Planning for Capital Improvements

Did you join the HOA board because you see untapped potential in the neighborhood?
Is there an improvement you've made it your cause to champion?

Here's some tips to get it done, and be beloved by your neighbors for the effort. 

The Importance of Capital Improvements in HOAs

As a board member of your homeowners association, you have the unique opportunity to play a pivotal role in bringing your community together through capital improvements. These projects are essential for maintaining and enhancing the quality of life for your HOA residents. You want to be known for creating an environment where people take pride in their surroundings. With your guidance and vision, you can become the driving force behind a thriving and united neighborhood.

The Impact of Capital Improvements on Property Values

Capital improvements not only boost community spirit and satisfaction but also contribute to increased property values. By investing in well-planned projects, you're making a long-term investment in the financial health of your HOA and the well-being of all homeowners.

Identifying Capital Improvement Projects

How can you find the right opportunity to make a lasting difference?

Capital Improvements vs. Maintenance

Before diving into capital improvement planning, it's crucial to distinguish between capital improvements and routine maintenance. Capital improvements are significant, one-time projects that enhance the value and functionality of your community, such as building a new clubhouse or upgrading a swimming pool. Maintenance, on the other hand, includes the ongoing upkeep and repair of existing amenities and infrastructure.

Assessing Your Community's Needs

To identify the most beneficial capital improvement projects, start by evaluating your community's needs. Gather input from homeowners, review the state of existing amenities, and consider future growth and development trends in your area. Start with some informal questions, but make sure to engage everyone with a survey or questionnaire. Even if you have a personal pet project, by listening to your community you can get buy-in from other neighbors that share your vision. This will help you transparently prioritize projects that address the most pressing issues and deliver the greatest benefits to the community.

Prioritizing Projects

Once you have a list of potential projects, it's time to prioritize them. Consider factors such as cost, potential return on investment, the impact on property values, and homeowner preferences. Give every idea a score and share your thinking so your HOA members will see how their dues are getting them the biggest bang for the buck, With a clear understanding of your community's priorities, you can develop a comprehensive plan that addresses both immediate needs and long-term goals.

Budgeting for Capital Improvements

Being accurate is the most important goal for HOA capital improvement projects. You don't want to have a project run over cost have be in the difficult position of having to find more funding to complete a project. Conversely, wasteful spending and large unused budgets undermine your credibility as a HOA board member. 

Estimating Costs

Estimating the cost of capital improvement projects is a critical step in the budgeting process. Reach out to multiple contractors and vendors for quotes, and research industry standards for similar projects. Archive everything to show due diligence in your approach. Keep in mind that costs may fluctuate depending on the complexity, timing and scale of the project, so it's essential to build in a contingency percentage for unforeseen expenses.

Allocating Funds in the HOA Budget

HOA (Homeowners Association) capital improvements are typically funded through capital improvement fees, which are covered by the homeowners within the HOA. These fees contribute to the HOA reserve fund, which is used for major repairs, maintenance, or expansions to HOA property, reducing the likelihood of needing a special assessment to cover unexpected expenses1 3.

HOA reserve funds are important for future repairs, renovations, and unexpected costs, and it's recommended that most HOAs maintain a 70% funded reserve to fulfill their duties without compromising needed expenses5. The impact of HOAs on property values can vary, but well-implemented HOA architectural guidelines have been linked to higher property values3. Additionally, neighborhoods with HOAs are associated with higher homeownership rates and higher average family incomes4.

Utilizing Reserve Funds and Special Assessments

Reserve funds and special assessments can provide additional financing options for capital improvements. Reserve funds are typically set aside for long-term projects and major repairs, while special assessments can be levied to cover the cost of unexpected or urgent improvements. A reserve fund should cover your 30 year reserve study before you dip into it for new ideas, and special assessments are a difficult request to make. Be sure to communicate the purpose and benefits of these financial resources to homeowners to ensure their understanding and support.

Developing a Capital Improvement Plan

Clear expectations and open communication are the way to make any development plan a success. 

Setting Project Timelines

Once you have identified and prioritized your capital improvement projects, establish realistic timelines for each project. Consider factors such as contractor availability, weather conditions, and potential disruptions to community life. By setting clear expectations, you can ensure that projects stay on track and minimize any inconvenience to homeowners.

Coordinating with Contractors and Vendors

Selecting reliable contractors and vendors is crucial for the successful execution of your capital improvement projects. Seek recommendations from other HOAs or industry professionals, and thoroughly vet each candidate to ensure they have the necessary experience and qualifications. Make sure you've been clear about your communication expectations before you sign a contract and start work. Establish open lines of communication to address any concerns or issues that may arise during the project and ensure a smooth process from start to finish. 

Monitoring Progress and Adjusting as Needed

As the projects progress, it's essential to monitor their status regularly. Conduct site visits, request updates from contractors, and review invoices to ensure that work is on schedule and within budget. If you encounter any challenges or unforeseen issues, be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly and communicate these changes to homeowners and the rest of the board.

Communicating with Homeowners

You're taking a leadership role and helping to build infrastructure your community will look at regularly.  They'll remember what that project felt like as it happened, so you want to be sure they're bought into the entire process so they love the final product. 

Building Consensus and Gaining Support

For successful capital improvement projects, it's vital to have the support of your community. Keep homeowners informed about the benefits of the proposed improvements, and actively seek their input during the planning stages. By involving homeowners in the decision-making process, you'll foster a sense of ownership and pride in the community.

Providing Regular Updates

During the execution of the projects, maintain open lines of communication with homeowners. Share regular updates on project progress, timelines, and any adjustments to the original plan. This will help manage expectations and demonstrate your commitment to transparency and accountability.

Celebrating Success

When a capital improvement project is completed, celebrate the achievement with your community. Organize a ribbon-cutting ceremony, host a neighborhood gathering, or simply share photos and updates on your HOA's website or social media platforms. Recognizing the success of the project will help reinforce the positive impact of the improvements and foster a sense of unity and pride within the community.


Capital improvements play a vital role in the success and cohesion of your homeowners association. By carefully planning, budgeting, and executing these projects, you can create a thriving and united neighborhood that everyone is proud to call home. As a board member, your leadership and vision will be instrumental in guiding your community towards a bright and prosperous future.


  1. Kuester, B. (n.d.). What Is an HOA Capital Preservation Fee? [LinkedIn]. Retrieved from
  2. FirstService Residential. (n.d.). How the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Impacts HOA Assessments. Retrieved from
  3. Associated Asset Management. (2021, April 9). Top 10 Benefits of Living in an HOA. Retrieved from
  4. School of Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (2020, September). Can an HOA Revitalize a Neighborhood? Retrieved from
  5. Cedar Management Group. (n.d.). HOA Reserve Funds: How Much Money Do You Really Need? Retrieved from

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