Education

Moving forward, it’s essential that board members understand the value and purpose of partnering with a great property management company. As the years go by, associations receive increasing legislative attention, which directly impacts how associations operate. Pennington said, “It’s important for board members as well as managers and management companies to remain educated on legislative changes so that the association can move forward without running afoul of any new regulations.”

2. Remaining Relevant

Millennials will become the primary purchasers of association residences. This generation – born between 1980 and 2000 – is characterized by a worldview that is markedly different from generations that came before. They outnumber Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, so they could represent a major purchasing block once they reach their prime home-buying years.
These individuals are digital natives, so associations will need to provide technological solutions for activities like voting, or leverage social media to communicate with this generation in addition to standard newsletters and the like. However, when considering the changes that a new generation brings to the housing market, it is not just limited to communication, younger buyers also want different amenities, such as Wi-Fi at the pool.
On the flip side, as previous generations continue to age, associations must accommodate the needs of older residents, and adjust their amenities and lifestyle programming accordingly. Diversity will also continue to come into play; smart associations will stay mindful of successfully communicating across various cultures and in different languages.

Buyers today – regardless of their generation – are not only looking at homes in an established community, but they are also looking at brand new homes in cutting-edge communities. Pennington advised, “When considering home values, boards need to look to their competition and endeavor to remain relevant to new buyers while respecting the values of current residents.”
Green living will also become more of a concern for both boards and residents. While newer communities are being built with green technologies in mind, older communities can remain appealing through upgrades and new installments.
To maintain relevance, communities must have an understanding of policy, technology and more. It will be essential that both associations and property management companies have the appropriate knowledge to adapt to the ever-changing needs of residents.

3. Show, Don’t Tell

It’s going to become more critical that boards and community management companies become engaged with their association members as this typically fosters a better living environment in communities. The best way to do this is to embark on empowering membership to understand the role of the association vs. their role as a homeowner and how they can positively impact the overall experience of living in the community.
Pennington added, “In order for homeowners to actively participate and celebrate the value of living in their community, board members need to be transparent about how things function in addition to welcoming and inspiring homeowners to make a difference.”
For many boards, this type of transparency begins at home – properly maintaining common areas and amenities will always speak louder than words, as does robust lifestyle programming that builds a true sense of community. All of these efforts are strengthened by a continued focus on good financial stewardship.
Momentum is on the side of associations. The Foundation for Community Association Research recently conducted a survey of association residents within the U.S. revealing important stats such as:
  • 64% call their relationship with their association “positive”
  • 90% say board members are operating with the best interest of the community in mind
  • 83% get along with their closest neighbor
  • 92% are on friendly terms with their board members
  • 70% believe the association’s rules improve their property values
With that being said, it is quite apparent that benefits of association living are communicated best through the experiences of residents. More importantly, these are the types of experiences that stem from stability in both the tangible (residents’ everyday surroundings) and conceptual (the board’s ability to plan for the future).

4. Working Together

Strengthening the standing of common-interest communities means creating stronger relationships between associations and various stakeholders. These include developers, who must understand the value of creating a solid foundation for the association early in the development process; and real estate agents, who should be able to clearly communicate the value of association living to prospective buyers. Additionally, board members can benefit from partnering with trade organizations such as CAI or Building Industry Association (BIA), which track proposed laws and ensure that any new policy or legislation is fair and equitable to all sides.
The next two decades will be a time of exciting change. The important thing is to see these changes not as obstacles, but as opportunities. For more on navigating the future of community association living, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading community management company, today.
Thursday July 28, 2016