Attract Tenants by Installing This Affordable Backyard Amenity

Attract Tenants by Installing This Affordable Backyard Amenity

Covered patios come in many shapes and sizes and are a desirable amenity for single-family rentals. One of the most common coverings is the versatile pergola, which offers a natural look and an outdoorsy feel for many years to come.

Pergolas are time-tested wooden open-air structures that can be installed over patios to provide shade and a cozy place to gather on a cool spring evening or warm summer day. They are a backyard amenity that surely will be welcomed by your residents.

Vertical posts support a network of cross beams and a sturdy open lattice, usually cedar, which can be covered or left open to the elements. Many companies offer pre-manufactured kits priced anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 and others will build to site specifications. Larger applications can run $10,000 to $15,000.

Because most pergolas use rugged stained cedar, the structure can withstand weather and provide structural integrity for 15-20 years if maintained properly. Re-staining every three or four years typically is the only maintenance requirement.

Chris Lee, president of Earthworks, says pergolas can be built for just about any type of covering and offer property managers another amenity to attract new residents and retain others. They can be covered with natural greenery or lightweight screen, breathable polyethylene or canopy-type materials to provide shade and deflect heat.

“It’s another way to create a gathering point, instill that sense of community, which helps retentionand leasing,” he said. “Cedar is very durable, long lasting. It’s expensive but not as expensive as if you build a steel structure. You’re not supporting a lot of weight so there isn’t any real big engineering requirements or anything like that.”

Pergolas are distinctive and may seem to be an ultra-modern amenity, but they’ve been around for hundreds of years. Early examples of pergolas date to ancient Egyptian times, and Italy is known for building the structures as far back as the 1600s. Most were built with creeping vines to provide shaded areas, a practice that still holds true today.

“We have some clients who have planted Wisteria or Trumpet Vines that grow over the structure,” Lee said. “The wood lends well to that, it allows the plant to root in as it grows up. We’ve got some that’s completely shaded because there is a thick weave of Wisteria all through the top of the pergola, simply from planting the plant on the back corners. After a couple of years it will completely cover the pergola.”

He cautions that anytime plants grow on pergola they could cause long-term damage because of the moisture that gets trapped between the wood and plant. Re-staining also becomes an issue.

Lee recommends that any vines or plant life growing on the pergola be maintained so it doesn’t get out of control.

“It’s like everything else, you have to take care of it,” he said. “These structures can last 20 years if well-maintained.”

Because of their simple design, pergolas can be retrofitted to pool areas and patios. Earthworks recently installed one that partially covered a pool, providing relief from the heat for residents at one apartment community.

Size doesn’t necessarily matter either. Pergolas can sprawl across large patios or be reduced to a small area of the backyard with seating. Drapes can provide a semi-private area while still allowing for air movement from the top.

The floor can either be made of grass, stone or rock.

“There’s so much you can do with pergola,” Lee said. “In the grand scheme of things, they are not crazy expensive, and it’s something anybody can do as long you have a 12’ x 12’ area. That’s all you need.

For Many Mexican Immigrants, Farm Work Is Still the Only Way to the California Dream

Patricia Carabez stands by a row of black plastic crates piled high with cauliflower, apples and pears in the parking lot of a mobile home park in rural Dunnigan, 40 miles north of Sacramento. As children wander past the parking lot on their way home from school, Carabez calls out to them by name.

Speaking Spanish, she tells them to remind their parents to come pick up fresh produce. Carabez knows everybody here because she lived in one of these mobile homes until last year. Carabez says many of her former neighbors are farmworkers, like her.

Like generations of immigrants before her, Patricia Carabez saw farm work as a steppingstone to a better life for her children. “My husband and I came here because we had a vision for a better life,” she says. “We originally planned to be in California for two years,” she says with a rueful smile. That was 21 years ago.

Carabez works as a vegetable packer, 10-12 hours a day, six days a week. In her off-time, she volunteers at this mobile produce stand run by Yolo Food Bank twice a month. While Carabez instructs parents and children to fill a bag with fruits, veggies and bags of rice, she uses her cellphone to call other folks who haven’t shown up yet.

Carabez, 39, emigrated to California with her husband from the Mexican state of Michoacan when she was 18. She started pruning and harvesting in the vineyards. She describes long days, full of physically demanding labor, with more to do on the family front, raising her two children.

Carabez gave up a job as a hospital lab tech when she left Michoacan. And, even after two decades in California, she admits her heart still feels “split in two.” Despite the demands of farm labor, Carabez has few regrets about leaving Mexico. And it’s not about her own advancement — it’s for the sake of her children.

