As a member of your Board, you probably have a pretty good idea of what the future holds for your community association – most likely because you had a hand in the planning process. But what about those issues you can’t control? How will you handle them when they pop up? And how will they influence the strategies you develop to ensure your community is a place residents are proud to call home for years to come?
Community Association Institute, a leading trade organization, brought together a panel of experts to discuss these questions. Their findings were featured in CAI’s publication, Common Ground. We’ve put together a summary of what they discovered, and added some key insights of our own, to give you a list of things that will likely shape association living in the coming decades.
Let’s take a look at what those are.

1. Education is key.

Moving forward, it will be essential that Board members understand the value of partnering with a great management company. Association Boards will continue to look for property management companies that have bulk buying powers thanks to a national presence. They will also look for those management companies that can offer trusted vendors who can handle the upgrades that will eventually come with an aging community.
The concept of green living will also become a priority for Boards and residents. A working knowledge of policy, technology and more is needed to address these concerns. Thus, both associations and property management companies will have to ensure they have the appropriate knowledge to adapt to the changing needs of their residents. It will also be incumbent on Boards to stress the importance of energy efficiency and water conservation strategies to their residents.

2. Changing demographics.

In the coming years, the demographics of our population will change. Millennials – those individuals born between 1980 and 2000 – will become the primary purchasers of association homes. Millennials are characterized by a worldview that is quite different from the generations before them. They also outnumber Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, which means they could represent a major purchasing block once they reach their prime home-buying years.
Another important factor to consider is that this generation grew up in the digital age, so associations will need to prepare to provide these residents with technological solutions for activities such as voting. Leveraging social media to communicate with this generation will also be key as the traditional newsletters and notices may no longer prove effective.
On the other hand, as older generations continue to age, associations will have to accommodate the needs of these older residents, adjusting amenities and lifestyle programming accordingly. Diversity will also continue to come into play, so smart associations will remain mindful of communicating in different language and across cultures.
Buyers across all generations are also becoming more discerning in what they look for in a community. This means that associations should be aware of what their competition is offering and stay at the forefront of new and relevant offerings. Staying relevant means having a comprehensive understanding of how policy, technology, and generation-specific needs intersect. One example of that is sustainability, which will continue to be a focus not only for residents, but as a critical cost-control measure for associations.

3. Show, don’t tell.

In the coming years, it will become essential that Board and management companies engage their association members regularly in an effort to foster a better living environment. Residents need to understand the value that association living brings, but this requires an understanding of what the association does and what they, as residents, can do to make it stronger.
A good place to start is always with the Board members. In order for residents to embrace the value of living in their community, Board members need to be transparent about how things work and welcome residents to take part in that process. 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.
The good news is that, according to the Foundation for Community Association Research, momentum is on the side of the association. The following stats were derived from a survey of association residents they recently conducted:
  • 90% of association residents say Board members are operating with the best interest of the community in mind
  • 92% say they are on friendly terms with members of their Board
  • 83% reported that they get along with their closest neighbor
  • 70% believe the association’s rules improve their property values
  • 64% say their relationship with their association was “positive”

4. Working together.

In order to strengthen common-interest communities, you must create stronger relationships between associations and stakeholders. That includes developers, who must understand the value of creating an association early in the development process, and real estate agents, who should be able to clearly communicate the value of living in an association 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 are shaping up to be a time of exciting progress. The key is to see these changes not as obstacles, but as opportunities. If you consider these four factors when planning for the future, you’ll be ready for whatever comes your association’s way. For more on navigating the future of association living, contact FirstService Residential today.
Thursday August 25, 2016