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Michelle Gaskill Joins the Sharper Management Team

Michelle Gaskill Joins the Sharper Management Team

Eden Prairie, MN, (September 9, 2020) – Sharper Management is pleased to welcome Michelle Gaskill to its team. As the new Operations Manager for Sharper, Gaskill brings nearly 30-years of experience and a wealth of knowledge to the position. Her effective and efficient information management style will be a great benefit to overall operations and to all community members in associations managed by Sharper.   

Gaskill began her career in rental property management in 1991. After spending 15 years in that sector, she transitioned to association management in 2006 and earned both the CMCA and AMA accreditations. In 2010 she made the shift from community management to the internal operations department at Associa MN.  

Working for a Minnesota-based company is something Gaskill is looking forward to in her new position at Sharper management.  

We are excited to welcome Michelle to the Sharper family.  Her experience and attention to detail will be a great resource for our new and existing clients,”states Matt Froelich, Partner and Chief Operating Officer. 

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. 

Virtual Board Training – Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Virtual Board Training – Tuesday, October 20, 2020

October Session –
Tuesday, October 20th – 6pm (Login information will be sent to those registered) – “Financial Fundamentals and Simplifying Insurance”

All Board members from community associations managed by Sharper are welcome to attend.

Tuesday, October 20th at 6 p.m. – “Financial Fundamentals and Simplifying Insurance”
This focused session coincides with most association’s end-of-fiscal year and insurance renewal seasons. Insurance and financials are always large and complex topics.  Led by Sharper’s two directors of community management, Candy Lee, CMCA, AMS, PCAM and Michelle Stephans, in addition to trusted insurance vendor and expert, Eric Skarnes, of Insurance Warehouse, this session will cover topics such as:

* Defining Types of Insurance Policies & How they Interact
* Insurance Claims & How They are Handled
* Market Place Update
* Basic Financial Reporting
* Understanding Operating Cashflow & Reserve Savings
* Budgeting Process & Methods
* Replacement Reserve Studies & Requirements

If you are interested in reserving your spot, please email info@sharpermanagement.com

Maintaining Community Ties During COVID-19

Maintaining Community Ties During COVID-19

With everyone spending time more time at home and distanced from others, has your HOA been affected? As we navigate our way through COVID-19, it’s important to foster connectivity in your association.

Holding events over Zoom is a great way to connect with people and do different activities. For example, you can play bingo, have virtual club meetings, and have HOA meetings. Zoom is a free software that anyone can use; all you need is the email address of those wanting to attend.

Companies have been coming out with online extensions so people can play games at home, too. Netflix has a Chrome extension that allows multiple devices to watch the same show at the same time, so you can have an at-home movie theater night and show movies to residents via Chrome. Another way to have a movie night is to have families reserve spots, then set up an outdoor projector and mark off seating areas 6 feet apart. Households can sit together, bring their own snacks, and enjoy time outdoors while staying safe.

If your homeowners love the game “categories”, use the free website scategoriesonline.net. Simply go to the link, hit “play game”, choose the categories you want, and then select the option to send players a link for a private game. This way people will be able to have fun, interact, and stay safe.

Tips for Welcoming New Residents to Your Community

Tips for Welcoming New Residents to Your Community

Building community among residents is always a priority for a happy neighborhood, but it’s hard than ever to do this during the COVID-19 pandemic. One way you can welcome new residents and help them “find there way” with living in an HOA, is to have a Welcome Packet ready when they arrive that contains important information they may need.
The welcome packet can have whatever you and your HOA board thinks in important, but here are some ideas on what to include.
  • Welcome letter. Including a letter that will officially welcome the new resident to your HOA will help them feel invited and give a positive first impression about your community.
  • Community rules and regulations. While more association buyers will have already reviewed the rules and regulations of the association before deciding to purchase, it’s a good reminder to include them as a good reminder and note on what to expect from their neighbors.
  • Board and committee makeup. Include the structure of the board, its members, and contact information so they know who to contact with questions/concerns.
  • Amenity information. If your community has shared areas, such as a pool, park, clubhouse, or fitness center, include the location and hours of these amenities. It’s always nice to have that kind of important information at your fingertips.
  • Owner contact sheet. Ask the new resident to fill out and return a contact sheet so the HOA board can easily contact the new owner with questions/concerns.
  • FAQ sheet. Ask residents who have been in your community for a while what questions they had when they first moved into your HOA, and create an FAQ sheet that includes these questions and the answers. This will help reduce the resident’s need to contact you with simple questions.
  • Local events. With the pandemic still in full force, events probably are not happening in your area. However, including maps of local parks and walking paths as well as tips on restaurants are usually very well received by new residents. It’s nice to have an insiders tip sheet on local attractions.
Taking an hour or two out of your day to compile and deliver the welcome packet will help establish a good relationship with the new residents, help answer any of their immediate questions, and help them feel a part of a friendly, welcoming, and positive community.
Summer Fun and Noise Complaints

Summer Fun and Noise Complaints

Summer means warm weather, longer days, and more time outside. It also means extra noise, which could lead to an increase in noise complaints. Here are some great ways to deal with the summer noise and the complaints that come with them.

