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Archive for the tag “CT Property Managers”

Conditions prime for home buying in 2012

Source: Courant HomeFinder Digest

With the housing market and mortgage industry gearing up for their peak season in home buying activity, a number of indications from both sectors could mean the most successful season in years.

Mortgage application activity on the rise

According to a recent report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, home loan activity rose 1.4 percent during the week ending May 4.  This overall increase was spurred by an upswing of purchase requests, as the refinancing share of the index declined.

Refinancing requests fell marginally to 72.1 percent from 72.6 percent a week earlier, the report found.  In addition, government initiatives such as the Home Affordable Refinance Program and Home Affordable requests from distressed borrowers as the Government Refinance Index fell 2.3 percent from the previous week.

These trends of rising purchase applications and decreasing refinance activity could be an indicator that the housing market is growing stronger.  The fact that the refinance share of mortgage application activity has trended lower during recent weeks could be a result of more current homeowners choosing to keep their home loans under the same structure as they gear up to sell their properties.

Home loan delinquencies declining

The mortgage delinquency rate of borrowers who were more than 60 days late on their home loan payments was down during the first quarter this year to a rate of just 5.78 percent.  This marks both an  annual and month-over-month decline, according to a report from TransUnion.  This is the lowest the rate has been since the beginning of 2009.  As a potential result, this could give lenders the confidence they need to extend more lines of credit to prospective borrowers in the coming months.

“To see that quarter-over-quarter, and year-over-year, more homeowners were able to make their mortgage payments is certainly welcome news, “said TransUnion U.S. housing financial services business unit Vice President Tim Martin.  “Before this, we saw two quarters of delinquency increases and while we are still about three times above the pre-recession norm, this should mark the start of consistent improvement each quarter.”

Prior to this decline, the delinquency rate had fallen for six straight quarters until climbing during the final six months of 2011.

Housing affordability reaches 40-year high

Due to recent changes in mortgage rates, median housing incomes and property values, a report from Fisery and Care-Shiller found that housing affordability is currently at the highest level seen in nearly four decades.  Home prices have fallen by as much as 35 percent since the housing market’s peak, according to the report.  Property values are now at the same level they were in 1998.

“The precipitous drop in home prices was an immediate cause of the last recession and the financial crises.  Falling home equity has cut into household consumption and has further constrained the economic recovery,” said Fisery Chief Economist David Stiff.

Nowadays, at the current median household income, the average American family that purchases a home will only need to allocate 12 percent of their annual income to the investment.  Typically, experts advise not pulling more than 30 percent of annual income toward housing, which makes 12 percent a real bargain.

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Pending Home Sale On The Rise!

Source:  Carol Riordan www.HartfordCourant.com – HomeLife

 

Pending home sale for February were up significantly versus a year ago according to a study just released by the national Association of Realtors (NAR).

Their Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI)* showed an overall increase across the United States to an index of 96.5, a rise of 9.2 percent compared to February of 2011.  In the Northeast, the index rose 18.4 percent to 77.7.  The Midwest also posted large gains with a 19.0 percent increase to an index of 93.8.  There was an increase of 7.8 percent in the South to an index of 105.8 and a decrease in the West of 1.8 percent to an index of 99.3.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicted a strong buying season based on recent monthly PHSI increases.  He said, “We had a very good January, now we have a nine-percent increase in February figures.  These are implying that this buying season will be a quite decent year.”

The unseasonably warm weather has encouraged people to go out and look for properties.  Potential buyers are not just browsing, however, but shopping seriously for homes as indicated by a rise in realtor confidence.  “Realtors are looking at some of the qualitative factors,” said Yun.  “Whether or not people are returning on their open house visits; whether people are examining homes very carefully or just kicking the tires.”

Another indication of the real estate market’s recovery is declining shadow inventory which is measured by seriously delinquent mortgages and homes in foreclosure.  Shadow inventory reached a high in the last quarter of 2009, but has been steadily declining since then.  There has also been a decline in bank-owned properties and properties owned by the government through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration.  In addition, visible inventory has reached its lowest level in the five years.  “So all three buckets of potential inventory…are declining and therefore, because it’s declining consistently, it’s implying that the market is able to absorb this inventory and it’s all moving in the right direction, “said Yun.

He noted that home sales have been essentially stable since 2009 and that the recent uptick in the PHSI is noteworthy.  “If activity is sustained near present levels, existing-home sales will see their best performance in five years,” Yun said.  “Based on all of the factors in the current market, that’s what we’re expecting with sales rising seven to 10 percent in 2012.”

