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HOA Homefront: Transparency – Great for windows (HOA boards too)

July 11, 2019
Stock photo for HOA columns (iStock)

Tips may help to build and preserve the trust of the membership in its association governance.

By KELLY G. RICHARDSON, San Diego Union Tribune

Nothing should be more important to volunteer boards than the trust of their neighbors. However, trust is not automatic and can be easily destroyed. Making good decisions for the association’s best interests is not enough. Decisions must be made in a manner which is above reproach and displays integrity and openness.

This “baker’s dozen” tips may help to build and preserve the trust of the membership in its association governance.

INITIAL ATTITUDE

1. Begin the board term with an attitude of service, not control. Directors with the right frame of mind are less likely to take offense when someone questions board decisions.

BOARD MEETINGS

2. Other than the very few permissible closed session items, board discussion should be in open session. While it is easier for boards to work in closed sessions or “working meetings”, this violates the law and destroys the legitimacy of the open board meetings. Members will not trust a board which acts in secret on matters which should be in open session.

3. Board actions taken due to emergencies or other circumstances outside of a board meeting should be disclosed in the next board meeting, and the reasons noted why the matter could not wait for the next meeting. A ratification motion can then further disclose the action in the minutes.

4. Introduce each agenda item before discussing it. Attending members do not have the board packet, and a brief introduction of each item helps attendees to follow (not join) the discussion.

5. Abstaining on a vote that uniquely affects one’s building and not the entire community, or otherwise concerns a director individually, is not enough – step away from the board and join the audience.

COMMUNICATION

6. Work with the chair or manager (or whoever sets the agendas) to make sure the board agendas are truly informative, and not designed to be so broad thato they obscure from the members the real topics to be discussed.

7. Work to increase communication with the membership. Newsletters, web sites, email blasts, and bulletin boards are common vehicles to increase communication. Don’t leave it to the nextdoor.com gossip chain.

8. When a major issue is in play, such as a major reconstruction contract, consider occasional informational “town hall” meetings, in which nothing is decided and the purpose is to report to members and answer questions.

ASSOCIATION FUNDS

9. Very few questions about the association’s money are out of bounds. Except for rare instances when confidentiality is important (such as pending negotiations or member arrearage questions), questions regarding association money should be answered without hesitation.

10. Any disbursement of funds should be confirmed by two directors minimum, unless it is large enough to require board approval under Civil 5502.

11. Refuse compensation of any kind for board service, and only seek reimbursement of authorized and documented out of pocket expenses.

VENDORS

12. Avoid doing business with association members or relatives, unless it is first disclosed to all members.

13. Keep vendor relationships clean. Obtain three bids for all significant contracts. If a bidder asks for an unfair advantage or offers any incentive to a director, drop them from consideration – vendors who will cheat to get the account will also cheat the association.

A policy of openness builds healthy communities and arises from a confident board.

Kelly G. Richardson is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and Principal with Richardson Ober PC, a California law firm known for community association advice. Send questions to Kelly@Richardsonober.com. Past columns – Kelly@Richardsonober.com.

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help.

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Design Delimmas

June 27, 2019

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help.

Beat The Heat This Summer

June 20, 2019

From Energy Upgrade California:

Air Conditioners and Home Cooling

Two-thirds of all homes in California have air conditioners. Air conditioners use about 4% of all electricity produced in California. As a result, roughly 585 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year.

Energy-Efficient Air Conditioners and Home Cooling

Make the switch to an ENERGY STAR® high-efficiency air conditioner to start saving energy and money instantly. Visit the EnergyStar.gov Product Finder to compare the most energy-efficient AC units for your needs. Depending on the model you choose, you may be eligible to receive a rebate from your local energy provider. Visit the ENERGY STAR® Rebate Finder to learn more.

Tips

For Lowering Your Cooling Costs

Cooling Unit

01

Regularly clean and replace the filters in your cooling unit(s).

Thermostat

02

Use a programmable thermostat to save up to 10% on annual heating and cooling costs.

Ceiling Fan

03

Install ceiling fans and turn off or lower the air conditioning.

Insulation

04

Insulate your attic and walls and seal openings to prevent warm air leaks.

Duct Tape

05

Insulate and seal ducts to reduce about 30% of a cooling system’s energy consumption.

Outdoor Gril

06

Consider using an outdoor grill instead of your stove or oven on hotter days.

Window Coverings

07

Install energy-efficient window coverings to prevent solar heat gain.

