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assessments vs maintainence - strategy?Mar 21, 2007


I have been told that every time there is a mntnc increase in a coop, your property value goes down slightly ( because your appeal to potential buyers decreases). A friend in a similar coop stated that , when they have (for example) an operational budget shortage for a given year, they do a temporary assessment to fill the gap instead of imposing a permanent mntnce increase. This seems like a very good strategy. comments?


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Re: assessments vs maintainence - strategy? - PD Mar 21, 2007


So your friend's building never raises the maintenance? Or they do raise the maintenance and then assess when there's a deficit? The bottom line is, prices go up. I think it's better to budget in a surplus (i.e., raise the maint. when necessary) rather than cross your fingers and hope you won't have to assess to make up the difference.




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they have a very good mntnce and... - Anonymous Mar 21, 2007


they only assess when absolutely nesessary but they keep their eye on the maintenence like hawks. the key thing to remember is that a mntnce increase is permanent. If there is an operaitonal budget shortage for a given year, they assess over a few months to make up the difference then they remove the assessment, carefully keeping the mantaience at as reasonable and appealing a level as possible and also honoring the tempprariness of the assessment.


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Maintenance - TedT-NJ Mar 22, 2007


The cost of living rises every year. So who are we fooling? Assessments are for capital expenditures.

In view the slight of hand tricks show a complete misunderstanding of fiduciary responsibly, AICPA accounting rules, etc.

Please search this forum for other comments regarding maintenance as there are some prescient thoughts.



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ted: creative thinking is a good thing AND - thinking Mar 22, 2007


are you saying that our building should not be assessing for a vague reason such as "to help keep done future mntnce"? (they are doing this now to balance the annual tax abatement) - are you saying it it illegal to assess for anyting other than cap improvements?

a very respectable building does what I described - assesses when the annual operating cost does not meet budget - it does seem like a very very good strategy to keep mantainence from being raised.

creative thinking and ideas - as threating as they might seem to some (people are scare of change) is often nothing but a better idea.


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Re: ted: creative thinking is a good thing AND - PD Mar 22, 2007


It seems that you have already made up your mind on the matter and aren't open to other peoples' opinions.

How do assessments really keep down future maintenance increases? Expenses rarely stay flat from year to year. By assessing rather than increasing maintenance, you're only fooling people. You're fooling them into thinking your building is more appealing (your words), and your fooling yourself by thinking that constant assessments don't affect a potential purchaser's decision.


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they are open to ideas, of course - Anonymous Mar 22, 2007


that is s dismissive thing to say. obviously, if they are asking this question, obvioulsy they are open to new ideas.

there are many ways to reduce maintaience such as negotiating w/ your insurance company and taking a bit of time to shop around.

in general, it seems there istrange board censosrship atitude sometimes on this discussion group everytime someone mentions new thinking about mntnce increases, essessments, etc.


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Re: they are open to ideas, of course - PD Mar 22, 2007


MM or anonymous or whoever... You asked for peoples' opinions and you're getting them. And you're criticizing those people who aren't too thrilled at the idea of assessing rather than doing a needed maintenance increase.

Of course there are ways to reduce costs. But in the end, you get what you pay for.


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lets get back the real question - td Mar 22, 2007


PD you are jumping allover someonw wihtout making constructive suggestions.

In general, there is no guarantee operational costs will increase a year after an assessment ot fill a deficiet a board may have though of a clever way to reduce some costs, commericial income may increase, it is too general of a statement to say that "costs go up" without giving a due consideraion to this idea.


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To td - PD Mar 23, 2007


Very OT: you've now posted under 3 different names (anonymous, mm and td). If you'd keep the same identity instead of pretending to be 3 separate people, I might take you more seriously.

Back on topic, please see AdC's response above.


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why dont you stop picking on the poster PD - george bush Mar 23, 2007


you are the kind of unproductive, petty person the website does not need. seriously.


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costs do not always have to go up - mm Mar 22, 2007


we have had costs remain constant in some year and NOT go up - also you cna work on lowering them via energy effieicent utility changges, negotiating with your insurance co, etc.


