Monday, August 30, 2010

Lofts and Condos - How to Deal With a Neighbor's Shrieking Dog!

By Andy Asbury

Not everyone is crazy about animals in the house.

If you are a new condominium owner and you are one of these people, I empathize with your perspective. A Lofts and Condos specialist in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, I myself love both dogs and city life. However, I understand how the smells of pets in confined spaces can be overpowering. Dogs do shed hair on everything!

However, sooner or later your neighbor will adopt one.

When that happens, the dog is likely to shriek for hours at a time. The barking can be shrill, piercing through doors and walls. If you are extremely sensitive to this issue, it can make life seem pretty difficult.

The good news is that, usually, dogs adapt to their homes within a week or two. After that, you should hear them only infrequently, for example, when someone opens a stairwell door.

Meanwhile, if you can be patient, some tolerance for pet owners will help keep your property values high as it keeps your building open to a larger pool of potential buyers. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), sixty three percent of American households have a pet! Sixty-three percent-and the AVMA said half of them consider pets to be family members.

Some perseverance can also preserve a relationship with the new dog owner. You may find that this neighbor is otherwise the most courteous person in the building!

This is not to say that nothing can be done to address your concerns. If a neighboring dog is bothering you, contact your property management company or Home Owner Association (HOA) to find out whether the unit has registered its pet. In many buildings, doing so is a requirement. That way, those groups can help you monitor the situation.

If noise levels do not stabilize, there is additional recourse. In this case, more of your neighbors will take your side, including those more amenable to pets. If necessary, your HOA can issue fines to the pet owner with each continued, daily offense. Also, most cities have detailed noise ordinances with provisions for apartments and condominiums. In Minneapolis, codes stipulate that a person inside a condo should not be able to hear noises from other units before 6 am or after 10 pm. That means that after 10 pm, calling the police can become an option.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Is Your Condominium Reserve Fund Functional?

By []Robert J. Burns

In my younger days with an engineering consulting firm, my mentor offered me some memorable advice. When your solution appears more complex that the client's problem (which it did) then it's time to check your data. That advice could well apply if you're putting together a reserve fund plan for your condominium association or HOA.

The ultimate intent of a capital reserve fund study, of course, is to know if your reserve account will cover the cost for replacing the common area components over the long term. And if it doesn't, what do you need to do about it. The first step in checking the adequacy of reserves is, naturally enough, to determine the cost to replace each component in today's dollars. Dividing the replacement cost by its service life in years tells you how much should be set aside annually to replace it. Multiplying that amount by the years of use tells you the total dollars that should be in reserve today replace it when it's time to do so. Summing up the values for all components yields the amount you should have in your reserve account today to replace all components according to their individual schedules.

Clearly then the numbers used for expected service and anticipated remaining lives of components will have a significant outcome on the bottom line. Using handbook values of the construction industry for typical service lives does not always work. One size does not necessarily fit all. If the material used departs significantly from typical level workmanship then the handbook value is going to lead to flawed conclusions. The same applies to the expected remaining service life. If unique conditions have been causing accelerated wear of your roof shingles, then clearly some informed adjustment is needed. Also, any deferred maintenance that shortens the expected remaining life, clearly impacts on how the reserve fund needs to accumulate. But maybe replacement may not be needed right now. Perhaps the component could be repaired and placed back on track with a revised service life. You might accommodate that with a separate entry in the plan.

Intuitively, we understand that if a building component is in poor condition or is performing better than we expected that adjustments need to be made in the timing of its replacement. But there invariably instances arise where a refined judgment is unquestionably needed. In our experience, it's rare to see projects in which that is not the case to some degree. And, of course, it helps when explaining things too others if that judgment is accompanied by the opinion of a recognized professional. Take time to think through the parameters that will structure your reserve plan. It will only be as sound as the data that feeds into it. []

Burns Associates-Engineers, "Consultants to the Condominium Community", has been providing engineering services to common interest developments since 1989. We combine recognized competence in the engineering disciplines with a strong focus on economic analysis to produce a work product that will have lasting value for our clients. Reserve study work products are provided in electronic format that facilitate unlimited testing of funding options to meet future changing conditions.

Innovation led by experience. That's how we see our part in helping to improve the performance of common interest development properties and the economics of their operation. We look forward to the opportunity to be of service.

Article Source: [] Is Your Condominium Reserve Fund Functional?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What's Going On In The Housing Market

Are you starting to wonder why things aren't getting better for the condo market? Here's a little insight into what's going on in the housing market.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Management Alternatives (part. 2)

This is the continuation of a two part series in which we cover the functions and duties of a property manager.

The functions and duties of a property manager are usually itemized in the management agreement. Some firms offer different packages to different size buildings which makes hiring a management firm more feasible to condos of all sizes.

