Reduce spending before increasing HOA Monthly fee.


When we moved to the Cloister 9 years ago the Cloister Home Owner Association had over $1 million in the HOA reserve account. Within several years this was spent down to a $96,000 balance.

During that time:

  • all the roofs were replaced
  • the streets were repaved
  • underground ground water drainage was installed
  • a number of large walls were rebuilt
  • A few homeowners decided to upgrade basements constructed of breeko brick walls and concrete floors to living room condition at considerable expense. Although these basements were the responsibility of the homeowner, the HOA paid to replace water-damaged finished basements at no cost to the individual homeowner.

DOW DJIA Snake Oil

A great deal of money was wasted on projects.

  • The Arms Chairman and HOA Board insisted that roof shingles be hand nailed instead of using air nailers resulting in twice the cost for each roof.
  • Underground drains are being clogged with leaves for years because the board failed to install rain gutter leaf guards where trees overhung the roofs.
  • A contractor failed to rebuild a major 12 foot wall according to specifications resulting in a wall with only 60% retaining strength. The HOA Board did not force the contractor to build according to the specifications or reduce the invoice amount but simply paid the invoice in full.
  • Many projects have not been put out for competitive bids, the board simply used a sole contractor and paid whatever the contractor decided to charge.

Now this recently elected HOA Board has decided to raise association fees without any effort to control and reduce costs. There is one item of expense that should be cut before any increase in HOA monthly fee.

DOW Fat BankerThe greatest single expense we pay every month is for Basic Comcast Cable for every Cloister unit. We even pay for cable service to units that have been vacant for years. Cancelling cable service would save enough that an increase in HOA Monthly fee would not be necessary and represents a saving of over $100,000 per year based on the 2013 HOA Budget.

Good management requires that all cost control efforts should be made before any increase in association fees.

 Can we residents ask any less then that our elected Board practice good management through cost control before increasing HOA monthly fees?

We homeowners should insist that the HOA Board cancel Comcast service and allow homeowners to negotiate for the cable, internet or phone services they desire. Times change and keeping a 30 year old agreement with Comcast is simply stupid and wasteful and prevents us from negotiating the best price for services when prices for have declined significantly for cable, phone and internet services over the last 30 years while we have paid increasing amounts over and over and over for decades. And we pay for unused cable services for some home units that have been vacant for years.

It is time for the HOA Board to become responsible and take smart financial decisions

HOA Fee.

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In 1997 Dave Ramsey wrote a book “Financial Peace”. He is very active, he publishes books, conducts seminars, broadcasted on radio, was even featured on some major TV news and talk shows. I read his book and was impressed by his simple plan that completely changed the way we ran our financial lives. Ramsey made a number of suggestions, among them were…

  • Live below your means (spend less than you earn)
  • Get completely out of debt
    • Pay minimum on all debt except the smallest loan or credit card
    • Dedicate everything you can to pay off the smallest
    • Then pay off the next smallest like rolling a snowball
  • Pay cash for every purchase
  • Never, ever “invest” with someone who earns commissions when they sell you an “investment”
  • Never, ever “invest” in something you don’t understand completely.

We follow these, and other suggestions in the Ramsey book even today, living debt free changed our lives. Since the late 1990’s he has published other books and various products related to money management. I still follow most of his suggestions with some exceptions:

  1. I don’t use debit cards I use a credit card and pay the balance to zero every month
  2. I make monthly payments on my new car because Toyota gave a zero interest car loan as part of their new car deal.
  3. I no longer trust the Banking and Wall Street thieves

Tennessean about The Cloister Neighbors

Quote


Article in the November 5, 2013 Tennessean

Seniors at Belle Meade community must pay $15,000 to keep homes

Residents say diocese didn’t tell them rights to land under their condos had expiration date

Early in 1997, Imogene Shea, then 71, moved into a neat community of 240 single-story brick-front condominiums for senior citizens in Belle Meade.

A retired nurse, she expected it to be her last home. Now she’s not so sure.

“I paid $140,000 and now they tell me I don’t really own it,” she said in a recent interview.

She says she can’t afford the $15,000 fee she’s being asked to pay on top of mortgage payments, association fees, taxes and other assessments for living at the Cloister at Saint Henry.

