Kevin Doleman is on his way to a large Northern Virginia HOA on a Monday morning, and he’s starting his week with a challenge.
The regional manager at Level Green Landscaping will meet account manager McKenna Korzeniewski to place temporary red reflectors on all the HOA community’s “no-touch houses” before landscaping crews show up to mow hundreds of residents’ lawns.
No-touch houses? You have to touch a property to landscape it, right? (He said it was a challenge.)
HOA landscaping guidelines aren’t the only challenges when it comes to keeping these discriminating communities looking their best.
Boards need HOA landscaping companies that are creative, flexible, patient, and willing to go the extra mile to meet a number of challenges.
Here’s a look.
1. “No-Touch” Houses
No, these aren’t houses so fabulous you’re not allowed to touch them.
Some residents don’t want their HOA landscaping company crews to mow their lawn. Others don’t want crews to prune their shrubs or apply pesticides.
When 30 homes out of 300 have special instructions, it’s a challenge to keep track.
“It requires massive training for our crews,” says Jenna Visco, branch manager of Level Green Landscaping’s Northern Virginia branch.
She’s tried using Excel spreadsheets to keep track. Reflective stickers. Little yard flags, which some homeowners don’t like and others report the neighborhood kids steal them.
Whenever new crew members join the team, they have to learn where each “no-touch” house is, too — out of hundreds of HOA community homes.
“And that list of no-touch homes can change week to week,” Doleman says. “One homeowner might move out and the new one might decide they do want the services.”
2. HOA Landscaping Challenge: Relationships and Communication
The dynamic between HOA board members and the property manager can be challenging, says McKenna Korzeniewski, account manager at Level Green’s Northern Virginia branch.
Everybody doesn’t always get along.
“I try to set up meetings with both the HOA board president and the property manager at the same time, to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Korzeniewski says. “Then we can work together to find solutions.”
She attends board meetings in person when she can, copies both parties together on emails and works to bridge the communication gaps that inevitably pop up.
3. The Dead Tree Scenario
OK, so it isn’t always a dead tree, but it’s a good example of how homeowners don’t always agree on HOA landscaping issues.
“It happens a lot,” Korzeniewski says. “There’s a dead tree in the backyard but not everybody can agree on what to do about it. The tree might be in one yard shared by four people if it’s a condo association.
”Maybe the tree is dead and could fall down, causing a danger, but somebody else likes it because it still gives them privacy.
“If the tree falls, that’s a liability for the HOA board,” Korzeniewski says. “It might injure somebody or damage property.
“Conflicting opinions can be challenging to navigate,” she says, “but my job is to give my expert opinion on what the best decision is when it comes to safety. That’s a top priority at Level Green.
“I make everybody aware of exactly what might happen if the tree stays,” she says. “Then we come up with solutions. If privacy is a concern, what else can we plant there instead?
“We create solutions so people don’t feel like we’re just cutting down the tree and leaving,” she says. “It shows we hear you, we care, we’ll find a solution.”
4. Homeowner Landscaping Packages
Some communities will only sign with an HOA landscaping company for commercial services if the company also provides individual HOA landscaping design packages to homeowners.
That seems like a nice service, but it can open up a slew of problems, Visco says, from homeowners reluctant to pay to painstaking pickiness over design details. It takes a lot of time and patience to make this HOA landscaping plan work.
5. Getting Familiar with Huge Properties
“When we first start a maintenance contract with a new HOA community, we have to learn the site,” Korzeniewski says, “and it takes a while.
“At first you don’t know where you’re going,” she says. “A lot of these Northern Virginia communities can all look very similar. The streets might all have animal names or plant names.
“Some of these communities are huge,” she says.
It takes patience, Korzeniewski says, but over time, these sprawling HOA neighborhoods start to make sense.
6. Exactly What’s in the HOA Landscaping Contract?
“Sometimes homeowners are hoping for their own personal gardeners,” Doleman says. “I get it, they pay dues, but certain things aren’t in their HOA landscaping contracts.”
When a homeowner wanders outside on mowing day with additional requests for crews on a schedule, it’s a challenge, he says.
“We want to be able to stop and answer their questions, but we also need to keep the guys moving,” Doleman says. “We don’t want to be rude, but homeowners don’t always understand what’s included in their contracts, and what isn’t.
“A lot of landscaping companies don’t like to do HOAs,” Doleman says, “but successful companies learn to work with them.”
Need a Northern Virginia HOA Landscaping Plan? Trust Level Green
A busy HOA landscaping company might visit thousands of HOA homes a week.
You have one home, and it’s important.
“I visit a property once a week,” Korzeniewski says. “But the homeowners live there. It’s their home. The landscaping is very important to them.”
If you could use a hand explaining HOA landscaping guidelines and challenges to your residents, we’re happy to help.
We attend as many of our customers’ HOA board meetings as possible to answer residents’ questions, explain what things we’re responsible for there, and make sure they know who to contact if they have questions.
It’s a chance for us to field questions from board members and sometimes residents, and to give seasonal updates on our work.
Good communication makes everything easier.
If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers. Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC and parts of Virginia.
Contact us at 202-544-0968. You can also request a free consultation online to meet with us one-on-one.
We’d love to hear from you.