*The PHSI is a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings.  The data reflects contracts, but not closings.  The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales.  Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org.

Visit www.BarberinoRealEstate.com for all your Connecticut Real Estate Home Selling and Buying needs.  Specializing in Condominium Property Management in CT, Leases and Sales. Go with the pro! Alan Barberino.

The Board/Management Relationship – A Joint Effort

The Board/Management Relationship – A Joint Effort.

The Board/Management Relationship – A Joint Effort

Source: By Hannah Fons, Manning Krull, Article Options www.NewEnglandCondo.com

ImageUnless they’re self-managed, most urban residential buildings employ

professional property managers to handle their books, bid out repair

jobs, hire contractors and deal with the day-to-day administrative

functions that few unit owners or trustees have the time (or desire) to

handle themselves. The property manager is a key player in a condo

building or HOA’s day-to-day functioning.

So how do managers and boards of trustees work together for the benefit of their building communities? As with most such relationships, it depends on the manager, the building and the expectations each has for the other. By clearly communicating roles, concerns and expectations, the management /trustee relationship can be a rewarding, functional partnership.

Put It in Writing

Every building community is different—and while certain aspects of running them are similar, there are bound to be points at which buildings differ. A good manager will adapt his or her approach to each building in his or her portfolio and find out exactly how that community wants to do things.

“Some boards like to be told every little thing,” says Mark Weisman, president of Boston’s Brownstone Real Estate, “and some don’t. Sometimes, a board will say, ‘Don’t call us unless the bill is over $500.’ Some don’t want to do anything themselves. They may not even want to take their trash out—they want us to pay the bills and keep the place clean and just send them a bill every month.”

Whatever your building’s preferences and expectations, it’s impossible for anybody to carry them out if they don’t know what those preferences and expectations are in the first place. To ensure that everybody’s on the same page, it’s wise to articulate expectations clearly and then commit them to print. In other words, put it in writing.

For example, if your trustees feel that the manager should be on-site at least one day a week to deal with building business, meet with residents and staff, and inspect the property, while the manager feels that one day every other week is adequate, clearly there will be friction unless a compromise is met. By clearly stating your expectations to your manager, then allowing them to explain their own obligations and concerns to you, working through to a mutually agreeable solution and then putting that solution in writing, the potential for misunderstanding is greatly reduced.

It’s also important to have things in writing for the benefit of non-trustee residents. If a tear sheet or informational memo is available outlining exactly when management will be on-site, whom to contact in case of an emergency and the schedules for things like trash collection and snow removal, residents will more likely adhere to house rules and regulations. Better still, they may be less likely to complain about lack of communication from trustees/management.

Another benefit of spelling out roles and expectations is that your trustees will have a ready-made checklist against which to compare your management company’s performance. Should your building ever opt to change companies, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel with the new managers. You can simply present them with a copy, so everyone understands what’s expected and there are no surprises for either party.

Reaching a joint agreement about what your building wants in a manager—and what your property manager can reasonably provide—is one of the most important elements of the trustee/manager relationship. With clearly defined expectations, both sides of the relationship can know where they stand and have a good idea of whether or not the relationship itself is working.

Your Manager Works for You

It’s sometimes easy for a group of trustees to forget that their building’s manager is really their employee—and that they, the board, are the ones charged with making the final decisions about how to run the building. Given that most trustees are volunteers, and not professionals in the real estate industry, informed input from the management is vital—but it’s just that: input. The trustees have the final word in the decisions that affect the building community.

To that end, boards and managers must both commit to an agenda for meetings—and an action plan for afterwards—and to do their part to carry out that action plan once the meeting adjourns. That means establishing deadlines for specific tasks, delegating responsibilities fairly and practically and following up to make sure everything that needs doing has been done.

When it comes to handling problems and complaints within the building, trustees and managers must determine who will receive complaints and how they will then be acted upon. Whether it’s a complaint committee, a phone hotline, or simply a designated go-to person for managing hot-button issues, the important thing is to establish a system and adhere to it consistently.

“I like to get an e-mail list going,” says Weisman, “so I can get in touch with everybody all at once. I know who the owners are, the tenants, the mortgagees.”

“You need to be on top of everything,” agrees Ed Lyon, owner of Preservation Properties in Newton. “As a manager, you need to set the pace for the agenda. You need to be one or two steps ahead of the trustees, the tenants and the boards.”