So she finds herself caught up in a cautionary tale about planning for retirement — except that in her case, the diminutive 87-year-old is looking for relief from an unlikely adversary: a development company working on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Nashville.

What Shea, a lifelong Catholic, and some others living at the cloister say they have been told is this: Yes, you do own your home, at least the inside of it. But not the ground on which it rests.

In an arrangement that most everyone agrees is unusual, especially in Tennessee, Shea and others purchased something called a leasehold interest on the ground beneath their condominiums. The lease severely restricts their ownership rights.

It’s not rare for condominium owners to share interest in community property around their homes. But attorneys locally and nationally say the arrangement at the Cloister is unusual in that the condo owners have only a leasehold interest in the land on which their property sits, one with a relatively short expiration date for a ground lease.

But perhaps more alarming was the news that when the leases begin to run out in 2043, they will not be renewed — and then ownership of the land will revert back to the development company set up by the diocese.

Many residents, Shea included, say they weren’t told at the time of purchase that their rights to the property had an expiration date. The residents say they’ve been told, but only within the past three years, that if they do not purchase something called a “fee simple interest” for the ground under their condo before the leases run out, they will lose their homes eventually. And while many don’t expect to live that long, they worry that their children and grandchildren essentially will be out of luck.

Of perhaps more immediate concern, the price of that fee interest has been climbing by $1,000 a year. It started at $12,000 and now stands at $15,000.

Program defended

Representatives of the development company and the diocese say the fee simple program was set up to benefit residents by making it easier for them to sell their property or get financing. And, of course , they note that participation was strictly voluntary.

“The intent was to provide reduced-price retiree  housing for people over 55,” said David Glascoe, an official of the diocese. “What was sold was a leasehold interest, and the prices reflected that.”

Glascoe acknowledged that the leasehold interest arrangement was unusual but said it helped make the units more affordable. Records show initial purchase prices ranged between $70,000 and $80,000. He said 70 percent of the residents had signed up for it.

Shea, who stands barely 5 feet tall and weighs less than 100 pounds, sees it differently.

“It’s a bad situation,” she said. “They’ve scared some of the people. Just two or three of us are standing up.”

“It’s grossly unfair,” agreed Helen Bratcher, who has lived at the Cloister for 18 years. “The church is money hungry. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

Others were more supportive of the diocese. David Stansberry, an association officer, said he bought a fee simple interest when he moved into the complex, knew what he was getting into and has no problem with it.

“A lot have gone along with the program, a lot have not,” he said.

But records and statements by Shea and some of the other residents show that the battle has a long history, a history not fully disclosed to her and some of the other residents.

Donated land

The Cloister at Saint Henry, as it is formally known, came into being some three decades ago when the diocese decided to take part of a huge tract of donated land to develop a senior citizen community directly behind Saint Henry’s Catholic Church.

In 1999 a proposal was put forward to have the Cloister Owners Association purchase the land. A vote was held. The purchase was approved in a vote, although the margin is a matter of dispute, and Glascoe said the considerable rancor that followed led the board to drop the purchase plan.

Opponents had hired an attorney who argued that under the arrangement, the condo owners would be unable to get title insurance, an argument Glascoe says is false.

Caldwell Hancock, the attorney for the opponents, said the proposal called for each condo owner to pay $8,500, an amount that was set despite the fact that the supporters had not paid for an appraisal to base it on. Hancock, whose mother lived in the development at the time, said residents erupted angrily after the sale won a slim vote of approval.

In the latest effort, residents have been greeted with a steady stream of messages, most delivered in newsletters about the advantages of buying the fee simple, along with warnings about what could happen without it. Fee simple units sell for higher prices, but the homeowners may not be able to get long-term mortgages because the lease will run out in 30 years, the newsletters warn.

“The diocese and the Bishop cannot and will not extend or otherwise amend the existing ground leases. This is a valuable asset,” a July 2009 newsletter stated.

A separate newsletter published by the cloister association quoted Gino Marchetti Jr., a lawyer for Bishop David R. Choby and the diocese, addressing the residents’ concerns.

“Despite the numerous discussions surrounding this issue,” Marchetti wrote, “I don’t think anyone has provided any reason why this property should be given to current unit owners or the leases extended free of charge.”

Shea said she regards the messages and statements made by officials of the diocese at meetings as threatening.

