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Selling Your CIC Property

Selling Your CIC Property

When preparing a CIC property for sale, you can follow a lot of the same steps that homeowners go through. In general, the most important changes involve transforming your property into an open, well-lit, and de-personalized space. Follow these steps to help turn your property into a hot commodity:

  • Update the little things-in-style fixtures and a fresh coat of paint can go a long way.
  • Leave storage areas like closets, pantries, and kitchen cabinets half-empty and organize what’s left to create the illusion of more space.
  • Remove any personal items like family photos, pet supplies, religious items, and anything else that will distract the buyer from picturing their family in the home.
  • Give each room a purpose. If you have a room for storage, then make it into an office.
  • Try to be flexible with visits. It shows that you’re pleasant to work with if they choose to go through the buying/closing process.
  • Focus on cleaning and staging your kitchen especially-it’s almost always the big seller.
  • Buyers will most likely start searching online first, so make sure you’re on all of the big listing websites. Include lots of photos and take them during the day so your space is well-lit.
  • And, of course, do your best to properly clean and declutter your property. When arranging furniture, less is more.

The market is hot right now for home sales, so you can take advantage of that. Play up the association’s role in taking care of the outside property and that benefit when winter storms hit. For pricing, don’t try to over-price-that only discourages buyers from looking at your property. Set your price in the true or lower range, and it will attract lots of buyers who will most likely bid up for a better chance at closing it.

Find resale disclosure documents via the Sharper Management web site at sharpermanagement.com. Look for the Resale Disclosures link in the menu bar. Or, click here.

HO6 Policy Overview

HO6 Policy Overview

After making the decision to join a homeowners association, your next step should be to protect all of your home assets. Overall, there are two main insurance policies necessary to cover a property loss: a master policy through the association and personal homeowner policy (called an “HO6”). The master policy is provided by your association and can vary in coverage. Generally, it always covers the exterior shell of the building/home and common areas. The interior of the unit/home, however, varies. It is very important that you understand the scope of coverage required by the association’s governing documents and therefore covered by the master policy.  “Walls In,” “Studs Out,” “All In,” “All In, Less Betterments and Improvements” are common terms that mean very different things.

Often times the structural coverage of the HO6 policy is called “Coverage A” or “Real Property Coverage.” This would cover damage to the unit that is either A.) not covered by the master policy or B.) from a loss that may not reach the association’s deductible. The amount of “Coverage A” that you should carry will vary, so you and your personal insurance agent should look to the master policy to identify possible coverage gaps and recommended amounts.

Another part of your HO6 policy should usually include Liability; in many cases, this type of coverage is an umbrella policy. Should someone hurt themselves on your property, your insurance would cover the medical expenses. Liability claims can lead to expensive lawsuits that involve you and the association, so an HO6 protects you from the financial strain that follows those type of events. If your unit is left empty for long stretches of time, there could also be a tailored coverage for that situation. Finally, you should look to add “Loss Assessment” coverage to your HO6 policy and check your association’s governing documents, as it may be a requirement. Loss Assessment would cover you in the event the association assesses you for a deductible or for damages caused to Association property.

Association insurance can be complicated, so you should utilize your agent to help navigate coverage needs. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to tell your agent to work with the association’s agent to ensure all possible coverage gaps are closed.

McKnight Townhomes and Condos Joins Sharper Management Family

McKnight Townhomes and Condos Joins Sharper Management Family

Eden Prairie, Minn – (June 6, 2018) – Effective April 1st, Sharper Management is pleased to have taken over full management services for the McKnight Townhomes Condominium Association in Maplewood. Originally constructed in 1972 as a rental townhome community, it was converted to a cooperative in 1983, and then to a condominium association in 1993. McKnight is an expansive 32-building community with a total of 190 three-story homes

“The sheer size and scope of McKnight is a lot to take in,”  said Matt Froehlich, Owner and Chief Operating Officer of Sharper Management. “However, we have the tools and the talent to work with a very knowledgeable and dedicated Board to further enhance the resident experience and property value of the community.  We are grateful for the opportunity to work with McKnight.”

Founded in 2010, Sharper Management is a locally-owned, mid-sized property management company offering a full suite of premiere services to homeowner and commercial associations of all sizes. Sharper Management currently provides services to the Minneapolis-St. Paul seven-county area.

