Herrington: HOAs may be preserving Valley of the Sun communities to death

Thousands of homeowners associations have been formed throughout the Valley over the past 30 years. As a result, literally hundreds of thousands of Valley households fall within the purview of these volunteer-led organizations.

Brent Herrington

In each case, the HOA was established by a builder or developer to help maintain common areas and preserve the aesthetics of a new neighborhood. In what might be one of the greatest ironies of the modern era, and in far too many cases, these HOAs and their volunteer boards are guilty of “preserving” their communities to death.

The preferences of consumers are continually evolving. Yet, most HOA boards believe it’s their solemn duty to mindlessly preserve the original “look” of their aging neighborhoods, no matter how dated and undesirable the neighborhood’s style might have become. This is wrong-headed, a monumental mistake and can lead to disastrous consequences.

Over the lifecycle of any community, circumstances change. An HOA’s desire to preserve every detail of the neighborhood’s original look makes reasonable sense in the first decade, makes less sense in the second decade, and makes no sense in the third decade and beyond.

Enhancement, adaptation and reinvestment are essential ingredients in neighborhoods that age gracefully over time. Driving through many Valley neighborhoods built in the 1980s is like entering a time warp. The tireless diligence of HOA boards has ensured that, two, decades later, every house is still painted the builder’s original “production house beige.”

The entry monument at the front of the subdivision is usually still there, except that it now looks dated and much of the original landscaping around it has gradually failed. The neighborhood pool area typically is a dreary monument to the builder mediocrity and clearly shows the effects of 20 years of low-bidder maintenance by the HOA.

However misguided, most HOA boards believe they’re protecting property values by ensuring the aesthetics of the subdivision remain rigid and unyielding. As a result, thousands of Valley neighborhoods look out-of-date and unappealing long before their original homeowners have paid off their 30-year mortgages.

Unless HOA boards learn to think differently, these subdivisions will grow even less desirable with each passing year, and the spiral of decline will accelerate. This will have a long-term, corrosive effect on property values and damage the interests of the very people the HOA was intended to serve.

Here’s the good news; older neighborhoods in the Valley retain at least one important advantage over newer neighborhoods. Location! Older neighborhoods have the opportunity to reinvent themselves and offer stiff competition to newer neighborhoods located farther away.

A few bold moves by a visionary HOA board can make an enormous difference in the neighborhood’s future.

Any HOA can, for example, adopt a new and more diverse paint palette. It can work with local architects to explore strategies for exterior or style enhancements that homeowners can be invited to pursue. It can take bold steps to remodel and reinvent the neighborhood parks and amenities. It can even take field trips to newer communities to gain insight into competitive trends in the marketplace.

These types of initiatives can help trigger a positive spiral of reinvestment renewal and long-term commitment by existing residents. They also can make the neighborhood more desirable to prospective homebuyers and help drive higher property values.

Editor’s note: Mr. Herrington is senior vice president of DMB Associates Inc., and former general manager of DC Ranch in north Scottsdale

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment