The Cloister as A Business Operation


In early years management and bookkeeping for the Cloister at St Henry facility was simple, collect HOA monthly fees, pay bills relating to ongoing operations and pay the monthly Comcast fee.

But now we have two categories of expenditures, routine operating expenses and capital expenses(such as new roofs, street repaving, retaining walls and other repairs to our infrastructure) This leaves us with challenges in budgeting, and supervision and monitoring of outside contractors.

The value to The Cloister property is approaching Fifty Million Dollars ($50,000,000.00) The property was developed in 1984, some buildings are 32 years old with the newest building built 25 years ago. Original Cloister homeowners did not face expensive maintenance and repair projects  such as roof replacement, street paving,  and exterior repair and painting during the first 10 years of the life of the Cloister complex. Thus we relied upon unpaid volunteers from among residents.

Initially a small group of, sometimes reluctant, mostly inexperienced volunteers formed the Architectural Review and Maintenance Committee to manage the simple housekeeping matters. We have reached a critical point in  budgeting with management of large infrastructure maintenance and repair projects like jacking up and supporting an entire Cloister Condo building, replacing sunken driveways, rebuilding walls, and maintaining the storm water drainage system.

We home owners have been hit with huge monthly HOA fee increases. Yet we assume that management of this major facility can still be conducted with unpaid volunteers on what we call the ARMS Committee.

We are sadly mistaken……

ConstructionManagement

It is time that we reduce the responsibilities of the ARMS Committee and hire on-site management and monitoring for our large, expensive infrastructure repair and maintenance projects and capital spending. Or should we idly stand by while the ARMS committee attempt to manage a $50 million dollar facility and a one million dollar per year budget?

Cloister Unit Sales During 2014


Twenty Cloister Condo Homes sold above appraised value that is listed in the real estate tax rolls during 2014. The average for these homes was 30% above appraised value.

CloisterSales2014

This is good news and bad news…..

         Good news................ Property values have increased much
         Bad news................. Property taxes will go up

See my previous post about RE taxes

Using the Official Cloister Website


Part of the official Cloister Website is available to the general public and potential purchasers of a Cloister home. Another part is password protected and available only to residents holding a personal password. The public website looks like this….(Click on the image below)

CloisterSite1

Once a resident obtains a password the private website looks like this…..
CloisterSite2
The above page announces yet another $1000 increase in the cost of purchasing a Fee Simple interest in a Cloister Condo home to $16,000, otherwise the menu bar on the left is identical for both public and owner access to the website. Unfortunately if a Cloister owner clicks on the “Financial” section in Documents there is an absence of useful Financial information in that section. A list of available documents is indicated below….

CloisterSite3
The only report posted in 2014 is a report called the February Summary Report looking like this…….

CloisterSite4
The above is incomplete and useless. Below is the listing of everything in the Financial section. Please notice that it does not include a 2014 Annual Budget or a useable monthly financial statement for any month in 2014.
CloisterSite5
Cloister residents deserve better treatment and communication than they are now receiving.
Visit the website and make your own decision….. http://www.cloisteratsthenry.com/

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.

Official Cloister Website Needs Help


Take a look at the following websites….

http://www.wessextowers.com/

http://www.enclavehillsboro.com/index_enclavehillsboro.html

Compare these to the official Cloister Website….

http://www.cloisteratsthenry.com/

I understand that one purpose of The Cloister website is to post confidential, password protected information available only to residents…but…. there are several problems.

  1. The website looks identical before or after a resident logs-on.
  2. The front page does more to sell David Floyd and Assoc. than it does to indicate that The Cloister is an attractive place to live.
  3. The front page is completely cluttered
  4. There is a difference in the content we want the public to see and that which is useful to the homeowner

Frankly, I am embarrassed. It doesn’t cost any more to put up an attractive, positive website than it cost to put up the sad thing that represents our Cloister at Saint Henry Condominiums. Today’s websites make a statement about the residents and owners of the condominiums they represent. The total appraised value of The Cloister Condominiums is nearly $40 million. That is not a second class operation. If a potential buyer visits our website he may have second thoughts about buying a property at The Cloister at Saint Henry. I would not be surprised if the shabby website does not lower the value of my home after looking at  http://www.cloisteratsthenry.com/

What do you think?

Link


Frozen PipesThere has been a plumbing repair truck every day for the last two weeks somewhere in The Cloister. I see more Hiller Plumbing trucks than any other, most likely Cloister residents are calling Hiller Plumbing because of the good word-of-mouth passed down through the very effective Cloister homeowners network.  Our home did not have a problem with frozen or burst water pipes for two important reasons.

  1. We added a substantial amount of additional insulation in our attic preventing any likelihood of freezing air dropping down the interior walls and freezing the water pipes.
  2. Our water heater is located in a completely enclosed closet in the garage area. The water heater itself loses enough heat to the closet interior to keep the water pipes and valves in the closet from freezing.

Some Cloister residents do not have a closet for their water heater and the water pipes are exposed to freezing temperatures and can freeze up or even burst. An energy saving suggestion I did not follow was that I did not insulate the water heater. This allowed the heater to keep the closet warm enough to prevent the pipes freezing. Without a closet the water heater and water pipes would have to be heavily insulated. Even the downtown Sheraton Hotel suffered burst pipes in the rooftop penthouse and leaking water down through 27 floors of hotel rooms!

Lawson1During this extreme cold snap I noticed a hesitation when I tried to start my mini-van. I simply blamed it on the cold weather. Wrong! My battery was slowly dying. Thursday morning it was completely dead. How could this be? My van had only 12,700 miles on the odometer. The problem is that the original battery on a new car is not the best and my van is loaded with electronic features that put a big load on a battery. My battery had reached the end of it’s useful life.

Lawson’s once again came to the rescue. I called PK Kelly at 352-4230 …….

“No problem, I can either send someone to jump-start your car and bring it in, or if you call AAA to start the car and if you drive here I will have a new battery in your car in 10 minutes.”; he tells me.

jumper-cablesWe waited nearly two hours for the jump-start guy to arrive and start the van. We drove it to Lawson’s and within 10 minutes we were driving home with a brand new high quality, high capacity  battery with a 75 month warranty.

Lawson’s is a big supporter of The Cloister and contributes a gift certificate regularly as a drawing prize at the monthly Cloister Covered Dish Supper. I am a big supporter of Lawson’s and use them when I have car problems.

Link


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