Weathering Expectations

Weathering Expectations

One of the most challenging components to property management is managing expectations as it relates to contractors and service providers. As community managers, we certainly have our opinions, but at the end of the day it’s a simple fall back on the parameters of the contract. Did they meet it or not?

As a Board, you clearly have expectations based on recommendations to bring in a particular contractor and views of past experiences with various vendors. And homeowners – oh, the homeowners. They will make their expectations, feedback and opinions known.

It seems like a regular exercise that we reflectively look back on the previous season and say, “that was a weird winter/summer/spring/fall, wasn’t it?” Well, this past winter certainly was. And from it was a reminder on some important lessons regarding expectations.

There is no doubt that at many Board meetings this spring there will be some in-depth discussion on the performance of snow removal vendors. We have had consecutive years of less than average snow totals. It has, perhaps, set an unrealistic expectation of snow removal services. But this was a winter of two-halves. Consider that during the first half of the winter, metro Minnesota had 30 snowfalls of less than 1″ in accumulation. By most contracts, there was no plow service since it was under the trigger depth. Roads got messy; and then even messier when we had long cold snaps in January-March that never allowed for that unplowed snowpack to melt. The second half of the winter was a dozy. We had four snow falls that were greater than 6,” ten that were greater than 4″ – and of course the snownami of April 13 that, depending on location, dropped somewhere between 14-22″ over a 48-hour period. It was the icing on the cake to our seemingly never-ending, will spring ever come, winter. Yes. “Weird winter,” indeed. More poignantly for snow operators; it was a difficult winter.

What homeowners don’t see or understand is the contractual and logistical challenges that came with this winter. They pay dues for snow services, but in order to keep dues under control, a plow trigger is in place. Typically, 1-2″. If it doesn’t snow that much in a particular snowfall, there is no removal service. Sure, you can adjust contracts; but lowering the plow trigger has a significant impact on price and dues. The long duration/significant snowfalls are another challenge to snow removal services. This season April 13 became the extreme example. Municipalities shut down operations. How would the association’s vendor even get there with their plow? Plow drivers went on 24-36 hour work stretches. Company owners had to send them home to rest for safety purposes. Many companies faced the challenge of shovelers walking off jobs. It was an extremely difficult snow event to end an already difficult season.

As you review your snow contractor’s 2017-18 performance, hopefully this helps give some perspective. The intent is not to make excuses. Surely, there were some vendors that failed miserably. The conversation from this winter should not only be of criticism, but rather a review of your community’s needs and a shared understanding of expectations. The lesson learned, or perhaps harshly reminded, is that the key to mutual understanding of expectations is effective communication between all parties. Vendors to managers. Managers to the Board. Managers to the community.

The Three “P’s” of Decision Making

The Three “P’s” of Decision Making

When it comes to the decision-making process, Board members should check the three P’s. Policy. Practice. Precedence. No matter how large the decision or how small the conversation, Board members should be methodical and intentional throughout their discourse.

Policy – this is the easy one. When making decisions, responding to homeowner requests and issues, applying, and enforcing rules, or creating new policies, the Board should check the governing documents to see what policies, ordinances, laws, etc. that may apply. The governing documents are the playbook to how the association is governed and managed.

Practice – where policy may not exist, the Board should be aware of past practices. A good example of this would be how Limited Common Elements are handled. Does the association take on the expense of replacing the patio slab and then bill it back to that benefiting homeowner?  Does the association treat it as a common expense and absorb it?  Does the association make a list each spring of the patio slabs to be replaced and then replace them at the same time?  Limited Common Elements and how they are handled can be a good example of something that the association may not have a written policy for (the governing documents typically give the association options), which makes it all the more important that the Board’s past practice is consistently followed.

Another example might be how homeowners are incorporated into a Board meeting. Does the association have an “open forum” part of the meeting? Do homeowners need to email the Board or Management prior to the meeting to be put on the agenda? It is also wise for a Board to review their common practices and consider incorporating it into policy for continuity sake. Adding Board meeting conduct and procedures to the Rules & Regulations being an example.  Past practice is what can get Boards into trouble. Often times it is wise to make practice in to policy.

