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Ask Slashdot: Software To Visualize, Manage Homeowner's Association Projects? 115

New submitter jishak writes: I am a long time Slashdot reader who has been serving on an homeowner association (HOA) board for 7 years. Much of the job requires managing projects that happen around the community. For example, landscaping, plumbing, building maintenance, etc. Pretty much all the vendors work with paper or a management company scans the paper, giving us a digital version. I am looking for suggestions on tools to visualize and manage projects using maps/geolocation software to see where jobs are happening and track work, if that makes sense. I did a rudimentary search but didn't really find anything other than a couple of companies who make map software which is good for placing static items like a building on a map but not for ongoing work. There are tools like Visio or Autodesk, which are expensive and good for a single building, but they don't seem so practical for an entire community of 80 units with very little funds (I am a volunteer board member). The other software packages I have seen are more like general project management or CRM tools but they are of no use to track where trees are planted, which units have had termite inspections, etc.

I am looking for tools where I could see a map and add custom layers for different projects that can be enabled/disabled or show historical changes. If it is web based and can be shared for use among other board members, property managers, and vendors, or viewable on a phone or tablet, that would be a plus. I am not sure how to proceed and a quick search on Slashdot didn't really turn anything up. I can't be the first person to encounter this type of problem. Readers of Slashdot what do you recommend? If I go down the road of having to roll my own solution, can you offer ideas on how to implement it? I am open to suggestions.
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Ask Slashdot: Software To Visualize, Manage Homeowner's Association Projects?

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  • Does your HOA restrict antennas? A lot do, and thus I've avoided them all of my life. Ham radio operators should be allowed to live where everyone else lives, and pursue their hobby freely. It's sort of like the HOA has some sort of anti-nerd discrimination. People also have the right to receive television over the air without being constrained to poor indoor antennas.

    • by supremebob ( 574732 ) <themejunky@g[ ]ities.com ['eoc' in gap]> on Friday February 23, 2018 @09:36PM (#56179655) Journal

      You know that's not legal, right? The FCC has rules against restricting the erection of antenna on your property:

      https://www.groundedreason.com... [groundedreason.com]

      • You're right but unfortunately abuse of this particular law is rampant and practically unchecked. You can't even get approval for a DirecTV dish in most these places.

      • you are aware that the linked article is about TV antennas and mentions nothing about Amateur radio.
        • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday February 23, 2018 @09:52PM (#56179719) Homepage Journal

          Radio Amateurs don't have the same legal protection. Yet. But given that television antennas are protected, discriminating by the sort of content carried is a legally problematical stance.

          • Radio Amateurs don't have the same legal protection. Yet. But given that television antennas are protected, discriminating by the sort of content carried is a legally problematical stance.

            That's because the law discriminates on size, not content. You can read it here https://www.law.cornell.edu/cf... [cornell.edu] , the limit is 1 meter.

            (1) Any restriction, including but not limited to any state or local law or regulation, including zoning, land-use, or building regulations, or any private covenant, contract provision, lease provision, homeowners' association rule or similar restriction, on property within the exclusive use or control of the antenna user where the user has a direct or indirect ownership or leasehold interest in the property that impairs the installation, maintenance, or use of:

            (i) An antenna that is:

            (A) Used to receive direct broadcast satellite service, including direct-to-home satellite service, or to receive or transmit fixed wireless signals via satellite, and

            (B) One meter or less in diameter or is located in Alaska;

            • by Khyber ( 864651 )

              "One meter or less in diameter or is located in Alaska"

              You failed to read that thoroughly - that applies to SATELLITE ANTENNAS.

              • "One meter or less in diameter or is located in Alaska"

                You failed to read that thoroughly - that applies to SATELLITE ANTENNAS.

                and P2P and a few other things. I've read it in great depth in order to get stupid antenna rules removed from past HOAs I've been in.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Sarry, but the rule doesn't apply to Ham radio antennas. (https://www.fcc.gov/media/over-air-reception-devices-rule)

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      I agree and disagree. Yes, I want to erect an antenna but the way my condo is designed makes it clunky. We also have various people erecting unsightly things on their patios, too many broken down bicycles, too many plants on stairways... all claiming it's their god given right to do so. It is a tradeoff, either get a spacious lot if you can afford it in Silicon Valley or a spacious lot in Iowa (if you want to move there). With dense living, not everyone can do whatever as there has to be some order or thing

      • Too many bicycles and plants on stairways. I don't think you understand how that sounds to other people.

        • I'm one of those other people, and it sounds pretty bad.

