Creating Community It Takes a Village

People buy into condo and HOA communities for many different reasons. Some are attracted by the amenities that common spaces can offer, and many in Florida seek a vacation-style environment that doubles as a smart real estate investment. Ironically, most buyers see the prospect of living in an established community with nearby neighbors as a means to and end. The fact that others buy into the same development makes the pools, gyms, and golf courses possible. There may be a polite “hello” here and there, but often fellow unit owners coexist more or less on the basis of strangers. I do my thing, you do yours, and let's both respect that.

But, property managers and boards, in particular, are starting to understand the disadvantages and missed opportunities that come from the residential isolation we see in associations. Americans have placed so much value on privacy and individual comfort, a new set of complications have arisen because of it. Where else but in an association would a greater sense of community and belonging provide some real benefits? Your neighbor, just like you, has made a major financial investment that, in part, depends on the overall health of the association as a whole. Everyone has a common cause, so why not get to know each other a little bit?

Closed Door Meetings

No two associations are exactly the same, and there are plenty of condo and HOA communities that remain tight-knit, whether it's based on gregarious neighbors or long-fostered relationships. For instance, one community in Bal Harbour, says Louis Pincus, vice president of client relations at FirstService Residential Florida’s South Florida hi-rise division, acts almost like an extended family. “Those units very seldom come up for sale. Some of the people have lived there since the building opened. They all know each other, it's like a big family, all the residents and their families know each other. It's very socially active.” Part of that may be this particular association is quite affluent and enjoys a degree of exclusivity.

When you zoom out, the Bal Harbour community is more the exception than the rule. “Most people do keep to themselves nowadays. People don't get to meet their neighbors anymore. People just kind of come in and close the door, and live life I guess. It's pretty much across the board, everyone's very busy, and they tend to not communicate,” says Avelino Vide, LCAM, CMCA, president of Avid Property Management in Tampa.

Perhaps some communities genuinely prefer to have their unit owners left alone, and let bygones be bygones. There is no shame in that, but the fact remains that there are distinct benefits to a friendlier and more social association. “The more people that you can get involved into a community, the better it's going to run. If you can get your architectural committees, landscaping committees, it really does help out,” says Vide.

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