Looking To Move Into A Community With An HOA?

The definition of an association is a non-profit organization or corporation dedicated to managing a common-interest development. The beginning of the association starts with the developer of the homes. With the help of legal guidance, the developer creates governing documents for their new association. These documents include bylaws, rules and regulations, articles of incorporation, and covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). These laws keep the association managed and property values high. When residents move in and become association members, the development becomes an association and homeowners begin to feel a sense of community.

Before moving into a homeowners association, it is best to review the HOA’s documents and determine the health of the association before deciding to buy or rent a house within the community. Once a homeowner or tenant moves in the HOA, they automatically become subject to these governing documents and become members of the association. From here, members can be elected to be on the Board of Directors, who take the best interest of the community, enforce rules and determine the amount of dues necessary to keep the HOA up and running.

A tenant or homeowner should also always learn about the management company that is under contract with their prospective association. An HOA management company was created to help the developer and later Board members manage important aspects of an association. They oversee the common property within the neighborhood and make sure it is well-maintained and being used by community members. They also act as a third party when rules need to be reinforced that homeowners must follow. A management company collects dues, assures routine maintenance, and sends out past dues and violations letters to homeowners. This can keep peace between neighbors within a community and ensure protected beauty for the community.

Some people view homeowners association and management companies as a negative, when in all reality, they keep the property values of a community high and the investments of homeowners as safe as possible.

Summer Green Tips for Your Community

Is your association a green community?  There are approximately 300,000 community associations in the United States, representing more than 20 million homes. If each of our community associations encouraged their owners to take some minor steps to conserve energy, the impact would be substantial.

If we start with the common areas of a community and initiate some of the suggestions below, think of the impact it would have. Not only would the community save energy by going green, it would save money.

Energy Audits

For starters, we can have an energy evaluation performed by the energy provider. These are usually offered free of charge and the results can be amazing. Following are some ideas for savings at the clubhouse and around the common area.

Insulation and Weatherization
An association can reduce their heating and cooling needs by up to 30 percent by investing a few hundred dollars in proper insulation and weatherization. This is one of the easiest and most cost-efficient ways to reduce energy waste and maximize energy dollars. Insulation is measured in R-values. The higher the R- value, the better the walls and roof will resist the transfer of heat and cold. There should be a minimum of R-22 (seven inches of fiber glass or rock wool or six inches of cellulose). Most homes have between R-22 and R-49 insulation in the attic.

Weatherization tips include the installation of a rubber or foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates. If there is a fireplace, close the damper tightly when it is not in use. Caulk, seal and weather-strip all seams, cracks and openings to the outside. Reducing air leaks can save up to ten percent of the electricity bill.

Heating and Cooling
Invest in a programmable thermostat. Don’t pay to heat/cool when no one is in the clubhouse. The association can save 10 percent by turning the thermostat back by 10 to 15 percent for eight hours a day. Clean or replace furnace filters once a month or as needed. Turn off ventilation fans as soon as they have done the job. In just one hour, these fans can pull out a houseful of warmed or cooled air.

By replacing 25 percent of your incandescent bulbs with fluorescents, you can save about 50 percent of your lighting energy. Fluorescent lamps last six to 10 times longer and are much more efficient. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are more expensive but pay for themselves with energy savings. You can also save energy by installing photocells on outdoor lights. Exterior lighting is one of the best places to use CFLs because of their long life. In addition to the energy savings, you don’t have to pay to have bulbs replaced as frequently.

In warmer climates, select windows with spectrally- selective coatings to reduce heat gain. In the Sun Belt, you can install new solar control spectrally-selective windows and cut the cooling load by more than half. If you decide not to install new windows, you can install storm windows and reduce heat loss by 25 to 50 percent. If you already have storm windows, be sure to repair and weatherize them for maximum effect.

Appliances account for about 20 percent of your household’s electrical consumption. An appliance has two price tags – a purchase price and the operating cost. You will be paying on that second price tag every month with your utility bill for the next 10 – 20 years. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label. You can add to the savings by following a schedule of preventive maintenance, such as replacing gaskets on refrigerators.

A well-placed tree, shrub or vine can provide shade and act as a windbreak. Deciduous trees planted on the south and west sides will keep the clubhouse cool in the summer and allow the sun to shine in the windows in the winter. Evergreen trees planted on the north and west sides of the clubhouse deflect winter winds. Vines growing on trellises can provide the shade for a window or the whole side of the clubhouse. Mulch stabilizes soil temperature, prevents weeds, feeds the soil for healthier plants and helps conserve water. And, it recycles itself. The use of organic or slow-release fertilizers for trees and shrubs produces plants with strong root systems and no excessive “top growth,” saving you time and money. They also reduce nutrient run-off into ground and surface waters. Select plants that are pest and disease-resistant and low-water-use varieties. Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation on beds to save up to 50 percent or more compared to sprinklers. Water in the morning to avoid evaporation and avoid evening watering as it can encourage the growth of mold or plant diseases. In dry periods, allow the turf to go dormant. Water once a month and it will bounce back in the fall. Deep but infrequent watering of turf will encourage a stronger root system.

