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  5. David Clements says:

    Thanks so much for a great website. This is the first time I have come across this.

    You put a lot of emphasis on the percent funded. My association has one one reserve study and is looking forward to a second soon. The first study was done by one of your competitors who does not offer the percent-funded analysis. Rather, they analyzed using a baseline-funding method, where the goal is to contribute annually so that it is anticipated that the reserve balance will never drop below zero (or below some other minimum).

    I think it would be great to get a report that could offer both kinds of analysis, ie toggle between percent funding and baseline funding. Just as with an accounting program such as Quickbook data can be presented as either Cash basis or accrual basis. Will your analyses offer this?

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  18. Thank you very much for explaining this so clearly. I also was under the misconception that something with a 40 year life span would not show on a 20 year study, no matter whether it was a cash or percent funded basis. I suspect people doing their own studies will also assume that they don’t have to include any components that won’t have to be replaced within the period of the study.

    Just to confirm, would you say that all certified Reserve Study Specialists would use the same standard that you use? And if so, why bother showing a period longer than 20-30 years? Because under or over funding might be more apparent using a longer time span? The graph would go askew more obviously?

    • Sharon – great questions. Not all Reserve Study specialists handle things the way we do. National Standards only require a display of 20 yrs of income and expenses. If an RS is working to minimum standards (20 yrs) and if their only objective is cash flow, they could miss an expense in the 21st yr.

      Showing more than 20 yrs is important because it allows readers to see that the Board is planning for the care of their major common area assets.

      We feel that significant expenses require advance planning, and no arbitrary threshold # of years excuses planning for a significant expense. It is de-stabilizing, as you suggest, when a major expense enters the (arbitrary) window of opportunity for Reserve planning. So we look closely at the Percent Funded target when creating our Funding Plan.

      • Dilhi says:

        Thank you very much for explaining this so lelarcy. I also was under the misconception that something with a 40 year life span would not show on a 20 year study, no matter whether it was a cash or percent funded basis. I suspect people doing their own studies will also assume that they don’t have to include any components that won’t have to be replaced within the period of the study.Just to confirm, would you say that all certified Reserve Study Specialists would use the same standard that you use? And if so, why bother showing a period longer than 20-30 years? Because under or over funding might be more apparent using a longer time span? The graph would go askew more obviously?

        • There is no “window of opportunity” for anyone who creates a Funding Plan with a Percent Funded objective, because Percent Funded is not sensitive to a UL or RUL “window of opportunity”. If one creates a Funding Plan with a cash objective (Baseline Funding), a cash expense outside the “window of opportunity” is not considered.

          National Reserve Study Standards require a minimum display of 20 yrs of income and expense detail. As you can imagine, projections past 30 yrs get pretty “gray”. That said, we include significant components with a UL or RUL greater than 30 yrs in our analysis if they are significant, because the extra few years of contributions is worth it. It would be nice for all owners enjoying a 40-yr roof system to pay their 1/40th (approximately) share. I can’t see the fairness in arbitrarily letting the first 10 yrs of users get away without paying their fair share.

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  24. You’re welcome! Our goal is to provide insights and information to “set your association up for success”. Best wishes to you.

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  27. Devin says:

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  34. Isaac says:

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  36. Jack Asinger says:

    The building is an 8 unit condo building. The steel roof, is warranted for 50 years.Would you setup a reserve to cover estimated replacement at the 50 year mark, using an inflation rate of 2.6% annually?

    • Jack – interesting. We just finished a Reserve Study with a metal roof issue. The boardmember was adamant that it would last “approximately 50 years”, but it is our Reserve Study, and in our professional opinion we felt a good expectation was for a Useful Life of 50 years with a Remaining Useful Life of 25 years (the property was approximately 25 years old). A roof system meets the National Reserve Study Standards four-part test for a Reserve component, so we recommend it be included. Without knowing the particulars, 40 or 50 yrs should be a good estimate for Useful Life. In the absence of any physical evidence of deterioration that would guide your decision-making, subtract the age of the roof to get a Remaining Useful Life figure. An inflation rate of 2.6% is reasonable.

