The Ultimate Landscaping Guide for HOA Board Members
Tips For Maintaining Your Northeast Ohio HOA Landscape
Tips For Maintaining Your Northeast Ohio HOA Landscape
As a homeowners’ association (HOA) board member, you want to draw people into your HOA, and once they are in, you want people to stay and enjoy your HOA. In other words, you want to retain those homeowners, giving them a place they can be proud to live in and enjoy.
Your common areas and landscaping can make a huge difference in HOA property values. Board members who can ensure their community’s landscaping is in prime shape can keep their members satisfied and their community competitive.
Improve your occupancy rates with this guide to everything you need to know about managing your community’s landscaping as a Northeast Ohio HOA board member.
Well-maintained HOA common areas can mean all the difference in how your members feel about their local community.
You want to maintain your HOA landscaping in the most cost-effective manner possible while achieving a premium appearance. We completely understand. Here are some ways you can maximize your HOA’s common areas.
As an HOA board member, looking at renovating your community's common areas can feel overwhelming. This is especially true if your areas have been neglected or need updating.
But renovating an outdated HOA landscape doesn’t have to happen in one season or even as one large renovation project.
With proper planning, you can create a master plan. This can budget your renovations across multiple seasons to help spread out the cost and work and deliver the HOA landscape that’s best for your community.
Focal points – or places that are very visible in your HOA landscape – are great targets for maintenance and updates.
Focal points include entrances, signage, street corners, cul-de-sacs, shared walkways or paths, shared facilities, and any other landscape areas that are not privately owned.
Your entryways are the gateways to your HOA. They are where homeowners come and go through every day, as well as visitors, delivery trucks, etc.
Trim trees and shrubs so signage is readable and entryways are visible. Add colorful annuals or flowers in containers to bring brightness and elegance. Ensure entryway plantings are installed with a layered look to draw eyes in – from groundcovers to perennials to medium-sized shrubs to taller shrubs, grasses, and trees framing the back. Place low-growing, bold annuals in front of signs and arrange tall shrubs behind them to boost your community’s appeal. Use a nice blend of perennials and annuals in your landscape beds for instant impact.
Additionally, add mulch annually to keep weeds at bay and enhance your landscape’s tidiness and visual appeal.
Native plants are those that occur naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or local habitat.
What this means is they take less energy to grow because they are already adapted to growing in your region. While your grounds maintenance team still has to follow proper planting rules when installing natives, which means placing plants in the soil they prefer and ensuring they receive the right amount of sunlight and adequate moisture, the plants can settle in and live longer as a result of being great fits for the area. And they can do all this with less maintenance.
For your HOA common areas, try eastern hemlock or black gum trees and Virginia sweetspire, red twig dogwood, and winterberry holly shrubs as native options. Native perennials that could suit your property well are coneflower, coral bells, and phlox. Little bluestem is a great native grass for Northeast Ohio.
Irrigation system problems in your HOA common areas can lead to expensive water waste.
Having your irrigation system regularly inspected and maintained to prevent leaks is a way to make your HOA property look better for less cost.
Irrigation systems that work correctly will water different areas of your HOA based on their specific needs, keeping lawn areas, plants, shrubs, and trees looking great and improving facility curb appeal. It also saves you money because you’ll replace plants less frequently.
And keeping sprinkler heads working correctly means no leaks or pools of water that could cause slippery, muddy areas or lead to icy patches.
Northeast Ohio HOA board members certainly know this area can receive its fair share of wintery weather. And having sheets of ice and piles of snow can definitely pose a safety risk in your common areas if not taken care of properly.
Keep parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, walkways, and steps free of ice and snow to ensure slip-free surfaces. Include snow and ice management services in your commercial property maintenance plan. Even though Mother Nature isn’t always predictable, when the weather does turn, you want to be ready.
Left unattended, your plants can grow wild, block signage, and give visitors a difficult time navigating your HOA. Tall, overgrown shrubs can even become places for intruders to hide, and unstable tree branches can fall, injuring property, vehicles, or people. Ice and water issues can cause mold growth and slip-and-fall incidents. You don’t want these problems on your HOA.
Hiring a commercial landscaping team to maintain your HOA common areas can ensure your trees and shrubs are regularly trimmed, turf is mowed and tidy, trash is picked up, drainage and irrigation are managed, snow and ice are cleared, and improvements are made.
In addition to creating aesthetically pleasing common areas, amplifying your HOA’s reputation and community presence with great landscaping can also help set the standard for the homes in your community and how their landscaping should look.
You may want to draft a communication plan for your HOA to maintain a consistently pleasing look on your property.
