15 Things Home Owner Association Boards Should Do

by qgregg 3. January 2015 11:49
15 Things Home Owner Association (HOA) Boards Should Do 1. Incorporate the HOA. Having the HOA incorporated provides substantial legal protections for the board and general members. If yours is not incorporated, run, don't walk, to the nearest corporate attorney to make it so. 2. Use Parliamentary Procedure. Meetings can become chaotic without some form of meeting protocol. A simplified version of Roberts Rules of Order is commonly used to run efficient meetings. 3. It's Not About Power. Power is not acquired by vote or appointment, but by the ability to communicate, negotiate and empathize. Leave the agenda, hidden or otherwise, at home and serve on the board keeping the HOA's best interests in mind. 4. Operate like a Business. The homeowner association should be run like a successful corporation. Hire competent people to perform the tasks that need to be done. The board is not expected to do the work itself for several reasons: • Directors are rarely trained in property management, accounting and maintenance. • Directors are unpaid volunteers 5. Maintain the Proper Types and Amounts of Insurance including: • Directors and Officers Insurance. Protects the board against lawsuits. • General Liability Insurance. Covers negligence claims. • Fire & Hazard Insurance. Insures property damage. • Workers Compensation Insurance. If you have employees. • Fidelity Insurance. Insures against embezzlement. 6. Maintain a Safe Location for Records. If you're professionally managed, keep the records in your manager's office. If you're self managed, records should be kept with the secretary or president. 7. Understand your Fiduciary Duties. The board has the duty to act in the best interests of the HOA, current and future owners and the duty to seek out expert advice when making decisions that exceed its expertise. 8. Consult with Experts. All boards should have an attorney, CPA, insurance agent and reserve study provider to provide advice. 9. Stay on Top of Maintenance and Repairs. Preventive (proactive) maintenance reduces costs and extends the useful lives of common elements. 10. Keep Meetings Open to Members. Every member is a stakeholder in the HOA and is entitled to attend board and special meetings. 11. Hold an Annual Meeting. It is required by the governing documents and necessary to hold elections and vote on issues requiring member vote. 12. Communicate Regularly. Keep the members informed through newsletters, the HOA website, emails, postings, letters and in person. 13. Collect Delinquent Fees. Every HOA should have a collection policy to follow when a member fails to pay. Some essentials to collect include: • Process for filing liens •Right to foreclosure if allowed by state statute • Right to be reimbursed for legal fees • Late fees and interest on past due amounts 14. Amend Documents with Legal Counsel. Amending governing documents is complicated and there is much to consider. It's advisable toconsult with a knowledgeable attorney to ensure all is done properly. 15. Be Uniform and Consistent with Rule Enforcement. Include written notification to the offender and the right to appeal.