“They have done all kinds of intimidation,” she said. “There should have been a meeting and a vote.”

Glascoe says a vote was not required.

“I’m sorry that they feel that way,” he said. “It is totally voluntary. I don’t know why they would feel that.”

Little choice

While Shea and Bratcher say they will stand firm, attorneys not directly involved in the fray take a more cautious view. Wes Turner, a Nashville attorney, said the lease is going to run out and the residents don’t have much choice about what to do.

“The best course would be to apply for the fee simple,” he said.

Michael St. Charles, a Chattanooga real estate lawyer, said the legal structure of the Cloister condominium was extremely rare. “There can’t be more than a handful across the state. There are none in Chattanooga that I know of.”

Meanwhile, Glascoe said the owners are now being asked to approve a merger of the new condo association with the old one. And if it doesn’t pass, he says that will have no effect.

“I imagine they’ll just have another vote,” he added.

Claire Calongne, who bought her Cloister condo in 1994, says she hasn’t gone for the fee simple and is not concerned about the ongoing debate — though she knows she may lose out in the end.

“My heirs will have to deal with it,” she said.

Contact Walter F. Roche Jr. at 615-259-8086 or wroche@tennessean.com.

Blogger’s Note:

If all three women lose their homes when the lease expires the youngest will be 101 years old, the oldest will be 117 years old. Many dozens of Cloister homes have been sold since the start of the Fee Simple program. If necessary, a Fee Simple purchase is made at the closing resulting in a valid Title Guarantee and the ability to obtain a mortgage but will make a difference in the selling price of the home. Attempts to sell a Cloister home without Fee Simple Ownership results in a considerably lower final price.  I would not be surprised if the cost of a fee simple purchase does not go up by another $1000 next year.

.CloisterSales 2011-Oct 2013

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DOW suckerThere’s an old saying, “If you are sitting at a Poker table, you look around, and you can’t determine who the Sucker is…..it’s you!”

I have reached the point where I trust almost nothing coming from the Wall Street Gang.

The most touted financial number the TV News talks about is the “Dow”, the Dow Jones Industrial Average. This number has been manipulated since it’s beginning in 1896. The chart below pictures over a decade of the DOW.

djia2000s
The DOW is the average of the stock prices of 30 major corporations. Initially they added up the stock price of each company and divided the total by 30. It seems very simple, doesn’t it? Not quite. When one of the DOW companies starts a decline it is replaced by one on the rise. Here are the replacements over the last 10 years….

2004

AT&T Corporation, Eastman Kodak Company, and International Paper Company were replaced by American International Group Inc., Pfizer Incorporated, and Verizon Communications Inc..

2005

SBC Communications Inc. was renamed AT&T Inc. after it acquired the original AT&T.

2008

Altria Group Incorporated and Honeywell International Inc. were replaced by Bank of America Corporation and Chevron Corporation.

American International Group Inc. was replaced by Kraft Foods Inc.

2009

Citigroup Inc. and General Motors Corporation were replaced by Cisco Systems, Inc. and The Travelers Companies, Inc.

2012

Kraft Foods Inc. was replaced by UnitedHealth Group.

2013 September 20, 2013

Alcoa Incorporated, Bank of America Corporation, and Hewlett Packard Company were replaced by Goldman Sachs, Nike, and Visa.

Meanwhile a gimmick called the DOW Divisor, shown below, is manipulated to magically cause an increase in the DOW average. The DOW average started as a basket of thirty stocks, the stock prices were totaled together and then divided by the number of stocks, 30, to result in a DOW average. Over time the divisor was supposedly adjusted for stock splits (where anyone holding a share of stock would receive two new shares after a 2 for 1 split) and other manipulations . This European table uses comma’s rather than periods. It shows changes in the “divisor” over time.

DJIA Divisor Trends
DOW Fat Banker

Initially the total of the thirty stocks were divided by 30. Now the divisor has been manipulated so the total of the prices of the 30 stocks are multiplied by 7.6. If we used the initial divisor of 30, yesterday’s DOW average would be 514 rather the reported value of 15413.33. So much for information from the Wall Street Snake Oil Salesmen. DOW DJIA Snake Oil

It appears that it is more efficient to flush money down the toilet rather than waste it away with Wall Street bankers.