Air Conditioner

08

Buy an ENERGY STAR®–certified air conditioner that is up to 15% more efficient.

All of these actions combined can keep your home cool and could reduce energy use for air conditioning by a whopping 20% to 50%.

Select an ENERGY STAR® high-efficiency air conditioner to achieve energy efficiency and reduce monthly energy costs. Visit your local energy provider’s website to see which energy-efficient appliances and home improvements are best for your home.

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help.

3 Must vs. Lust Buying Tips to Avoid Overspending

June 13, 2019

When you embark on the home-buying process, your heart is filled with all the dreams in the world. It’s really easy to get caught up in the “I have to have ___________, so I’ll cut back somewhere else ” game, even when you don’t actually know where that somewhere else is or if you can realistically cut back there.

This post will show you how to pare down the excess and make sure to get the things you really NEED.

Make a List of Wants

Start by making a list of everything you want in your house. If you love it, jot it down. Have your spouse or partner do the same thing in a separate document.

Once you have everything down, start sorting your wants by order of importance. What’s your No. 1? Do you need large windows? How about a sunroom? Double sinks in the master? You get the idea.

Come up with your top 10, and then compare your list to your partner’s top 10. What things appear on both lists? Those items should carry more weight because you both want them in your home.

Highlight the Important Stuff

Next, look at your list and consider:

  • The things that can’t be changed without a massive investment. I’m talking things like square footage, window size, and number of bedrooms. This is your heavyweight list. These things should take priority in your home-buying decision.
  • Features that are purely cosmetic, especially things that can be DIYed. These items should be moved waaay down the list or taken off entirely. Backsplash tile, paint color, and lighting can all be changed inexpensively and after you’re living in your house. You don’t want to pass up a fantastic house because you can’t see past a red accent wall.

Bring Your List When You Look at a Home

As you’re out looking at houses, keep your list handy. Maybe you’re not willing to give up hardwood floors for a jetted tub, but would you be willing to compromise for a jetted tub and extra square footage? Refer back to your must-haves list often. It’s easy to get distracted.

Here’s a quick checklist that I use when searching for a home. If you answer “yes” to all of these, then a “want” may be worth the splurge — that is, if you can be sure that you’ll be able to afford the feature (in terms of your monthly mortgage payments and living expenses).

1. Is it on both of your lists?
2. Is it something that’ll be extremely expensive and difficult to change or add?
3. Would you be willing to sacrifice something else to have it?
4. Would you feel like your house would be incomplete without it?

Happy house hunting!

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help.

Compost for Zero Waste

June 6, 2019

Disclaimer: That’s not my photo but I did just recently complete my first compost pile. I must admit, it was amazing to see the changes to the pile over time and to have zero waste! If you haven’t tried composting, you should. It’s gratifying and useful. Pile #2 has been underway for the last three weeks my garden! – Lisa

Zero Waste Home Workshop – June 22 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Whether you’re starting your zero waste journey or ready to take it to the next level, come learn how to set yourself up for zero waste success! The workshop is complimentary and open to the public.

Compost Bin Voucher Program Application

The City of San Diego has partnered with Dixieline Lumber and Home Center to offer compost bins at a discounted rate. Upon qualification, vouchers will be e-mailed within 2-4 weeks. To qualify, the applicant must be a City of San Diego resident. 

Solana Center

Solana Center for Environmental Innovation is a San Diego-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that focuses on Zero Waste, composting, and water conservation. Their mission is to mobilize the local community through innovative outreach and provide consulting services to businesses and jurisdictions in order to address the region’s most pressing environmental issues and enact impactful change.

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help.

Staged Homes Sell Best

May 30, 2019

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help.

A Guide to Mortgage Interest Rates

May 16, 2019

Mortgage interest rates are a mystery to many of us—whether you’re a home buyer in need of a home loan for your first house or your fifth.

After all, what does “interest rate” even mean? Why do rates swing up and down? And, most important, how do you nab the best interest rate—the one that’s going to save you the most money over the life of your mortgage?

Here, we outline what you need to know about interest rates before applying for a mortgage.

Why does my interest rate matter?

Mortgage lenders don’t just loan you money because they’re good guys—they’re there to make a profit. “Interest” is the extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the cash you need to buy a home.

Your interest payment is calculated as a percentage of your total loan amount. For example, let’s say you get a 30-year, $200,000 loan with a 4% interest rate. Over 30 years, you would end up paying back not only that $200,000, but an extra $143,739 in interest. Month to month, your mortgage payments would amount to about $955. However, your mortgage payments will end up higher or lower depending on the interest rate you get.

