Tracy Martin has fielded countless complaints about barking dogs and overgrown weeds.
But as the owner of Diversified Property Management, a residential homeowner’s association management company, she tries to listen to each homeowner complaint as if it’s the first time she’s heard it.
That patience has helped grow her business 30 percent a year for the past five years.
The company just made a deal with its 21st homeowners association, which will be included in a client lineup that includes some of the region’s largest neighborhoods — Ridgeview at Stetson Hills with more than 3,000 homes — and one of the most prestigious — Kissing Camels’ upscale gated community.
Martin, who used to work in corporate customer service, and her husband Steve Martin, who used to sell commercial real estate, jumped into HOA management in 2005 when home sales were booming.
“We had a tiny little shack of an office downtown,” Martin said.
Today, Diversified tends to the HOA needs of 5,000 homeowners and 1,500 condominium owners; its annual dues range from $143 to $2,000 a home. Revenue for the company this year is expected to reach $700,000 and grow to $900,000 next year.
HOAs were created by developers in the 1960s and are usually at the center of neighborhood squabbles and bickering. Developers and builders decide the rules of HOAs, but property managers enforce them.
“You’ve got to have a thick skin,” Martin said.
“Imagine living in a neighborhood that didn’t have an association — your neighbor could paint the house purple or park the car on the front lawn,” she said.
HOA management is estimated to be a $12 billion a year industry with 62 million people living in 300,000 HOA-controlled neighborhoods nationally.
Foreclosures have hurt the HOA management industry. But Diversified has managed to add customers to its stable.
“We are getting new communities that want us to manage them — that has helped us keep momentum without all the new home sales,” Martin said.
Martin and her eight employees are experts at breaking down legal jargon found in most HOA agreements — the various covenants, articles of incorporation and bylaws — and putting it into plain language.
Her office receives between 20 and 50 calls a day, mostly from grumpy homeowners who have been notified of some sort of violation ranging from lawns that need cutting to trashcans that need to be put away.
“You buy a home; it’s your biggest purchase that you will ever make — it’s very personal,” Martin said. “When someone sends you a notice that you did something wrong, it stings.”
She said state lawmakers are considering legislation that would mandate HOAs for all new neighborhood developments.
That will mean more business for Martin — and probably a lot more barking-dog complaints, too.