Your association’s landscape is such an important element of its overall appeal. Not only is it the first thing that potential home buyers notice, but it also helps current residents feel like they’re getting the full experience an HOA offers and a good return on their dues investment.
There is no denying that the outdoor areas that make up your HOA community will always be important. Whether it’s making that great first impression or it’s keeping current residents happy, the landscaping is an element that requires ongoing upkeep. From mowing turf areas, caring for the community’s trees, tackling irrigation needs, or beautiful enhancement work, like the rotation of seasonal flowers, the landscape is a critical part of your HOA.
Given its importance, you need a guide who can help you stay on top of the latest trends. In order to do that for our current and future clients, Yellowstone Landscape presents this 2021 HOA Trends Report to help lead you toward the best choices for your property.
Click on the links below to jump between sections.
Your HOA’s landscaping is intrinsically linked to overall property value. Current residents know that a well-maintained landscape is a big part of their dues investment, and they want to continually see that they’re getting the most out of that investment. Because the landscape is such a focal point, your residents expect that you’re choosing landscaping service partners who are keeping up with the latest trends.
As a national company, we have the unique opportunity to view these trends from a larger perspective than most and we feel it’s our duty to share some of that insight with our clients.
Stormwater management is undeniably a hot topic when it comes to HOA landscaping. The way in which water moves through the landscape following a storm can be the difference between a series of problems like soil erosion and runoff or a landscape that can effectively handle excess water.
The stormwater management solution that is best for your HOA is going to depend upon the specifics of your property. The process starts with identifying issues.
For instance, answering some of the following questions will help.
There are a number of landscaping solutions that can be implemented to address these concerns. Oftentimes, the goal is slowing the flow of water, something that can be achieved with the proper selection of plants installed in areas where runoff is likely. Creating areas that allow water to naturally infiltrate the soil is one of the best solutions for intercepting runoff.
However, if the stormwater management issue is related to hardscape areas, the use of permeable pavers might be worth exploring. Permeable pavers work by filtering pollutants, reducing water runoff, and keeping water on-site by allowing it to seep through. Permeable pavers allow water to flow between the joints into sub-base drainage layers, reducing the amount of water that becomes runoff and causing potential problems for your HOA.
Of course, excess water runoff is not an HOA’s only potential problem. Many HOAs in drought-prone areas are more likely to deal with issues related to a lack of water, rather than handling too much water. When working in an area that requires drought management solutions, we’re often thinking about ways that we can incorporate native plants, which are those that occur naturally in a particular region or ecosystem. Because native plants are naturally adapted to local, dry conditions, they require less water.
The use of native plants can also be part of an effort to “Xeriscape.”
Xeriscaping is the process of landscaping in a style that requires little or no irrigation.
The idea when xeriscaping is to create a visually attractive landscape that intentionally chooses drought-tolerant plants, without detracting from the overall aesthetic of the property’s landscaped areas. Although there’s a common misconception that xeriscaping just means a bunch of cacti or succulents, in reality, there are many attractive plant varieties that can fit into a xeric landscape design. Choosing a commercial landscape company that has extensive horticultural experience (including a deep knowledge of plants that can thrive in dry conditions) will make a big difference in your results.
While you may automatically associate landscaping with plants, the truth is that many HOAs are also finding creative ways to use rock to enhance their property. Incorporating natural boulders or even decomposed granite into your landscape design adds tremendous visual impact without adding more maintenance costs. And as an added bonus, decorative rock doesn’t require nearly the same amount of consistent care that plants do.
We find that many HOAs want their landscape to look “full” and “robust” but they don’t necessarily want to fill every inch of it with plant material. The more plants you have, the more care will be needed.
Another huge landscaping trend that continues to evolve every year is the development of smart irrigation technology. Water is a precious commodity across the globe—of course, in certain drought-prone areas it is even more urgent that no water is wasted. An upgrade to a smart irrigation controller can make a world of difference.