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Chimney Fires

by qgregg 26. December 2014 08:08
CHIMNEY FIRES Dirty fireplaces and solid-fuel burning stoves are a major cause of chimney fires. Defective stoves, improperly constructed fireplaces, and faulty heating equipment can also lead to chimney fires. So can the improper use of any fuel-burning equipment. Chimney fires can burn explosively with flames or dense smoke shooting from the top of the chimney. They can be noisy enough to be heard, creating a sound sometimes described as being like a rumbling freight train or a low-flying airplane. More often than not, however, chimney fires don't get enough air or have enough fuel to become visible. But the temperatures reached within the chimney can still be hot enough (around 2000° F, 1093° C) to cause damage to the chimney and ignite adjacent combustible house components – even without direct exposure to flame. Fireplaces and wood stoves are designed to safely contain the wood-burning fuel, while providing heat for a home. The chimneys they are connected to are also designed to safely expel the by-products of combustion. As these by-products exit the fireplace or wood stove, and flow up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation occurs. The resulting residue – creosote – sticks to the inner walls of the chimney. Creosote is typically black or brown in appearance. It can be crusty and flaky; tar-like, drippy and sticky; or it can be shiny and hardened. Often, all these forms will occur within one chimney system. Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible. If it builds up and catches fire inside the chimney flue, the result is a chimney fire. Although any amount of creosote can burn, the greatest concern exists when the creosote has built up in sufficient quantities to sustain a long, hot, destructive fire. Generally a ¼ inch or more of creosote creates a high hazard situation; however, any buildup can be a problem. Certain conditions encourage the formation of creosote. Restricted air supply, the use of unseasoned wood, and cooler-than-normal chimney temperatures are all factors that contribute to the buildup of creosote on chimney flue walls. ◾ Air supply – The air supply to a fireplace may be restricted by closed glass doors or by the failure to open the damper wide enough to allow heated smoke to move rapidly up the chimney (the longer the smoke stays in the flue, the more likely creosote will form). A wood stove's air supply can be limited by closing down the stove damper or air inlets too soon or too much. ◾ Burning unseasoned firewood – Burning green wood results in a cooler fire than if dried, seasoned wood is used. This means cooler smoke and greater potential for the byproducts to condense and buildup on the chimney interior. ◾ Cool flue temperatures – Condensation of the unburned by-products of combustion also occurs more rapidly in an exterior chimney (one with one or more sides exposed to the exterior from the base to the roof) than in a chimney that runs through the center of a house and exposes only the upper reaches of the flue to the elements. The colder the climate, the quicker the buildup. Whether a masonry or factory-built metal chimney, if there is damage from a chimney fire, corrective action needs to be taken. One chimney fire may not cause outward damage to a chimney; but a second one can lead to a house fire. Enough heat can even be conduct through the wall of a perfectly sound chimney to ignite nearby combustibles. Since chimney fires can occur without anyone being aware of them, and since damage from such fires can endanger a home and its occupants, all chimneys used for fireplaces and stoves – particularly those used often, should be inspected and cleaned on a regular basis.

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What Not To Do As A New Homeowner?

by qgregg 26. December 2014 07:37
What Not To Do As A New Homeowner? If you're new to homeownership, you'll definitely want to avoid these boneheaded but easy-to-prevent mistakes that could cost you big time. We know so well the thrill of owning your own house - but don't let the excitement cause you to overlook the basics. We've gathered up a half dozen classic boo-boos new homeowners often commit - and give you some insight on why each is critically important to avoid. 1. Not Knowing Where the Main Water Shutoff Valve Is Water from a burst or broken plumbing pipe can spew dozens of gallons into your home's interior in a matter of minutes, soaking everything in sight - including drywall, flooring, and valuables. In fact, water damage is one of the most common of all household insurance claims. Quick-twitch reaction is needed to stave off a major bummer. Before disaster hits, find your water shutoff valve, which will be located where a water main enters your house. Make sure everyone knows where it's located and how to close the valve. A little penetrating oil on the valve stem makes sure it'll work when you need it to. 2. Not Calling 811 Before Digging a Hole Ah, spring! You're so ready to dig into your new yard and plant bushes and build that fence. But don't - not until you've dialed 811, the national dig-safely hotline. The hotline will contact all your local utilities who will then come to your property - often within a day - to mark the location of underground pipes, cables, and wires. This free service keeps you safe and helps avoid costly repairs. In many states, calling 811 is the law, so you'll also avoid fines. 3. Not Checking the Slope of Foundation Soil The ground around your foundation should slope away from your house at least 6 inches over 10 feet. Why? To make sure that water from rain and melting snow doesn't soak the soil around your foundation walls, building up pressure that can cause leaks and crack your foundation, leading to mega-expensive repairs. This kind of water damage doesn't happen overnight - it's accumulative - so the sooner you get after it, the better (and smarter) you'll be. While you're at it, make sure downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house. 4. Not Knowing the Depth of Attic Insulation This goes hand-in-hand with not knowing where your attic access is located, so let's start there. Find the ceiling hatch, typically a square area framed with molding in a hallway or closet ceiling. Push the hatch cover straight up. Get a ladder and check out the depth of the insulation. If you can see the tops of joists, you definitely don't have enough. The recommended insulation for most attics is about R-38 or 10 to 14 inches deep, depending on the type of insulation you choose. BTW, is your hatch insulated, too? Use 4-inch-thick foam board glued to the top. 5. Carelessly Drilling into Walls Hanging shelves, closet systems, and artwork means drilling into your walls - but do you know what's back there? Hidden inside your walls are plumbing pipes, ductwork, wires, and cables. You can check for some stuff with a stud sensor - a $25 battery-operated tool that detects changes in density to sniff out studs, cables, and ducts. But stud sensors aren't foolproof. Protect yourself by drilling only 1.25 inches deep max - enough to clear drywall and plaster but not deep enough to reach most wires and pipes. Household wiring runs horizontally from outlet to outlet about 8 inches to 2 feet from the floor, so that's a no-drill zone. Stay clear of vertical locations above and below wall switches - wiring runs along studs to reach switches. 6. Cutting Down a Tree The risk isn't worth it. Even small trees can fall awkwardly, damaging your house, property, or your neighbor's property. In some locales, you have to obtain a permit first. Cutting down a tree is an art that's best left to a professional tree service. Plus trees help preserve property values and provide shade that cuts energy bills. So think twice before going all Paul Bunyan.


