Friday, January 20, 2012

Need For Fire Safety

What Ifs...?

Normally I do not advocate living your life by the "what ifs". Fire safety, adversely, needs to approached exactly that way. Every possible action and reaction needs to considered and safety of the residents made a top priority. Advocating fire safety expenditures to condominiums should be the easiest part of our job as managers. They save lives! Unfortunately, this is often more difficult than it should be as fire is often "out of site, out of mind".
Many owners see quarterly tests, inspections, and panels as costly expenditures, especially in this economy. After all, "it's always that other building that has the fire, not ours"...right? But what happens when it is your building? When outdated horns don't sound and pull stations are inactive? What happens when insurance will not approve your claim because your building negated a yearly inspection. Fire safety becomes much more relevant when it is close to home.

Where to Start

Start by calling your local fire department or alarm service provider. They will almost always provide a free walk through of your home to to determine what you can do to improve your system. Learn the state and Federal Laws. The books are thousands of pages long and constantly changing, but have a general understanding of it: how many smoke detectors/CO detectors you need, how far apart they should be from the bedroom, when systems need to be centrally or locally monitored, how often inspections are required.

Know Your System

Take a look at your fire panel. Call whoever monitors your panel to meet you on site and walk you through what each signal means. When a trouble does go off, you are prepared and direct the appropriate authorities as needed. Knowing the difference between a "ground fault" and a "system trouble" can save you unnecessary trips by service techs.
Always check your system on your own. Make sure smokes have batteries and extinguishers are up to date. Test your panel and perform a quarterly fire drill. These are all important things that could mean the difference between life and death in a high pressure situation. The management company should have the most extensive knowledge on this, but it helps if residents make a conscious effort to educate themselves.

Final Thoughts...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Understanding Your Condo Fee

What Does Your Condo Fee Cover?

One of the biggest misconceptions we hear in the property management industry is what a condo fee covers. Many people incorrectly view these as extra costs charged by the association or the condo management company in an attempt to make a profit. This is not the case! Monthly condominium fees are technically a lien placed on a unit annually that owners can choose to pay off monthly. This fee is is calculated based on your beneficial interest (square feet) in the condo and is used to manage the day to day upkeep of the common areas. This can include:
  • Utilities
  • Master Insurance
  • Landscaping
  • Janitorial
  • Management Fee
  • Pest Control
  • Fire Alarm Maintenance
  • Plumbing, electrical, or general maintenance work in the common areas
Condo Fees start creeping higher when your association has amenities like:
  • Elevator
  • Pool
  • Workout room
  • Concierge

High vs Low Fees

You might be surprised what questions we get (or don't get!) when new buyers are thinking about getting into a condominium. They don't want to know the association reserves, the history of the roof, or the boiler condition. The #1 question we get is regarding the condo fees. This figure, unfortunately, can be very misleading for someone moving into a condominium. Many new buyers see a low fee and assume "Great! My monthly payments will be low, lets move right in".

Supplemental Fees

The issue with a "bare-bone budget", or low condo fees that just barely cover your operating expenses of the condominium, is that it often leads to supplemental fees. If your roof needs a replacement and your condo fees have not been high enough to fund a proper reserve account, you may be paying a large lump sum all at once. Some associations actually prefer to run their condominium this way; They keep fees low and issue assessments as they are needed.

Know Your Facts!

There is no right or wrong way to manage a condo in this regard. Just be sure that when purchasing a new property, you inspect the supplemental fee history and the reserves! Educate yourself on the how the condominium has run in the past and you can plan how it will be run in the future. Know what your fees covers and when the last increase was. Information is king!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ice Dams

Ice Dam-it! No, it's not a frozen reservoir, it's a hazardous and costly phenomenon that can affect your home. Those beautiful icicles that hang from your eves may be hiding a more insidious villain underneath...

Know How They Form

1. Heat collects in the attic and warms the roof, except at the eaves.
2. Snow melts on the warm roof and then freezes on the cold eaves.
3. Ice accumulates along the eaves, forming a dam. Meltwater from the warm roof backs up behind it, flows under the shingles, and into the house.


Ice dams can cause water to seep through the roof and ceiling of your attic. This can cause water damage such as plaster removal, chipping paint, roof decay and even mold growth. One an ice dam has formed, its extremely difficult to remove without further damaging your roof/interior.

Be Prepared!

The best weapon against an ice dam is to be proactive. Installing proper insulation in your roof to prevent heat loss is the best way to ensure they will never form. Another cheap alternative is a low voltage heat wire that can be ran along your roof. These stay on all winter and prevent ice from forming along the eves, keeping the water flowing through the gutters and onto the ground.

If you already have an ice dam at your home, be cautious! Do NOT attempt to hack it off with a hammer or pick; this will only damage your roof more. Call a professional and they will come and deal with the dam correctly. Our office has vendors on call that can deal with this for you!
If you have any questions or extra tips that we did not mention, leave a comment below, shoot us a tweet @MAcondoMGMT on Twitter or post on our wall on Facebook. We look forward to hearing from you!