The important issue is “What can I do with the  savings I have managed to accumulate over the years?” $100,000 “invested” in the DOW in 2007 it would be worth $46,000 in 2009, that is a whopping 64% loss, not what I consider a “good investment”. Financial sources report that the DOW has recovered and has reached record highs recently, but as we can see above, the number is rigged.

So what to do?

Some Americans are buying Gold Coins and hiding them under the mattress. Gold is very popular with people in China and India, both have suffered hardship and deprivation numbers of times over the thousands of years of their existence. They feel secure owning some amount of precious metals….

During the U.S. Civil War Union troops would confiscate southern livestock and crops. One thing the raided southerners could do was to bury “the family silver”.

Does history have a message for us about Wall Street so-called investments?DOW 10 Yr Gold Prices

Also see….. https://cloisterliving.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/non-traditional-gold-and-silver-gifts-and-hidden-treasure/

and….. http://louisvillenumismatic.com/

louisville-numismatic-exchange-logo

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My wife and I attend a Lipscomb University Seniors Program course on Thursday afternoons, “The American South: Myth or Reality”. Lipscomb offers a number of these Lipscomb Lifelong Learning courses that meet once a week for five weeks. So far I have learned a number of interesting facts, among them are:

  • In 1865, only 250,000 of the 6 million individuals living in The South owned a large plantation with slaves. Most of the others were either slaves or subsistence Yeoman farmers
  • In 1776 a whopping 80% of everyone living in America was an Indentured Servant or a slave.

Indentured1When the country was founded, in most states, only white men with real property (land) or sufficient wealth for taxation were permitted to vote. Freed slaves could vote in four states. Unpropertied white men, women, and all other people of color were denied the voting franchise. At the time of the American Civil War, most white men were allowed to vote, whether or not they owned property. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and even religious tests were used in various places, and most white women, people of color, and Native Americans still could not vote.

From Wikipedia……

Farmers, planters, merchants,and shopkeepers in the American colonies found it very difficult to hire free workers, primarily because it was so easy for potential workers to set up their own farms.[1] Consequently, a common solution was to transport a young worker from England or Germany, who would work for several years to pay off the debt of their travel costs. During the indenture period the servants were not paid wages, but were provided with food, accommodation, clothing and training. The indenture document specified how many years the servant would be required to work, after which they would be free. Terms of indenture ranged from one to seven years with typical terms of four or five years.[2] In southern New England, a variant form of indentured servitude, which controlled the labor of Native Americans through an exploitative debt-peonage system, developed in the late 17th century and continued through to the period of the American Revolution.

Not all European servants were sent willingly. Several instances of kidnapping for transportation to the Americas are recorded and this falls more clearly into the bracket of “white slave“. Whilst these white slaves were often indentured in the same way as their willing counterparts it is an important distinction to make. An illustrative example of such a kidnap story is that of Peter Williamson (1730-1799). As historian Richard Hofstadter pointed out, “it remains true that a certain small part of the white colonial population of America was brought by force, and a much larger portion came in response to deceit and misrepresentation on the part of the spirits [recruiting agents].”[3]

Most white immigrants arrived in Colonial America as indentured servants, usually as young men and women from Britain or Germany, under the age of 21. Typically, the father of a teenager would sign the legal papers, and work out an arrangement with a ship captain, who would not charge the father any money.[4] The captain would transport the indentured servants to the American colonies, and sell their legal papers to someone who needed workers. At the end of the indenture, the young person was given a new suit of clothes and was free to leave. Many immediately set out to begin their own farms, while others used their newly acquired skills to pursue a trade.[5][6][7]

In the 17th century, nearly two-thirds of settlers to the New World from the British Isles came as indentured servants. Given the high death rate, many servants did not live to the end of their terms.[2] In the 18th and early 19th century, numerous Europeans traveled to the colonies as redemptioners, a form of indenture.[8]

It has been estimated that the redemptioners comprised almost 80% of the total British and continental emigration to America prior to the Revolution.[9] Indentured servants were a separate category from bound apprentices. The latter were American-born children, usually orphans or from an impoverished family who could not care for them. They were under the control of courts and were bound out to work as an apprentice until a certain age. Two famous bound apprentices were Benjamin Franklin who illegally fled his apprenticeship to his brother, and Andrew Johnson, who later became President of the United States.[10]

George Washington used indentured servants;[11] in April 1775, he offered a reward for the return of two runaway white servants.[12]

My Mother experienced being indentured as a small girl at age 11 years. She was the eldest of three children in a small farm family at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in the “No-man’s Land” between Poland and Czechoslovakia. The family lived very much like the Mountain People of the Appalachian Mountains, they belonged to a tribe called Lemko’s.

