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HOA Architectural Review Guide

A crucial component of maintaining the aesthetics and home values of a community is a well-run architectural review board. While most homeowners' associations, or HOAs, have a system in place to review and approve architectural requests from association members, very few are fulfilling their duties in a way that’s easy on them and their homeowners. If your HOA board is struggling with your architectural review, then we can help. Keep reading to learn more about the architectural review process and how you can improve it.

What’s an Architectural Review?

Nearly every HOA has an architectural review process. Enforcement guidelines should be covered in a community's governing documents and will need to be interpreted and enforced by members of the review board or committee. When a review occurs, typically, a homeowner submits planned changes for approval, and the review board accepts or rejects the proposed changes, usually with additional feedback as needed.

What’s an Architectural Review Committee?

The Architectural Review Committee, or ARC, are ultimately the people who are responsible for interpreting and enforcing the architectural guidelines of the community. Some association boards may choose to act as the committee, while others assign the responsibilities to separate individuals. Names for this committee can change depending on your association and include:

  • Alterations Review Committee
  • Architectural Committee
  • Architectural Control Committee
  • Art Jury
  • Design Review Committee
  • Environmental Control Committee
  • Landscape Review Committee

Benefits of an Architectural Review

The architectural review is an integral part of every association. Without it, there’s no way to enforce the standards of homes in your community. Some of the best benefits of a consistent review process include:

  • Standardized approvals for homeowners
  • Consistent look & feel throughout the neighborhood
  • Property values that are better maintained and protected

7 Tips For Updating Your HOA’s Architectural Review Process

Homeowners want responses to their requests that are fair, accurate, and prompt. The problem is, many HOAs lack the proper framework to deliver. If you’re serving on your HOA board, these complaints can quickly turn into big problems—sometimes causing upset owners and costly court battles. Protect yourself and your board today by updating how your architectural review committee operates. We’re here to help with some easy-to-follow tips that can streamline your review process, keep owners happy, and reduce community complaints overall.

1. Define Your Purpose.

Homeowners are often unfamiliar with how the architectural review works. The first step to transforming your review committee should be taking the time to define your purpose. Providing homeowners with a clearly-written purpose statement will help put board members and homeowners at ease. Write this purpose statement down and include clearly-defined objectives for both the review committee and homeowner. Share this purpose statement with the architectural review committee and homeowners starting the process.

2. Provide a Roadmap.

We’ve found that successful review committees provide homeowners with a roadmap for the application journey. This map could be a step-by-step guide, an in-person consultation, or even a digital outline on your community website. No matter how you choose to share it, your roadmap should give clear, easy-to-follow directions from start to finish. Also, use your roadmap to help homeowners avoid common roadblocks and obstacles along the way.

3. Remove Complicated Language.

If your papers contain complicated language that requires a dictionary or lawyer to understand, then you’re doing your association a disservice. Cut through the jargon, and instead use everyday language that your homeowners are sure to appreciate. When terms can’t be simplified, consider including a glossary that provides easy-to-understand definitions.

4. Modernize Your Forms.

No architectural request is complete without a few forms. However, are your forms helping or hurting your process? Try to look at your forms through new eyes. Put yourself in the shoes of a new homeowner and ask yourself if all the forms and instructions are clear. For example, when you ask for a property survey or other outside paperwork, do you also provide instructions on how to obtain it? Going the extra mile now may require additional work, but it'll save your board time and money in the long run. Also, consider ways to digitize your forms using community websites and apps like TownSq.

5. Proactively Answer Questions.

It’s very common for review committees to get the same questions day in and day out. If you haven’t already done so, start writing down the questions your committee receives. Once you have a solid list of six to seven questions, take the time to write down helpful answers. Include your frequently asked questions in a new FAQ section in your architectural review packet. Answering these common questions will save your board time and will help homeowners move forward with confidence as they better understand the who, what, why, and when of the architectural review process.

6. Share Real-Life Examples.

Along with your FAQ section, consider including several common reasons why people’s requests get denied. These real-world examples will help homeowners avoid common mistakes and may limit the number of requests you ultimately have to review. Be sensitive to the owner’s personal information when sharing examples of what not to do and be sure to remove any personally identifying information.

7. Bring It All Together.

Ultimately, you should be using these tips to consolidate your review applications into a digital packet that can be frequently updated and shared with homeowners. Taking advantage of a community website or app will also help you track, organize, and update the documents without the extra costs of printing.

Get Additional Help From Community Experts

For more than 40 years, our team of community experts has been helping communities across North America improve their association, including updating to their architectural review process. Achieving your community's goals may be easier than you think. Find out more about how we can help by requesting a free community proposal.