Rather than following a preset watering schedule, smart irrigation controllers make real-time adjustments to watering based on the current weather conditions. Bluetooth and other internet-connected smart irrigation controllers continue to improve and offer richer feature sets for our irrigation specialists. These systems allow us to monitor your community’s system remotely and diagnose problems immediately. One of the best ways to achieve a lush green lawn or thriving landscape while also saving money on water usage is to upgrade to a modern, smart irrigation system.
Robotics has revolutionized so many different industries so it probably comes as no big surprise that they’ve now made an appearance in landscaping. A robotic mower is one that is autonomous, meaning it operates on its own. Instead of having a crew come out to mow your HOA lawn each week, you might have a fleet of robotic mowers handling the task.
Of course, this technology is still relatively new. But as a company that cares about remaining on the leading edge and keeping up with advances in our industry, it’s something that we’ve already been piloting—mostly in large open spaces. At the moment of publishing this report, the technology isn’t quite ready for highly detailed areas. However, it’s definitely something that you should have on your radar and it’s something that we’re watching closely in 2021 and beyond.
Of course, not all HOA trends are directly tied to landscaping. It’s also important that you and your commercial landscaping company are keeping up with what’s new in the world of professional community management.
As a service partner to hundreds of communities across the country, we have a unique vantage point to see what the most effectively managed HOAs are doing.
Technology is continually evolving and creating ways to improve life and business. As an HOA, you not only want to be up-to-date on technology that you can use within your community, but you want to know that the vendors you’re using are also utilizing technology in a way that benefits you and your residents.
Let’s look at both scenarios.
Within the HOAs that we partner with, community management software is becoming the standard. Being able to provide electronic notifications to your residents and allow them to perform tasks electronically, such as paying dues or creating service tickets, is swiftly becoming the norm for larger communities.
Residents have come to expect fast communication and easy task management. From messaging apps to banking and paying bills, people are already accustomed to using technology in their everyday life.
But beyond the day-to-day communication and operations, the board of directors should be able to communicate rapidly to residents in the event of an emergency. Community management software is often the simplest answer to many common communication issues.
Of course, you also want your vendors to use software to the fullest. Just like community management software can make you better, vendor management software can help your vendors perform optimally. For instance, your commercial landscaping company should be utilizing a comprehensive software system that helps them to be more efficient.
At Yellowstone Landscape, our implementation of a comprehensive, industry-specific software system has brought so many benefits, including:
Beyond software and technology, another major area that we’re seeing HOAs invest in is their community amenities. These areas seem to be more important than ever to potential homebuyers who are looking for a “live-work-play” experience in the community where they choose to buy.
Here are some amenities that we’re seeing communities invest in.
These amenities have always been important but in recent years have transitioned more into the “must-have” category (rather than a “nice to have” extra). It’s almost an expectation of potential home buyers to have these types of amenities. As a result, many HOAs are raising the bar.
For instance, a fitness center with a couple of treadmills is no longer impressive. Instead, many HOAs are looking to add other fitness opportunities like walking trails with fitness stations, sports fields, and pools with added amenities like splash parks, fountains, and more.
In general, remaining active is a trend that’s not going away. So, anything that can be done to help residents participate in fitness opportunities is going to be a major draw for your community.
Coworking spaces can also make great amenities for HOA communities. With more people working from home than ever before, we see these transitioning from a nice perk to a necessity.
One of the benefits of working from home is the possibility to work outdoors, so we’re seeing greater interest in well-landscaped and nicely maintained outdoor areas that have WiFi access. These might include comfortable, shaded outdoor seating areas with a nearby coffee shop or snack station.
We believe these types of spaces will be a bigger draw than ever before in the coming years as the work-from-home trend becomes more the norm for more of your residents. And now that more businesses are starting to recognize that they can save on brick-and-mortar office space, more people are going to be looking for remote workspaces.