“It would be very difficult for them in Mexico, because there you can only go to school if you have money,” says Carabez. “Here, my children have a great education and more opportunities than they would back home.”

“I’ve always seen the ‘California Dream’ as coming to the state and finding more opportunity than you had where you came from,” says professor Philip Martin, who studies farm labor at UC Davis. He argues that California still offers lots of opportunities to move up the socioeconomic ladder. “But in the case of farmworkers it may be the upward mobility is going to be more through the children of farmworkers rather than through the farmworkers themselves.”

Today 90 percent of California’s farmworkers hail from Mexico and half that population lacks documents for legal residence, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey.

Martin explains that the flow of migrants across the border has slowed dramatically in recent years, due to changes in U.S. immigration policy, border security and an improving economy in Mexico.

In 2000, one in four farm laborers in the U.S. were recent arrivals from Mexico, meaning they had been in the U.S. less than one year, according to a Pew Research Center report. By 2013-14, the number of recently arrived crop workers had fallen to 1-2 percent.

There are still migrants coming from Mexico, says Martin, but those who come can afford to pay between $5,000 and $7,000 to a “coyote” (or guide) to evade Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“These migrants tend to be more educated, more skilled, and they’re not going to work in agriculture,” says Martin. The average crop worker in California earns $15,000 a year, according to data collected in 2013-14 by the National Agricultural Workers Survey. Martin says recently arrived immigrants are in search of higher wages.

Farmworker Alma in the kitchen of the Fresno mobile home she shares with her husband and four children.
Farmworker Alma in the kitchen of the Fresno mobile home she shares with her husband and four children. (Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio)

At a mobile home park in Fresno, Alma, a seasonal crop worker, explains her simple pursuit of the California Dream. Speaking Spanish through an interpreter, Alma says she does not feel safe being identified by her full name.

Alma was raised by her grandparents in a rural town in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Her grandparents grew corn, beans and squash as subsistence farmers.

Alma’s mother left Oaxaca for Mexico City when Alma was a baby so she could find a job to support the family.

When Alma was 19, she followed her mother’s example. She and her husband came to Fresno to find seasonal crop work.

The work in the Central Valley was harder than she imagined. Other immigrants told her, “You’ll make money. But they didn’t tell us about getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to go to the fields,” Alma says. “They didn’t tell us about the heat or the cold.”

Twenty-four years after Alma and her husband arrived in Fresno, they are still crop workers, finding jobs season by season. Alma has harvested tree fruit and picked berries and harvested garlic. She often works by piece rate, getting paid for each box of produce she fills.

Alma says she and her husband work together in the fields so they can keep an eye out for one another. One of her biggest challenges is working for growers who don’t pay wages on time. She says they’ve never asked for help because they don’t know who to turn to.

Alma, her husband and four children, ages 16 to 23, cram into a run-down mobile home off Highway 99.

“I think it’s safe to say the options for getting ahead in rural California may be low,” says Martin. “But they’re higher than they would’ve been if they had stayed in rural Mexico.”

Alma demonstrates how she trims grape vines in a Fresno vineyard where she recently worked.
Alma demonstrates how she trims grapevines in a Fresno vineyard where she recently worked. (Andrew Nixon/Capital Public Radio)

Alma’s children see the rough conditions of farm work. She says they know how early their parents have to leave in the morning, and how exhausted they are at day’s end. “But field labor is simply a necessity,” explains Alma. “We can’t say we don’t feel like getting up in the morning for work.” And, Alma adds, it’s the only job she knows.

Alma’s eldest son graduated from high school in Fresno. Despite having more access to education than his parents did back in Oaxaca, he still works in the fields alongside them. He tells her he’s fine with it. But she says it’s not the life she wants for her children.

When people arriving have relatively low levels of education, then the “California Dream” is more typically achieved by the children of the immigrant generation that entered the farm workforce, explains Martin, the UC Davis professor. “And that would’ve been true of the Chinese, the Japanese and many other groups that passed through the revolving door of California agriculture.”

Back in Yolo County, you can see the potential for gradual upward mobility in Carabez’s life. She and her husband have managed to move out of the fields into work that’s less grueling. She works in a vegetable packing house. Instead of picking crops, her husband drives a tractor.

Carabez says they are mainly able to make ends meet, although things get tight when her shifts drop off in the winter. She’s hopeful that her 17-year-old son’s good grades will earn him a spot at a state university to study engineering.

