Before you make the switch
Digitizing HOA payments will save you money, time, and stress.
- Many property owners still pay their HOA dues by paper check, but that is beginning to change.
- Electronic transactions result in fewer late payments and better record-keeping.
- HOAs planning to transition to digital payments should research their options and be prepared to help community members adjust to the new system.
Once a pen-and-paper industry, property management has moved squarely into the digital age, with a growing number of software solutions to help HOA members and boards efficiently navigate their daily tasks and challenges. Automation tools are particularly useful for streamlining invoices and processing payments, allowing community managers and homeowners to manage their accounts from a laptop, tablet, or phone.
Unfortunately, some HOAs are still adrift in a river of paper checks and receipts. To provide an answer to this, we’ve provided an overview of the current electronic payment landscape and how it can work for you.
The current state of HOA digital payments
Do your residents pay their HOA dues or special assessments by check? If so, they’re not alone. The majority of people still do, despite having moved to online payments for their utilities, cable, and internet. Why? Many HOAs simply don’t have a system in place to accept digital payments.
But that’s starting to change; many HOAs have switched or are in the midst of switching from checks to electronic payments, allowing members to make one-time payments or recurring payments using pre-authorized debit cards, credit cards, or direct withdrawals. Most HOAs say they switched because it increases their efficiency and many say they did it to reduce costs. Indeed, when HOAs have hundreds or thousands of payments coming at them every year, reducing the number of checks to process is a huge timesaver.
And electronic payments are not just for monthly dues anymore. Some HOA systems allow residents to pay for community amenities, rent storage lockers, and even pay a repair technician for work done on their homes.
Below, we dig a little deeper into the reasons digital HOA payments are better for everyone.
- Fewer late payments
When owners pay online, they are more likely to pay on time, particularly if they “set it and forget it” with recurring payments. Even if they pay individually for each transaction, a credit card allows them to keep current even if their monthly funds come in after the deadline. Owners can also make payments at their convenience and are not restricted to a manager’s weekday office hours.
- Improved record-keeping
Accounting becomes much simpler when there are fewer checks to process, fewer delinquent owners to track down, and fewer treks to the bank. It also makes owners’ payment records more transparent. Managers can see when payments were made (and when they weren’t). They can also spot trends in late payments and have a clear snapshot of monthly and yearly revenue.
This leads to higher-quality data that helps boards make financial decisions for the association.
- More time, lower costs
With less paper, postage, and ink needed to get through the month, office expenses will go down. Your office will also have significantly fewer paper records and less need for space to store them. But what about fees? It turns out that when accounting for fees, labor, and fraud expenses, digital payments are still less costly than paper invoices and checks.
Digital payments can save time, as well as money. Managers can spend up to three times more of their days processing paper checks than online transactions. More importantly, it’s probably what your owners want – 78% of consumers would rather pay online when shopping or paying for services. As an added bonus, all of these perks also make your community more eco-friendly.
- Better for the owners
Owners also see real benefits from digital payments. They can pay dues or special assessments with the click of a mouse or a tap on the phone. They can do this from anywhere at any time, regardless of their proximity to their living community or the closest mailbox. It also reduces the chance that invoices go undelivered or checks get lost in the mail.
Before you make the switch
If the time is right for your community to switch to digital payment processing, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Decide how you want payments to be made. The most common solution is to stick with a traditional bank. Banks process thousands of electronic payments daily and can handle recurring payments as well as withdrawals. They usually have a reliable online portal for both the HOA management company and owners to use. But there are more modern options, such as Clover or Stripe, that accept additional payment methods like debit, credit, and e-check.
- Ask about customer service. Digital payment errors are unusual, but they do happen. And when they do, it’s important to know you can contact your financial partner right away. It’s also worth delving into their security practices, as you are trusting them with your community members’ private financial information.
- Compare costs. Fees will vary depending on the platform. Some charge a monthly or annual fee, and some tack it on to every transaction.
- Allow people time to get used to the new system. The transition to online payments can seem confusing or overwhelming for people who’ve paid with checks all their lives. Write up a one-sheet that walks them through the process in plain language. Your payment partner may have online or in-person tutorials you can share.
- Consider handling payments in-house. In years past, this would have been a daunting task, but that’s no longer the case. There are off-the-shelf software solutions available, complete with iron-clad security and 24-hour customer service.
If you do your homework and keep your community in the loop during the transition, you’ll end up with an efficient, secure payment system.
A new digital world
Although paper checks are still used for HOA transactions, that is beginning to change. HOAs and owners alike are realizing that checks are slow, inconvenient, wasteful, and can lead to confusion and misplaced or late payments (which in turn can lead to stress for HOA boards).
TOPS [ONE] is a unique payment and property management solution that puts portfolio management, board relations, accounting, and much more all in one place. Our TOPS Pay system takes the pain out of payments with the innovative Owner Access Portal, which gives owners the option of recurring ACH direct debit. Watch a free demo of our system to learn more.