The HOA industry has been through a year like no other and learned several lessons over the last 12 months.
The industry learned news ways to adapt quickly and dramatically to changing business conditions. It learned about the benefits of remote working and found out how vital business-to-business communication is and will continue be.
To better understand the shifting landscape, AvidXchange surveyed nearly 500 members of the Community Associations Institute (CAI). Participating members included HOA board members and property management professionals.
The purpose of our survey was to find out how these groups have been progressing in their use of accounts payable (AP) and accounting software and the challenges they’re facing with financial transactions and business projects during the pandemic.
Our findings, supported by data and qualitative insights, revealed five stark lessons learned by the HOA industry since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
5 Lessons the HOA Industry Learned During the Pandemic
1. Adaptability is key
Arguably the largest lesson learned by HOA industry pros was the importance of adaptability to changing business conditions. Survey respondents said “adaptability is key. Being able to turnkey operations and communications depending on the current environment is imperative to smooth and complete operations.”
Those surveyed learned “nothing lasts forever, to be flexible and ready to adapt to change.” They realized “there’s only one thing you can count on – change – and that you’ll “always need a way to take care of the customer.”
The survey data underscores these sentiments. Forty percent of respondents said improving adaptability and flexibility to better handle an uncertain future – such as business continuity plans — ranked as a top priority this year.
2. Prompt, complete communication is underrated
No matter the year, no matter the industry, you always hear about the importance of communications in business.
But during the pandemic communications became crucial, especially when remote. Sharing information promptly and completely and allowing owners to voice their concerns was mentioned as a must by one respondent.
Consistent with this, an AvidXchange survey conducted recently to take the temperature of mid-market businesses one year after the onset of the pandemic found nearly half or respondents (46 percent) rank miscommunication or lack of communication as a challenge for managing remote work.
To address this, nearly half (49 percent) those surveyed invested in remote communications software to overcome key challenges.
3. Remote work can boost productivity
Like so many other industries, HOA pros discovered the many business benefits of working from home, including the ability to operate as usual with a remote workforce.
Looking at the survey results, 42 percent of management company employees said at least half of their organization works remotely. Here’s a more detailed breakdown on this:
|Percent of employees working remote||Survey respondents|
One-third of respondents said “having some employees working in person and others working remote” will be one of their top challenges in 2021, but it seems the HOA industry, and others, are doing a strong job clearing that hurdle. Association boards have even discovered that homeowners are more likely to join HOA meetings when they can do so from the comfort of their homes.
Of course, organizations need to ensure the right technology is in place to enable their employees to successfully work remotely. In a separate AvidXchange survey, 64 percent of business leaders said they have the right technology in place to enable a fully remote workforce. At this time last year, only 37 percent said they were ready for the shift.
4. Health and safety are critical for employees and association members
HOA managers also had to be more mindful than ever about conducting business in a careful, health-conscious manner, while association boards were challenged to maintain community safety for homeowners.
Nearly half of survey participants (47 percent) said implementing new precautions and health safety measures for common areas and amenities.
Another big challenge?
Holding revenue generating programs and community events with social distancing guidelines was cited by 23 percent.
Sixty percent already use technology that minimizes in-person interactions while creating a better experience for current and potential tenants. This year, an additional 14 percent plan to use/adopt this type of technology.
For their part, HOA board members said they’ve had to prioritize dealing with residents (owners and renters) who’ve refused to follow COVID-19 restrictions. Examples? Wearing masks in common areas, social distancing and keeping the community gym closed.
5. Technology, online platforms are more needed than ever
Respondents often referenced the need to have state of the art technology to drive efficient, effective business processes and recognized the need to move to online platforms.
The survey data reflects those sentiments. A large majority (78 percent) said a top priority is improving and enhancing operational efficiencies to save time, money and reduce risks.
From a payment perspective, the HOA industry saw firsthand the importance of fast payments, clean records and reporting and lower overall costs for invoicing and payment processing.
We asked about plans to use an AP solution to address efficiency concerns. Fifty-five percent have adopted a solution, while another 26 percent are either passively or actively seeking one.
Within the next year, 48 percent of those searching for an AP solution said they are likely to adopt one.
These were the leading motivating factors:
Arguably the most glowing number for this industry is that only 6 percent of respondents plan to scale back operations until more certainty exists in the market. This demonstrates the optimism felt by both association managers and boards for the year ahead.
From all the insights and data, what is most important to remember?
- Investment in technology, especially to automate invoice and payment processes, can help management companies and community associations become more efficient, lower costs and improve vendor relationships.
- AP automation enables a remote workforce without disruptions to the invoice and payment process. It was proven during the pandemic.
- Understand the benefits of technology to cope with a health crisis. Using cloud-based automation software, employees can manage their invoice-to-pay process remotely, reducing the urgency of office and association visits. Multi-level approvals and signatures can occur with the click of a button! This helps keep managers, board members, and homeowners safe while allowing for optimized operations.
Those three points, along with the five lessons learned, are invaluable as the HOA industry turns a corner on 2020’s challenges and looks to drive business growth in the coming year and beyond.