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Maintenance v. Assessments - Strategy? - AdC Mar 22, 2007


This has been discussed in the past at length and the conclusion is the same as being offered here. Your maintenance has to go because of inflation. If you postpone it too long, you may find yourself raising it in larger increments down the line or with incrasing assessments every year.

Obviously, all boards look for ways to cut expenses. This is part of your fiduciary responsibility. However, cutting expenses shall not mean compromising your services to building systems and shareholders. Delayiing important services on essential systems may end up costing more. Postponing a repair may duplicate its price when it becomes an emergency. So, your "good savings" may end costing a mighty fortune.

AdC




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maintenance - steve w Mar 31, 2007


The idea that property value decreases when the maintenance fee increases has no basis in economics.

Here's an oversimplification. Your co-op is a corporation. It sells a safe, pleasant place to live. When the corporation charges more to live in one of its apartments, residents may choose to pay it (by continuing to live there) or they may choose not to pay it (by selling and moving away).

Here's where the economics come in. When the apartment goes on the market, will the owners sell it for more or less then they would have they day before the maint increase was made public? How much will it sell for? My guess is the increased maintenance will have little to do with the selling price (I'm assuming the fee isn't, say, doubling.)

Frankly, in New York's co-op market, if your building does not have enough money to a) perform necessary maintenance, b) pay for capitol improvements, and c) cushion a comfortable reserves account, your property value will still increase -- but NOT as much as in those buildings that DO increase their maint regularly (or institute assessments) to cover inflation and to compete with all the other buildings out there that people can choose to buy into.

Skimping on maintenance is like telling your boss, "Hey, I don't need that raise, I'm just going to cut my expenses for the next few years." If you did that you would soon find yourself living a less pleasant lifestyle.

Remember, the co-op is a corporation, and YOU own part of it. If it's not financially healthy, YOU are not financially healthy. And if, like most of us, your home is your biggest financial investment, you want the co-op to be financially healthy!


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Increase not always feasible - BxCo-Shareholder Apr 01, 2007


Usually, a co-op applicant submits financials for the board to review. The candidates ability to afford to reside in the building is carefully evaluated.

The board also with foresight factors in reasonable increase over time and at an affordable rate to most shareholders.

My point is that, most applicants/boards approve a move to an site that is affordable.

There is nothing so terrible about living on a budget and curtailing certain luxuries if it cannot be afforded. That is sound economics and common sense. A co-op board should not expect to charge 62 & York Avenue maintenance prices if actually operating within the location and budget of a coop in the heart of the Bronx (no matter how luxurourously you promote it. I'm not berating the Bronx. I love it here. I bought my place because I could afford it. And -- I'd hate to lose my cute and cozy abode because of a luxureous fantasy housed in our board president's head. Location is important, which is why the city provides an annual property (& tax) value appraisal (which is viewable online). Sometimes less is more... if you can manage keep what you have during the hard time and celebrate during the good.

If such an apartment was placed on the market (overpriced maintenance)... it would sit for years UNSOLD! However, using this rational - let's suppose that if the coop maintenance increases to the cost at which numerous shareholders are spiraled into default-- then the increase is counterproductive to the health of the corporation. Maintenance increases must be reasonable and affordable for the majority of coop shareholders.


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Increases in maintenance - V Apr 02, 2007


Agreed! Otherwise the wealthier shareholders could squeeze out the less wealthy ones. Massive selling of apartments is never a good sign in a co-op.


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Keeping maintenance down - AdC Apr 04, 2007


I hope you become the president of your co-op so that you can pass your secret formula to maintain the maintenance that may attract potential shareholders.

Admissions Committees or boards doing screening should know what takes financially to carry a unit in building. Therefore, they should screen with this consideration in mind.

Reality is a board president does not necessarily has to be "the wealthiest" of all the shareholders. The board president does not have to be on an ego trip to make the co-op the most luxurious of all the builidng on the block.