      Make sure all your Reserve Components are included, and revise/update your Reserve Study annually so you never “get behind” on contributions, and so the owners always have an accurate understanding of the size/strength of the Reserve Fund.

      Please contact me directly if you have further questions.

  37. Jack Asinger says:

    Thanks so much for the info and your quick response

    Jack Asinger

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  41. We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with valuable information to work on. You’ve done a formidable job and our entire community will be thankful to you.

  42. Marilyn Rockwell says:

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  45. Mike Miller says:

    Our association has for 20 years or so done only 10 year painting. Does the person who does the reserve study have any obligation to point this our and communicate with the association either to follow the reserve schedule or change it?

    • Mr. Miller – your Reserve Study professional’s obligation is not to change the Reserve Study to match the association’s actual actions, the Reserve Study professional’s obligation is to accurately model the physical and financial situation at the association, so the board can accurately budget for the future and make accurate current disclosures to the membership. We have some associations that continue to ignore our advice, leading to their own demise. It is not our obligation to go along with that. Our obligation is to continue to point the way forward.

  46. Mike Miller says:

    Do many HOA’s communicate their reserve studies to all homeowners? Ours never does. I didn’t know there was such a thing until I joined the board.

    If they do communicate, I think the executive summary would be sufficient. I received our study vial email in Feb. and I still haven’t digested the whole thing.

    • Mr. Miller – we encourage two purposes of a completed Reserve Study – budget planning and disclosure. We create our Reserve Study with a “3-Minute Executive Summary” near the front, giving our clients a simple and effective summary they can distribute to their owners. Other clients provide the login information to see the complete Reserve Study themselves, should they so desire (eliminating the need to print anything out for their homeowners).

      I would encourage all associations to regularly communicate the answer to “so… how are we doing?” with respect to Reserves to their homeowners every year. We try to make it easy for our clients to do just that.

  47. Martin Bertoni says:

    It’s been requested from a buyer’s lender regarding the sale of one of our condominiums that a reserve study is required to approve the buyers loan for the condominium sale from the seller’s association.
    Questions:
    1-The condo sale is in cape coral florida
    2-Do you have a branch office in fort myers or cape coral fl.
    3-What is the cost for this service for a 10 unit condominium
    4-How long does it take to complete this reserve study and what is required from the association

    Thanks,
    Martin Bertoni

    • Martin – We have offices in Miami and Orlando. You can contact them directly at http://www.reservestudy.com/florida. There is a “request a proposal” link on that screen. Answering a few questions there will generate a proposal for you. We typically offer Reserve Study turnaround choices ranging from 2 weeks (Rush) to a 8-weeks (Economy). Those will be outlined on your proposal.

      Thanks for your interest.

  48. Fantastic post, I really look forward to updates from you.

  49. Irish says:

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  50. We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with valuable information to work on. You’ve done a formidable job and our whole community will be grateful to you.

  51. pam Stone says:

    I reside in a 36 condo unit in Stockton. Since 2006 I have been provided with on reserve study done by Browning. Every subsequent year I have been provided with a report done by CPA’s office. The last one says we will be falling short $5600. (each individual unit). this was done March 2012. Brownings said we should not be required any other assessments for another 30 years. Albeit my monthly dues go up every year by the allowed 20%. Now for the “Big One”, in 2005, there was a huge assessment of $45,000 to every homeowner due to renovations. My Board operates outside the CC&R’s until I remind them of the rules. They apparently, they did do a visual inspection of the property this year. This was done by our Management Co. cohorts, Contractors friends. Should the visual be done by an engineer ? Or a reserve specialist? Thank you for comment. Pam Stone

    • Pam – thanks for your comment. I believe there is value having a Reserve Study prepared by an independent, credentialed (RS or PRA) professional on a frequent basis (at least every third yr in CA), but updated annually. But a requirement for having the Reserve Study done by a RS or PRA does not exist in CA. I can’t comment on other matters of your association’s specifics. It sounds unfortunate. Please contact Bob Browning (a good guy… at http://www.browningrg.com) to see if he can shake things loose, or a local condo attorney. If your Board wants a proposal from our firm, they can do so online (select the “request a proposal” button). We make the proposal request task easy, and we provide understanding, not just Reserve Studies.

