Here’s how to get started in this fast-growing industry opportunity

Homeowner Associations (HOAs) offer painting contractors one of the fastest-growing industry opportunities for painting services in North America. There’s a path to getting a piece of the action, according to Sherwin-Williams HOA Account Executive Brandon Beck, but it’s not the conventional approach found in other markets.

Breaking into the HOA market starts with understanding that it’s a different animal than, for example, the residential or multi-family market. Here are a few ideas to help you break through in the HOA world, such as involvement in associate trade organizations and meeting key stakeholders, color selection resources, and understanding the tools that a supplier such as Sherwin-Williams can make available to you.

Getting involved

HOAs typically have a governing board, which makes decisions on expenditures such as painting usually upon recommendations of their community managers. Getting to know influential board members and community managers often starts with joining their industry associations, such as chapters of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) or other local organizations that can be found. There’s a fee involved, but the connections you can make are huge, according to Beck.

“It’s really about networking,” he says. “Contractors who are successful in this market are getting involved through their industry associations, whether local or national. They’re getting involved in the association’s trade shows, getting involved in their golf tournaments, attending their luncheons or their happy hours, whatever it is. They’re meeting people that way, and they’re understanding how to network. And that networking creates opportunity when you continue to see the same community managers at these events.”

While joining such industry associations opens the door, Beck reiterates that contractors must figuratively step through it to realize any gains in this market.

“A lot of contractors just want the lead, but that’s not the way it works. The HOA industry is very tight-knit and it’s really an organization of referrals that generate leads, and the contractors who are getting involved and playing the game, they’re getting a lot of leads.

“It’s not a spectator sport,” he adds. “You’ve got to be active. For some, that means hiring a marketing person who can go to these functions and start getting the name of your company out there. Or, you can work with Sherwin-Williams HOA reps to help get you started with local associates to connect with.

“I tell people there’s no magic to breaking into this market.”

While the pandemic made such relationship-building a more virtual experience in the recent past, Beck expects a return to in-person marketing.

“I expect we’ll soon be right back to where we were, with more face to face,” Beck says.

Color and by-laws

Working with HOAs offers some other unique twists, such as the use of color. Boards typically will have approved a color palette, through partnership with suppliers such as Sherwin-Williams. Such palettes are often available online in their HOA Archive, available for homeowners and contractors to utilize.

“Contractors should learn how to look up those color palettes,” says Beck. “It can be tricky, when you may have a homeowner who wants a particular color scheme. ‘Has this been approved by your board?’ ‘No, it hasn’t.’ ‘Well, I can’t paint those colors without approval.’”

It also helps to familiarize yourself with the language of HOAs, Beck says. You’ll hear terms such as “CC&Rs,” (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions), for example. CC&Rs are unique to each HOA and can go a long way in determining details in executing a painting project, usually pertaining to color but often dictating working parameters such as when certain projects can be performed so as not to impact the day-to-day lives of other residents. It’s also useful to familiarize yourself with an HOA’s bylaws, or reserve studies (on-site inspections and asset analyses) which may have been conducted and can reveal the priority of painting at an HOA. Some HOAs, for example, will dictate how often painting should be performed.

Supplier partnership

Partnering with a supplier like Sherwin-Williams can help contractors gain exposure to HOAs and learn some of the necessary basics.

“We’ve taken contractors in as guests to some events,” Beck says. “We’re officially neutral when it comes to an HOA selecting a contractor, but we’ll help a contractor make some initial contacts, attend an event and meet the managers, vice presidents and owners of these companies.

“But to get to the point where I ask a manager, ‘Who do you want on this project?’ and they say, ‘I want ABC Company or XYZ,’ that takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Beck notes that these opportunities exist for contractors who are willing to do the work, but it all comes back to understanding the unique nuances of the HOA industry, and how to reach and connect with the people who can help you break through.

This article is part of a series of stories designed to help professional painting contractors grow sales by expanding into new markets. Read more stories about building your painting business in the PPC magazine archive.