From the Communications Chair

Homeowners Association HOA

WIIFM: What’s in it for me?

In addition to being a renaissance person, I am a lifelong sales/marketing person.
I was trained that when trying to market a product or service, the first rule is to address the customers’ “WIIFM”, an acronym for “What’s in it for me”.

There is a reason for this preamble. When my wife and I lived in the midwest, an HOA was something only condo buildings used to manage the common areas of the building. Our impression was they were run by retirees with little to do other than embroil themselves in other peoples’ lives as in Del Boca Vista–(Seinfeld reference). Then we moved to Arizona and found HOA’s are a common form of professional community management. So, before my wife and I actually purchased a home in Desert Ridge I made a call to the then Community Manager of Desert Ridge to ask him, what’s in it for me when I pay that $31 a month to the association?
I opened the conversation antagonistically by asking why does a homeowner in Desert Ridge pay $31 a month to live here when in other areas there was no HOAs? The person said “Community Management”. I said, “Isn’t that what we pay our real estate taxes to Phoenix for?”  The response was, “Partly, but do you want your common areas taken care of to a higher standard than what the City of Phoenix would consider acceptable?” I had experience with big city standards back east so he piqued my interest. “How about representation by the Desert Ridge Community Association to lobby the city of Phoenix for a fair share of city services such as Police and Fire?” Once again I had experience in dealing with local governments back east and how they dole out services, so I sat up in my chair. “How about maintaining standards for homeowners and enforcement mechanisms for homeowners to maintain their properties?” Ok let’s stop right there buddy and talk about this because that sounds too much like the management mantra of Del Boca Vista. You’re really going to tell me what I can do with my property and how I have to maintain it? Yes, it’s all clearly laid out in the CC&Rs. So, I requested and received a copy of the governing documents.

My wife and I spent about 3 hours going over the documents page by page, article by article, rule by rule. While neither one of us are attorneys, we do have extensive experience in real estate. We determined that while there are pluses and minuses to an HOA managed community we came to the conclusion that for us, the benefits outweighed the minuses. While we were skeptical of a community manager having the authority to tell us when to paint our house and in what color, we did appreciate that we would no longer have to put up with neighbors who thought painting their home pink or sea foam green was of value to the neighborhood or have to deal with the neighbor who thought weeds were a species of grass, or the one who thought not painting his paint peeling exterior was fine because he’s not the one who had to look at it. Nor would we have to put up with a neighbor who used Sundays to run his home-based car repair service on his front yard starting at sun up going through sun down. And when I have a question about the community, I could contact someone with first-hand knowledge of the community instead of getting transferred around to different departments in a municipality’s headquarters because the municipality’s office handles an area the size and population of a major city with a very small staff. Many of whom do not have the knowledge to answer the simplest of questions.

I called back. Ok, I’ll buy in, but I’ll be watching you. The voice on the other end of the phone said “please do, and by the way if you give me your email address I’ll send you a schedule of the community meetings. Please feel free to attend, and get involved.”  I did and I did. The sales and marketing person here got sold. But I have to say, there is no buyer’s remorse or second thoughts. I attend meetings like I’m a loyal parishioner. I don’t always agree with the board’s decisions because there’s no “WIIFM”, in their decision. However, I have come to understand the decisions are made for the greater good of the community and sometimes my wants don’t directly align with the community’s. However, not getting my way is what I gave up when I signed those HOA docs.

I understand HOA living is not for everyone. Like part of the name says, there are restrictions.
An old boss of mine would say: Some people like chocolate and some like vanilla. Don’t try selling chocolate to a vanilla lover. No matter how many toppings you put on it, they will always hate the product. There is brilliance in that statement that we can all relate to in some fashion.
My wife and I found the overall WIIFM in living in Desert Ridge. What we give up in having to abide by a set of really noninvasive rules is far outweighed by knowing there is a community management team and HOA board watching out for all of our property values. In support of that statement I offer you this:
•  We have followed the saga of the land at 40th and Deer Valley at the DRCA meetings. As it has been repeated that if not for the efforts of the board and the management team, there would be 3,600 residences in a combination of single family and multifamily dwellings in that parcel right now. That could represent thousands of additional cars traveling along Deer Valley, 40th Street, Tatum, etc. In those meetings, I heard the board’s request of the master developer and Phoenix city council to move some of that population density the State Land Department mandated when they created the planned community of Desert Ridge in the early 1990s.

  • I remember listening intently at the meetings when the board and management team politicked the City of Phoenix Council to build the Reach 11 Park. We now enjoy the dog park which is the first phase of the park. The second phase being the play fields is under construction. Additionally,  if you attend the monthly meetings you will hear that there are several other projects they are handling with professionalism and in the best interests of the community. If not for the board and management team, this area would be considerably different and not for the better.

But it’s not perfect. Nothing is.

I also see the complaints that certain repairs are not being done quickly enough. I understand. However, the board, who has to vote on many of the matters pertaining to the community due to laws regarding finances, only meets to vote once a month. They are volunteers and neighbors. They work their normal jobs then volunteer time to the community. It’s a slower system than we would like, but it is how HOA boards are legally intended to operate. The management company serves to manage the day to day operations such as  making sure that the landscapers are discharging their contractual obligations properly, listening to  residents’ complaints, and, UGH, enforce those pesky CC&Rs. Yes, I have been on the receiving end of one of those “violation notices”.

My wife and I recently received the infamous notice to paint our home. No, we were not happy but after the painter finished, we stood outside admiring his work. Several neighbors drove by and offered their “thanks” for getting it done. Apparently, we were just as bothersome as the “pink” house on the block from where we came. Maybe now our house won’t be a topic of conversation, in a bad way. I can live with that. Especially when I’m on my way to the dog park in Desert Ridge.

Rob Reichstein
Communications Chair
Desert Ridge Community Association