The top 5 challenges community associations face in 2024 (plus board members’ advice for CAMs)

Robin Young
Robin Young | 7 min. read

Published on April 19, 2024

Have you noticed that your customers’ expectations have been on the rise over the last few years?

As increased costs have forced many small businesses to raise their prices, customers’ expectations have surged as well—including for association management services. In a recent Buildium survey, association board members told us that they’re having trouble seeing the value in their management companies’ services as their fees have risen, making them seek out new management—or even consider self-managing.

Though the pandemic-driven increase in technology has largely had a positive impact on how businesses run, there’s no denying that technology has raised customers’ expectations for how quickly a business should respond to their inquiries.

As one respondent to Buildium’s 2024 Community Associations Industry Survey put it: “Instant gratification has been a continuing issue in the industry for quite some time, but the last year or two have been increasingly excruciating when it comes to board and member expectations. While continued education and communication seem to be the best solution to the issue, it doesn’t completely remedy the expectation. Now, compound that with staggering inflation and vendor/labor burnout. It’s left managers and staff stretched thin and constantly juggling the next burning issue.”

What can management companies do to remedy this mismatch in expectations? After reading this post, you’ll have a better understanding of what it is your association clients truly need and expect from your team.

We’ll first explore the pain points that are weighing on your association clients most heavily, driving them to seek out your help in the first place.

Next, we’ll share the patterns we uncovered in hundreds of association board members’ responses to a simple question: What advice would you give to a community association manager looking to better meet your needs?

Community Associations’ Top 5 Pain Points in 2024

#1: Maintenance Obligations & Expenses Are Accumulating

42% of association board members say that staying on top of preventative maintenance and emergency repairs is a primary source of stress for their community, and 42% say it’s a primary reason why they decided to hire an association management company.

Why? Associations are struggling to afford maintenance bills as labor and material prices remain high following the pandemic. In addition, many associations are caring for aging infrastructure that is costly to keep up with, sometimes requiring special assessments or increases in dues.

Top 5 Challenges Community Associations Face | Buildium Research

#2: Rule Enforcement is Causing Conflict

38% of board members say that ensuring homeowners comply with rules and CC&Rs is a major source of stress for their community, and 47% say it’s a primary reason why they decided to hire an association management company.

Board members report that many homeowners feel ambivalent or even hostile toward HOAs as an institution, leading to poor rule compliance. Increasing diversity among homeowners—with younger families moving in, and older empty-nesters moving out—results in differing views on the direction the association should take, leading to conflict over rule enforcement and financial obligations.

#3: Finding Volunteers is Increasingly Difficult

33% of board members say that finding the people and resources necessary to keep their community up and running is a major pain point for their community, and 48% say it’s a primary reason why they decided to hire an association management company.

Association boards are experiencing frequent turnover; current board members are getting older; and there’s little interest from newer, younger homeowners in volunteering for leadership positions within the community.

#4: Rising Costs Are Straining Associations’ Finances

30% of board members say that budgeting for necessary expenditures and paying bills is a major source of stress for their community, and 58% say it’s a primary reason why they decided to hire an association management company.

Rising prices—particularly skyrocketing insurance costs—are placing strain on associations’ finances. In addition, many associations are dealing with low reserves; so when major capital improvement projects arise, they face resistance from homeowners to paying higher dues or special assessments. This is a particular concern for associations with an older population, who have more residents living on fixed incomes, making it difficult for them to absorb higher fees.

#5: It Takes Time to Find the Right Management Company

27% of board members say that finding a community association manager and working with them is a top source of stress for their community.

Many board members report that they’re unhappy with their current management company, feeling that they’re either not involved enough in the community, or are involved to the point of trying to override the board’s desires.

In addition, some associations are in the process of transitioning from being self-managed to working with a management company, while others are transitioning from being professionally managed to being self-managed.

Associations use All Property Management more than any other service to find qualified community managers. Join the APM network now to get leads targeted to your exact property types and geographic areas.

Board Members’ Advice for Community Association Managers

So, what can association management companies do to increase boards’ satisfaction with their services? Board members told us that they’re looking for association managers who are detail-oriented, responsive, organized, proactive, and empathetic, and who display integrity in the work that they do.

Here are the most common pieces of advice board members offered:

Communication: Respond quickly and consistently, or at minimum, set expectations about how quickly they can expect a response from your team. Practice proactive communication and transparency so that board members and homeowners feel like they’re in the loop with actions your team has taken or issues that have been raised within the community. Engage in active listening when approached with a problem.

Knowledge: Know each association’s CC&Rs cold. Keep board members apprised of relevant regulatory updates and best practices.

Vendors: Have a list of high-quality, trustworthy vendors at the ready. Help associations negotiate the best possible price for any work that needs to be done. Follow up to make sure that work has been done well.

Service: Offer services that are personalized to each association’s needs.

Technology: Use intuitive tools that make it easy for homeowners to view reports and make payments online—for example, by using Buildium to manage your communities and accept electronic payments.

Rule enforcement: Enforce community guidelines fairly and consistently.

Visibility: Take the time to monitor the community in person, and be visible at community events when appropriate.

Board relationships: Make sure that the board feels supported by your team. Act as a buffer between the board and the community when it comes to rule enforcement, but make clear that the board is still at the helm.

Here’s how board members put it, in their own words.

Board Members’ Advice for Community Association Managers:

  • “Listen to the board and understand board concerns. Provide sound advice when building a budget. Communicate, be willing to admit when mistakes are made, and stay organized and ahead of annually scheduled tasks.” (Arlington, VA)
  • “Be responsive to calls and emails. Be a problem-solver. Help communities find value for their money with vendors and insurance.” (Cape Coral, FL)
  • “Communicate effectively and honestly. Have the best online system for managing all aspects of the HOA.” (North Port, FL)
  • “Handle the financial reporting consistently and accurately. Be responsive. Be proactive, using your experience to guide the board in matters they are unfamiliar with.” (Durham, NC)
  • “Adopt a maintenance schedule for the grounds/common areas, adhere to it, and communicate with unit owners on impacts to them.” (Chicago, IL)
  • “Be well-versed on changes to legislation. Stay up to date with continuing education. Provide board member education.” (San Diego, CA)

The 2024 Community Association Management Industry Report

There’s more research where that came from. Be sure to download your free copy of Buildium’s 2024 Community Association Management Industry Report to learn about the following topics:

  • Growth: Opportunities to attract new associations and keep the ones you have
  • Competition: Why high-quality, community-focused customer service levels the field
  • Staffing: A top priority for 2024 as the labor shortage continues and more associations seek help
  • Technology: How increasing efficiency is key to clearing a path for revenue growth
Read more on Associations
Robin Young

As Buildium’s Senior Researcher, Robin leverages her background in social science research and interest in real estate economics to identify trends in the rental market. She combines intensive market research with insights gleaned from surveys of property managers, renters, and rental owners to examine topics like shifting renter demographics, the housing affordability crisis, and the transformation of property management during the pandemic. She's best known as the author of the annual State of the Property Management Industry Report.

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