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Washington DC, House Holds Hearing on Unmanned Aircraft Systems

by qgregg 15. December 2014 10:58
Washington DC, House Holds Hearing on Unmanned Aircraft Systems On December 20, 2014, the House Committee on Transportation’s Subcommittee on Aviation held a hearing on “U.S. Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Integration, Oversight and Competitiveness”. NAR sent a letter to Subcommittee members expressing support for the FAA’s actions to quickly create practical regulation for the commercial use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Current FAA regulations ban the commercial use of UAS, and REALTORS® want to use this technology to take aerial photographs and videos of properties to enhance their listings. NAR has been working directly with the FAA to educate policymakers about the opportunities that exist for the commercial use of UAVs in real estate. NAR has been engaging in the rulemaking process through meeting the FAA and has submitted other comment letters to the FAA on the proposed UAS rules. NAR has continually urged the FAA to expedite this proposed rulemaking and to quickly develop a regulatory framework for commercial use of UAS technology that addresses public safety and privacy concerns, but permits a commercial UAV industry to flourish and allows REALTORS® to safely use the technology. Members can learn more about the UAS issue by visiting the political advocacy page on drones or reading the field guide to drones.

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"If you overprice your home, it will take longer to sell and sell for less money."

by qgregg 8. December 2014 06:22
There's one piece of advice that every real estate agent on earth will tell you - "If you overprice your home, it will take longer to sell and sell for less money." Yet, sellers ignore them, and overprice their homes anyway, hoping their home will be the one to defy market physics. Why do they do it? Lots of reasons: They feel entitled to make a profit They don't want to bring money to closing They feel their home is superior to other similar homes They want a return on improvements and repairs They want to buy a bigger, more expensive home They want to pay off credit card and student loan debts They want to pay for college, retirement or some other financial goal They think buyers want to negotiate They think real estate agents can get it sold for more if they just work harder Did you notice that not a single one of those reasons has anything to do with the current market value of the home? According to an older study from real estate community Zillow.com, sellers often base their asking prices on their original purchase price. In other words, they want to live in the home for a number of years, and then sell it for more than they paid for it so they can meet personal financial goals, such as buying a bigger home or putting more toward retirement. That's understandable, considering that typically, homes beat inflation by one or two points, but the market doesn't always cooperate. Buyers may not like the improvements you made to your home. Your home may have been in a trendy neighborhood when you purchased it, but now buyers are flocking somewhere else. If you overprice, your home is going to stagnate on the market. The right buyer for your home might not know your home exists if they use price perimeters to search for a home. That means a typical search between $175,000 and $200,000 won't include your home priced at $205,000. Buyers tend to search in increments depending on scale - $10,000 increments for $100,000 homes and $100,000 increments for million-dollar homes. Pricing just over a logical range end point like at $255,000 or $505,000 will exclude that home from some search results, say experts. Setting a high price with wiggle room to reduce the price later is not a successful strategy. You might get some showings, but you won't get offers. Your home could sit without an offer for a month or two before you take action to reduce the price. Once you reduce the price, buyers tend to think there's something wrong with the house, sending potential offers even lower. Instead, price your home just under break points. $249,000 instead of $255,000. Since you're already expecting to negotiate, a lower price point might get you a full-price offer from a buyer who recognizes that your home is a good buy.

