November 2015 - The Sharper Focus 
Thank you for reading our quarterly newsletter to all homeowners in Associations managed by Sharper Management!  The goal of this newsletter is to touch on general industry news and helpful topics that may help you better understand how Community Associations work.

Every Association is different in their type, size, scope, and how things are organized and established via the Governing Documents.  There are, however, a number of universal topics common to all associations. We hope you will find this newsletter a valuable source of information!

Snow Contracts and Expectations

Like it or not, soon the snow will be flying!  As a homeowner, it is important to remember that the association's snow service provider is working within contract specifications.  Every contract is different, but below are a few common provisions and practices that might help you better understand when the plows and shovels will come out.   
 
Trigger Depth - most contracts state a snow accumulation total that must be met before service will commence. This can be anywhere from a trace up to multiple inches. The norm is somewhere between 1"-2."  Price difference between accumulation totals can be extreme. To keep dues manageable, the association and Board has to find that sweet spot of how much can it afford vs the plow trigger necessary for your community.
Snow Event - the definition of "trigger depth" is important. Some contracts state service will happen when the trigger depth has been met for a single snow event/storm. Others may be vague to say whenever accumulations are met. The former is the norm; the latter is preferred. There is a significant difference between the two definitions. For example, there may be a stretch of weather when multiple "trace" snowfalls happen in a week.  Those cumulative snowfalls may total the trigger depth, but under "by event" contracts, snow service will not commence.  
Timing - another important concept to understand is the time in which snow service has to be completed. For most contracts, "final cleanup" is somewhere between 6-12 hours. This is usually broken down by the snow accumulation totals meaning the more snow, the more time allotted for final clean up. An important distinction - under most contracts - is that the final cleanup is to be completed AFTER THE SNOW HAS STOPPED falling. Remember snow plow providers may have many communities they service. Just because the snow has stopped doesn't mean they will be there immediately.  They have a window of time to complete the job.
Open Ups - most contracts provide for an "open up" during snowfalls that exceed a particular total. In this instance, 4" - 6" is the norm.  This is to allow vehicle ingress/egress. It usually consists of a single pass through the roads with the plow. This doesn't always include individual driveways. Often times it is just the common driveway/roads. Typical language states that an open up will occur prior to __ AM and/or after ___ PM.  
Municipality's vs Association's - the comparison of city streets and association streets should be thrown out the window. Most cities (and MnDOT) pre-treat roadways with expensive chemicals which aid in snow and ice melt; and cities (and certainly MnDOT) generally have more manpower as well as a greater diversity of equipment. It would be great if association roads and walks could be maintained like MnDOT, but keeping association dues under control is important too!

When the snow starts flying, please remember these provisions and practices. With understanding comes realistic expectations and less frustration.  Stay safe this winter!

Association Funds -
Operating vs Reserve

Since most associations are on a calendar fiscal year, your Board of Directors and Management have been working hard on setting the 2016 Operating Budget. This budget sets your "dues" - so we thought it would be a timely opportunity to explain the difference between the "operating budget" and funds vs the "replacement reserve" schedule and funds.

Operating Budget - Each association varies, of course, but an overwhelming majority treat "operating" and "reserve" (or "capital") funds differently.  Your association works within an operating budget to pay for your necessities and recognized amenities. These items are set by your Governing Documents. Common examples include lawn care, landscaping, snow removal, insurance, management services, repairs and maintenance, association covered utilities, amenity costs for pools or other recreation, etc.  These are the costs to run your association on a day-to-day basis. This budget makes up your monthly assessments - commonly called "dues."

Little known fact - for most associations, did you know that your monthly "dues" payment is technically called an annual assessment?  The common practice is to break it up into 12 equal monthly installments and call them "dues."  For most associations, the adopted operating budget and your share of those expenses (be it by ownership percentage in a condo or your equally divided share of the planned community) is legally recognized as a yearly assessment.


Reserve Fund - The association's "reserve" or "capital" fund is the savings account to pay for large replacement projects such as re-roofing, re-siding, concrete, and asphalt replacement, etc. Most associations work off of a professionally developed "Reserve Study" that lays out the plan for which components should be replaced which year, and a funding plan to pay for those replacements.     