Alma and Patricia are part of a generation of settled, aging Mexican immigrant farmworkers in California who are no longer migrating around the state to fill farm jobs. They stay in farm work because their language skills and lack of education are a barrier to landing non-farm jobs with higher wages.

As with earlier waves of immigrants who toiled in California’s fields because it was the only option open to them, these women want their American-born children to have a shot at education and a better livelihood then they would have had back in Mexico.

But the path toward upward mobility can be slow.

“When you live in Mexico, you live in poverty,” Alma says. “Here, the work is hard. But you have a little bit more money for food.”

For the Middle Class, the California Dream Has Become a California Joke

California’s lush coastline, balmy climate and post-World War II economic promise made it an easy sell as America’s middle-class paradise in the 1950s.

“The California Dream of two or three generations ago was, ‘I’m going to move from a place that’s cold and flat to a place where there’s lots of opportunity,’” said Joel Kotkin, a presidential fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange. “’I’ll get a job in an aerospace factory, in an oil company. I’ll buy a house with a pool. I’ll die and go to heaven. And I’ll do it all in good weather.’”

Today the weather remains. But access to the California Dream is being choked off.

Stratospheric housing costs, the exit of key companies and the failure to replace the jobs that left with them have downsized the state’s middle class.

‘We could keep up, but we could never get ahead’

Since 1970, California’s share of the middle class fell from 60 percent to just over half the population. That trend almost mirrors patterns across the country. The number of middle-income Americans slipped from 61 percent in 1971 to 50 percent in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center.

In California, some have risen to the upper class and others have slid down. And some have left the state.

“The key group leaving is basically in their 30s, 40s and 50s tending to be making about $100,000 to $200,000 a year,” Kotkin said, citing Internal Revenue Service data.

Between 2007 and 2016, California lost 1 million more domestic residents than have come into the state, according to the IRS. Many are moving to Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon.

“California opened their doors and basically kicked us out,” Kelly Rudiger said. “We couldn’t afford to live there with almost half of our income paying for our housing, our property taxes, our utilities. So my husband and I, both being full-time employees, we could keep up but we could never get ahead.”

Rudiger and her husband, Tony, moved their two children to Texas last year.

“We sold an 1,800-square-foot home in San Diego and now live in a 4,000-square-foot home and are still paying less on our mortgage,” Rudiger said.

She said her middle-class income goes a lot further in Texas than in California.

The Rudiger family: Tony, back left; Kelly, back right; and their children Renae and Branden Bingham -- moved to Texas in 2017 because San Diego was no longer affordable for their middle-income family.
The Rudiger family: Tony, back left; Kelly, back right; and their children — Renae and Branden Bingham — moved to Texas in 2017 because San Diego was no longer affordable for their middle-income family. (Courtesy Kelly Rudiger)

The Public Policy Institute of California classifies middle-income earners as those making between $49,716 and $174,006, based on 2017 calculations.

Kotkin said California families used to pay three times their income for a home in 1970. Sometime over the next decade it changed, and now that figure has jumped to as high as 10 times.

“Who has got that kind of money?” asked Kotkin. “Where I live, all the older people keep complaining, `My kids keep visiting me just waiting for me to drop dead so they can have the house.’ ”

Peter Brownell, research director at San Diego’s Center on Policy Initiatives, said the inability of California’s middle class to afford homes exposes a vulnerability in the state’s economy.

“Even though as a whole, our economy is successful in terms of what it’s producing and the amount of wealth it’s producing, we’re not seeing that translate into incomes that will support families here in San Diego and across California,” he said.

And he believes that is not economically sustainable.

“When people have stable, middle-class incomes, it means they have money in their pocket to consume all kinds of goods, whether that’s purchasing housing, buying new clothes, buying cars, buying refrigerators,” Brownell said. “Our economy is driven by consumer spending.”

Kotkin said California’s middle class started to dwindle when the Cold War ended in the 1990s, devastating the state’s aerospace industry. California has lost 280,000 aerospace jobs over the last 30 years, according to the book “Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California.”

Kotkin said real estate and construction jobs also went away. More recently, jobs in the business sector have taken a hit.

“Toyota, Occidental Petroleum, Nissan, companies that employed a large number of middle-class people, are going,” Kotkin said. “These were companies that had a lot of good paying jobs — $80,000, $100,000, $120,000 —  enough to support a middle-class lifestyle.”

