A few reasons why using a free HOA software might not be the best decision for your community
Why free HOA software might not be a good idea
Date Published: Sept 23, 2019
We all love freebies but there are certain things that you can’t afford to be stingy with. HOA software is a good example of a tool that can make your life easy or turn it into a nightmare depending on whether you pay for it.
Most reliable HOA software comes at a price that’s well worth paying considering what you get in return. There are usually various packages offered to suit different budgets and needs. But, there’s also free HOA software that claims to deliver the same results as the paid options.
As with anything, you get what you pay for (or don’t). That’s why it’s important to be discerning with the software you use to manage your HOA. Read on to find out why free HOA software might not be a good idea.
What is Homeowners Association (HOA) Software?
HOA software is a comprehensive management tool. It’s designed to streamline all the operations involved in managing a homeowner’s association. Most HOA software comes with features like an online payment system, a communications system, an event platform, a website builder and even an online contact database of unit owners and vendors.
Here are some tasks for which you can use HOA software:
– It automates a lot of your administrative tasks.
– It simplifies the process of submitting maintenance requests.
– Making payments is much safer, transparent and straightforward.
– It offers improved communication between members.
– You’ll have a complete contact database available at your fingertips. The database comes with on-demand search options, filters and updates capabilities.
– Offers website building capabilities. That way you can create a customized online destination for your community, wherein you can share notices, events, and resources while maintaining a full member directory.
– It offers comprehensive and easy-to-understand analytics for your financials and other important data.
Benefits of using HOA Software
A lot goes into running an HOA. You have to manage service requests coming from unit owners, process payments, and deal with vendors–all before you’ve had your first cup of coffee! The good news is you don’t have to run around and deal with all the paperwork that comes with this type of work. Instead, you can leverage the power and convenience of HOA software to do it all for you.
Good quality HOA software like Condo Control Central will help you streamline your operations and do everything from your smartphone, tablet or laptop. This includes all of your communications, record keeping, and even security management! Some benefits of using legitimate HOA software include:
Safe file storage
HOA software provides you with a safe online cloud for you to keep documents away from cyber-crime and third-party interference. You can access your files from any device and from anywhere in the world. So long as you have the right credentials, you can work on the go and access your files from anywhere.
HOA software will also automate most of the tasks that take up your time. This includes updating accounting records, resident profiles and staying on top of maintenance requests. It just makes it so much easier to manage your condo.
Communication between the HOA and unit owners is crucial. Thanks to HOA software, you can distribute mass emails, text messages and public notices at the touch of a button. You can even target your messages to specific residents or a restricted number of unit owners.
If you like, you can even schedule and automate communication. That way, you won’t have to stress about keeping up with communication deadlines. Good quality HOA software will also show you when the recipient has opened and responded to the message.
Now, there are a lot of options available out there when it comes to property management software. Some have a lot of different features and others offer different packages and price points. There are even HOA software providers willing to offer customized solutions to meet your individual needs.
Disadvantages of free HOA software
While free HOA software might seem like a good deal, there are a lot of disadvantages to using it. Keep in mind that HOA software should simplify your life and often, free options do the exact opposite.
Most free HOA software doesn’t come with the same level of automation offered by paid options. For instance, if you want to compile a report, you still must input a lot of the required information manually.
One reason why condo managers or owners use HOA software is that it comes with useful tools designed to simplify your life. Some of these tools have forecast abilities that make it easier for you to compile long-term reports.
Good HOA software should also come with analytical tools that give you a bird’s-eye view of the progress you’ve made. These tools are also useful for planning.
Nothing is truly free. A few hoa software comes with embedded ads, these ads are displayed inside the platform and maybe intrusive or irrelevant to users. The software owners make money by running ads in their software, each time a user clicks on an ad they make a profit. So they might make their ads extremely intrusive to make their users click on the ads.
Sells user data
Some free software’s will sell your data to third-party ad agencies. If you read the agreement when registering, you might see a fine print that states by using their software you are allowing them to use your information how they see fit.
Free HOA software offers a limited amount of features. This means you may need to continue with the same outdated and time-consuming admin tasks that you’re busy with right now. They might give you the ability to unlock additional features at a cost. The cost to unlock each additional features might cost you more than going with a paid hoa software, where you get everything bundled.
A lot of the free HOA software available is fractured. This means there’s no variety and no room for personalization. If it’s designed to automate your accounting processes, that’s all you get.
As a result, most HOA managers with free software end up with several types of software instead of a single solution. For instance, they’ll have one system for access control and security, another for bookkeeping, yet another for record-keeping and a different one for maintenance requests.
The problem with this approach is that it always ends in inefficiencies. It becomes easy for things to fall through the cracks because you’ve spread your operations across different software providers. It’s better to just work with comprehensive HOA software that comes with different features for all the different aspects of HOA management. That way, you won’t have to maintain multiple products and there won’t be any confusion.
You’d be surprised at how outdated most free HOA software is. A lot of it lacks basic features like cloud-based storage which comes standard with paid software solutions like Condo Control Central.
Good customer support is essential when using any type of service, including HOA software. It’s important to know that you’ll have someone available to assist you when you hit a snag in the program or come across something you don’t understand.
While there might be online forum pages for free HOA software, it’s not the same as having round-the-clock professional support from a vendor.
It might require specialized drivers
Free HOA software often calls for specialized drivers that will only add to your headaches. That’s because you can only get these drivers from the vendor and even then it may not work and a proprietary driver. The best option is to use paid software so you don’t have to deal with the back-end of things.
Free HOA software doesn’t come with a warranty. This means there’s no guarantee you’ll get what’s advertised and there’s no liability indemnity involved.
Most free HOA software doesn’t come with backing by any recognizable authority so there’s no-one to complain to if something goes wrong. Even if you get third-party warranties, they might not be compatible with your association’s software procurement policies, if you have any.
Ideally, you want HOA software that’s backed by a registered and accredited company. They should also be associated with relevant authorities in the condo and/or property management industry. This includes such organizations as the Community Associations Institute.
This shows that the software vendor knows what they’re doing and will offer you the support you need when you need it.
It may not always be around
There’s no guarantee that free HOA software will be around in the next few years. It all depends on demand and if there’s not enough of it, the software might “disappear”.
It’s not safe
Free HOA software is risky because there are no encryption standards or airtight security protocols in place. That means your data is in jeopardy every time you log into the system and anyone can steal your credentials, tenant database, and financial details.
The HOA software vendor might even use client information to gain advertisers or sell it on the dark web in exchange for cryptocurrency. Basically, there’s no guarantee of safety and you could place your association at great risk.
With the right HOA software, you can easily manage a thousand-member association without hiring extra staff. All it takes is signing up and you’ll soon say goodbye to time-consuming manual tasks and enjoy smoother operation.
In most cases, you can customize it so that you only pay for the features you need. Plus, you get access to solutions and tools that cater to your association’s specific needs.