Updated: Sep 6, 2021
Neighborhood projects are an essential aspect of a Homeowners Association's responsibilities, particularly in pursuing the HOA and community’s shared goals.
You might ask, what are those shared goals? The answer is simple – fostering an improved communal spirit while maintaining and raising property values.
But to be effective, the HOA needs to understand how to prioritize projects and understand the differences between HOA maintenance and capital investments.
Aquity Management Group is happy to share our experience with you in the form of advice on the 7 best neighborhood projects for HOAs.
HOA Maintenance vs. Capital Investment
HOA maintenance and capital investments deal with community assets and fall under the umbrella term of neighborhood projects. But there are key differences, and understanding them is vital to plan and finance your HOA neighborhood projects effectively.
To protect current community and homeowner assets, HOA maintenance involves a combination of preventative care, regular repair, and the necessary replacement of those assets. The aim is to restore or preserve the asset's original condition according to standards that have been set (i.e., continued compliance with local legislation and HOA policy) and to halt and prevent further deterioration.
Ultimately, the goal with neighborhood projects relating to HOA maintenance is preservation rather than improvement. As these are ongoing functions, HOA maintenance projects will be funded by the HOA’s operating funds.
On the other hand, capital investment is any neighborhood project intended to increase asset value rather than merely preserve it. As such, it involves improving on the asset's original condition and typically helping extend its intended lifespan (also referred to as expected useful life). This means capital investment neighborhood projects often involve upgrades rather than performing the minimal necessary replacement.
Because capital investments involve larger budgets than HOA maintenance, funding comes from the HOA reserve fund. Careful planning and conducting reserve studies, perhaps together with your HOA management company, help determine the necessary amounts to collect and set aside for this fund in anticipation of capital investment projects.
Prioritizing Neighborhood Projects
There are many ways to approach the prioritization of your neighborhood projects as an HOA.
One of the most important is to keep a finger on the pulse of your HOA's finances. Regularly auditing your budget ensures your HOA fees will satisfactorily cover your ongoing operating costs. It also ensures setting aside enough to maintain your reserve funding.
At times, you might find it prudent to temporarily forego aesthetic capital investments in favor of HOA maintenance.
Conducting reserve studies will be an essential aspect of prioritizing neighborhood projects, and you should aim to keep your study as updated as possible. This allows you to plan for and adequately prioritize future capital investments.
Neighborhood Maintenance Projects for Your HOA
Below are some of the best neighborhood projects that fall under HOA maintenance.
Regular, especially seasonal landscaping, is one of the most critical neighborhood projects your HOA needs to spearhead.
This should include pruning trees and any hedge bushes, which help keep the plants healthy and neat. Ensuring pathways to the entrances of community buildings are clear and look welcoming is also a good way to improve the neighborhood’s appearance.
HOA fees will often include an itemized listing for landscaping management. One area this portion of your HOA’s operating funds might need to focus on is the maintenance of gray-water capture-and-recycle systems, especially if your community is in an area that receives little rain.
2. Pressure Washing
Pressure washing is a great way to keep building exteriors clean and boost curb appeal in your community.
This is especially important for your community buildings, such as clubhouses and other community structures like public playgrounds or sports amenities.
Always pay careful attention to the detergents being used, especially as you’re likely to be working with many different surfaces.
3. Paint Touch-Ups
Especially after pressure washing – and in summer when the sun’s effects are more prominent – consider touching up on paint jobs around the community.
These are smaller neighborhood projects than giving community buildings a fresh coat of paint, as you’ll find yourself focusing on smaller surfaces. For example, shutters, window frames, trims, gates, fences, and park structures.
4. Gutters and Drainage
Regularly cleaning gutters and drainage systems (especially storm drains before, during, and immediately following storm seasons) is vital in maintaining the integrity of these systems. These projects will also help preserve building exteriors and road/sidewalk integrity, often preventing accelerated wear and tear.
Capital Investment Projects for Your Neighborhood
From time to time, even with the best of planning, there will be unexpected major repairs that incur greater costs than your HOA maintenance projects. Your HOA reserve fund will need to pay for these.
But the fund can also be used to fund your capital investment neighborhood projects in the absence of emergency repairs. Below are some of the best projects falling under this category.
5. Large-scale Landscaping
While landscaping in the maintenance sense might involve trimming vegetation, it's more likely to include removing unsightly or dangerous trees as a capital investment.
A sure sign that this level of landscaping project is necessary is the appearance of disease, fungus, or even old age. Plants that exhibit such signs need to be removed and ideally replaced.
Also, remember that tree roots can easily cause larger issues, such as damaged gutters and raised, cracked sidewalks. Consulting with professional landscapers will help you properly plan for the replacement of potentially problematic trees in advance.
6. Repainting Community Structures
Although repainting community structures could technically fall under regular maintenance, the scope and expense of this particular neighborhood project more accurately make it a capital investment.
As a general guideline, consider repainting buildings at least every 7 to 10 years.
7. Sustainable Upgrades
As a more general neighborhood project, consider upgrading older systems with more sustainable alternatives.
Earlier, we mentioned the maintenance of a gray-water capture-and-recycle system. These make for a more water-efficient alternative to regular sprinkler systems, as an example.
Other options include installing solar panels for a hybrid-power solution, LED lighting, and tank-less pool heaters.
Take Your Neighborhood Projects to the Next Level
To take your neighborhood projects to the next level and ensure you’re properly prioritizing and budgeting for HOA maintenance and capital investments alike, consider hiring a dedicated HOA management company with a community focus, like Aquity Management Group.