Things to do now. Look over your noise based HOA rules, and adjust them if needed, such as changing or adding quiet hours, a policy on animal noise, outdoor noise, or anything else you think might come up this summer. Even if you don’t make the changes, make your noise rules available to everyone in you HOA so they cannot use ignorance as an excuse.

Dogs and noise complaints. If you don’t have a specific dog policy, try to follow the nuisance barking definition: barking, yelping, or whining for more than 5 minutes in any 1-hour period. While some people are fine with dogs barking during the day, when people are sleeping it can be more than inconvenient.

Noisy neighbors. If you get a complaint about excess neighbor noise during quiet hours, there are a few steps to take. First, have the person complaining talk to their neighbor about the noise and record the complaint. If the noisy neighbor doesn’t stop, bring the two parties together with a moderator from the HOA and see if a compromise can be reached. If not, consult your HOA rules and see what you can do; if anything. While you will want to try and help, you shouldn’t overstep your bounds. If you really want to do something about it, ask the person that made the complaint to attend the next board meeting and petition to have the noise-based rules changed to include the problem they experienced.

Going forward. Make sure to recheck your noise rules at least once a year, as they can change. While you don’t want to nit-pick too much, try to think outside of the box when coming up with scenarios you want to cover. Ask those living in your HOA for any recommendations or noise policies they would like to see implemented for more ideas. This will also help you do an informal survey on what noise problems your HOA is having so you can adjust the policies accordingly.

Holding Effective Meetings While Social Distancing

Holding Effective Meetings While Social Distancing

This year’s meetings will be different than those we’ve seen in the past. Social distancing guidelines dictate 6′ of space between people in an indoor setting. How will that work within you HOA board’s normal meeting location? Is it feasible to continue indefinitely with Zoom (online) meetings? Or will you need to implement a hybrid version (online and in person) to safely accommodate all those who wish to attend? We’ve complied the most recent guidelines below and offer some suggestions on how to meet safely during the pandemic.

In-person options

Outdoor. At least during the Summer and warmer Fall months, meeting in-person, but outdoors is a viable option. Safe distancing of 6′ between seats and fresh air make this meeting format safer than many others. Adding masks for the duration of the meeting will also help, but they can make it hard to hear, especially in an outdoor setting.

Large Meeting Rooms. Accommodating all Board members in one space may require a larger-than-normal meeting space. Setting a seating chart and making sure all chairs are at least 6′ apart will meet safe guidelines and wearing a facemask if the appropriate distancing is not possible will allow you to meet indoors and in-person. Understanding that some members may not feel comfortable with this arrangement makes keeping an online meeting option open during the meeting is also a good idea.

Virtual options. Zoom is having its time in the limelight, and for good reason. The virtual meeting software can cost anywhere from $0 to $20/month and can host at least 100 participants at once. The big difference between the free version and the paid subscriptions is the time limit of a single meeting. The free version has a 40-minute limit, but the Pro subscription ($15/month) allows your meeting to last 24 hours. Anyone can join from anywhere, even on a mobile phone. Email the link to those in your HOA and they can use it to join the meeting.

Additional Tips:

  • Make online an option even after you move to in-person meetings again. Anyone who is immunocompromised will appreciate this.
  • Provide face masks and hand sanitizers for use at the meeting. If you provide these items, it more likely they will be used and that everyone will participate, especially in wearing a face mask.
  • Do not share a microphone during the meeting.
  • Wipe down surfaces before and after the meeting starts to be sure it’s in tip-top shape.
  • Stay updated for new guidelines affecting your area.
Time to Check Insurance Coverages

Time to Check Insurance Coverages

If you have not done so already this year, now is a good time to review your Association’s insurance policy. With summer storms and flooding upon us, knowing your coverages in advance of a damaging storm is a good precautionary move.

Many HOAs master policies cover what is known as “studs out” meaning things outside of an individual condo unit or townhome is covered by the Association master insurance policy. Studs-out polices then cover the exterior of the building, such as siding, roofing, decks, and fencing as well as common areas. It does not cover items on the interior of a private residence in the HOA. An electrical or grease fire within a unit’s kitchen would be covered by the owner’s homeowner’s policy.

Checking your coverage amounts is a good idea especially if your HOA has not done so in a few years. As with most property, values go up each year and so does the cost of building supplies. Being under insured in the event of a storm may cause the Board to implement a special assessment for homeowners. No one likes a surprise like that.

