How to Turn New Owners into Productive Community Members

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New owners of any kind are a great addition to a community and help the association run.  However, one issue that many Community Managers and Boards are seeing is that sometimes a new owner will buy a home in an Association and they not always realize what it means to purchase a home in a Covenant Protected Community.  This really can come as a surprise to a new owner after closing and unfortunately sometimes changes the opinion of the new owner about living in the community.  So how can we make sure that this does not happen?
Imagine this situation…
The new owner closes on the house and before sunset the same day a painting crew has started re-painting the home, which was much needed! The color they have selected just so happens to be a color the Architectural Committee would not approve.  The new owner was not aware that they needed to complete an ACC Request prior to having the painting crew start. The Association Representative has to contact the owner to welcome them to the community and tell them that they have to change the paint color in the same conversation.  That is never fun for either party involved.
Another situation that is common is that a new owner just moved into their new home and a routine inspection of the community is done as part of the normal procedure and a violation letter is issued to the new owner of the property. The Association or Management Company does not realize they are sending a violation to a new owner. The first communication the new owner receives is that they are in violation of the Covenants.
Either way, this gives the new owner a bad prospective on living in an Association. Instead of the owner feeling positive about becoming a member of the community, they despise the Association and want nothing to do with it. This can make it harder to collect Assessments and impossible to get the owner to volunteer in the Association.
How does one resolve this matter? Luckily, there are ways to make sure this does not happen.
The first line of defense is to have a sign at the front entrance and around the amenities area stating that the community is a Covenant Protected Community as well as provide a way to contact the Association representative. If a Management Company represents the Association, then the name of the Management Company and their contact number should be on the sign. If the community is self-managed, the Board should consider creating an email account for Association correspondence and include the email address on the sign. This will make it easy for real estate agents and potential buyers to know there is an Association and who they can contact for more information before purchasing a home in the community.
Second, a community website that is easy to find on any search engine by real estate agents and prospective buyers is very important. Many agents and buyers will search the web to learn more about the community prior to purchasing the home. The appropriate contact information and the words Covenant Protected Community should be easily seen on the website.
These two steps help tell buyers and agents up front that the community is Covenant Protected. The next step is to make sure they get proper information regarding the Association at closing. This is important because many times the information is not properly conveyed from seller to buyer, especially considering the amount of foreclosures in the current market place. Our Company uses an easy online system to help closing attorneys receive the information that they need to fill out the closing paperwork properly but it also provides them with the important documents that should be provided to the buyer at closing.
Next, once a buyer has purchased the property Our Company sends out a welcome packet from Complete HOA Resource. The purpose of this is to welcome the new owner and to provide the owner with critical information regarding the community such as how to submit an ACC Request, how to pay Assessments, outlines what assessments are used for, etc. It is our goal to make sure the owner gets this prior to ever receiving any other correspondence such as a violation letter or statement to ensure that they understand everything and feel welcomed into the community!
Lastly, having a Welcome Committee is highly important. As a Management Company, we send an email to the Welcome Committee letting them know there is a new owner. By having the committee greet the new owner it helps foster community spirit.
Through the actions above, we have noticed a reduction in issues with new owners, fewer complaints from new owners and more involvement within the community. What can be better than that!