My Mother's tribe was called Lemko. These were their dance costumes. I have seen similar embroidery in stores in Vienna and Hungary is famous for  embroidered clothing.

My Mother’s tribe was called Lemko. These were their dance costumes. I have seen similar embroidery in stores in Vienna and Hungary is famous for embroidered clothing.

Mother and father, with children, returned to Europe from the United States after working the Pennsylvania Coal Mines and saving enough money to buy a small farm in the Carpathian hills. The children were born in the United States and thus were U.S. citizens.

Foothills of Carpathian Mountains look much like the Appalachians

Foothills of Carpathian Mountains look much like the Appalachians

Then a major event changed their lives, the father died.

My Mother, the eldest child, was selected to be sold into Indentured Servitude until she was 18 years old. At 18 she returned to the U.S. as a steamship passenger in steerage. All her life she felt she had been abandoned by her mother. The only photo of her mother my mother ever kept was an image of the old lady’s dead body in a wood coffin outside their farm shack.

Many different forms of slavery existed throughout the world and an Indentured Servant was yet another category of slave that existed in the United States.

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AMAZON LogoA few years ago we had started to use Amazon.com as a source for some purchases where we did not need the products immediately, there is always several days required for shipping. The situation is rapidly changing. Recently Walmart has announced a resurrected “Buy American Program” but it is a sham. See Walmart sham and We can’t Shop Ourselves into Prosperity.

I try to keep track with what is going on in the rest of the world

  1. I watch cable news from Europe and Asia available on Comcast Channel 241, MHz broadcasts worldwide news programs from Midnight thru 7:00am.
  2. I read foreign news on http://www.worldpress.org/

Alibaba LogoI have noticed something very interesting.

The Chinese news channel frequently covers news and events about an Internet Marketing firm called Alibaba.com which at one time exclusively sold products in wholesale quantities worldwide while selling those products in individual quantities to the Chinese public.  Alibaba has since become the largest internet sales company in China and sells more consumer product than any other company in China, and perhaps, the world.

Alibaba has now expanded their consumer internet sales operation to where they sell consumer products to anyone, anywhere, at any time, any place in the world. I have made several purchases from Alibaba, delivery can take up to 3 weeks but… they usually pay the shipping costs. They ship via China Post Air Mail  and there is no China sales tax. I pay 1/3 to 1/10 of what I would have paid for the same item from a U.S. source.

This is real globalization that is starting to benefit you and me rather than U.S Multinational Corporations.

When I search an item in Aliexpress.com I see comments from others who have bought the same item, as well as the quantities purchased to date, Alibaba even includes a small national flag identifying the country of each purchaser. I have made my living involved in manufacturing and exporting consumer hard goods, we spent a lot of time in determining where to build factories in the US.  Walmart refused to deal with distributors and sales reps and insisted in dealing directly with manufacturers and bypassing the middlemen.   Eventually when US companies began to import foreign manufactured goods we selected what factories to close down until there were no factories left to shutter. And later Walmart bypassed American Importers and bought direct from China. We consumers had no power at all.

Now the Chinese are beginning to sell direct bypassing the U.S. corporations and retailers and offering absolutely great prices. It also appears the Chinese government supports this China export effort by subsidizing the shipping costs so Chinese exports ship free to anywhere in the world.

You can take a look at this unique internet marketer at http://www.aliexpress.com/

Alibaba Page

Cloister Condo YTD Sales thru July 2013


HappyMoneyCloister units were built as either two or three bedroom units with options which included an extra den room, one or two car garage, fireplace, and bay windows. Naturally these show up in the appraised and selling values. County records show fourteen units sold this year where a selling price was recorded. Below is a chart with selling prices and appraised values for these units. Selling prices for Cloister Living Units have increased this year compared to recent previous years and units are now usually selling above their appraised values.

Cloister Units Sold thry July 2013