Reserve Funds and the Unexpected

Reserve Funds and the Unexpected

2020 has been full of unexpected trials. Planning for Murphy’s Law is part of an HOA board’s responsibility.

Make sure your HOA is covered for the unexpected by having an adequate reserve fund.

What is a reserve fund? A reserve (capital) fund is your HOA’s saving account; it is not used for the day-to-day necessities and amenities like repairs and maintenance, snow removal, and lawn care. It is used for large scale projects like roof replacements, replacing fencing, painting community buildings, and construction and major renovations, like replacing a parking lot or installing a new sidewalk.

Re-sale in Your HOA. Not only is your reserve fund important for the unexpected, it can also be a determining factor for those looking to purchase in your community. Community buyers often review an HOAs Reserve Fund before making an offer for purchase.

Reserve Study. While having an adequate amount tucked away in your reserve fund is important, it is equally prudent to not collect excessive amounts from association owners. A planned Reserve Study is a worthy investment. There are many third-party groups who complete Reserve Studies for HOAs, non-profit groups, and churches.

The Role of the HOA Management Company

The Role of the HOA Management Company

We are often asked about what homeowners perceive to be the responsibility of the home management company. The truth is that contracts vary from one HOA to another, so there is no blanket answer.
The duties will be outlined in the Management Agreement and often involve both site and administrative management, but not always. Depening on the needs of your association, you may have a financial only contract with your management company.
Financial-Only Duties:
  • Management of the reserve fund (savings account)
  • Accounts payable
  • Budget prep
  • Tax prep
  • Dues and collections management
  • Resale disclosures
Full-service duties:
  • Property inspections (frequency determined by contractor)
  • Contractor bidding and supervision
  • Policy/rule enforcement
  • Correspondence
  • Dedicated community manager (on- or off-site as per HOA needs and contract)
  • Meetings
  • Handyman services
  • 24/7 emergency services
  • All financial services (as listen in financial-only duties)
Each HOA is different and has different needs. If you want to know which type of management company your HOA chose, don’t feel afraid to ask.
Getting Ready to Sell in an HOA

Getting Ready to Sell in an HOA

Looking to sell your home? During our current global pandemic selling a home come with a few additional considerations. Your realtor will be a wonderful source for guidance, but we’ve compiled a short list of things to consider.
COVID Considerations
By appointment only. Open houses have been a wonderful selling tool for homes for a very long time. There is nothing like seeing a home with your own eyes. However, the COVID pandemic is making is harder to hold an open house. Many sellers are doing by-appointment-only viewings. Additionally, video showings have become popular. Facebook Live and Zoom are resources for agents to consider.
Providing hand sanitizer and/or wipes is a good idea for those who are visiting in-person.

 

Clean and reorganize your space. Ensure your space is clean and organized in case of any last-minute showings, especially when you are actively holding showings. Also try to reorganize your furniture so the living areas appear bigger. This can be as simple as moving a couch from point A to point B, or as intensive as moving bigger furniture pieces into your new home to really show the potential buyers how much space they would be getting.
Depersonalize your space so your potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. When you sell your house, you will not be leaving photos of your favorite pet or family gatherings. It is also unlikely that your potential buyers want to keep your family heirlooms, so ensure they are already out of the space before you start showing. While it may seem minor, having an abstract picture will help your space seem like more of a blank slate than a collage from your most recent vacation.
Little updates go a long way. Do you have a squeaky door or old hardware? While it might seem like no big deal, making these small changes can have a huge impact on whether people are interested in your home or not. To potential buyers, those are just one more thing they will have to invest in when they buy, so spending an extra $10 for a new hinge or hardware will help your home sell faster.
Focus on your kitchen and bathroom, as they are both big sellers. No one wants to walk into the bathroom and see water stains inside the tub or coffee stains on the kitchen counter. Ensure your big-ticket rooms are as clean as they were when your home finished construction. While they may seem like minor issues, just like the updates mentioned earlier, they can make or break a sale.
Be flexible with your showings. Ensure you are being responsive and kind when dealing with potential buyers and try to be as flexible as you can. While there are commitments you can’t get out of, like a wedding or family emergency, don’t say no to a showing just because you want to binge-watch your favorite TV series. The more flexible you are will your showings, the faster your home will sell.
Choose the right realtor who knows how to market an HOA property. Make sure to ask them the questions you had when moving into an HOA, such as what are some of the rules and fees? Also ensure that they are listing your home on websites such as realtor.com and see if they will bring in professionals to stage and photograph your home.
As the seller, you will need to provide resale documents to your potential buyer. You can find this information on our website. Visit sharpermanagement.com and look for the Resale Disclosures link in the menu bar, or Click here.