I’m pleased to report that the board meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19th had the highest attendance since COVID-19 forced us to move from in-person to online meetings. In addition to our nine HOA board members, more than 15 owners and residents attended.
The subject, of course, was next year's assessment; an increase was approved by the board with the near unanimous consent of the community members present. Please keep reading to learn about this increase and the very good reasons why we agreed it was necessary for the future of HP III.
2021 HOA DUES
Dues will rise by $11 per month from $160 to $171
Annual: $2052 (was $1920)
In addition, after the first quarter payment on April 1, the HOA will stop paying the Woodcroft Community Association (WCA) dues out of the dues you pay to Homeplace III. This is a service we have provided for the convenience of our homeowners, but we can no longer afford. Members should anticipate communication from the WCA as to the timing and amount of dues we will each need to pay. The 2020 dues were $235 per unit, so we estimate that the dues for the remaining three quarters of 2021 will be in the $175 to $180 range.
We know that this is a significant increase. The board, with the support of the owners who were in attendance at the meeting, feel this is necessary in order to complete unfinished projects, fulfill unmet needs, and cover unexpected costs. However, we are committed to continuing to work with people who are experiencing financial uncertainty due to the pandemic. In 2021, we will continue to waive late fees, and strongly encourage anyone who is having COVID-related financial difficulties to contact Grandchester Meadows (email@example.com).
How Do HP3 Dues Compare to Other HOAs?
The Research Supports an Increase
Because I suspected that we have been chronically underfunded to maintain a community of our type, size, and age, I decided to gather some data before the Nov. 19th meeting. I used a major realty website to determine the annual HOA dues of comparable townhome communities. Specifically, I looked for communities with 2 and 3 bedroom units that were on the market or had sold for the past year for $150,000 to $250,000, and limited the search to Woodcroft, Woodlake, and Hope Valley Farms.
My research showed that not only are we on the low end of the spectrum for HOA dues, we are actually the lowest! It doesn't correlate exactly, but you expect older communities to have higher dues, so it explains a lot about why we feel like we are always two steps behind where we should be in terms of the next project or maintenance task.
Chronic underfunding leads to unfinished projects, unmet needs, unexpected costs, and SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS. One of the few things almost everyone can agree on is that we do not want special assessments, but the unfortunate reality is that if our income continues to be too low, they will always be required to need to cover the gaps (which means special assessments will no longer be "special" at all). Eventually, we will have to contend with the cost of an under-maintained community--if not with regular, planned increases to dues, it will be with special assessments. If not with those, then it will be with the loss of value to our property. And, we shouldn't discount that it isn't just about money. We have to live with the reality of what we choose to maintain or not maintain. It is obvious to me, as I see work orders come in, that most of us DON'T want to live in poorly maintained buildings and grounds.
What are These Unfinished Projects & Unmet Needs
You Keep Talking About?
PAINTING: We will have painted about 40% of the buildings in the community by the end of 2020. If we are able to paint the outstanding 60% in 2021, we stand to save money on the total project. The longer it takes to complete this project, the more we will spend in labor and materials, not to mention we will miss any discounts offered by vendors for completing work in larger chunks..
PAVING: We currently have no solid plan to generate the reserves needed to repave our parking lots and driveways. As you may have heard, the developers of Homeplace III cut significant corners in our paving. This makes repaving--even if we choose to go with less expensive asphalt--incredibly expensive, because of the subsurface preparations that should have been done when the pavement was put down and that we now have to pay for.
PLANTS: Unmet needs make unexpected costs. Until the last few years, we have largely enjoyed and ignored the trees in our community. As our buildings age, so does the landscape. In the last two years alone, we have spent $38,000 in unbudgeted tree removals. With increased income, we would be able to proactively maintain our trees by catching problems early, so that tree removal isn’t always our only option. One of our budget priorities in the next couple of years is to contract with a tree maintenance company who will periodically conduct a health and safety inventory of our trees.
PLANNING: The board commissioned a Reserve Study to look at all the parts of our buildings and infrastructure we need to build reserves (in other words, savings) to maintain or replace. It estimated that we will need to spend $7,000,000 over the next 30 years. Our income from dues is not sufficient to meet current needs as well as future projects, so the choice is either to save now or pay with special assessments later.
Finally, the Board feels very strongly that the time has come for Homeplace III to begin seriously addressing what we will need to do as homeowners and as a community to maintain the rising values we have seen our properties selling for in recent years. We are committing to two actions in 2021. One is to form a working group to do a deep dive into the Reserve Study and use that information to create a long-term planning budget (3 or 5 years). On the board, we can usually have some notion of what's coming down the road, and we think it is only fair to give homeowners the same opportunity to plan their budgets. This working group will look at both necessary expenditures and the likely necessary changes in dues over the coming years to support our expenses.
Our second commitment is to organize small meetings with all of our members over the course of the Winter and Spring to share our thoughts and get your input into where we all hope to take our community in the near and distant future. The board started to work on some "visioning" pieces at our retreat at the beginning of this year, and now it is time to bring that work to the community. A shared set of values and priorities is a necessary piece of data that will help the board to make important decisions about how to best take care of our homes and neighborhood.
Please email me if you have questions or concerns. I LOVE to talk about our neighborhood and would be happy to talk to you: firstname.lastname@example.org