Let's take an imaginary walk with a prospective buyer up to the doorway of their future home in your condominium development. Take a look at the wilted, dried-up flowerbeds that haven't seen care or maintenance in months. Attractive, aren't they? Or what about the common area that's dotted with rusted, broken patio furniture that the association board has been talking about replacing for years? Or the neighbor's array of blinking neon holiday signs? Maybe they'll put them away before next Christmas, even though you have sent them too many notices to count. And let's not even get started on the front doors that are crying out for a new paint job. If you were thinking of purchasing a home, would you sign on the dotted line in a community in such disarray?
Probably not. A large percentage of homebuyers decide whether or not to look inside a house based on its "curb appeal"—which is the view they see when they drive by or arrive for a showing. Attractiveness and curb appeal are both vital to an association's sense of community pride and overall value. After all, it's hard to attract prospective homebuyers if the flowerbeds are unruly, or members' homes or units are shabby, mismatched, and in disarray.
So what is curb appeal? It involves a wide range of factors, from making certain improvements to the property, such as planting a beautiful landscape, to painting the doors, cleaning the windows or adding special accessories, like better lighting, attractive mailboxes or even doormats.
Check the Rules
As important as they are, it will come as no surprise to boards and managers that aesthetics and matters of taste can be some of the most hotly debated aspects of HOA administration. Thankfully, when deciding on the exterior aesthetics of an association, there are usually at least a few guidelines or rules in place that determine what's allowed and what's prohibited.
"The developer has already developed the bylaws and it's already set up to benefit the neighborhood," says Dean N. Carpenter, chief executive officer of Houston Landscapes Unlimited, a national landscaping company based in Sugarland, Texas. "The developer's whole objective is to do a first-class job and design beautiful curb appeal to increase the building's visibility and invite people to come into the home and to try and sway them to buy in the neighborhood."