2. Band together with other HOAs to reduce costs. “My association saves money by teaming up with other associations to bid on multiple developments,” says Joshua Levitt of the Grove Pointe Condominium Association in Jersey City, N.J. “With Davit Weltz of the Portofino Condominium Association, we formed a group called the Joint Condo Coalition of Jersey City, consisting of some 15 separate associations in our town. We use collective buying power to command the best prices. As a group of 10 or more associations with 60–plus units, we can generally command a discounted price of 10 percent to 25 percent off any quote, which includes snow removal as well. We also share recommendations, concerns, and advice with each other.”
3. Choose areas to focus on. “Prioritize the areas of highest impact and visibility, and focus money and effort on those,” says Christopher Russo of Mariani Landscape, a landscape design, installation, and maintenance firm serving condominium developments and HOAs in the Chicago area.
4. Choose plants wisely. “Know the needs of the plants being planted on your grounds so you can ensure your HOA won’t be spending money again 12 months later,” says Karen DeSemple, who served as the head of her Vancouver, Wash., condo association’s landscape committee for a year and whose father was a master gardener.
“I’ve seen ‘professional’ landscapers dump scads of cheap plants all over a complex whether the plants would do well in an area or not. I’ve seen plants that require full sun planted in full shade and vice versa. Within a year, all the plants died, and the HOA had to write another check for more landscaping. You can spend a bit more money up front on the proper types of plants because of the savings you’ll see in years to come. Also choose plants that are drought tolerant because once they’re established, they’ll require less water.”
5. Choose plants native to your area. “They’ll establish more easily and take less effort—and time and money—to remain healthy and maintained than species that aren’t native to your area,” says DeSemple. “Also, choose flowering perennials, which will provide color every year and reduce the time and money spent on planting seasonal color.”
6. Consider less expensive landscaping ideas. “A couple of nice urns flanking an entrance may work as well as a large bed of annuals,” says Russo. “Perennials can be mixed in or used to reduce the size of annual plantings without reducing the size of the bed. In the Midwest, turf areas can sometimes be reclaimed into low–mow or prairie areas or even switched to mulch, gravel, or landscape bed areas, eliminating some of the cost of preserving a lawn. You can also switch annuals to more common varieties and sizes.”
7. Plant bulbs. “Bulbs offer color every year and reduce the time and money you need to spend on seasonal plantings,” says DeSemple. “Planting bulbs one time can yield beds that are full of color from early spring to late summer or early fall. Spring–blooming bulbs are especially helpful because they’re generally very hearty plants that can withstand colder temperatures but still give a shot of color and ‘life,’ which so many people look forward to after long, gray winters. Another plus is that they will multiply on their own. A bed that’s even lightly planted one year may be bursting with color within just a few years.”
8. Pick the right shrubs and bushes. “Be sure to include shrubs or bushes varieties with colored or variegated foliage or that are evergreen,” says DeSemple. “During the long winter months, having some color around continues to make your HOA look like a place people want to come home to and will reduce spending on seasonal winter plantings for color. When you choose shrubs or bushes that will need to be regularly pruned, choose mature, slow–growing varieties. They may require pruning or shaping only once every growing season versus monthly. That’s another time and money saver.”
9. Choose the location of your plantings carefully. “When planting shrubs, don’t place them too close to walkways and driveways,” advises John Wetmore, a Bethesda, Md., resident who has four decades of gardening experience and produces “Perils for Pedestrians,” a TV show dealing with sidewalk obstructions like shrubbery. “By keeping the shrubs back a ways, they’ll need to be trimmed only once a year. If they’re right at the edge of a walkway, they’ll encroach on the walkway unless they’re trimmed several times a year. Also have one lawnmower width of grass between walkways and the fully–grown size of the shrubs. It’ll take just one pass of the lawn mower each week, and it gives you a couple of feet for the shrub to grow before trimming becomes critical.”
10. Reduce water consumption. “I’ve been running my HOA for more than 10 years,” says Michelle Turner of the 90–home Summerwind Homeowners Association in Peoria, Ariz. “I’m responsible for streets, irrigation, lawns, and common areas. I save a ton of money by having a fantastic irrigation person. Water leaks are money down the drain. We try not to water on weekends to avoid emergency repairs. Pressure could cause a water line to break, valves could get stuffed, or a timer box could break leaving the sprinklers in the ‘on’ position. If it rains, we shut down the water for a week or leave the drip system on and shut off the grass sprinklers. I’ve reduced our water bills by 40 percent.”