          I didn't think plants on stairs was a common thing, but I've lived in an apartment building where a tenant thought it was absolutely necessary to "liven up the place". I figured it was fine to add a personal touch in one's living area. Just one small potted flower at the top of the stairs, then one at the bottom, then a few more... then my grandmother came to visit, and couldn't get up the stairs to my apartment.

          My opinion has changed. It's not fine. K

          • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
            >Association of Inhabitants

            ah yes, now that would be interesting, some way to distinguish between owner and renter tenant. Another situation of too many renters then banks will put place on the Do Not Loan list.

            As the AC mentioned Fire Marshall, we've been made aware Fire Code prohibits things like bicycles and plants on stairways including put these under the stairs (which is very common in my complex).

            Thanks for your reply with "plain spreadsheet in capable hands" that reinforces sensible people

        • Too many bicycles and plants on stairways. I don't think you understand how that sounds to other people.

          How does it sound to you? To me he's bumped into all the usual reasons behind why we can't have nice things. There are far, far to many people who don't understand the word "reasonable", and figure that it's OK to raise a pile large enough to require climbing over to get past them.

    • Does your HOA restrict antennas? A lot do, ...

      HOAs often restrict house color and what plants you are allowed to put in a border - and even where the border can be! AND, at least in my state, a seller doesn’t have to tell you what the rules of the HOA are... or even if one exists!

      And you’re worried about antennas... I’d worry about them deciding to regulate how much air you’re allowed to breathe.

      Fortunately it’s usually easy to spot the domains of these pathetic little martinets - just look for the neighborhoods where ever

    • by jishak ( 571556 )
      Bruce Thank you for your commments. I am a fan of your work. As others have mentioned HOAs can't legally stop you from putting an antenna or satellite dish on the roof. Some of them have rules in the CC&Rs that are quite dated that block antennas or satellite dishes but the FCC has come down hard on communities that do that. The only requirement I know of is that you can't permanently attach them to a building and it is preferable to put them out of site if possible. You still have to apply for an
  • by mistcat ( 187084 ) <`ten.rekaerhp' `ta' `tactsim'> on Friday February 23, 2018 @09:34PM (#56179645) Homepage

    https://www.mapbox.com/ [mapbox.com]
    Not exactly proect management oriented, but could be an easy bolt on to Trello or your project management tool of choice

  • by MangoCats ( 2757129 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @09:43PM (#56179675)

    Reduce the HOA powers as quickly as feasible, reduce the HOA activities to the bare minimum required to maintain common areas.

    I was in an HOA neighborhood for 10 years, the first 7 were cool - the last 3 were a living hell as busybodies took over the board and started spending the dues on enforcement activities that generated fines to pay for pet projects. I've been gone for 5 years now and I understand that the place is still bouncing in and out of HOA hell: calling in the sheriff to oversee vote counts, etc. And, all the while, only about 30% of the neighborhood even gets involved in the proceedings - they're 90% upset about the results, but can't be bothered to show up at 7pm on a Tuesday to try to straighten out what "will of the majority" actually means.

    • I wouldn't be surprised of many of those people who "can't be bothered to show up at 7pm on a Tuesday" are probably working
      • It's a valid concern, but only applies to about 30% of that particular neighborhood - there's another 40% that just doesn't care enough to give up an evening of watching tube.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    QGIS is pretty full featured & free.

  • Try QGIS ( https://qgis.org/en/site/ )

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Set up your projects as Entitys in Drupal 8, with a Geolocation Field ( https://www.drupal.org/project/geolocation ). The other fields should be Name, Description, a File Field for whatever documents you want to upload, probably a Date field, and whatever other fields you want to track in the project. If you wanted Organic Groups you'd still have to do it in Drupal 7. If you were going Drupal 7 you could do CiviCRM with Drupal 7, and cover your group access to individual nodes, (with Geolocation Fields!)

  • Why not use Qgis ?

    it is under the gpl license and FREE

    uses GRASS and GDAL for the backend of the qt GUI

    • by mcmonkey ( 96054 )

      Why not use Qgis ?

      it is under the gpl license and FREE

      uses GRASS and GDAL for the backend of the qt GUI

      WTF is Qgis? GRASS? GDAL? Let's assume the OP has no idea what you are talking about, because they don't.

      Let's give the benefit of the doubt that Qgis is the obvious and perfect answer to this question. That the question was asked means it is reasonable to think the OP hasn't heard of the wonder that is Qgis. So a little more detail might be called for.