Precedent – at the end of the day, policy, and practice all goes to set what the Board should keep in the back of their mind. Whatever you do or decide today will set an all-important precedent. The best litmus test a Board can do for themselves is to ask – if we allow this homeowner request, change this service, engage this contract, etc. – will we and all Boards to follow do it every time?

The three P’s all come full circle. Policy leads to Practice. Practice is your Precedence. Or…. Practice should lead to Policy, which sets Precedence. Whatever order it might take, when going through the decision-making process, check the three P’s.

Metro Lofts Joins the Sharper Management Family

Metro Lofts Joins the Sharper Management Family

Eden Prairie, Minn – (May 22, 2018) – Effective March 1st, Sharper Management is pleased to have taken over full management services for the Metro Lofts Condominium Association – a mixed use building off of the light rail line on University Avenue in St. Paul. Incorporated in 2006, Metro Lofts is a unique five-story, 67 unit condo building with commercial space on the lower level. Snap Fitness and Dunn Bros. Coffee make up the north section lower level of the building.

“Metro Lofts is a beautiful building in a wonderfully re-developed area of the Twin Cities,” said Dan Cunningham, Owner and President of Sharper Management. “The Board of Directors have worked hard to navigate some unique circumstances – and we are honored they have entrusted us to help move the association forward. We look forward to a long relationship.”

Founded in 2010, Sharper Management is a locally-owned, mid-sized property management company offering a full suite of premiere services to homeowner and commercial associations of all sizes. Sharper Management currently provides services to the Minneapolis-St. Paul seven-county area.

Spring Walk Throughs

Spring Walk Throughs

For a while, it was hard to believe spring would ever come. Old Man Winter insisted on sticking around for April. However, spring seems to have finally sprung!  Spring is perhaps the busiest time in property management – and this year there’s a shorted window. 15″ of snow on April 13; 72 degrees and grass greening on April 23 leads to a very busy May!

Your manager is busy making lists of things to be addressed following the long, cold winter season. Such as the inevitable list of crushed downspouts, and there are plenty of pet and plow sod damage letters to be written. Summer project planning starts ramping up and spring/summer meeting schedules start filling up. One thing each Association should consider is a spring walk-through of the buildings and grounds. Each Board is different in how they handle it. Here are a few common approaches.

*    Together – some Boards like to walkaround together with the Community Manager. More eyes can be a good thing. Additionally, it is nice to be reviewing things together to gain consensus on project and how to prioritize tasks. The difficultly with this approach, however, can be finding a respectful understanding with your Community Manager. Scheduling can be difficult (remember that managers are already work evenings for Board meetings and emergencies), managers have a check list and methodology they follow, and the distractions of homeowners coming out to say “Hi” and the inevitable “say…while I have you here, could you look at this,” can make for an extremely long and cumbersome inspection.
*    Board – Board members only. Sometimes it is helpful without the manager, who sees the property on a frequent basis and is always looking for maintenance items, for a “fresh set of eyes.” As managers, we can be guilty of developing tunnel vision. If a Board is going to take this approach, it can be helpful to divvy things up. If it is a large and expansive association, print a site map and assign areas. Or, if doing it together, assign components. Larry looks at landscaping, Carla contemplates concrete, Ryan reviews rule violations, etc.
*    Manager – sometimes the Board doesn’t want to be involved and leaves it up to the manager. There is something to be said for this approach. The manager is not bias, he/she is trained for this activity, and has tools and templates to make it an effective and efficient inspection.
*    Expert – another approach to truly getting a fresh look and a professional perspective is to bring in expert. If you’re looking at a specific issue, take roofs for example, many roofing companies may offer to do a free or low-cost inspection. Another option is to utilize Atlas Construction for a small fee to do a comprehensive site inspection and detailed assessment report.

Speaking of documentation, this may be the most important component of a thorough spring inspection. If you’re doing it as a Board, utilize a spreadsheet with columns of important items to check (windows, landscaping, etc). Be sure to take pictures. Lots of pictures! They can be incredibly valuable for rule violations, warranty claims, contractor negligence, repair bidding, and more. If the site visit is left to the manager or an expert, you can be assured they have their methodology for documentation.

Whatever route you take, spring inspections are incredibly important to document winter issues, and to prepare, prioritize, and position the community for a great summer season.

Happy Spring Walking!