And he said many companies that remain are not expanding because of California’s land, energy, housing and regulatory costs.

The Center on Policy Initiative’s Brownell said the companies that are expanding are contributing to the state’s income inequality.

“Here in California, we’ve had great success in creating highly skilled, high-paying jobs — in the tech industry in Silicon Valley and in San Diego the biotech industry,” Brownell said. “A lot of those really successful and well-paying industries have built into them a structural demand for low-wage work as well, the nannies, the restaurant workers and the dry cleaners.”

Brownell said it is important to note that even people earning more than workers in low-wage jobs are struggling to survive.

Sharon Mintz runs a floral arrangement business in San Diego. She said she offers free meals to her employees and has increased their pay from $15 to $20 an hour over the past few years but still cannot hold onto them.

“It works and then the rent goes up,” Mintz said. “And then we offer a little bit more and then groceries go up. It feels like we’re always trying to catch up.”

Brownell said a middle-class revival lies in the hands of government, strong unions and companies.

He said policymakers need to encourage the creation of quality jobs in the state. Unions set standards for wage and working conditions. And Brownell said companies with healthy profits should pay their employees more.

“The more prosperous a company becomes, the more of an obligation it has to share its success across the company,” Brownell said.

Without any fixes, Kotkin said California is headed away from the enchantment of the 1950s toward a more primitive time.

“Today, we have a society which over time is becoming more and more feudal with the very rich, very successful — some of the richest people in the history of the world — at the very top, and then a diminishing middle class,” Kotkin said. “And what’s more frightening is you have young people, some of them with college educations, working at Uber, working at Starbucks, essentially barely making it.”

The California Dream series is a statewide media collaboration of CALmatters, KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the James Irvine Foundation.

A Sheriff Speaks Out Against a Sanctuary Law

By THOMAS FULLER –
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaking about his lawsuit against California at a meeting of law enforcement officers in Sacramento.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaking about his lawsuit against California at a meeting of law enforcement officers in Sacramento.
Jim Wilson/The New York Times
When Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to Sacramento two weeks ago to tell law enforcement officials why the federal government was suing California over its sanctuary laws, he was greeted by protesters in the streets and a tongue lashing by Gov. Jerry Brown.
But some law enforcement officials in California agree with Mr. Sessions that sanctuary policies go too far. The California State Sheriffs’ Association has been consistently opposed to one of the sanctuary laws, Senate Bill 54, which limits cooperation between state and federal authorities when minor crimes are involved.
We spoke with Sheriff Bill Brown of Santa Barbara County, who is president of the association and attended Mr. Sessions’s speech. (Our chat has been edited and condensed below.)
Q. On what grounds do you oppose SB 54?
A. We believe that it has a negative impact on public safety. And we believe that fundamentally it is wrong to limit communication between federal law enforcement agencies and law enforcement officers regardless of their jurisdiction.
Q. What does SB 54 restrict you from doing?
A. We want to make sure that we do not unnecessarily release people from custody who could otherwise be removed from the country if they are criminals, if they have a likelihood of reoffending or re-victimizing people in our communities.
Q. The law allows state law enforcement to communicate with federal immigration authorities in the case of serious crimes. You think the list of crimes isn’t broad enough?
A. That’s correct. For example, repeat drunk driving — you get someone who is arrested two or three times; domestic battery, assault on a peace officer; animal cruelty or abuse; serial theft — someone who has been arrested multiple times for shoplifting.
Q. You are also concerned about gang members.
A. If someone is in custody — and it could be for a minor offense — and if that person is a known member of a gang that is a criminal enterprise, like MS-13 for example, we see no reason why that person should be released back into the community. We should be able to contact ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] before releasing them.

Victorian church readapted as vibrant coworking space & future home

 

With the rise of the freelance economy, more and more people are working for themselves — either at home, from a backyard office shed, or from a collaborative coworking space, where there are more perks and opportunities to network. These new professional spaces are popping up not only in conventional places, but also in less conventional ones like restaurantsbuses, and even churches, as this project by Surman Weston (previous) has done — converting a Victorian-era Methodist church into a co-working space for the architects, an animator, two illustrators and a print designer.

Seen over at Dezeen, architects Tom Surman and Percy Weston transformed the old London church by removing old paint off the walls, and adding new furniture, a wall of adjustable-height shelving, vibrant stained glass walls and a floating staircase. They say:

The diamond motif used here echoes the geometry of the existing timber trusses, while the stained glass panes reference the building’s past as a place of worship. The aesthetic of the project was derived from the existing timber trusses. Sandblasting to remove the many layers of paint applied over the last 130 years revealed the remarkable texture of the original timbers.

