Last year, we bought our first home: it is a townhouse in a community governed by an HOA. Because I heard so many crazy stories about HOA, to protect our real-estate investment, I decided to run for open board member positions.
I got elected!
And it’s been really great so far. I’ll show your why you should also consider joining the board of your HOA.
Facts & Fiction
When I was looking for a house, several of my friends told me to avoid areas with HOA. They had heard crazy stories, like HOA prevents family whose house burned down from rebuilding on their own property and probably read articles like The Tyranny of Homeowners Associations. Or maybe they had seen that definition from Urbandictionary:
HOAThe association of home owners. They absolutely insist on having people in your neighborhood join and fine you.Person 1: I work for the HOA.
Person 2: You bastard!
Person 1: Ah ah ah, there’s another fine!
Person 2: God dammit.
However, the truth is that reports show that most people are actually satisfied with their HOA. They prefer to buy in an HOA and believe that it protects or enhances their property values.
HOAs are small businesses
Eventually, we bought our house in an HOA controlled area because it was the first house we visited that looked like it would still be looking good in 10 years.
Maintenance was up to date, landscaping was of very high quality and the HOA was repainting our house while we were closing the mortgage. What’s not to like about this?
Our association currently has a multi-million dollar budget to manage the common areas and exteriors of over 700 homes. Amenities include pools, tennis, basket ball and volley ball courts and kids playgrounds. The HOA also provides the water, trash collection, landscaping and the exterior maintenance of the houses.
An HOA is nothing more than a normal (non-profit) business with employees, multiple contractors and a board to provide direction and represent the homeowners. But since everyone is a volunteer on the board and no particular qualification is required, sometimes board members aren’t able to fully represent their homeowners’ best interests.
This is where HOAs need more people who are financially fit, or have corporate experience.
Why you should join your HOA’s board
- Running for elections is an awesome experience: At first, it was downright scary. I had to find a running mate (and then another one), find supporters and go find voters. Obviously, I had no idea how to do any of this. So we printed flyers to market our team and explain what our intentions were. We went door to door to meet homeowners, listen to them and ask for their support. Our team won with an overwhelming majority. After running a half-marathon, this was the 2nd time I went completely out of my comfort zone this year and I’m very happy about it.
- Protect your real-estate investment: As a homeowner, I was just a bystander in the community’s decisions. As a board member I can actually take part in the decision process and make my opinion count and vote. HOA dues are just a cost, so you want to make sure you get the most value out of it.
- Personal finance meets business finance: Of course, as a personal finance blogger participating in the management of a multi-million dollar budget is appealing to me. We optimize our budget, we cut unnecessary costs, we started an emergency fund. It’s a way to apply some of our personal finance knowledge for the benefit of a larger community.
- Be part of a small business: as a board member, you see the inner workings of a small business : how the suppliers are selected, how the budget is allocated, how the infrastructure is maintained… with very limited resources. Working for a Fortune 500 company sometimes makes me forget how nimble small business have to be. Everyone has to wear multiple hats and decisions are often made on the spot with very limited financial resources. There’s no steering committee, no controller approval, no management reviews. Everything moves much, much faster.
- Give back to your community: I have the chance to have a very diverse work experience and being financially aware. To me, serving on the board of my HOA is my way of giving back to the community, with my time and experience. Some homeowners struggle to pay the monthly dues, I now have the ability to help them by making sure we aren’t wasting their money and that they get the most value out of it.
Anyone who’s managed budgets, projects or people or has dealt with customers has a lot of value to bring to an HOA board.
If you live in an HOA community and elections are coming up for board seats, I would encourage you to consider the job. Since I joined the board, we’ve made a conscious effort to improve the communication between the homeowners and the board, a pain point for several years. Today a homeowner told me he felt lucky to have such a good board this year. That made my day.
Give it a try, your HOA probably needs people just like you.