Although not exactly an amenity, we’re also seeing more interest in hosting outdoor community events than ever before. We’re mowing previously unused fields and empty lots or helping our clients dress up different outdoor spaces in order to allow for some of these unique outdoor events to take place.
We’ve already touched on the importance of enhanced communication as it relates to software, but in general, improving communication is a trend that HOAs are moving toward. Good communication between board members and residents has always been important, but we’re seeing changes in the ways communities are communicating.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, a number of changes have been making their way through the HOA communities that we’ve worked with, and many of these changes are here to stay. In some ways, the pandemic brought to light ways that communities can keep their residents safe and offer a place to escape from the troubles of the world.
In many ways, it’s also changed residents’ mindsets. More people than ever are looking to get the most out of their homes. They may be traveling less or working from home, and they are more invested in ever than getting the most out of their community.
Whether it’s limiting the use of indoor areas, posting handwashing policies, or mask-wearing in certain areas of the community, we have seen a lot of policies and procedures implemented amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of these will be here to stay, others will fade, but they all demonstrate HOAs’ willingness to step up and enhance safety where it’s needed.
The pandemic also brought to light more interest in home-grown food. As certain areas experienced shortages in certain food items, we saw residents begin growing their own herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Of course, many HOAs have had policies against residential gardens. Some of these were amended, while in other places, community gardens were planned in common areas.
Another noticeable change was the number of people home during the day. As work-from-home scenarios continue for many into 2021 (and beyond), one thing many communities have had to think about is the number of vehicles parked along roads. This can impact maintenance and even the overall look of the community. But the biggest threat has been to the safety of the community. Parking laws have been updated and greater efforts made to enforce where vehicles should and should not be parked.
As we mentioned in our earlier trends section, outdoor amenities and gathering spaces are more valued than ever before, with people looking to spend more time outside. Avoiding close quarters and achieving ample social distancing made a need for these types of spaces imperative. But many residents also thoroughly enjoy time outside, even if it did take the pandemic to bring to light the many varied possibilities.
Another noticeable result of the pandemic has been the increased attention being paid to service providers working in the community. As residents were home more than ever, they had more time to watch how the landscape contractors and other vendors work in and around their neighborhood. That extra attention from residents often resulted in compliments and appreciation, but some residents often feel the need to report what they see when they believe something should be done differently.
Fortunately, those communities who were already partnered with proactive vendors did not have to bear the brunt of this increased communication as their landscape contractor was equipped to handle it.
At Yellowstone Landscape, we have certainly worked with communities that were made up of highly involved residents who wanted direct communication with us (the landscape vendor). Rather than add to the property manager’s workload, we incorporated customer portal technology to systematically handle resident requests and inquiries.
This type of technology is particularly useful within communities in which we serviced individual homeowner yards, in addition to common areas. With more residents at home, we did notice an increase in the number of tickets, but we were able to handle these and keep the hassles off of property managers’ plates.
We commend you for your desire to keep up with the latest trends. It shows your desire to continually learn and bring in new ideas, something that will help protect your residents’ home values but will also continue to inspire new home buyers to choose your community.
As a commercial landscape company, we also value keeping up with what’s new.
Rather than becoming stagnant, we are continually looking at ways that we can advance and improve in order to be better, not only for the team that we employ but also for the communities that we serve.
We appreciate that the landscapes we create and maintain have a direct correlation to the value of those communities as a whole—and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.
We know that HOAs with well-maintained green spaces and exciting outdoor amenities are the ones that attract the most home buyers and generate the best resale values. That’s why we are truly committed to the role that we play in those communities. We care deeply about developing partnerships with property managers, community board members, and even the residents in those HOAs that we serve so that we can continue to offer you the best.
Are you looking to partner with a commercial landscape company that has your HOA’s best interest at heart? Request a consultation today. We’ll meet to learn more about your property and its challenges and come up with a comprehensive plan to take care of all of the details for you.