Tampa, FL (PressExposure) January 05, 2010 -- The Bridgewater Community Association of Wesley Chapel, Fla. received a surprise visit from HGTV Star John Gidding, who currently hosts "Curb Appeal: The Block." Gidding was inspired by the association's commitment to increase property value and lead the way out of the housing slump, so he gave some great suggestions for increasing curb appeal on a budget.
"I heard the board was met with resistance from non-compliant investors and owners when it began taking the necessary steps to rehabilitate the neighborhood," said Gidding. "I wanted to give them tips for creating low-maintenance curb appeal on a budget that they could share with the community."
Gidding provided these tips for homeowners and investors: Installing solar powered lights along a walkway creates a welcoming look. They only cost about $15 each, and you never have to turn them on/off. Placing tables and chairs outside implies that the neighborhood is safe and that people enjoy spending time outside with neighbors. An inexpensive bistro set can be found at any local home goods store. Always plant according to your willingness to maintain. Choose structures, plants, ground-coverings and systems that will help to reduce watering, weeding, trimming, painting and mowing. Buy trees and shrubs bare-root, in containers or with roots and soil wrapped in burlap. Bare-root plants are the most economical. There's no heavy soil to manage or containers to plant. Add mulch around palms, shrubs and other plant beds. Mulch helps minimize weeds, conserve moisture and moderate soil temperature. Plus, it makes your landscape look more polished. Ornamental grasses add grace and motion to any garden. Many varieties last throughout the winter, attracting birds and adding winter interest to the garden. Add a seasonal wreath to your door. Landscape in front of power boxes to help hide them. Don't let your mailbox look forlorn. Plant flowers around it.
Gidding also suggested a few things that the association could do in common areas such as using boulders to create unique landscapes and planting large palms at the entrances of main streets.
"We are so honored that John Gidding took the time to come all the way out to Bridgewater," said HOA President Mark Spector. "His tips are much appreciated, and I look forward to sharing them with the entire neighborhood. Hopefully this helps us come together as a community to proactively restore our property values and remain true to our vision of a family-oriented, owner-occupied neighborhood."
Bridgewater, which was developed by Lennar Corporation in 2004, was one of the last developments in Florida finished prior to the residential real estate market slowdown. The neighborhood was profiled by the Wall Street Journal in September 2007 for struggles with absentee-investors and non-compliant renters, but they've come a long way since then.
In less than one year, Bridgewater's financials have been brought from near bankruptcy to financial stability; collection rates rose from 25% to 55%; HOA dues were reduced from $170 to $70 per quarter; owner-occupancy rates increased from 40% to 55%; and the statistics are looking better every day. The Board has even begun investing in new and improved amenities throughout the community.
The positive changes began when the board voted to operate independently in July 2009, putting an end to unauthorized negotiations between previous property managers, legal staff and delinquent owners. They also negotiated the cancellation of the bulk cable contract, converting the community to individual accounts.
Bridgewater even hired French/West/Vaughan, the southeast's largest independent public relations firm, to promote owner-occupancy by highlighting community events and programs, the neighborhood's ample park and recreation space and its proximity to schools and shopping, among other things.
"We are always trying to be innovative," said Spector. "We believe we are the first HOA in the country to hire a PR firm, and capturing attention from the likes of John Gidding certainly confirms our reason for choosing public relations over a local billboard advertisement."