  • Either you're a masochist or you're trolling. This is NOT the place to ask for any advice relating to HOAs unless it's which octane of gasoline to use and how many road flares..

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Asshole he was asking about project management software with mapping tools. Read the fucking summary at least, jackass.

      • I did Mr. AC jackass squared and I stand by my original assertion. Asking for any advice pertaining to a HOA on /. is the same a taping twenty pounds of liver to your body and jumping into the ocean off the Barrier Reef. You will have an interesting encounter; your chances of having a positive experience is realllyyyyy against the odds.

        So maybe if you think you're all that and a bag of apps don't post anonymously.

  • Statistics (Score:4, Informative)

    by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @10:03PM (#56179767)

    We have the usual annual reports with lots of tables of numbers. I'd like to create graphs or pie charts to put into perspective costs of various things. Better illustrate the money pits of real vs imaginary. Some claim we can save lots of money with energy efficient lights but is it really the water costs. Letting the landscape turn to dirt will save water bill but letting value of property decrease not such a good thing. How much can be saved by reduce watering lawns? Maybe not that much. Probably most important is to locate units with dripping faucets or leaky toilet flaps that continually waste water. Yes, I know we all should know how to read financials but I think most cannot (look at most people's spending habits, and majority of companies and govt agencies).

    Important vs urgent: Putting off lots of miscellaneous repairs that many seem urgent but maybe not important. Better to put money into something important like a new roof to replace 30 year old roof instead constantly chasing water leaks every time it rains.

    Seems to me software is easy, it is the decisions like people complain about security and vandalism but not willing to pay special assessment or significantly raise monthly dues to pay for gated access and security guards.

    • Re:Statistics (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @11:23PM (#56180027) Homepage

      For a while, I worked in a financial management office. For what you describe, the best tool I've ever seen was a plain spreadsheet in capable hands.

      Every expense gets broken down, and per-unit costs (like price per gallon of water) are filled out in one section. Every adjustable parameter (like number of toilets) goes in another section, and all of the system rules (like number of gallons/minute wasted) go in a third section. Finally, all of the results go in the last section, accompanied by all of the charts and projections.

      When presenting, the first two sections are discussed first, and the client (or HOA board) gets to put in whatever numbers they think are realistic. Then you switch to the end, and they see the computed cost of everything, exactly as their own numbers work out. That shows in plain view how their money is spent, confronting their assumptions. After that, you can go back and show hypothetical fixes (like lowering the number of leaky toilets), and show the changes in outcome. It tends to be very convincing to see almost all of their own numbers driving the output.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        Multiple tools is sometimes the best thing. A spreadsheet for the numbers, a GIS program (including free Google Earth tools) for visualizations, and a Gantt charting program for timelines and dependencies.

        There is no all-in-one for the requirements.
  • we use them at work for development. some of the crazy OCD devs hate them because the GUI is not exactly how they expect it to be

  • It seems you would want OpenStreetMap's backend, but unfortunately it is not a simple to setup monolithic software.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just shut the damn thing down, and move to a country side. Good human.

  • PostGIS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Billy the Mountain ( 225541 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @10:45PM (#56179975) Journal
    So you will probably want a database and you also mentioned requirements suited to a GIS. I would set up PostGIS. PostGIS is Postgresql with an add-on for assisting in the storage of geographic elements. And it's all open source! GIS used to be a messy prospect with lots of files in different formats in lots of directories. Now that PostGIS has arrived, you can store all of your data in the database. This is nice because you have the power of a relational database to manage what you can view. You can do queries that result in Maps. Others have mentioned QGIS. QGIS plays nicely with PostGIS. You can start with the database, add in QGIS and later if you need to create a website you can add on open source Leaflet which lets you create interactive maps using JavaScript.
  • Why not online services? You can put pins on Google maps with fairly exact position and descriptions. You can probably use them to share info with individual home owners.
  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Saturday February 24, 2018 @06:31AM (#56180371)

    There's lots of those, here's one open source example.

    http://www.openmaint.org/en [openmaint.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Don't have a slashdot account since I've managed fine to lurk over the years and posting occational comments as AC, so maybe unlikly you'll even see this... BUT:

    I have made a web-based system (built on Drupal) just like what you want. I currently maintain it for a telecom/fiber building company for them to keep track of customers, cables, boxes etc. in a project but with very small changes it would work perfectly for you I think. In it you can create any kind of content type and show any and all (as separat

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Different municipalities and govt entities use Accela https://www.accela.com/ [accela.com] for managing plans and improvements. I don't know about price, but possibly what you're looking for.