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Homeownership remains unaffordable for most Americans

by qgregg 14. November 2014 09:25
HousingWire Homeownership remains unaffordable for most Americans Slight improvement, but stagnant wages still drag on borrowers Trey Garrison November 14, 2014 A median-income household can only afford a median-priced home in 10 of the 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, according to a new Interest.com report. That’s actually an improvement from last year, when the median-income household fell short in all but eight of the 25 metros. And it's not totally out of line with similar findings. Homebuilders, for example, also say home affordability is slipping. They report the national median home price increased from $214,000 in the second quarter to $221,000 in the third quarter, while average mortgage interest rates decreased from 4.44% to 4.35% in the same period. “Low mortgage rates are helping home affordability to some extent, but the key ingredient – which has been missing to this point – is substantial income growth,” according to Mike Sante, managing editor of Interest.com. “Millennials, in particular, are struggling to overcome their student loans and save enough money for a down payment.” Baltimore was the biggest gainer over the past year, jumping from 17th-most affordable in 2013 to sixth-most affordable in 2014. Minneapolis and Atlanta swapped the top two spots, with Minneapolis taking the crown this year. Sacramento experienced the biggest drop in home affordability over the past 12 months, sinking from 12th to 18th in the ranking. But it’s still more affordable than the other three California metro areas on the list. Los Angeles (22nd), San Diego (24th) and San Francisco (25th) join New York City among the four least affordable markets. Overall, median home prices rose six percent over the past year in the 25 metro areas, while incomes rose by about two percent. Contrary to most expectations, mortgage rates eased a bit, which provided homeowners with some relief. Most Affordable Metropolitan Areas 1. Minneapolis (+23%) 2. Atlanta (+22%) 3. St. Louis (+20%) 4. Detroit (+14%) 5. Pittsburgh (+13%) Least Affordable Metropolitan Areas 21. Miami (-26%) 22. Los Angeles (-32%) 23. New York (-32%) 24. San Diego (-38%) 25. San Francisco (-46%)


Fall Yard Clean Up Recommendations

by qgregg 31. October 2014 06:28
If rainfall pools on your lawn then it's time to aerate the compressed soil so that water and nutrients can reach the roots. A garden fork can do the job on a small yard, but for larger lawns you can use a walk-behind aerator that will pull out larger plugs of earth that break down by springs. These can typically be rented at your local home improvement store. Cutting back on fertilizer in the late summer months prevents perennials from wasting energy on leaf production. Grass roots keep growing until the ground reaches around 40 degrees so feeding your lawn in the fall is still a good time to do that. Try a high-phosphorus mix to lawns in the fall to encourage root growth. Mow your lawn one final time to a height of 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 inches. Disease has a harder time with shorter grass and fallen leaves will blow across the lawn easier without taller grass to catch on. Just make sure you do not go too low. To make fallen leaves easier to transport, rake them onto a plastic tarp. They can be added to a compost bin to be recycled in your garden. Flip the leaf pile every week to aerate the compost and you will end up with a cheap alternative to store bought fertilizers for your garden. In many parts of the country, planting shrubs in early fall gives the plants a head start at establishing roots in the season's cool, moist soil. The basics: Dig a hole twice the diameter and to a depth of 2 inches less than the height of the root structure; position the shrub in the hole; fill in with soil; water to settle soil; add more soil to top the top of the root structure; mulch. Lifeless branches can succumb to winter snow and winds, endangering you and your home. For big jobs, call the pros. But you can protect small ornamental trees from further damage by cutting cracked, loose, and diseased limbs close to the trunk; leave the wounds exposed to heal. A little work now results in healthier spring beds. Evict tired annuals, as well as the snails and slugs that feed on them, which breed in the fall. Trim spent perennial foliage down to the ground; this send energy to the roots for next season. Every three years, divide crowded tuberous plants, like irises and day lilies. More space means more flowers. Give new beds a layer of mulch-chopped leaves, weed-free straw, or wood chips-after a light frost, but before the ground freezes. Till decomposed layers of organic mulch into the soil, then apply a fresh 2 to 4 inch layer to keep new plantings warm and to control water runoff and soil erosion. Standing water can freeze and crack drip-irrigation tubing. For simple systems, shut the water off, unscrew the joint adapters, and using a high-volume, low-pressure setting on an air compressor, insert an air hose where the system normally attaches to the tap. Blowing the water out avoids having to uproot the entire system.

