New Owners - Putting Your Association's Best Foot Forward

"First impressions are the most lasting." This proverb, while generally applied to personal encounters, is well worth embracing in considering the initial contact the community association has with a new homeowner. Starting off on the right foot can have a significant positive impact upon the relationship between an association and its members - and vice-versa.

Little else makes a worse impression on a new owner than receiving nothing more than a bill from the homeowners association. Often times, new homeowners are not even aware of the association, and even when they are, they may not have a clear understanding of the association's role and their place in it. There are several steps an association can take, however, to make sure that a course of clear and positive communication is instituted from the very start of a homeowner's new membership in the association, thereby setting the stage for future positive relations.

Inform Realtors and Title Companies

One step an association can take begins before an owner even purchases his or her home, and that is making a concerted effort to publicize the existence of the association. By providing area realtors and title companies with information as to whom to contact prior to closing a sale within the community, the association helps to insure that information about itself is conveyed to the new homeowner at or prior to the purchase, that any past due assessments owed by the seller are collected at closing, and that the association is notified about the transfer of ownership. This information can be conveyed by sending a simple form letter to realtors and title companies that service such transactions in the general vicinity of the community.

Inform New Owners

Once an association receives notification of the sale of a home within the community and confirms the transfer of ownership, it is time for the initial contact with the new association member. Consider developing a standard "Welcome Package" to send to new owners. If the volunteer base is strong within your community, you might even want to appoint a Welcome Committee to handle the delivery of such packages along with some type of home baked item to the new neighbor. Bearing in mind that the association's objectives in this regard are twofold - to deliver necessary information about the association and its assessment schedule, and to welcome the new owner to the community - there are several items that should be included in the Welcome Package. At a minimum, the new association member should be provided with the following:

  • the schedule and amount of maintenance assessments
  • the names and addresses of association board members
  • information as to how to contact the manager of the community if the association is professionally managed.

In order to make this first impression a truly favorable one, however, here are a few suggestions of other items to include in the Welcome Package:

  • Coupons from area vendors
  • Simple letter from the association president welcoming the new owner to the community
  • Copy of the most recent association newsletter Community directory, if one exists
  • Listing of local service providers that have been used by association members with favorable results (landscapers, plumbers, HVAC contractors, even babysitters)
  • Map showing such establishments as neighborhood grocery stores, the local post office, the public schools which neighborhood children attend, area churches and synagogues, shopping centers, movie theaters, etc.
  • Association rules and regulations and even copies of the Declaration and By-Laws if such were not provided to the new owner at closing

Another item to include in a Welcome Package is a pamphlet entitled "The Homeowner and the Community Association" (www.caionline.org). Many new homeowners have never before lived in a community association and may, therefore, be unfamiliar with the very fundamentals of how an association works. This pamphlet explains such issues as the responsibilities of the board of directors, the individual owner's rights and responsibilities, and the role of the managing agent, and it provides some guidelines for mutually beneficial living within the association.

By following the simple steps outlined above, an association can make great strides in fostering goodwill and understanding among its members. And by helping the new owner understand the workings of the association and his or her role in it right from the start, the association is assured of making a lasting favorable impression upon its members - one which will likely result in a more active, progressive, and financially sound association in the years to come.

Source: Association Times
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