Now that you know the difference between the two funds - how do they work together?  The reserve fund is "contributed" to via an expense listed in the operating budget.  If the Reserve Study says in 2016 the association should contribute $120,000 to the Reserve Fund, typically each month the association will take $10,000 generated from your dues revenue and deposit it into the Reserve Fund account. This is a set line item in the budget.

It's a lot like a savings and checking account.  You deposit your paycheck into your checking account which you use to pay your regular bills. It's your "operating account." You might also plan an amount each month you send to your savings or retirement account to pay for those big expenses down the road. It's your "reserve account."

Hopefully this helps to explain two very different funds your association is working with!
 

      Toys for Tots Drive



Sharper Management is participating in the Toys for  Tots drive this year. From now through December 4, Sharper Management will be collecting new, unwrapped toys at our office at 10340 Viking Dr, Ste 105 in Eden Prairie, 55344.
You may drop off donations during regular office hours. If you have questions, please contact us at 952-224-4777 or email matt@sharpermanagement.com.


Winter Tips & Reminders


Living in an association with shared walls makes it particular important to properly care for your home during the cold winter months. If you plan to be away this winter, remember the following important items:
 
  • Always leave your heat ON. Set thermostat no lower than 55 degrees
  • Winterize your pipes (sinks, toilets, etc) by turning supply valves off and then draining any trapped water
  • Communicate with Management and your neighbors. Emergency contacts or instructions on how to get into your unit in case of an emergency is helpful.
 
 General Seasonal Tips:
  • Check and change your furnace filter regularly. It's recommended you do this monthly
  • Have your furnace inspected and "tuned-up" for better efficiency
  • Install a programmable thermostat to better manage temperature and mitigate heat costs
  • If you have a built in humidifier unit, make sure the lines are clear and filter is clean. Humidifiers can be a common source of leaks
  • Manage your humidity levels. High humidity inside of the unit meeting the cold/dry exterior walls can be hard on windows and even lead to ice dam formation
  • Check weather seal/strip on all doors and windows
  • If you have original (wood) windows, consider covering them in plastic to help with heating costs 
  • Considering adding insulation to bring up your R-value
  • Remember to winterize outside faucets! Turn off the supply valve and open the spigot to allow remaining water to drain out
 
If you'd like Sharper Management's maintenance team to help you with any of the above mentioned items, contact Matt Froehlich. (952) 224-4777 or email matt@sharpermanagement.com.
Winter Inspections for Your Peace of Mind

If you're planning to spend a month or more away this winter, the Sharper Management Maintenance team can check on your home while you're gone. See the details of our Winter Inspection program below.

WINTER INSPECTION
  • Check ceilings for roof leaks/ice dams
  • Fill traps
  • Test smoke detectors
  • Test carbon monoxide detectors
  • Check heat
  • One inspection per week

*Services provided will be limited to those mentioned above.  Sharper Management will not be responsible for watering plants, feeding pets, etc.  Owner will be responsible for providing keys.

COST: $45 PER WEEK

Please Contact Matt Froehlich via email if you would like to sign up for this service.  Matt@sharpermanagement.com
Sharper Maintenance

Did you know that Sharper has a maintenance team available to service any of your home repair/remodel needs?   Our team of highly skilled General Contractors and  licensed techs are ready to tackle any project including plumbing, light electrical, drywall, heating/cooling equipment, painting or any type of general "handyman" job.
 
Contact Matt Froehlich with questions or to schedule. (952) 224-4777 or matt@sharpermanagement.com
Resale Disclosures

Are you selling your unit? You will reach a point in the process where you will need to order a "Resale Disclosure Package." This typically happens when you have a Purchase Agreement in place with a potential buyer. The potential buyer has a legal right to review the Association's Governing Documents, financial information, disclosure certificates, dues current information, etc. They have a 10-day period to do this.  It is the seller's responsibility to obtain and provide this Resale Disclosure Package to the potential buyer. Contact Sharper Management when you have reached that point in your selling process and we will help facilitate getting you the disclosure information you will need. 
Your Association Website

Did you know your Association has a website through Sharper Management? As a homeowner, you can access account information, pay your dues, submit maintenance requests, view the Governing Documents, stay on top of community news and more. It is a helpful tool for you and your community association!    
www.sharpermanagement.com

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