Imagine what would happen if each of our 20 million plus owners did nothing more than switch to CFL bulbs and saved 50 percent on their lighting energy bill. These are small dollar changes that will provide savings for years to come.  One small step for a community association…one giant step for planet EARTH.

Gail VanDyke, PCAM®
Mid-Atlantic Management
Plymouth Meeting, PA

Does Your Association Have A Website?

Community websites are an incredible tool for homeowners associations. Besides that, it’s now 2013 and your homeowners or condo association needs to be on the web. Why do community association websites have such value? Consider this: whenever a prospective home buyer searches the internet for your homeowners association, whatever they find is often their first impression. You want that first impression to be a good one! Keeping a well-maintained community website make it possible for prospective home-buyers to find and learn more about you. It’s also a great way to keep all of your residents connected and informed.

A website allows you to control how people perceive your community. In this way, you can make a great first impression for your association. Keep in mind that the website is a reflection of the community itself; a modern, maintained website will make your community appear modern and maintained. Likewise, when someone views a website hasn’t been updated in 2 years or they cannot find a website for your community, what does that say about your association?

Another advantage of having a community website is the reach it gives you. Think of your association website as a platform that allows you to reach your entire community at once. There are times when this can especially come in handy. When you have a upcoming annual meeting or fall festival, you want to get the word out to your residents to ensure a good turnout. Community news and events can be easily announced, as well as useful contact information like the email address of a board liaison. This can drastically reduce calls to the management office and streamline your workflow. Some associations have eliminated paper newsletters altogether in favor of electronic communications.

With Condo Manager, you can take your website a step further and allow homeowners to pay their dues online. This simple function is amazingly convenient for many residents of all ages. If your community does not have a website or has one that in outdated, you can rely on Condo Manager for help. Our team of web developers can create a custom solution for your association. In an age where perception is reality, being perceive as professional, collected, and friendly is a must. If you don’t want the hassle and expense of maintaining a server, you can have your website hosted “on the cloud” for a very modest price.

Creating a website for you homeowners association will require effort, but the end result is well worth it. Websites are much more than just a new trend or fad. They can be utilized as tools for your association to communicate, grow, and prosper.

Neighborhood Association: Why Neighborhoods Matter

Your neighborhood association can help build a community that connects people.  It helps provide safety and a sense of community.  Great neighborhood associations also empower people and encourage participation in community activities.  And, they provide a safe environment for children to socialize outside the family.

A strong neighborhood provides the foundation for families and creates the building blocks for a better America.  That’s why neighborhoods matter so much and why AAM is committed to providing the highest levels of community management.

To create great neighborhoods, we recognize we need to listen to those we serve.  Therefore, we’d like you to take a few moments to explain why your neighborhood matters to you.  Our brief neighborhood survey should only take about three to five minutes to complete.

The information collected from the survey will help us understand how members prefer to interact within their neighborhood.  In addition, we’ll get better ideas on how to enhance the process.  After submitting your completed survey, you’ll be automatically entered into a monthly drawing for a $50 gift card.

Continue to read the Associated Asset Management Blog for information about Neighborhood Association.

Urban Associations Turn to Private Sector for Security

A disturbing new trend is emerging in urban community associations across the nation. As municipal governments in many American cities are struggling with budget and personnel cuts, crime is on the rise. In cities such as Oakland, Detroit, and Atlanta, upper-class communities are turning to the private sector to provide their security and protect their most Continue reading

What is the Purpose of a Committee?

Members of an association often have tasks that require more in-depth study by a small group. That’s where a committee comes in.

A committee is a body of persons delegated to consider, investigate and take action on tasks that require a small deliberative assembly. Although most homeowners association committees are advisory in their functioning, they increase the ability of an association’s directors to complete tasks efficiently. Committees provide the additional data necessary for decision making by the homeowner association.  Committee participation increases information available to the homeowners and participation in decision making for the association.

So what do committees do?