  • As a HOA board member for a number of years I have to ask...why on earth do you want to associate a collection of fixed mostly static objects with geographic coordinates (or more generally spacial coordinates) as apposed to just using plain old name tags. Don't you really want to know that work/something is going on with 'unit xyz' or the 'clubhouse' or the 'entrance driveway' ,etc. Why do you care what the coordinates of these objects are? Using simple naming locations (ie. db key fields) allows you to
    • Well said!
  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Saturday February 24, 2018 @10:39AM (#56180849)

    I spent years living in an HOA and now, thankfully, am free of their clutches.

    My observations:

    1) In theory they have benefits - keep the common areas clean, no rusty cars on the front lawn, etc. In practice, the HOA's are just a pain in the ass.
    2) When you buy a home in an HOA community you think you "own" the home - but you don't. You sign over the right to have the HOA levy fines and sanctions against you if you fail to follow one of their many rules and regulations. If you choose to challenge the ruling you have to take them to court, at your expense. The HOA court fees will be paid for from HOA dues.
    3) You give them the right to tell you what kind of trees you can plant, what color you can paint your house, what you can keep in your driveway and in some cases what you store in your backyard.
    4) Unlike mortgage interest, HOA dues are not tax deductable.
    5) Unlike mortgage interest, HOA dues never go down. They always go up.
    6) If someone lodges a complain against you the HOA will not tell you who made the complaint. This immediately pits you against everyone that lives there. Any one of them could have made the anonymous call.

    Oh - just go with MS Project :-)

  • HOA's are a screwed up concept. Just shut the thing down. They spend too much time telling other people what they can do with their homes, how they can do it. what color paint they can use. FUCK THEM! I refuse to buy a home if it's part of an HOA! I've passed many times on homes because of them. They should be banned outright!

    Do yourself a favor - get off the HOA board, and band together with your neighbors to dissolve it. Your doing nothing but HARM, your doing NO GOOD.

  • I'm a developer that's worked with HOA management for a decade. I've developed an HOA-specific web CRM (MySQL/MariaDB based) that can help with what you need (extractable data available in various formats through web portals that you can put into Excel or any of the GIS tools mentioned by other posters - Excel is my recommendation). There are also many commercial packages for HOA management (TOPS, AV, Yardee, Caliber come to mind) that can help with project tracking, but they tend to lock-in your data (th

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      Nice outline of software tools.

      Speaking of people, a story mentioned by a management company is one person work to get elected to the HOA board. His goal was to make the complex the best landscaping ever and he succeeded. He served only one year on the board. And the HOA finances and reserves ended with a zero.

  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <`gameboyrmh' `at' `gmail.com'> on Saturday February 24, 2018 @01:31PM (#56181541) Journal

    Use Quickbooks for accounting and MS Office files loaded with VB scripts for all your custom computing needs. Be sure to browse using IE with Flash Player and JRE installed. Save bandwidth by only running updates monthly. HTH!


  • It's free, its fairly accurate, and you can make layers and pins and other stuff on your own, each with their own little details and what not.

    Anything else is simply bullshit.

  • So, you're looking for Tools to micro-manage your HOA?

    Isn't that who you elected?!

  • Ok, I'm aware this post is a bit off-subject, but I think the message is important enough. I understand the impulse to downvote, but please consider my good intentions. Thanks!

    I won't even need to post a URL here; please Google "nextdoor seized" and click on the top response. It should be about Dawson Neighborhood's community being seized from the neighbors who launched it, and handed to their hostile NA, who was the reason an alternate, free-speech forum was needed.

    As one of the admins "Leads" of that neig

  • Sadly there's not exactly a good open source or otherwise no-cost solution but this would work very well for HOAs if only we could get more to use it.

    Less than $10 from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01A... [amazon.com]

  • Nothing to do with software, Davis Stirling website has lots of material about HOAs of what they can do, what they cannot do. Newsletters are educational and entertaining, https://www.davis-stirling.com... [davis-stirling.com]
  • Try Bazinga, which is out of Vancouver. https://mybazinga.com/ [mybazinga.com] "A complete suite of software and services to support you as you manage your community, collaborate with your board or strata council, and stay connected to your residents."
  • Kind of a late question and nothing to do with software but enforcing HOA rules, how much and what is practical? Some HOAs very relaxed. others have authority zealots. I read a couple on this list say HOA rules should be a minimum so focus only on important common areas (not have to be a cop for the complex). Of course there is always debate on what is important and what is not.

    However with a condo with buildings like apartments, example of one unit has plumbing problems that cause flood water damage in a

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