Try these strategies when coming up with some rules for homeowners to follow:
1. Make sure members know what landscaping and outdoor maintenance are included with the HOA’s dues and what landscaping and outdoor maintenance is their responsibility.
2. Include a summary of any contract between the HOA and the commercial landscape professional as it pertains to the owners in your communication with members.
3. Stress that the timing of certain services may not be as regular as your members would wish, but they will be taken care of; owners don't have to do this work themselves.
4. If you choose to embrace a seamless look in your HOA, share your preferred plant palette with your members. Plant palettes create consistent colors and themes throughout your site, giving it a more uniform look.
When prospective home buyers take a drive through your Northeast Ohio HOA, they are looking at more than just a house they are interested in. They are checking out the community, too, and this includes your HOA amenities and common areas. They want to know if they look fun, useful, relaxing, enjoyable, and well-maintained.
Adding some impact to these HOA spaces with the following simple ideas can do quite a bit to amplify community value and keep people interested in moving into your HOA and staying there.
Applying fresh mulch to your HOA common area landscape beds can instantly give dull, tired plants new life.
In addition to being an aesthetic refresher, mulch also helps your plants retain moisture, saving you money on your water bill by reducing irrigation. Mulch can also block weeds from emerging.
If you’re wondering about timing, apply mulch in the spring for the greatest return on investment.
Eye-catching plants can boost common areas in your HOA.
Focus on spaces that offer immediate impacts like entranceways, signage, street medians, cul-de-sacs, and shared facility areas like pools, clubhouses, guest parking, and recreation areas.
Perennials and shrubs can add interest, texture, and variety. Annuals can bring impact to these spaces with lots of eye-popping colors.
Site furnishings that are worn out, scratched, broken, or falling apart can detract from your HOA’s image.
But when they look good and coordinate with your site amenities, they add great value.
Assess the condition of your site’s furnishings and then make a plan to replace those that have seen better days. For instance, you can get more modern benches for common areas or replace old garbage cans.
Make sure to coordinate HOA structures, containers, and color schemes.
Aeration and overseeding are beneficial for your lawn and soil, but you might underestimate these services because the results aren’t immediate.
Performing these services in the fall, in fact, can improve the health, greenness, and thickness of your lawn areas come springtime.
For HOAs where the homeowners have smaller yards, this can also boost the use of your common lawn spaces for gatherings, get-togethers, and outdoor relaxation.
Trees and shrubs add tremendous value to your HOA, but dying, diseased, or dead plants can make an area look outdated. It can also create safety hazards on your site from weak limbs, as well as cost you money in possible repairs and replacements.
Proper annual pruning can decrease your liability, but an additional level of trimming called dormant pruning can be beneficial as well. It takes place in the winter months when your deciduous trees are dormant. The result is an influx of healthy growth the following spring.
As an HOA board member, you may find yourself looking at several bids that detail landscape maintenance plans for your HOA.
Since no two contracts are worded the same, the whole process can be confusing. At the end of the day, you just want to hire a company that can keep your HOA looking great.
Typical HOA contracts in Northeast Ohio are approximately eight months in length, running from April 1 to November 30 each year.
Here are four of the key areas to focus on when reviewing your contract.
Your HOA landscape maintenance contract should list the services that your commercial landscape professional will perform, including mowing, edging, fertilization, pruning, mulch installations, and spring and fall cleanups.
Frequency and included locations are important to list as well. In fact, your contract should include the basic services, as well as any additional value they provide. Edging, for instance, should be included with mowing, so you aren’t nickeled and dimed for these tasks later.
To ensure your service provider meets your demands, outline your expectations for how you like your lawn mowed, as well as any specifics necessary for special areas. For pruning, outline areas that are important for visibility that you’d like kept clear. Cleanup may involve removing fallen branches, as well as picking up trash in common areas. Think about what areas you’d like freshly mulched each year.
Frequency is also important to discuss. Mowing may be weekly, but pruning may be something you want to be done annually or when there is overgrowth.
Your commercial landscape professional should be happy to discuss your expectations with you.
Since every HOA is different, make sure to list key areas for landscape maintenance in your contract.
For instance, some HOA properties focus on common areas, while individual yards are left to the care of the homeowners. At other HOAs, the maintenance fees include mowing individual front yards, as well as common or shared areas, while back and side yards are left to homeowners to manage themselves.
Your contract must outline which areas you want to be maintained and which ones you don’t. A community map can help you easily outline these goals and clearly mark them. The right landscape professional can help create this map with you if you don’t already have one.
An HOA attracts residents and retains them by having a look and feel that is all its own, so your contract should list landscape design and maintenance specifics that match your HOA’s brand and overall look and feel.
