Tips for Planning and Prioritizing your HOA Projects in the New Year


After the rush of the holidays inevitably comes the grind of the New Year. You’re back to work and back to your HOA duties. Hopefully, your inbox isn’t too overwhelming because now is the time to plan.

Everybody wants to start a new year with a bright, shiny, exciting project. Something with curb appeal, a project that will make homeowners happy. But that really isn’t where you need to begin.

Our first tip for planning and prioritizing your HOA projects is to start with the needs before even considering the wants. That’s right, we’re talking about maintenance.

Maintenance is not usually exciting or pretty. It’s often not even visible. But you know that it underpins everything else you do for your community. If your infrastructure isn’t maintained, components wear out and fail. They may become dangerous, and unmaintained property looks horrible.

The only time homeowners pay attention to maintenance is when it isn’t done. So let’s get to it!

Evaluate Completed Projects

Start this year’s projects by looking back at the old ones. Check on the status of last year’s projects. What was completed? Is anything partially completed? How much did each one cost?

Use your HOA planning software like to look over the details of every major project from at least the past year. Major projects include component repair and replacement, upgrades, new structures, and major landscaping. They include anything that the HOA paid for using reserve funding.

Some of those projects may have been emergencies. Storm damage, wildfire damage, or other unexpected events generally get priority.

When you look back at the previous year, check how many of your projects were planned and how many were emergencies. If you had a lot of unexpected repairs, find out if any planned maintenance was pushed back.

Look closely at individual projects. Were they completed on the expected timeline? Did they come in over or under budget? Was the work satisfactory?

These are the questions that will inform your project management moving forward. If you significantly underestimated the time or cost of a project, try to figure out why. Did you get enough bids? Do you need to choose different vendors? Do you need to re-evaluate your expectations?

If you work with a property management company, they are a valuable resource. They will help you dig out the root causes of project delays and cost overruns.

This seems like a lot of questions to ask about maintenance that’s been completed. But it is the best way to improve your HOA’s project management going forward.

Take a Walk

Depending on the size, scope, and location of your community, the beginning of the year can be a good time to have a look around. Take your time and make a list of anything visibly in need of repair.

Check pavement, fences, landscaping, and building exteriors. Anything you see that’s a safety hazard goes directly to the top of your priorities. It can be easy for an HOA board to miss things like cracked walkways or damaged fences.

It’s a good idea to walk the community regularly so you can make repairs while problems are small and manageable.

Review Your Reserve Study

Now that your HOA board has looked back, and hopefully has some new insights, it’s time to look forward. The single best place to start is with your reserve study.

This document has your timeline for expected maintenance. It will tell you when you need to have the funds to replace your roof, when you can expect your furnace to quit, and much more.

This professionally prepared maintenance primer should be reviewed before any project planning takes place. Communities can get lost in the weeds of new features, renovations, and cosmetic improvements. But if your reserve study says this is the year to upgrade your electrical system, then that comes first.

If the study is more than three years old, consider getting a new one. Economic conditions, emergency repairs, and other factors make your reserve study less accurate over time.

Your review will remind you of major maintenance to be scheduled for the coming year. It will also remind you if you pushed projects back due to tight budgets or emergency spending.

Having and following an up-to-date reserve study is the number one best practice for HOA project management.

Use Homey’s tools for long-term financial planning to understand and act on your reserve study recommendations. You can create actionable tasks directly from your study and model different financial scenarios to fund them.

Assess Your Reserve Fund

You can do this before or after you review your reserve study. The two go hand-in-hand. The reserve study informs the amount of money you place into the reserve fund to cover anticipated major projects.

If your reserve fund is running low because of underfunding or emergency spending, kick some aesthetic projects down on the priorities list. If emergency spending takes a chunk out of your reserves, make sure your HOA has adequate insurance coverage and buffers built into the budget.

The job of your HOA board is to balance the projects that need to be done with the funds available. No one wants to raise fees, but if you have large projects looming that aren’t adequately funded, it’s better than a special assessment.

Your reserve study gives you the time you need to plan for major maintenance. Make sure you use that time wisely and shore up your funding.

It is never in the best interest of the community to push back recommended maintenance. These are the projects that provide a solid foundation for every homeowner. Well-maintained properties have and retain more value over time, are safer, and are more desirable for potential new homeowners. The industry has learned many valuable lessons from tragic disasters like the Surfside Condo collapse. Prioritize the maintenance and upkeep of your building.

Project Management: Prioritizing and Planning

Once you’ve done the legwork and know what your community needs, it’s time to prioritize. Maintenance projects that involve imminent safety hazards go at the top of the list. That may be a tree that needs to come down or a sinkhole that needs to be filled.

These projects may be large or small, but they should be tackled before anything else.

If your reserve study has large maintenance projects for the coming year, now is the time to get them moving. Setting timelines, contacting vendors, and outlining the scope of each project should be done well before any of them begin.

Project management is one of the primary functions of the HOA board. It’s up to those board members to know when a heavy maintenance year is coming and plan accordingly.

It’s also up to the board to make sure every project gets done in a way that benefits the community. Project management tools like Homey help the board track expenses, adjust budgets, and make sure every project is completed satisfactorily.

If your HOA finds managing projects is overwhelming for its board, consider hiring a property management company. They have the knowledge and experience to use project management best practices for everything from a hole in the fence to a complete plumbing overhaul.

The devil is in the details with HOA maintenance. Once the board maps out what needs to be done in the coming year the hard work begins. Managing those projects from start to finish is a big job. Make it easier with Homey’s single-platform, comprehensive HOA management software.

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