  • Committees provide the community the ability to prepare for preventative maintenance, future capital improvements, financial or investment planning; architectural review and landscape design. A finance committee frequently has the responsibility to oversee income and expenses, and to ensure the reserve fund is satisfactory. An architectural review committee is charged with approving external changes to individual units and making sure that requests meet the architectural guidelines of the community.
  • Committees can focus on the social aspects of the community. These types of committees are the heart and soul of the community. They provide a night out for many residents that include dancing and music; to group events that take residents off property to enjoy a day at a online casino, cruise ship or concert. A social committee may also offer services to new homeowners by welcoming them and providing them community information that will help them become acclimated to the community.
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    The only problem in online casino is to find such site, which is reliable enough and does not cheat. Therefore, for the gamblers best online casino ranked website is must so that they can put their money on the stake while keeping in mind that they will get profit from it if it is their luck. It is the very first priority of a gambler to find such a site that provides fun and reliability at the same time

A large-scale community that provides a resort style feel, multiple amenities including a restaurant and that could be considered a small city would be more demanding than that of a small condominium with one pool and limited common grounds. Not more important, just more demanding. Where the smaller community would possibly require a finance or landscaping committee, the larger community could quite possibly need 10 or more committees. Add into the equation the lifestyle of the owners. Large scale communities of retirees have varied and different social atmospheres than that of a development made up primarily of families who work full-time and are busy with their children’s sports or school activities outside of the community.

Committees function best when the members work with a unity of purpose.  Cooperation within the committee serves the needs of the entire homeowner association.  In their advisory capacity, committees present their findings in the form of a report to the directors of the homeowner association who have the final responsibility for decisions.  The benefits of committees to the homeowner association is that volunteers from the community bring life lessons, professional experience, education and common sense approaches to the tasks they are given.   Associations should be considered a business and with any business, its size and demands determines its needs.   Committees are an essential part of the process, in order for the association to be a successful business.

Heather C. Price, CMCA®
Director of Management Services

How to Set the Right Funding Goals for Your Association

Reserve studies are intended to help financially prepare an association for the inevitable necessity of major repairs or replacement of facilities, equipment and other assets in a community association’s common areas. Since the association is required to maintain these items, it is critical that the needed funds be available when the time comes to provide the necessary services. Such reserve studies usually cover life expectancies for these items from 1 to 30 years.

A reserve study not only helps an association anticipate when and what will need attention, but it keeps an association’s finances (reserve balances, revenues and expenses) healthy and stable. This is important not only from the association’s point of view, but for the owners so they can properly plan their personal cash flow. An association that is well-funded, and properly plans for their future reserve expenditures, helps to keep the community looking and functioning smoothly, equalizes the contributions of old and new owners, reduces the need for future special assessments, and can enhance the resale value of all properties in the association.

There are two different approaches to calculating reserve studies, even though the goals outlined above are the same.

Component Funding Method: This is considered the most conservative approach to developing a reserve study. The calculations are based on the total replacement cost and life expectancy of each asset being considered. In other words, there is effectively a separate reserve established for each reserve component. The objective of this method is to get the reserve balances to 100% funded as quickly as possible over the longest practical period of time, but it is probable that it will appear your community is “over funded” with more cash available than it going to be needed for the near-term projects. This method is also referred to as a “Fully Funded” model which aims to keep reserves at or near 100% funded.

Cash Flow Method: This method calculates the amount of each owner’s contributions to reserves based on an estimate of the anticipated annual reserve expenditures over the next 30 years. In other words, this method tests different reserve funding plans against the forecasted schedule of reserve expenses until the desired funding goal is achieved. The available cash at any given time is expected to be sufficient to meet the projected annual needs because all of the reserve monies are pooled in “one pot”. There are several alternative funding goal approaches which are used under this method:

Baseline Funding: This funding goal establishes a predicted reserve cash balance which will remain above zero. Hence, this becomes the “baseline” under which the reserve balance does not fall.
Threshold Funding: Similar to the baseline method, where “zero” is the base, this goal establishes a specified minimum dollar or percentage of reserves under which the reserve balance is calculated not to fall.
Current Assessment Funding: This process allows the association to match what they are “currently” collecting for reserves, when all future anticipated costs and life expectancies are considered, and to see how effective this level of collections would be over the next 30 years. It is a means of checking your current reserve contributions against what will eventually be needed throughout. This method also allows the reserve analyst to input their perspective into the study based on the association’s overall financial picture.

Percent Funded: This method allows an association to measure the comparative amount of their reserve funds to the balance they’d have under the Fully Funded model described above.
Statutory Funding: In some states local statutes may require that a minimum amount of reserves be maintained for some or all of the association’s asset components.
The Management Trust offers a variety of services which happen to include Reserve Studies by our in-house certified Reserve Study Analysts. Let them help provide their assistance in setting the right funding goals for your association.

Written by Tea Fant, The Management Trust – Northwest