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How Can a Homeowner Protect Home and Property Against Thieves?

by qgregg 2. September 2014 04:19

No home alarm system is completely full-proof, but those who can afford electronic security systems do rest easier and are less likely to become burglary victims. They feel secure knowing the authorities have automatically been alerted to the crime. As for their valuables, it's not likely a thief will get away with much, especially if he's foolish enough to enter the house with the alarm blaring and the cops on the way.

However, the same bad economy that forced some people to steal to survive and provide for their families has also prevented many homeowners from purchasing state-of-the-art protection, no matter how affordable it may be. When a paid home security company is out of the question, there are still some things that a homeowner can do to make his home less attractive to thieves:

  • Invest in door and window alarms purchased from a hardware or department store. Some models work by numeric code while others use a key to turn the alarm on and off. Prices range from twelve to twenty dollars, respectively. These alarms do make a loud shrill noise; they might scare off a burglar, but may not be loud enough to alert a neighbor.
  • Place a sturdy piece of wood against a sliding patio door frame so that the door won't open even when unlocked.
  • Make it hard for a thief to get into your house. Install quality dead-bolt locks that are resistant to "lock bumping" (Read more on this below). Use security window locks on all windows (in addition to the locks that came with the window). You can also choose a key-less entry system. (Good for family members who tend to lose their house key.)
  • Keep valuables away from windows where they can easily be seen or grabbed. Regardless of an alarm or lock, a thief needs only a few seconds to break a window and snatch a laptop, high-definition television or other valuable that's within easy reach.
  • Install a motion detector outside and/or inside your home. Outdoor types include floodlights that turn on when someone is detected close to the house. The only drawback is that larger animals (dogs, possums and raccoons) tend to set off the lights, too. They don't cost much, but an inside motion detector might be enough to scare off an intruder.
  • Keep garage doors closed, storage and work sheds locked. Thieves can sell power tools, gardening equipment, riding mowers and other such property.
  • Keep your cell phone charged and with you. Even if you have a bedside extension phone, it won't help you if a thief rips out the phone line to the main handset.
  • Keep trash confined, especially during the holidays and any gift-giving occasions. Boxes for expensive electronics, and wrappings for valuables that are left outside in full view, can tell a thief a lot about the home occupants.

Keep pets licensed and invest in a microchip that will help locate your beloved dog or cat should someone steal and try to sell him.

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Smart Steps for Every New Homeowner

by qgregg 25. July 2014 10:43
Turning the key in a lock that no landlord has access to, reading in a hammock in your own backyard and painting your dining room bright red - what could be more exciting than making the leap from renter to first-time homeowner? Getting swept up in all the excitement is a wonderful feeling, but some first-time homeowners lose their heads and make mistakes that can jeopardize everything they've worked so hard to earn. Don't be one of those people; take a few moments to ponder these practical concerns that will help ensure that your first home becomes the place of luxury and financial freedom you've anticipated. 1. Don't Overspend on Furniture and Remodeling You've just handed over a large portion of your life savings for a down payment, closing costs, and moving expenses. Money is tight for most first-time homeowners - not only are their savings depleted, their monthly expenses are often higher as well, thanks to the new expenses that come with home ownership, such as water and trash bills, and extra insurance. Everyone wants to personalize a new home and upgrade what may have been temporary apartment furniture for something nicer, but don't go on a massive spending spree to improve everything all at once. Just as important as getting your first home is staying in it, and as nice as solid maple kitchen cabinets might be, they aren't worth jeopardizing your new status as a homeowner. Give yourself time to adjust to the expenses of home ownership and rebuild your savings - the cabinets will still be waiting for you when you can more comfortably afford them. 2. Don't Ignore Important Maintenance Items One of the new expenses that accompanies home ownership is making repairs. There is no landlord to call if your roof is leaking or your toilet is clogged (on the plus side, there is also no rent increase notice taped to your door on a random Friday afternoon when you were looking forward to a nice weekend). While you should exercise restraint in purchasing the non-essentials, you shouldn't neglect any problem that puts you in danger or could get worse over time, turning a relatively small problem into a much larger and costlier one. 3. Hire Qualified Contractors Don't try to save money by making improvements and repairs yourself that you aren't qualified to make. This may seem to contradict the first point slightly, but it really doesn't. Your home is both the place where you live and an investment, and it deserves the same level of care and attention you would give to anything else you value highly. There's nothing wrong with painting the walls yourself, but if there's no wiring for an electric opener in your garage, don't cut a hole in the wall and start playing with copper. Hiring professionals to do work you don't know how to do is the best way to keep your home in top condition and avoid injuring - or even killing - yourself.