Interesting enough, when a board raises maintenance, they also need to pay maintenance; thus, board members are affected by their own decisions. There are tons of board presidents who know their shareholder population and understand the needs of the building and the financial responsibility they accepted. Consequently, the board decisions they lead are taken with the best business judgement in mind, not to evict other shareholders of their apartment for lack of payment.

Finally, when you share the secret on how to keep maintenance low, do not include ano or all of the following ideas:

1. Convice your fellow shareholders that the boiler must be kept in summer until December 15 or temperatures go down to 30 F; if temperatures rises beyond 42 F, heat will not be provided

3. Convince shareholders that they should fire the superintendent and any helpers and instead, shareholders should do rotational work to clean up, pick up the garbage, etc with their own cleaning products.

4. Convince shareholder to cancel all insurances on your builidng.

5. Convince shareholders that water should not be heated as it is deleterious to your health.

6. Convince shareholders to restrict their showers to 2 minutes a day, never flush the toilet unless extremely soiled, and unplug their gas stoves and only do takeout food with paper plates and plastic utensils.

7. Convince shareholders that they must pay for plumbing insfrastructure that breaks behind their walls and to repair the walls on their own.

8. Obtain the cheapest elevator maintenance contract or do without one. Use the stairways unless you are handicapped.

Good luck!

AdC





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adc - you have lost it - big al Apr 04, 2007


These postings are not worthy of you. They are bitter and sarcastic and unhelpful. I agree that maintaience should not be raised unless things are dire as such raises are permanent. Yes, costs rise BUT there are many things a buiding can do to trim costs.

1) Negotiate your insurance policy. Do comparative and full research first.
2) Reduce ulility costs. Get a free audit form NYSERDA.
3) Do not increase fees to management despite their requests for a riae. Just don't do it. Examine all charges such and messenger costs, long distance phone etc. What are monthly costs that are questionable? Even small ones can add up.
etc.


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Keeping maint down - BP Apr 05, 2007


A few more ways to keep maintenance down and cut costs:


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Ooops, sorry.... - BP Apr 05, 2007


I accidentally hit the "send" key too soon, sorry. More ways to keep maintenance down...

FIRST - Find ways to save money:

1) Read monthly reports and question costs for messengers, paper/stationery, postage, supplies and "miscellaneous". A lot of excess gets buried under "miscellaneous".

2) Turn off lights in places that don't need them 24 hrs a day - laundry room, storage rooms. If the lobby's bright enough, you don't need a lot of lamps on during the day.

3) Save on paper/printing by not distributing every memo to every unit. Maybe some can just be posted in the mailroom or lobby, or by the elevator on each floor. Save on postage by putting letters under doors instead of mailing them.

4) Eliminate unneeded phone/fax lines. Most documents can be e-mailed now instead of faxed. Pay only basic charges + a maximum amount on calls for super and maint staff phones. If they frequently call relatives/friends out-of-state or out-of-country, why should the coop pay for all that?

SECOND - Find other ways to raise money:

1) If you have fines/penalties for not adhering to coop rules or policies, bill owners for them! Don't go overboard but a lot of money is lost this way. And be sure to check monthly reports to make sure they've been billed.

2) Consider putting in a candy or laundry product machine as sources for income. A soda machine, especially where moving/delivery men and Fed Ex/UPS men pass through, can bring in a good chunk of change, especially in summertime and in large buildings.

3) If you allow subletting, what's your sublet fee? A lot of buildings let this go for years without increasing it. Standard today in many coops is a fee equal to 2 months maint for a new sublet and 1 month maint for a renewal.

4) Enact what buildings call a "coop administration fee" or "administrative transfer fee" on unit sales. A flip tax requires shareholder vote/approval, but this only requires a board resolution (double check this with your attorney!). Typical fee is equal to 4 months maint (2 paid by seller, 2 paid by buyer) at closing, and the board can decide where it goes - for operating costs or reserves.

5) Re-evaluate if coop money markets or other investments are in the best places earning the most money.

Maint inevitably has to go up, but there are ways to save and/or raise money if you keep alert to them.