Wai Ming Ng© Wai Ming Ng
Wai Ming Ng© Wai Ming Ng
Wai Ming Ng© Wai Ming Ng

The idea was to create a “canvas of textures,” all painted white, which would contrast with the brilliant stained glass surfaces to produce an airy, open space with depth and visual interest.

Wai Ming Ng© Wai Ming Ng
Wai Ming Ng© Wai Ming Ng

Besides serving as a temporary coworking space, the design can also transform into a residence in the future. That’s accomplished with the insertion of two mezzanines at either end of the space, which now function as a model-making studio and meeting space, but which can later become a bedroom and a study, say the architects:

The concept embraced the dual purpose required in the brief. Rather than designing a studio that could subsequently be transformed into a home, it combines the warmth of materiality that you might find in a home, with the size and flexibility that is required in a studio or office.

Wai Ming Ng© Wai Ming Ng

In addition to the central open space that acts as a multipurpose place for work, meetings and meals, a kitchen and bathroom have been added under one of these mezzanines, to facilitate its future conversion into a home.

Wai Ming Ng© Wai Ming Ng

We talk often about how adapting and reusing existing buildings is a better and more sustainable option than demolishing and building from scratch; not only is there less waste, but it also lends a certain unique appeal that only comes from rehabilitating the old into something into new and unexpected. For more, visit Surman Weston.

6 Pro Tips for Property Managers to Get More From Their Taxes

6 Pro Tips for Property Managers to Get More From Their Taxes

One of the benefits of owning and managing properties is the ability to leverage your taxes as a property owner. If you’re not an accountant, however, it can be more daunting than exciting—especially if you don’t know what you can deduct, or how to best position yourself and your income.

We’ve talked with a variety of professionals in the fields of property management, tax laws, and accounting to bring you their best tips for getting the most from your taxes.

1. Don’t forget to deduct repair costs

“If you pay a repairman or other person $600 or more during the year to perform services for a client’s property, you must separately report those payments to the IRS.”

—Stephen Fishman, Tax expert, attorney, and author

2. Claim your home office

“You may not consider your rental income to be a business with a regular office, but it is. You have to record your income and expenses somewhere and that is likely to be your desk or a room in your home. If you use a room or other dedicated space in your home exclusively for your rental activities you can claim a portion of your house expenses as a deduction against your rental revenues.”

—TurboTax,  Intuit.com

3. Add additional revenue streams where possible

“In multi-family properties, look for the opportunity to add services like coin-operated laundry and vending machines, which will not only provide revenue but will add resale value by raising the property’s return on asset value, or capitalization rate.

In single-family homes, offer extra house cleaning and landscaping services to tenants when they sign the lease. They may be happy to pay extra to avoid responsibilities they’d otherwise take on. You can negotiate the rates of independent landscaping and cleaning services, contract them out, and collect a fee as the contractor. For instance, if a cleaner agrees on a $75/month fee, you may offer the service to your tenant for $85/month, increasing your annual revenue by $120.”

—Blake Hilgemann, Property Manager and contributor to BiggerPockets.com

4. Use rental losses to your benefit

“If a taxpayer is an ‘active participant’ in a real estate activity, they can normally use up to $25,000 of rental losses to offset other sources of income. Unfortunately, if a taxpayer’s Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) exceeds $100,000 those losses begin to be reduced and at $150,000 are phased out completely. Essentially, you can use rental losses to reduce your ordinary income unless you start making too much money.

One interesting exception to this is if you are a real estate professional. In those cases, the entirety of rental losses can be used against ordinary income—regardless of income level. There are other considerations, but the two main requirements are that:

  • More than one half of your personal services performed across all businesses and activities are performed in real estate trades or businesses
  • More than 750 hours of services are performed in real estate property trades or businesses in which the taxpayer materially participates

As with anything tax related, who exactly qualifies would vary on a case-by-case basis, but property management companies would be in a very good position to qualify as real estate professionals for the purpose of this deduction.”

—Micah Fraim, CPA and best-selling Amazon author

5. Minimize tax liability when you file

“Whether you’re running a property management business full-time or are a realtor who’s working as a property manager on the side, you can take steps to minimize your tax liability as a Schedule-C filer. [For example] track your mileage for every site visit and errand that you complete, which includes making bank deposits, buying office supplies, driving to the post office, affixing for rent signs, showing apartments, and attending meetings.”