Although the duties of a manager can be quite lengthy, there are six major areas that cover all the duties:

     1. Advise and receive counsel from the board. Keep and active dialogue and attend meetings as agreed.

     2. Maintain owners' records to include mailing addresses, phone numbers, parking and storage assignments.

     3. Handle all financial records, reports, budgets, assessment collections and reserve accounts.

     4. Negotiate service contracts, one-time contracts, pruchasing and procurement of insurance. Here's where a pro can save an association money.

     5. Supervise maintenance personnel and support staff.

     6. Inspect, report, schedule repairs and follow up to completion of work.

Good management not only involves carrying out duties but having a competent organization that employs proven management techniques. The ability to handle individual complaints professionally and to keep in mind the entire building's welfare at the same time requires skill.

If a board decides to hire a management firm, it should talk to several. Pick a firm that can do the best job for the association at a fair price. Review the management agreement. Consider the pluses and minuses of a small or a large firm. Consider the location of the firm to your building.

Consider the make-up of your building and the level of management you require, along with the personality of the firm and the manager it will assign. Ask what firm is best suited to meet the building's objectives?

Since management is a people oriented business, pick out a good personality for your association. The selection process itself can be a learning experience, as you define how your building will be managed.

This completes our series on Management Alternatives. We hope you found it useful and informative.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Management Alternatives

This is the first of a two part blog on whether to hire a management company for your property. It was written by Owen Dowling.

One of the primary decisions that faces a new condominium board is whether it should hire a management firm to act as its agent to run the building.

Several management alternatives are available to a board. Self management is one technique especially suited for a smaller building that is cost-conscious and has board members with the time and the talent to do a good job.

Many property managers are quick to point out valid pitfalls inherent in self management, but this is often the best alternative for a small, well-designed building with 12 units or fewer. Lack of experience is ofter cited as a good argument against self management.

A resident manager could be employed by a board to perform duties under the direction and control of the board. This alternative requires an experienced board because it must supervise its own manager. The trend is to develop a strong dependency on the resident manager, and this is the primary pitfall with this type of management. It is dependent on the quality of the individual selected.

The alternative that many medium to large condominium building select is to hire a professional property management firm.  The management agreement typically outlines the duties of the agent property manager to the Board and vice versa. These agreements are generally quite specific and tailored to meet the needs of a particular board.

There are six basic reasons to consider hiring a property management firm:
1. Experience and knowledge of property management and buildings in general is of primary importance.
2. The management firm is sensitive to the special concerns of condominium boards and owner problems. A feel for the condo-community is a very important perspective.
3. Managements ability to anticipate problems is as important as the ability to solve problems.
4. Continuity of service unaffected by owner and board member turnover and board member burnout.
5. Equity protection - a well-run building looks better, operates efficiently and produces optimum resale value.
6. A management firm provides a fresh external perspective that is unbiased and not subject to the special interests of a few owners. Professional thoughts and actions are always desirable.

Our next blog will cover the functions and duties of a property manager.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What is a Condo?

Condominiums are buildings in which individuals separately own the air space and structures inside their unit as well as the surfaces of floors, walls, and ceilings, but they jointly own an interest in the common areas that they share such as the elevators, hallways, dividing and outer walls, swimming pool and parking lot. Maintenance of these areas and allocation of funds becomes the responsibility of a condominium association, also known as a unit owners' association. The association is run by a Board of Directors consisting, at a minimum, of a President, Secretary and Treasurer.

The Board Members are elected by the unit owners of the condominium building and serve a maximum term of two years. There is no legal limit however to the number of terms that a Board Member may serve . The Board members are responsible for the operation of the association and since condo owners will be affected by board decisions, active participation in meetings and discussions is important and beneficial to each unit owner.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Concerned About Making Your Mortgage Payment?

I came across a web site that provides a good deal of information for home owners that have concerns about making their mortgage payments. Below is a sample of one of the things that's on the page but it covers so much more and just might be a good place to start if the pressure of making your payments is getting to be a little much for you.
Head to or call 1-888-995-HOPE (4673)

Changing Conditions Bring Out Scammers...Read Below & Protect Yourself!

Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams - Help Is Free!

•Beware of anyone who asks you to pay a fee in exchange for a counseling service or modification of a delinquent loan.

•Scam artists often target homeowners who are struggling to meet their mortgage commitment or anxious to sell their homes. Recognize and avoid common scams.

•Assistance from a HUD-approved housing counselor is FREE.

•Beware of people who pressure you to sign papers immediately, or who try to convince you that they can “save” your home if you sign or transfer over the deed to your house.

•Do not sign over the deed to your property to any organization or individual unless you are working directly with your mortgage company to forgive your debt.

•Never make a mortgage payment to anyone other than your mortgage company without their approval.