      • pam Stone says:

        Robert , Thanks for response. I will contact Mr Browning to see if perhaps he can be of any help. Obviously, this board is out of control and cannot control funds. They need some accountability. Unfortantely, it is difficult to take on by myself as they are a “Good ol Boys club”. I am not going to give up though. This is a beautiful project I live in just mishandled.

        Thank you,
        Pam

  52. Dan Kessler says:

    Our association has had two studies performed, one on site & off site. While the recommendation may be to provide the “3 minute Executive Summary” to all members, we chose to provide them with the full report, after all they spent the money, it’s their report. Like with all the information provided to members some will read it and some will ignore it to their detriment and only when something happens do they suddenly take an interest. At least by providing the information upfront it takes away any questionable action by the board members by being transparent.

    • Dan – we are very interested in having homeowners understand their Reserve Study. If that is facilitated by distributing the entire Reserve Study, great! That is one of the reasons we provide the Reserve Study electronically, to aid in potential distribution. Another option is to give them the username/pw to access that same information online.

  53. Virgil says:

    Thanks for posting this.. It’s been a pleasure to read 🙂

  54. Very interesting subject, thanks for posting.

  55. I have seen the useful live of elevators estimated at 25 years and 30 years. I think with a lot of reserve components UL estimations there is some grace period room. Is it ok to use these things up until they break down or fall apart, or is the risk of an injury, lower property value, and unhappy owners too great? I guess a lot of it comes down to the politics within the HOA

    • James – there is “grace” as you suggest, but it is dependent on physical issues (usage, exposure to weather, quality of materials, expectations of the community, etc.) and the type of component (click here for an article on different failure modes for different types of components). For some components, depending on their failure mode, it is best to be proactive and do them “on schedule”. Some different types of components are ok to wait until they fail.

      The best decisions are not left to politics.

  56. MTR says:

    Thanks for the post. Just a quick point to add since you offer reserve study services in Florida. In Florida, at least with respect to a Condo Association, the Board doesn’t have discretion to under-reserve. It requires a membership vote. It’s probably the better rule to curtail the Board’s discretion because as your article correctly points out it’s foolish to under-reserve.

    • Michael – good comment, but my thinking had more to do with under-Reserving (thinking the Reserve needs of the association could be met with less-than-necessary Reserve contributions) than lack of Reserve planning. Members regularly have less information about the subject than Boardmembers, so it is still up to the Boardmembers to Reserve appropriately. The financial needs of the association move forward each day, whether the Board or the members vote to acknowledge and respond to those needs.

  57. Mike Miller says:

    If an association decides to change the scope of a project, I think it is incumbent upon the association to inform association reserves prior to the next reserve study. How else can that study be accurate and meaningful? Current reserves should be modified to reflect the new projected expense. Optimally, association reserves would be able to plug a new figure into the association’s data and provide a synopsis of the projected effect for the next full report.

  58. Madryt says:

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book on it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is fantastic blog. A great read. I’ll certainly be back.

  59. Bill Leys says:

    Good points made-a building envelope inspection is a very specific inspection and usually should have air and leak testing done as well to verify that components are water resistant.

    I do agree with Roy Hesling, who’s advocated that after 20 years or so, a reserve study should also incorporate some destructive testing of components to assure they are in fact water tight and hidden areas are in fact structurally sound.

    Many times after pulling apart a small problem on a deck, we will often find hidden damages that are not accounted for in a reserve study.

    I’ve also seen instances where the assumption that a deck say will last 30 years is made based upon a manufacturer saying it will with proper maintenance. But that is also predicated on the structural deck being built in a sufficient manner to last 30 years-ie using 1 1/8 plywood instead of 5/8″, and 2×12″ joists instead of 2×8″ joists.

    Those assumptions go out the window when the structural portion is sagging and failing after 15-20 years.

    • Bill – good points. Keep in mind, though, that a Reserve Study does not prevent all surprises at an association, it is meant to reasonably limit surprises to events that could not have reasonably been anticipated. The National Reserve Study Standard four-part test goes a long way towards helping a professional and the association identify all the appropriate components.