—Thomas J. Williams, EA, Tax Accountant & Owner of Your Small Biz Accountant, LLC

6. Join the landlords’ association in your area

“Joining an association will provide you with a wealth of experience as well as sample leases, copies of laws and regulations, and lists of decent lawyers, contractors and inspectors. Some associations may even allow you to join before you buy a rental property.”

—Andrew Beattie, Investopedia

Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and is now a professional freelancer and consultant. She’s worked with a variety of real estate clients and publishers, and has been featured on Forbes and Market Watch. She’s also an author for Inman, House Hunt Network, Homes.com and more.

Six Do’s and Dont’s for HOA Board Meeting Success

Attend any HOA board meeting, and you’ll notice how different every board member and resident is. When it comes to your community, everyone brings their own set of opinions and preferences to the table. And while having a unique group of people with different backgrounds and viewpoints can be a great thing for your community, it may also lead to unproductive meetings and in some cases, conflict.

Your first step toward more cohesive board meetings is to enlist the help of your community management company. An experienced community management company can help you develop a great vision and give you the tools and resources to improve your board meetings. Better board meetings can play an important role in unifying your community, boosting its reputation in the market and ultimately enhancing resident lifestyles and property values.

By implementing a few principles before and during your association board meetings, you can make vast improvements to your meetings.

Read more in the article below, and fill out the form on this page to download a free, printable guide: “Six Principles for a Better Board Meeting.” By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to board meeting success.

Do: Plan ahead
As with most things in life, planning ahead is always a good idea. Before your meeting begins, review the agenda and any other need-to-know information. An accessible and responsive community manager, properly supported with the right resources from a great community management company, can develop an effective agenda for you. At FirstService Residential, community managers typically send out a board packet about five days before the meeting. This packet often includes the meeting agenda, suggested motions and answers to frequently asked questions. Plan to review this information before the meeting so that you’re prepared to tackle any important topics that may arise.

Do: Be professional
Take a deep breath and repeat the old adage, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” Occasionally, board meetings can get heated because people are passionate about their communities. In any case, it’s best to treat your position as you would a job. If you don’t think you would bring something up in a business meeting, don’t bring it up in an HOA board meeting. To make sure you and your fellow board members are on the same page, make sure that you and your board members understand the basic meeting structure and procedures involved (e.g., making and seconding motions). You will want to work with an experienced community management company that can help you get additional training on board meeting procedures and communication tactics.

Do: Keep it concise 
Who likes long meetings? Spoiler alert: No one! This is especially the case with board meetings, where long meetings can often hinder decision-making. That’s why you should aim to keep the meeting at about 45 to 60 minutes. By planning ahead and staying under an hour, you’ll be able to keep the meeting productive. To create a brief but effective agenda, you’ll need to work directly with your community manager. And your community manager should have the support and resources they need in order to help you.

Don’t: Get emotional
If you’ve been a volunteer board member for any amount of time, you know how easily a board meeting can become grounds for a personal venting session. To help combat these situations, it’s helpful to place some limitations on topics and speakers. For example, you may want to limit an individual’s time speaking on a topic to a maximum of three minutes. A well-trained community manager can help you put together proper guidelines for board meetings and facilitate them.

Don’t: Forget the rules
Board members and residents alike are held to a code of conduct that should be outlined in your governing documents. These policies are designed to ensure a respectful and courteous environment. Your board’s code of conduct should include time limitations on speakers and identify who can attend and speak at meetings, among other policies. If you don’t have a code of conduct, your community management company should be able to help you both develop and enforce one.

Don’t: Tune out
As a rule of thumb, listen more than you speak. Often, board members and residents just want to be heard and valued. Even if you don’t fully agree with what an individual has to say, you should actively listen to their concerns and opinions.

Without a doubt, HOA board meetings play an important role in your community, but they are often bogged down by conflicting opinions and differing personalities. Following these do’s and don’ts can help you avoid common roadblocks and hold more successful and productive board meetings.

A smooth and productive board meeting can go a long way in setting up your community for success. By improving your board meetings, you’ll effectively help enhance your association’s reputation and strengthen your community’s relevance in the changing market. It’s important to partner with an experienced and knowledgeable community management company that can help you develop helpful guidelines and establish best practices in order to reach those goals.

Get Your Free Guide

Want to get additional information on board and community dynamics? Fill out the form to download your complimentary guide, Six Principles for a Better Board Meeting.

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