Dan Sumey Joins the Sharper Management Team

Dan Sumey Joins the Sharper Management Team

Sharper Management is pleased to welcome Dan Sumey to our team as an Accounts Receivable Specialist. Sumey’s position within the accounting department will be instrumental in the growth of the company.

Sumey comes to Sharper Management with a background in mortgage origination with a specialty in HOA lending. An excellent understanding of the homeowner association management industry makes him an excellent candidate for this position. Sumey is looking forward to learning more about the daily ins and outs of HOA management and also to growing with Sharper Management.

“Dan will be a great addition to the Sharper Team. His experience with delivering quality service to his customers and great communication skills will certainly enhance our customer service,” states Todd Essig, Accounting Manager at Sharper.

Founded in 2010, Sharper Management is a locally-owned, mid-sized property management company offering a full suite of premiere services to homeowner’s associations of all sizes. Sharper Management currently provides services to the Minneapolis-St. Paul seven-county area.

For more information on Sharper Management services and employment opportunities, call 952-224-4777 or email to info@sharpermanagement.com.

Part 4 – Rules & Regulations – Understanding Governing Documents for HOAs

Part 4 – Rules & Regulations – Understanding Governing Documents for HOAs

Living in a homeowners association, you’ve likely heard people use terms such as “Bylaws,” “Rules” or “CC&Rs.” What do they mean? An Association is actually a registered non-profit corporation in the state of Minnesota – and to be so, they have an important set of legal governing documents. Much like our country has a Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc to function as a nation, an association has a similar document framework to act as a common interest community. The purpose of this article is to give you, as a member of a homeowner association, a basic understanding of this set of documents.

Although all HOAs are slightly different, their governing documents will typically all contain the following:
*    Articles of Incorporation
*    Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions *CC&Rs)
*    Bylaws
*    Rules and Regulations

Rules & Regulations
So now that the Articles have incorporated a community association, the Declarations created a framework for rights and responsibilities and a “contractual” obligation between parties, and the Bylaws empowered the Board to create policies – now comes the document that helps regulate the day-to-day issues in an effort to maintain harmony between neighbors and between owners and association. Examples of common Rules include the following:
*         Pet regulations
*         Parking restrictions
*         Architectural guidelines and procedures
*         Holiday decoration limitations
*         Noise and nuisance parameters
*         Rental requirements
*         BBQ grill ordinance

Each governing document serves a specific purpose, yet they all interact with one another to create and maintain a community homeowner association. By purchasing in an association, you created a legally binding contract between yourself and the association. That “contract” is the important documents listed above.  Hopefully this breakdown is helpful. You can access these documents on your association’s website through www.sharpermanagement.com

Part 3 – Bylaws – Understanding Governing Documents for HOAs

Part 3 – Bylaws – Understanding Governing Documents for HOAs

Living in a homeowners association, you’ve likely heard people use terms such as “Bylaws,” “Rules” or “CC&Rs.” What do they mean? An Association is actually a registered non-profit corporation in the state of Minnesota – and to be so, they have an important set of legal governing documents. Much like our country has a Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc to function as a nation, an association has a similar document framework to act as a common interest community. The purpose of this article is to give you, as a member of a homeowner association, a basic understanding of this set of documents.

Although all HOAs are slightly different, their governing documents will typically all contain the following:
*    Articles of Incorporation
*    Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions *CC&Rs)
*    Bylaws
*    Rules and Regulations

Bylaws
Once an association has been formed and the Declarations laid out, it then adopts a set of bylaws. Bylaws are important for owners. The primary function of the Bylaws is to give direction on how the Association will be governed. Here are some examples of critical components of the Bylaws:
*         Board of Directors structure (term length, number, qualifications, etc.)
*         Responsibilities of the Board (policy creation and enforcement, budget setting, etc.)
*         Officer positions and responsibilities (President, Treasurer, Secretary, etc.)
*         Voting procedures and rights
*         Board and owner meeting requirements
*         Meeting notice procedures

Each governing document serves a specific purpose, yet they all interact with one another to create and maintain a community homeowner association. By purchasing in an association, you created a legally binding contract between yourself and the association. That “contract” is the important documents listed above.  Hopefully this breakdown is helpful. You can access these documents on your association’s website through www.sharpermanagement.com