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Assessment vs. Maintenance Increase - BxCo-Shareholder Apr 01, 2007


I agree... a temporary assesment is the key. It is much more appealing to a prospective purchaser/seller. An assessment begins and ends at a set period of time - and is usually targeted toward a specific need. On the other hand, it is very rarely that a increase in maintenance is retracted or decreased - even after the circumstances that justified the increase has been satisfied or no longer requires additional financing.


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Right - let's talk PRO-ACTIVE ways to bring down mntnce: - big al Apr 04, 2007


Right. Seems as if many of coop board members just lie passively back and let costs go up. NO. STOP. Get active, inspired and determined!
Here are some good ideas (esp selling a super's apt if you have space in the basement for a new one):


Slashing Operating Costs

One way to diminish building costs is by eliminating unnecessary staffing. “If your elevators are manually operated, modernize them by removing the elevator men,” recommends Marcia Taranto, president of Taranto & Associates Inc., a property management company in Manhattan. “And, if a staffer is talented in some area, hire him to do some jobs on his own time if he desires. Use employees instead of outside contractors to do minor plumbing, painting or repairs. However, unless there is an emergency, the only person that should ever work overtime is the doorman (if the scheduled doorman doesn’t show), and there shouldn’t be overtime without prior management approval.”

Taranto doesn’t believe in ordering supplies in bulk. “The price is not that much better, and it’s wasteful. If you have lots of supplies lying around, it’s too easy to abuse them or use more than you would otherwise, and it’s harder to inventory,” she explains. “With smaller amounts, management has a better idea of how much is actually needed by properties.” Taranto adds that staff shouldn’t buy anything without a purchase order. She suggests reviewing bills if they seem high, and to keep in mind that some suppliers offer a one percent discount if you pay within 30 days.

John Janangelo, president of Bellmarc Property Management Services, Inc. in Manhattan, suggests monitoring utilities by both cost and consumption. “Look for major fluctuations in bills to identify problems,” he says. “Sometimes an electric company charges the wrong rate—large users are billed differently than small users—or gives you the wrong building’s reading.”

Bellmarc will occasionally consult an electrical engineer for an itemized breakdown of consumption for a building’s major mechanicals to assure billing accuracy and locate unusual drains on the building. According to Taranto, it also helps to keep the boiler and burner in good operating condition. “Have heating pipes insulated, change the steam trap, and install thermal (double) window panes to save heat,” she advises. “And, if your building has a cooling tower,” she says, “make sure it’s separately metered from the building’s main house meter for water consumption.”

Sewage charges are based on your building’s water consumption, explains Warren Liebold, director of metering and conservation for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “Even though cooling towers release little waste water (mostly through evaporation), properties are billed for that water unless the cooling tower makeup water line is metered according to DEP specifications and the building has applied for a Cooling Tower Waste Water Allowance. Applications are available from the New York City DEP.”

Also make sure commercial tenants aren’t on unit owners’ water meters. “When buildings have astronomical phone bills that aren’t related to business calls,” says Janangelo, “check the lobby phone and the super’s phone to see who was on duty when the excessive calls were made. Note where the calls were going if out of state or abroad.”

Planning with Foresight

Board president Michael Baughen can boast that his 44-unit co-op near Manhattan’s financial district hasn’t had a maintenance increase since 1994 (when they raised maintenance eight percent), and he’s doubtful there will be an increase next year. He claims no great strategy, just conservative management and planning by the board. When scaffolding was up on Baughen’s co-op for parapet repairs, they had the building surveyed by an engineer. This way, any other problems could be detected before the scaffolding, which is significantly expensive to erect, came down. “In addition, the board knew two years ago that the building’s elevators would need repairs, so we planned for the expense,” adds Baughen. In fact, the board could have actually reduced the maintenance but decided not to in case a major expenditure arose.