A good manager with years of experience can be invaluable when it comes to this part of building administration by divvying up assignments and helping individual trustees take on only as much as they can reasonably accomplish in the given span of time. It’s also up to the manager to check in periodically with committee members and other trustees to make sure the projects and initiatives decided upon at the meeting are coming along on schedule. While managers are working for their boards and buildings, it’s their experience and cumulative wisdom that enables even the greenest trustees to hit the ground running and conduct their community business smoothly.

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Deck it Out – The Importance of Keeping Your Deck Safe and Secure

   By Keith Loria

When you consider all the different exterior components that a condo association  has to deal with, decks are sort of like the Rodney Dangerfield of the list—they rarely get any respect.

“Decks are definitely something that people don’t pay enough attention to,” says Robert J. Burns, president of Burns Associates-Engineers in Portsmouth,  New Hampshire, which provides reserve studies and consulting engineering  services to the condominiums of New England. “They need to be cleaned, stained and they can be potential hazards if not  monitored closely.”

Many of New England’s condominium decks were built 10 to 20 years ago, and are now nearing the end  of their useful life—especially if they haven’t been maintained properly over the years. This is especially true in New  England coastal towns, where salty sea air can wreak havoc on wood.

Attractive, well-maintained deck surfaces—whether attached to individual units or part of your condo’s common areas—add to the visual and practical appeal of your building or HOA community.  Keeping those surfaces functional and safe is just as important as any other  exterior concern. There are a number of simple things your board can do to  extend the life of your association’s decks, and new materials and methods that  can help.

“It’s vital that you have a proper preventative maintenance program for any deck,” says Ed Lenzi, owner of Lenzi Construction & Remodeling, LLC, which does business in New Hampshire. “Upkeep is necessary and a smart condo association will make sure that it’s not something they only look at when there is a problem.”

Out With the Old

These days, most condos aren’t thinking about making changes to their decks, especially if nothing is visibly  wrong with them.

“In this economy, it’s rare to see an upgrade in decks unless there is no other option,” Burns says. “Most condo documents imply ‘replace in kind, treating all unit owners equally’—so upgrading some decks and not others would probably invite unhappiness of  those who were not upgraded. Plus, associations are having enough trouble  paying for what they have without upgrading.”

Even with a steady maintenance program, the best cared for decks eventually grow  old and may need to be replaced. Luckily, a host of new technologies are  available to make deck construction and future maintenance a bit easier.

Composite products such as Trex, which are made of pressure-treated softwoods or  low-end woods with preservatives on them, are heavily in demand.

Unlike traditional woods, composite decks are constructed with screw-type sink  fasteners or with blind fasteners, which are hidden pieces into which the  composite boards are attached with clips. These decks are finished off with  railings that can be coated in nearly any color, and imprinted with textures  that closely resemble the appearance of wood.

“They are variations of wood fiber recycled material combined with ground-up  wood,” Burns says. “When boards select a replacement, they usually go with Trex. While most of the  raw materials used in making Trex are recycled, these materials are carefully  processed to ensure the highest level of quality and performance.”

Treatment Time

Pressure-treated lumber needs to be allowed to dry for several months before  sealing or staining. In most cases the maintenance depends on the weather.

“If the deck is located in direct sunlight for extended periods of time or most  of the day, then the deck will dry out and crack or take a toll on the stain  and sealer,” Lenzi says. “In this case, if the deck has been stained, then you might have to re-stain it  every year and at least every two. Sealer is easier and if it is wearing off,  then you will not have chipping and flaking as you would with stain. Therefore,  you can get away with not re-sealing as often and aesthetically, you will be  okay.”

Most composites that have been installed over the past 10 years require  maintenance only once or twice a year to remove accumulated oils, pollen,  grease and mold.

“These composites require power washing and or scrubbing in the spring and fall,  especially if there is not a lot of sun exposure to the deck,” Lenzi says. “In the past two years, composites have become much better. There are now ‘capped’ composites made by Fiberon Decking, Trex and others who are quickly jumping on  board and are the best products to protect your decking from staining and  fading.”

Inspect and Report

A smart way to maintain a deck is to create rules and regulations that all must  follow.

“The association board needs to regulate what people do on the decks and what  they put out there,” Burns says. “You can get in some hazardous situations with grills getting too close to the  building.”

In the wake of several well-publicized tragedies involving deck collapses,  building codes are getting tougher—and deck inspections are now something every condo administrator needs to have  on their radar.