Giving your commercial landscape professional a master plan that shares your plant palette for consistency can help. If you don’t have a master plan or plant palette, your contractor should be able to help you create one.
As the board, you have to answer questions from your HOA’s homeowners as well, who may nitpick landscape services or inquire about common areas, etc.
When you set your HOA landscape maintenance contract, you should make sure it includes ways for property owners to talk with the landscape company about correcting problems or answering questions. This ensures that everyone is happy with the process and knows how to respond or take action from the start.
Additionally, your landscape professional should know how to work with and respond to your HOA’s homeowners to maintain strong community relationships.
This can certainly be a tricky area. You may have one resident that likes to talk to the landscape professional weekly, while others ignore them. Your commercial landscape professional should be able to keep the peace, making residents happy, while also getting their jobs done in a timely and quality fashion.
Having the same crew and crew leader on your property can ensure consistent service and results.
When it comes to budgeting, you may find benefits in a long-term contract versus an annual one for your HOA.
For instance, a three-year commercial landscape maintenance contract typically locks in a price for all three years. This way, you know there won’t be any surprises in your budget for that amount of time.
What’s more, a longer-term contract can help you plan better. If you want to work on an entranceway renovation or area on your property that needs attention, for instance, you can phase it out to complete it over time. This could give you a chance to tackle a bigger project that you have always wanted to address but never had the chance to with your limited annual budget.
When you’re renewing a contract annually, your maintenance prices may go up – not only because of the rising cost of materials but also due to the lack of stability in the labor market because labor is a landscape professional’s biggest expense. Plus, you don’t get to plan out any strategies beyond one year.
While you might think you can get short-term gains because you can negotiate annually, the cheapest price doesn’t always mean the greatest value when choosing a commercial landscape maintenance provider.
Now that you know what should be involved in your HOA landscape maintenance contract, you also want to know what to look for when partnering with the right commercial landscape professional.
Let’s look at some things you should pay special attention to when choosing your landscape service provider.
Commercial maintenance programs can vary greatly based on the size of your HOA, as well as the level of complexity and attention required in certain areas. All of these details can influence costs.
When a landscape company estimates your project, multiple staff members should be spending between 100 to 500 hours on your HOA doing the preliminary work necessary to give you the best plan and pricing possible. They do this to get the best feel for traffic and pedestrian flow on your site, as well as notice focal areas that need attention. They walk the site to check its safety. They identify critical areas for drainage, irrigation, or snow and ice management. They accurately measure the site. They ask you and your fellow board members questions and welcome questions in return. They do their homework on what is most important to your HOA.
Make sure your landscape professional knows what’s most important to you during this exploratory process as they estimate your maintenance costs.
Whether your HOA is large enough to require a dedicated crew of multiple team members each day or the weekly presence of a landscape crew, your professional landscape team should become an extension of your HOA team.
Your HOA is a living, breathing space with constant movement from vehicles, homeowners, and pedestrians throughout the day. Your partnership with a commercial landscape professional includes knowing that the crew will turn off equipment when groups of people are passing by and clean off mowed spots before moving on to the next to ensure each area remains tidy and reflects a positive presence. It’s just common courtesy and a key part of good service.
The professional landscape crew members who perform work on your HOA are the most essential parts of keeping your site looking good, positively boosting your image and home values, as well as proactively meeting your demands and suggesting improvements within your budget restraints.
Therefore, you want to know if you are getting professionals who are worth the price. Just like anything else, lower prices could mean less experienced crews unfamiliar with the specifics of an HOA.
Experience also means knowing how to regularly walk your property, looking for improvements, and proactively addressing any maintenance issues.
Keeping in touch with you is also crucial to understanding your changing challenges and needs. For instance, your service professional should be willing to attend board meetings to ensure they don’t miss anything important to the HOA. They should also make sure to look at quality control on your site, ensuring things are running smoothly.
As you compare the top commercial landscaping companies in Northeast Ohio, we hope you’ll consider Turfscape in your search.
We started our business in 1988 with the goal of providing responsive commercial landscape services to the Northeast Ohio community. Our focus has always been and will always be on commercial landscaping, which includes HOA maintenance and improvement because we believe embracing that core focus makes us better.
We also guarantee same-day communication with our customers. This doesn't always mean we can solve your problem in 24 hours, but we will text, email, or call you back, depending on your preference, and let you know we’re aware of your question or issue and that we’re working on it.
Doing your research on which landscape company is a good fit for your HOA is important. Having trouble with this process? We’d love to help and learn more about your community. Get started today with a free quote for your Northeast Ohio HOA. We’ll review your options together so you can feel confident and make a great choice.