People buy into condo and HOA communities for many different reasons – some enjoy the amenities offered, others like the vacation-style environment that doubles as a smart real estate investment. Community-living was once seen as a means to an end: by living in a collective; amenities such as pools and tennis courts are more affordable. Residents would tacitly acknowledge each other, but expectations for social interaction ended there.
Although all associations are different, there are many associations that enjoy a tight-knit community, says Louis Pincus, vice president of client relations at FirstService Residential Florida’s South Florida hi-rise division. “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.”
Bal Harbour, however, may be 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.
Pincus believes that demographics play a large role in determining whether a building’s residents will bond, “As you have more retirees, they definitely enjoy the association events. But, with those events, often the social aspect can be a reflection of the board. The board of directors, they’re like the commissioners. So, they’re driving the vision, they’re driving the lifestyle. So, if you have a board that understands and has a vision of bringing the community together, they’re going to be more open to having events.”
A building that gets along also affects real estate values. “Having an active lifestyle, there’s a connection with property values. We partner a lot with realtors to get their perspective on what’s the market saying about a certain building, so when they have a buyer that’s narrowed it down to a few other buildings. People like to know that the building is active, if you’re a retiree going into a building, you want to know what’s going on, and you know that the participation is welcome by the board, that’s a good thing. There’s a connection with increasing property values,” says Pincus.
More than anything, though, developing a community starts with a leader. Communities must be organized. “In my experience, there are particular people who take on the responsibility,” says Enid Hamelin of Bernstein Real Estate, which manages properties in Florida and New York. “You need a leader who wants to do that.” And the person doing the organizing has to be someone other people want to engage with. In the film Ghostbusters, Rick Moranis’s dull accountant throws a bash at his lovely apartment, and while it is well attended, no one seems to want to be there; if Bill Murray’s rogue scientist had the same party, one suspects most of the building would have happily attended. Bottom line: if Bill Murray lives in your building, make him sit on the social committee.