A Lower Interest Rate

Another way to keep maintenance costs level is to refinance by paying off the building’s existing underlying mortgage with a new one that has a lower interest rate. To choose the mortgage terms best suited for the property, you need to balance the amount unit owners are willing to spend on maintenance against how soon they want the mortgage paid off. “When you’ve narrowed it down to two or three options, call an accountant who specializes in co-op or condo work to help you choose which mortgage is best for your building,” advises Robert Altamura, CPA, a partner with the Park Slope accounting firm of Smolin & Yavel. A mortgage broker can also be very helpful in determining what mortgage is best for your building, and in securing the loan.

“With a good interest rate, you can refinance for a bit more than the last mortgage to build up your reserve fund for use on capital projects,” explains Altamura. “You can cover the five to seven percent costs of refinancing—including bank fees, lawyer fees, sometimes finders fees or commitment fees and a mortgage recording tax—and still reduce maintenance. But that usually means a longer amortization, which is the length of time before the mortgage is completely paid. “Sometimes [real estate] brokers call to ask how much maintenance is tax deductible,” Altamura continues. “If I say 35 percent, they ask, ‘Why so little?’ They should realize that a low deductible means the co-op is paying low interest or low real estate taxes. Higher mortgage payments are better in the long run if it means the mortgage will be gone sooner. You’d be surprised how quickly 15 years can go, and a co-op with no mortgage—or a low mortgage—is a strong selling point.”

Stephen Beer, CPA and partner with the accounting firm of Czarnowski & Beer in Manhattan, adds, “A high deductible looks good to a less sophisticated buyer; but in the ’90s, prospective buyers look at financials. They want to know the amount of debt per unit because they realize that if a property’s deductible is low, the unit may ultimately have a higher market value.” Beer notes that refinancing will be beneficial only as long as interest rates stay low. But once you’ve locked in your rate, you’ll keep it for the life of the mortgage.

Making a “Profit”

If you treat your co-op as a “for profit” corporation, rather than just a residence, it may yield a higher return. View the basement as a source of potential revenue. “Build and rent out storage containers,” advises Beer, “or refurbish the basement into an apartment for the super. It will cost $100,000 or less, while the super’s old apartment can be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Janangelo proposes evaluating the super’s apartment for refinancing, especially in a condo. “Many banks won’t refinance it, but some will. We have a co-op that gained $24,000 a year towards mortgage payments this way.”

Many co-ops and condos now charge tenants an up front “move in/move out” fee. “Extra staff time is needed during moves,” explains Janangelo. “Elevators have to be padded, floors covered, and there’s hallway wear and tear.” These expenses aren’t necessarily deducted from tenants’ security or damage deposits, so the move in/move out fee goes into the reserve fund to offset those costs. “Maximize your building’s laundry contract with the vendor,” he continues. “Buildings get a commission from that contract. Reevaluate it to be sure you’re still getting good service at competitive prices.”

James Gerb has been board president of a 225-unit Park Avenue co-op in Murray Hill since 1995. Maintenance has not increased for two years, and none is projected for next year. Gerb believes in aggressive cost-cutting except when it comes to property managers. “We’ve had two mortgages consolidated and refinanced. We apply for all available J-51 tax rebates for things like the boiler replacement, roof repairs and elevator automation. We also challenge tax assessments through our certiorari attorney and we don’t let commercial space stay vacant,” he says.

Gerb’s building also levies late fees on residents who are more than 60 days in arrears on maintenance. He also believes in settling lawsuits instead of letting them drag out because “legal fees are murder.” Years ago, when a unionized staff member sued the co-op, says Gerb, their former management agency used a private lawyer, not knowing that the co-op’s insurance carrier offered free legal counsel. A lot of money was unnecessarily wasted. In fact, James Berg, executive vice president of The Realty Advisory Board (RAB), a private association in Manhattan for property employers, states that in many situations, if management has a dispute with a union employee, the RAB will represent management at no cost using funds from membership dues, and will pay the employer’s share of the arbitration fees.

These are just some of the creative ways successful co-ops and condos have lowered costs and raised revenue. You can follow their suggestions or find ways of your own. One thing that all buildings have in common is that co-op and condo residents feel lucky when they elude maintenance increases. So go ahead: Make their day!




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