A community is much like the human body – as it ages, there are aches and pains that need to be “treated.” Some of the issues faced as a community gets older are relatively minor. However, others are more serious. So, how do we manage our aging communities?
Is your community association approaching that threshold that a community reaches after over a decade of wear and tear? Is the asphalt beginning to show the effects of years of use with large areas of alligator cracking and numerous potholes, wood trim showing signs of rot, brick entrance monuments no longer proudly announcing your community, and the pool plaster showing discoloration?
Here are a few tips to help you manage your aging community:
Regular ‘check-ups:’ The best way to know what maintenance is required in your community is to have regular inspections of your facilities and common areas. This becomes even more important as your community ages. It is important to look at your playgrounds more frequently and inspect the interior and exterior of your meeting rooms and clubhouses on a regular basis. You should also drive the private roads in your community and take a stroll along the concrete pathways and sidewalks in order to identify areas that are in need of repairs.
Create regular maintenance schedules: This is critical as your community ages. Preventing major repairs and the need for replacement by performing recommended HOA maintenance can save the community a great deal of money and can save the board of directors headaches! A great example of this is an asphalt maintenance schedule. Each year, have all private roads inspected by a professional in the industry. Asphalt repairs should be made annually to areas that show alligator cracking, and linear cracks should be “crack-filled.” Every three to four years, your private roads should be seal-coated. These steps will extend the life of your asphalt and save the association money.
Make sure your reserves are fully funded: It is important that, as your community ages, you make sure that there are sufficient funds in your reserve account to handle any major repairs or replacements that come up. It is also important that you update your reserves regularly. Virginia law requires that a reserve study be updated every five years; other states may have similar requirements. However, if your community is aging, it may be a good idea to do reserve updates even more frequently to ensure that you are using accurate replacement costs and allocating enough funds to reserves each year.
Budget carefully: As your community ages, your annual maintenance costs will increase. It is important that boards of directors keep this in mind as they prepare annual budgets. While assessment increases are never popular among homeowners, it is important to put adequate amounts in the budget to avoid special assessments along the way. Look very carefully at your general repair and maintenance line item to make sure that you are budgeting enough money to cover all of your regular maintenance for the year ahead. It is also important to look at your reserve study when you’re creating the budget. Make sure that you are including the recommended amount to achieve or maintain a fully-funded reserve account. It is inevitable that major repairs or replacements will be needed on your facilities and physical components, so ensure that the money is available when your community needs it with proper HOA accounting practices.
Managing an aging community can be a challenge. But with a game plan and strategy in place to keep up with it, a board of directors can face the challenge head-on and maintain the community standard that the homeowners have come to know, expect and appreciate.
Hilary Lape, CMCA®, PCAM®
Legum & Norman, Inc., AAMC
Falls Church, VA