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  61. Regis Sanson says:

    Should we reserve for lakes? Banks erosion by wind/waves? Aquatique plants replacement? Dredging?
    We have a low traffic (only residents’ cars) road around the lake. (2 layers of 1 inch asphalt). What could be the life expectancy under Florida sun?
    Thank you in advance

    • Regis- good questions. Like with landscaping, look to the National Reserve Study Standards four-part test for guidance. We regularly include bank structure and dredging in our Reserve Studies, as they typically pass the four-part test. With respect to your asphalt roadway, that typically requires multiple Reserve components (for seal, repair, and resurface projects). Actual life expectancy depends on many things, so yours is too specific of a question to answer through this blog. Please contact our Florida office (select the “Regional Offices” tab on our website) to request a proposal, so we can be of assistance to you in this area. You don’t want to be surprised by something that slowly deteriorates over many years, right in plain sight!

  62. In some jurisdictions, such as British Columbia, it is important that the reserve study does not include any “upgrades” or “adaptations”, which carry an incremental cost, except when compelled through factors such as code changes or technological obsolescence. Locally, there is an expectation of “like-for-like” renewals as the default in the Study, which does not preclude the owners from evaluating alternatives and making cost benefit decisions when procuring quotations.

    • David – good point. One should always follow local rules/regulations. I would hope, however, that Boards would keep in mind that some components fail through technological or aesthetic obsolescence, not physical failure. Sometimes the same function can be accomplished with different (better, more cost-effective) materials. And sometimes the community has changed, where the clubhouse can be transformed into a vibrant community center as soon as that old pool table (that nobody plays anymore) is taken away and replaced with a big-screen TV. So rather than end up with a 30-yr old (or 40 or 50…) nicely painted, but old-looking building, the Board should keep in mind a goal to maintain the stature of the association in the community.

  63. Steve says:

    Choosing to under-reserve is not recommended and a risky option if a Board is short of money and does not want to special assess. What happens if a Board wants to take that option anyway, and even go a step farther and under-reserve and also not hurt its Reserve Fund Strength? Take for example roofs that have reached the end of their useful lives. The Board has other projects on which they would rather spend money. They ask their roofer to assess the roofs. The roofer reports that because of their age, the roofs could cause problems at any time, but that they appear to be in generally good condition. The Board decides not to replace the roofs, and also tries to make a case that the roofs’ useful life can be increased. Extending the useful life here may accomplish the Board’s spending goal, but what about the integrity of a meaningful Reserve Fund Strength?

    • Steve – agreed. I can’t think of a reason to under-Reserve. Hopefully a credentialed professional Reserve Study preparer is involved, so that the Component List is presented accurately, not “wishful thinking”. See the article on our website “Don’t Reserve the Truth” by clicking here. It was published in a number of publications across the country back in 2011.

  64. Another point is that all the amenities are required for the whole community to be desirable for anyone. I benefit from the elevator even if I never use it because it means the units that require an elevator have a higher value in the marketplace. This means my unit has a higher value in the marketplace.

    In Florida as soon as buildings became available with elevators, the value of first floor apartments two story buildings without elevators went through the floor right along with the value of the second floor apartments.

    And even if I never use the pool or the workshop, I like living with people who do. It creates a more diverse and interesting place to live.

  65. Gerardo says:

    Wonderful blog you have here but I was curious if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the
    same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be
    a part of community where I can get feed-back from other
    knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.
    Cheers!

    • There are some good interest groups on LinkedIn. In addition, a new site will launch shortly called AssociationLife, designed to be just as you suggest, an on-line community for those in the community association field.

  66. We have a two-test method to determine how flexible we should be with our clients: 1) Are our physical forecasts “realistic” and; 2) Are our financial estimates “defensible”.

    If the client can demonstrate that we have not met this test (and sometimes they do) or we cannot support our assertions (and sometimes this happens), then there is room for further calibration of our data.

    As a consultant, I have always found that it is better to be respected than it is to be liked. We need to tell our clients what they need to hear and not what they want to hear.