Re: HOA fees
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2018 08:26:56 -0800 (PST)
On Dec 6, 2018, at 9:53 AM, Susan Rohrbach via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at] 
cohousing.org> wrote:
> 
> There is a movement afoot not to raise HOA fees and to cut back on basic 
> services in order to achieve this goal. We are listed as a condo assn for 
> legal purposes. Many people here think the fees are too high despite the fact 
> that there were no increases for many years. Our reserves are not where they 
> should be and increases are meeting resistance. I thought having some idea of 
> what other places charge would bring some useful comparisons. I realize that 
> housing costs and taxes make a difference which is why I asked for some idea 
> of that range as well. Any info you can provide would be appreciated.

In addition to what Ann said:

I would start by making a chart/spreadsheet. Make columns for all the services 
you provide as part of your fee (undoubtedly more than other condos) and do a 
survey. You will probably have to call people who live there or call a member 
of the board. Managers are probably not free to give this information out. Be 
sure to tell them this information is only for inhouse use. It can be 
distributed anonymously to your members but have back up information because 
someone will be suspicious that you made it up — the same people who don’t want 
to pay more.

Association Reserves has done data on reserve balances. If they are 40% below 
the full 100% projections communities start delaying maintenance, repair, and 
replacements and compound their problems. At some point someone is going to 
start looking at cohousing community reserves the same way they look at large 
condo reserves — poor reserves can cause an estate agent to refuse to recommend 
your community. Even if you don’t use real estate communities, the word gets 
around. (But like buyers, many don’t know the difference.)

I think the relatively safe average is 80% funded but some are more than 100% 
funded. You can check their website. They do studies in the western states and 
have lots of data. They also have a minimum cost package that you can fill out 
yourselves and get calculations. Important — be sure to include everything that 
you will have to replace and use realistic lifetime projections. The Means 
references have this and your library should have copies. If they don’t, a trip 
to a nearby large library is recommended. Or sit down with a contractor or 
architect.

Another good source of information is property management companies. They deal 
with these questions all day long. Take one to lunch or hire them for 2 hours 
to walk your property with you and give estimates. Repair companies, vendors, 
and manufacturers can also tell you how long things will typically last.

For years I have recommended professional reserve studies because we had an 
excellent architect who did thorough studies and was very helpful in giving 
advise on materials and repair processes. But feedback from around the country 
is that they are often not worth much. The “specialist” isn’t and doesn’t 
provide helpful information. Their studies are minimalist and only designed to 
keep you out of court if you budget badly.

Look at cost of living figures for your state. If your fees had gone up 0 and 
the cost of living has gone up 12%, you need to look at whether you can resell 
units if you aren’t keeping up with the Joneses. 

Reducing services is probably a defeatist move because services are cheaper to 
pay for as a group and people will just start paying more for individual 
services. We did, however, once offer to exempt one household who was 
ideologically opposed to TV from paying the monthly fee for cable service in 
the CH. That may be possible in some areas. (When we offered, he dropped his 
objection and he didn’t take the offer either.)

Sharon
----
Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
http://www.takomavillage.org




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