Why do interest rates fluctuate?

Mortgage rates can change daily depending on how the U.S. economy is performing, says Jack Guttentag, author of “The Mortgage Encyclopedia.”

Consumer confidence, reports on employment, fluctuations in home sales (i.e., the law of supply and demand), and other economic factors all influence interest rates.

“During a period of slack economic activity, [the Federal Reserve] will provide more funding and interest rates will go down,” Guttentag explains. Conversely, “when the economy heats up and there’s a fear of inflation, [the Fed] will restrict funding and interest rates will go up.”

How do I lock in my interest rate?

A “rate lock” is a commitment by a lender to give you a home loan at a specific interest rate, provided you close on your home in a certain period of time—typically 30 days from when you’re pre-approved for your loan.

A rate lock offers protection against fluctuating interest rates—useful considering that even a quarter of a percentage point can take a huge bite out of your housing budget over time. A rate lock offers borrowers peace of mind: No matter how wildly interest rates fluctuate, once you’re “locked in” you know what monthly mortgage payments you’ll need to make on your home, enabling you to plan your long-term finances.

Naturally, many home buyers obsess over the best time to lock in a mortgage rate, worried that they’ll pull the trigger right before rates sink even lower.

Unfortunately, no lender has a crystal ball that shows where mortgage rates are going. It’s impossible to predict exactly where the economy will move in the future. So, don’t get too caught up with minor ups and downs. A bigger question to consider when locking in your interest rate is where you are in the process of finding a home.

Most mortgage experts suggest locking in a rate once you’re “under contract” on a home—meaning you’ve made an offer that’s been accepted. Most lenders will offer a 30-day rate lock at no charge to you—and many will extend rate locks to 45 days as a courtesy to keep your business.

Some lenders offer rate locks with a “float-down option,” which allows you to get a lower interest rate if rates go down. However, the terms, conditions, and costs of this option vary from lender to lender.

How do I get the best interest rate? Mortgage rates vary depending on a borrower’s personal finances. Specifically, these six key factors will affect the rate you qualify for:

  • Credit score: When you apply for a mortgage to buy a home, lenders want some reassurance you’ll repay them later! One way they assess this is by scrutinizing your credit score—the numerical representation of your track record of paying off your debts, from credit cards to college loans. Lenders use your credit score to predict how reliable you’ll be in paying your home loan, says Bill Hardekopf, a credit expert at LowCards.com. A perfect credit score is 850, a good score is from 700 to 759, and a fair score is from 650 to 699. Generally, borrowers with higher credit scores receive lower interest rates than borrowers with lower credit scores.
  • Loan amount and down payment: If you’re willing and able to make a large down payment on a home, lenders assume less risk and will offer you a better rate. If you don’t have enough money to put down 20% on your mortgage, you’ll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, an extra monthly fee meant to mitigate the risk to the lender that you might default on your loan. PMI ranges from about 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan.
  • Home location: The strength of your local housing market can drive interest rates up, or down.
  • Loan type: Your rate will depend on what type of loan you choose. The most common type is a conventional mortgage, aimed at borrowers who have well-established credit, solid assets, and steady income. If your finances aren’t in great shape, you may be able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan, a government-backed loan that requires a low down payment of 3.5%. There are also U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans, available to active or retired military personnel, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loans, available to Americans with low to moderate incomes who want to buy a home in a rural area.
  • Loan term: Typically, shorter-term loans have lower interest rates—and lower overall costs—but they also have larger monthly payments.
  • Type of interest rate: Rates depend on whether you get a fixed-rate mortgage or an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM. “Fixed-rate” means the interest rate you pay remains fixed at the same level throughout the life of your loan. An ARM is a loan that starts out at a fixed, predetermined interest rate, but the rate adjusts after a specified initial period (usually three, five, seven, or 10 years) based on market indexes.

Tap into the right resources

Whether you’re looking to buy a home or a homeowner looking to refinance, there are many mortgage tools online to help, including the following:

  • A mortgage rate trends tracker lets you follow interest rate changes in your local market.
  • A mortgage payment calculator shows an estimate of your mortgage payment based on current mortgage rates and local real estate taxes.
  • Realtor.com’s mortgage center, which will help you find a lender who can offer competitive interests rates and help you get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117 – I can help.

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