Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Condo associations on my mind

Some wax poetic about women. I get together with friends and muse about condo associations.

I'm a condo board president. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger", I always say. So, as I lead our board and owners into increased potential for re-sale value because "it's a well run building", I like to pass on stories and experiences that may one day save you a special. And if you don't know what I mean, you will.

My pal Ben pointed out a Chicago Tribune story from last weekend by Janice Rosenberg... meant to post it Monday too, but you know. The week from hell. I can't find a link to it, but promise I will, somehow. Anyway, the story focuses on the turn-over of the condo building responsibility to the owners from the paternal developer. It is now unto the newly formed not-for-profit, [your building name here] condo board association to take the keys to the Cadillac (or if you're a Realtor in this city-the uniform BMW X5 for the ladies -sorry guys who bought one, but this is a chick car- and the any Mercedes for the guys... I drive a Mazda 6 with clients and a Ford Explorer when hunting projects, whatever that tells ya...).

Turn-over means no more whining to the developer (well, after the warranty period is over). You're on your own now Mr Big Pants. Act like an adult. The responsibilty of running a multi-unit building is like a good swift kick in the pants from "Red" Foreman.

A similar cautious tome in the Sun Times was also posted by Peter at Closing Real Estate in Chicago. I like the information Peter provides but, as Ben also read, he had an opinion concerning buying into a new conversion/new development. I've asked for an elaboration and hope to read it.

So, with those two informative newspaper stories in your brain (except for the Tribune story that I can't seem to find a link too, but really exists) let me briefly provide a few of the basics:

1. If you're my client, bring me to your condo board meeting when the time comes. This is puberty for new associations and you need good advice... much like that loved counselor from Junior High gave you. Wait, that dude/chick had their own problems. I'm not perfect, but I'm more perfect than you on this subject and will help get you started.

If you're not my client, talk to your Realtor. Oh, what's that? They didn't even mention forming the new board....

2. Decide if you want a professional mangement company or if you will be self-managed. Many times this is determined by the size of the building. On average, buildings over 16 units usually use a management company. Some as small as 12 units, but the lower the number of units, the more cost prohibitive it gets to have a professional management company.

If you go professionally managed, you'll want a good company. The developer may have retained a management company at turnover for you, but you should also interview a couple others to compete. It's too late, and I'm too tired to get into the differences, contracts, services etc... of different companies, but like any service, you should pick the one that works best for you.

The management company should work with you to create a budget that funds the basic cost and upkeep of the building. Planting, landscaping capital improvements etc... will be up to the Board in addition to regular services... just ask me later, again I'm tired now.

If you go self-managed, you will have to gather your list of liabilities to pay each month, figure out who takes care of what (including outsourcing tasks), create a maintenance schedule and budget, keep emergency contractors and service people on retention etc... the Tribune story above has a couple great resources that will advise you on this plan. You'll have to arrange garbage pick-up, pay the water, electric and gas bills, collect assessments, open a bank account, file a tax return and project your potential costs down the road.

By funding the reserve properly and going self-managed, you may have your best route financially. But you must stay on top of it! Pray for that awesome, crazy person who really, really wants to take care of the building and make 'em president... then watch 'em! Help 'em!

3. Make sure common area repair issues are the first thing you address at turn over-over from the developer. Again, I defer here to the Tribune story that I can't seem to find a link for. Maybe in the morning I'll defer to me... oh well.

No one told me these things when buying a new conversion/new construction... had to learn it on my own. Your welcome.

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