As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the economy, homeowners are forced to adjust to lower incomes and job loss. Even with government support, millions of Americans are struggling to keep up with their financial responsibilities. HOA fees may be one obligation that falls to the bottom of the priority list. It is prudent for HOA board associations to anticipate delinquent payments during this recession, and it is also prudent for boards to consider if and how they can reduce expenses during this time.
Note: Your board may be considering waiving late and interest fees as a way to alleviate financial stress in your community. While compassion is a critical part of leadership, be sure to check with your legal professional before changing financial procedures. Your legal team will help ensure you are maintaining state HOA fiduciary obligations.
When is the last time your board or management team evaluated your HOA’s insurance plan? Premiums and deductibles tend to evade frequent attention but reducing them can also be a significant source of savings. HOAs need an insurance plan that best fits its needs, and those needs change over time. Be sure to work with an insurance broker when renegotiating rates or looking for new coverage.
In addition, implementing a property risk assessment plan may result in lower insurance costs. A typical risk assessment plan enables HOA management to identify sources of physical injury, possible employee misconduct, and neighbor disputes, among other things. By identifying possible risks and addressing them proactively, the likelihood of injury is reduced. The source of savings from insurance maintenance may be significant.
Reserve Fund Investments
HOAs derive income from invested reserve funds. Like reviewing insurance policies, however, assessing investment plans aren’t typically on the top of a board’s priority list. Take the time to speak with your financial advisor and ensure that your investment is working as hard as it can while in compliance with state regulations. Also consider hiring an HOA-specific firm to work with you to create an investment policy. A regularly reviewed HOA-specific policy will likely bring the best returns of the reserve fund.
It should be noted that the recession has certainly impacted your investment funds. Your financial advisor can provide guidance on how to proceed in light of uncertain markets.
One of the quickest ways to save money is to ensure utilities are as low as possible. Here are a few suggestions:
Lighting. A simple and easy way to reduce energy consumption is to replace traditional lightbulbs with energy saving bulbs. Installing timers to reduce unnecessary lighting is another way to reduce energy use and save money.
Energy Efficiency. A variety of physical attributes can make your buildings more energy efficient. Replacing old windows, modernizing roofing and siding, and updating appliances are all ways to be more energy efficient. A comprehensive efficiency assessment will likely reveal unknown opportunities for savings.
Maintenance. Regular maintenance checks can save money as well as future headaches. For example, an unknown leaking pipe will waste water and may eventually cause structural damage. Scheduled maintenance checks identify problems like these months or years before it would otherwise be found, resulting in compound savings.
Energy Source. The ease, affordability, and efficiency of alternate energy sources continue to rise. Installing solar panels on building rooftops is an long-term investment but can result in significant budget savings.
Another area for savings that is often overlooked is evaluating vendor contracts. Boards and managers often fail to consider yearly increases and extra charges. While it is important to maintain strong working relationships with vendors, calling for bids will create competition and result in lower rates. Don’t be afraid to contact vendors in your area to get a sense of current rates.
In difficult times, reducing the number staff positions and employee hours will reduce costs. Look for ways that staff members can cover multiple duties to maximize their efficiency or reduce the operating hours for certain amenities. Some processes can be automated. There are ways to maximize your staff’s potential without sacrificing the community’s safety and enjoyment.
Providing quality amenities and pristine landscaping is one of the most important ways HOAs differentiate and market themselves. Still, during harsh financial times, boards and managers must consider a balance. Even though you can’t see the result immediately, maintaining proper funding reserves will be more important than expanding the fitness facility. Some plans may need to be sacrificed for the stability and long-term health of the community association.
As the world continues to adjust to new life challenges, HOA boards are searching for new ways to save money. The above suggestions require minimal financial investments but will result in significant savings.