The North American Deck and Railing Association is dedicated to increasing  public awareness of the necessity for regular inspection and maintenance of  existing decks and proper installation of new decks.

“A professional inspection will examine every inch of your deck, provide  information on your deck’s capacity limits, identify any dangerous problem areas and give you a map of  what to keep your eye on in the future,” says Mike Beaudry, executive vice president for NADRA. “If your deck is older, this might include a regular deck inspection schedule.”

The inspection includes key areas such as ledger connections, posts and  footings, post-to-beam connections, joists and joist connections, stairs, deck  boards, handrail assemblies and guards.

“Ledgers are the number one mode of failure for decks due to inadequate fastening  to building structures by face nailing vs. lag screws and bolting, and the  connection is hidden from view,” Burns says. “Failure is sudden and typically catastrophic. Prevention is back-up lag screws  or bolts and annual inspection for signs of water entry and rot.”

Warning Signs

Some flaws to look out for include rot and structural issues. Especially in  older buildings, layers of paint or stain on a deck may be hiding water damage  or rot, making the problem worse over time. Without the right protection and  sealants, moisture and salt can do a lot to lessen the life span of a wooden  deck.

Other important things that need to be looked for include cracking, splitting,  splintering, loose nails, loose railings, twisted posts and broken balusters.

The largest causes of deck failures are construction methods used on the deck  frame. Lenzi says that many decks were constructed without using a proper post  and beam system, lags into the sill or frame of house, joist hangers, proper  cement footings and with staircases not being secured correctly.

“Our largest issue that we see that causes deck failures is (decks that are) not  properly flashed against the house,” Lenzi says. “Years ago, everyone used aluminum flashing, as this was the code. We have  learned that water is one of the most powerful and most dangerous things to our  homes. Today we use ice and water shield (a rubber membrane that used to be  solely used on roofs for ice dams) for decks and this has proven to be the best  line of defense and almost impossible to penetrate through.”

When these failures take place, the water rots out the plywood and frame of the  structure that the deck is attached to. The deck is now failing and becoming  extremely dangerous with a great potential to fall off and cause injury or even  death.

“It’s important to understand who is responsible for the maintenance of the deck or  balcony,” says Jason Brudnick, chairman of Global Insurance Network in Needham,  Massachusetts. “Once determined, make sure that either the unit owner or the condo association  is keeping the deck well maintained in order to minimize the chance of collapse  occurring.”

Insurance Issues

Deck collapses, although generally not as major as balcony collapses on mid- or  high-rise buildings, can cause injury to people and possible damage to the  building the deck is attached to.

“There is no special insurance to cover the collapse of a balcony or deck,” says Brudnick. “I can also assure you if there was a lawsuit as a result of a collapse, the  plaintiff’s attorney would name the condo as well as the unit owner.”

There are two pieces to the insurance puzzle. First is the physical structure  that collapsed. It would need to be replaced. That would be covered under the  condominium’s property coverage. Second would be any injury or third-party property damage  as a result of the collapse. That would be covered under the condominium’s general liability policy.

“If the injury or property damage went beyond the limits of the general liability  policy, there could be additional coverage under the umbrella policy,” Brudnick says. “In this scenario there is also the issue of whose responsibility it is to  maintain the deck itself, whether it is the condo’s or the unit owner’s.”

Depending on the situation and how the condo outlines the responsibilities for  the care and maintenance of the decks, the unit owners themselves could be held  responsible.

A scheduled program of inspection, maintenance and repair can prevent damage to  people, property, and the association’s finances. Those decks, do, after all, deserve some respect.

Keith Loria is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to New England  Condominium.

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New England Condominium’s 2012 Condo Expo – Where Buildings Meet Services

www.BarberinoRealEstate.com

Source: www.ne-expo.com

On Tuesday, May 22, 2012 from 10:00AM to 5:00PM at the Seaport World Trade Center – Exhibit Hall 200 Seaport Blvd, Boston, MA.

With over 150 exhibitors, learn from educational seminars and take the opportunity to network on this day at one location. Discovering endless solutions imaginable for your condo, HOA or co-op complex, learning from the experts gives educational and networking opportunities.

Trusted by thousands, the New England Condo &

Apartment Management Expo is the leading real estate trade

show in New England.

 Join board members

Trustees

 Property Managers

Building Owners

Meet building service companies

Attend educational seminars and get

 your questions answered.

Click here: Register Now !

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