Housing Bubble Worries Are Evaporating

by qgregg 6. July 2014 11:58

Housing Bubble Worries Are Evaporating

Fears of another real estate bubble are disappearingAll that news about another bubble threatening the housing market is fizzling out. The upside for the industry is that prices now seem to be rising at a slower, steadier pace, stemming bubble fears.

The last two years recorded some of the highest price hikes in the country. Prices were rising at a pace that reminded many of the housing bubble of the last decade. It made the industry a bit anxious, and some buyers were intimidated and may have stayed away from making that most important purchase of their lifetime.

But, things began to change this year and the pace of price increases started slowing down. If this trend continues, homes will stay affordable and more buyers will be able to jump onto the homeownership bandwagon, according to Businessweek.com.

“That means that the housing market will avoid becoming overvalued, allowing the recovery in sales activity and housing starts to continue,” Capital Economics property analyst Paul Diggle said in a research note, according to Businessweek.

Home prices in May increased 8.8 percent compared to a year-ago period, according to a recent CoreLogic report.  Although still a big gain, that number is almost 3 percentage points lower than the growth rate reported three months prior. It’s also the lowest annual change seen in 18 months. And, that rate is going to continue to slide as more new homes enter the market.

“We are still under-building compared to population growth,” homebuilding analyst Stephen Kim of Barclays wrote in a recent report, according to Businessweek.

Barclays anticipates housing starts will increase by 200,000 annually, rising to 1.7 million by 2017.

So, you can tell your clients that now is a good time to buy, while prices will remain affordable. Also, with inventory levels expected to increase, they will have more homes to choose from in the coming months.

Models, Private Planes and Other Luxury Marketing Strategies

How far are you willing to go to sell a luxury home?  Would you be willing to offer your clients a private plane or boat ride?

Believe it or not, real estate agents in some markets are doing just that—and more—to sell the luxury lifestyle. One agent even utilized a strategically-placed lingerie model in a photo shoot for a property, according to CNN Money.

Jack Cotton, a real estate agent in Cape Cod, Mass., takes potential buyers out on his powerboat. “That’s kind of our secret weapon,” he told CNN Money, referring to his boat. The rides allow his clients to get a feel for the nearby waterways in order to “experience the lifestyle of being here.”

Luxury real estate agents now using drones, lingerie models and private jets to sell homesMany real estate agents are adapting their marketing strategies based on their location. Some Manhattan agents in the high-end market offer clients limo rides, while their counterparts in Colorado will take clients out skiing.

An agent in Atherton, Calif., which is the highest-earning zip code in the state, recently bought a private plane and uses it to give his clients an aerial view of their potential backyards.

Some agents are also using drone technology to help with aerial photos for their marketing strategies.

“The high-end market is very competitive,” Colette Harron, a real estate agent in Essex, Conn., told CNN Money. “So whatever it takes.”

Signed Home Contracts Shoot Up

Signed contracts for homes jumped in May, according to the National Association of Realtors. The NAR said that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index increased 6.1 percent to 103.9. That’s the biggest month-over-month gain since April 2010.

This is a positive sign for the housing industry. Pending sales indicate future purchases. Usually, there’s a lag of one or two months between a contract and a completed sale. The uptick in the numbers was triggered by low mortgage rates and increased inventory, according to the Associated Press.  Signed agreements increased in all four regions of the country, the AP said.

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