Buyer Beware: Home Inspections

Buyer Beware: Home Inspections

A home is typically the most expensive purchase a person will ever make, and because of this, it’s imperative to have it inspected before moving forward. Your homeowners association recommends that you have your potential home inspected before finalizing the deal and becoming your own property manager. An inspection gives you an idea of the home’s physical condition, including the central heating and air system, plumbing and electrical systems, the roof, attic and visible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation, basement and structural components.

A home inspection addresses what needs to be repaired now and anything that might require future repair. If you have a property inspected before signing a contract, you might be able to negotiate a lower price that reflects the inspection’s findings. Simply because a house needs repairs doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it. The buyer must decide how much to spend and how much work he or she is willing to do after the purchase.

Home inspections don’t cover everything. Inspectors aren’t required to identify conditions that are hidden or could be considered latent defects. They don’t have to move personal property, plants, snow or debris to inspect an item and they aren’t liable if they miss something. Inspectors also don’t have to evaluate systems that aren’t easily accessible and they are not obligated to note whether termites, mold, hazardous plants or animals are present.

It’s not possible to know everything about a property before your purchase, but a thorough inspection should provide you with a decent idea of its condition. While the cost of a home inspection is typically based on the size, complexity and number of systems in the property, an inspection can cost as little as a few hundred dollars and has the potential to save much more. Some inspection fees are based on a percentage of the asking price. When calculating the time for lab results, inspections on average take approximately three weeks to finalize. Ultimately, the initial investment of money and time could mean fewer negotiations and surprises, a lower sales price, a decrease in the likelihood of litigation for improper disclosure and an increased chance of closing the deal.

Beware Boxwood Blight

Beware Boxwood Blight

Boxwoods are ornamental shrubs found throughout the U.S. including South Carolina. They’re popular because they stay green year round and don’t appeal to deer. Alarmingly, a new species of boxwood blight (the fungus Cylindrocladium buxicola) was discovered in the U.S., and several other countries in late 2011. Indistinguishable from two other types of benign boxwood blight, this third species is aggressive and deadly to all boxwoods not protected. Here is some helping advice provided by your community homeowners association.

The only known solution for Cylindrocladium fungus is extreme daily temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The US Department of Agriculture has allocated more than $500,000 for research to cure boxwood blight. Until a remedy is found, homeowners can slow the spread of the disease by detecting it early and using proper eradication procedures. Early detection is especially important since the fungus life cycle can be as swift as seven days from infection to propagating new spores.

Early signs of Cylindrocladium infection are round, brown spots on leaves or lesions on the leaf tip. In advanced stages, leaves drop off and the bare branches show black cankers.

If you have boxwoods on your property, inspect them at least once a week during the growing season. If your boxwoods show any signs of distress, you should take the following steps:

  • Contact the county agricultural extension center for testing. Testing is important since all boxwood blight species look alike. If tests confirm that Cylindrocladium is the culprit, begin removing diseased plants immediately and notify the community association company or a HOA board member as soon as possible.
  • Always wear gloves when handling diseased plants, fallen leaves and plant debris. Be careful not to touch healthy boxwoods or parts of garden tools that may come in contact with them. Wash the gloves and tools thoroughly or use disposable gloves.
  • Remove infected plants and dead leaves carefully and thoroughly. Fungus on fallen leaves can survive for as long as five years, so removing all debris is essential. Seal and double bag all debris or, if, burn or bury diseased plants and debris. Do not combine infected plant debris with other yard waste for pickup or disposal, and do not use it in compost systems.
  • After removing infected plants, vacuum porches, decks, walkways, flagstones and other hard surfaces adjacent to diseased boxwoods.
  • Replace your diseased boxwoods with alternative plants for the five years following a Cylindrocladium infection. Ask your landscaper or nursery staff for substitutes that are not in the boxwood family. If you opt for new boxwoods, plant them as far from the infected areas as possible.
Calling All Homeowners

Calling all Homeowners

Homeowners association board meetings are open for the community to attend. Residents are encouraged to go to meetings and read the approved minutes. At the beginning of each HOA board meeting there should be a homeowner forum where residents are welcome to discuss concerns with the board.

Here are few tips for participating:

  1. Put it in writing. You will get the best response if you put your question or opinions in writing prior to the meeting. This isn’t mandatory, but it helps you and the board to have more time to look over it. Some issues may require a little research by the community manager, if your association has one. By having more time, the board will be able to better address your concern.
  1. Call ahead. As a courtesy, the HOA would appreciate it if you called and let the association manager or board president know that you wish to address the board. This also allows the board to notify you if a meeting is cancelled or rescheduled for any reason.
  1. Plan your remarks to last no longer than five minutes. Board members enjoy visiting with residents; however, the meeting agenda is always very full, and a timed limit ensures that all business gets conducted. It also ensures that all residents who wish to address the board have the opportunity. That being said, this doesn’t mean that the board will not hear a more time consuming problem. If your concern requires additional time, please use your allotted time to summarize your statement or question and the board will add it to the agenda for the next meeting.
  1. Don’t expect an immediate response. Board members don’t act independently. All issues require discussion and sometimes a vote. Sometimes an immediate answer is possible, but it’s just as likely that you won’t get a response until after the meeting when the board has had ample time to discuss your problem.
  1. If you need information, call your association manager. The purpose of the homeowner forum is for residents to share opinions and concerns with the board. If you are seeking general information – like a status report on a project or the board’s position on an issue – you can get a more immediate answer from the community manager.

If your neighborhood would like to see other benefits of having a paid association management firm please feel free to contact us at Southern Community Services.

Beyond Lawn Care

Beyond Lawn Care

Wooded areas, meadows, streams and ponds are features that add value to communities. These wonderful features enhance property values, increase aesthetic appeal, improve environmental quality, eliminate noise and wind and reduce energy bills.

The responsibility to maintain our natural areas goes beyond the capabilities of lawn care providers, so it’s up to the homeowners association to properly maintain all common ground, both landscaped and natural.

That’s why the your homeowners association pays attention to water resources and quality, wildlife habitats and species diversity. With proper HOA management and maintenance, there will be great benefits to local ecosystems. Plus – it’ll save the association money!

Remember, environmental stewardship begins at the community level.

Care And Feeding Of Your Garbage Disposal

Care and Feeding of Your Garbage Disposal

The powerful roar of your garbage disposal’s motor may convince you that it can take on any garbage you throw its way, but it’s important to remember that your disposal is not a trash can. Garbage disposals are designed to grind small bits of biodegradable food waste to help prevent clogged drains. Proper use and maintenance will not only extend the life of your appliance, but will also spare you unnecessary and costly service calls.

Do:

  • Small amounts of skinless, boneless, pit-less and non-fibrous foods are safe to grind.

Don’t:

  • Shells, skins, husks, rinds and other hard or fibrous materials should not be put in the disposal (e.g., clam shells, oyster shells, corn husks, fruit pits, banana peels, avocado skins and bones).
  • Large amounts of starchy foods (e.g., noodles and rice) should not be put in the disposal. Although these foods are easily ground, they expand in water and can clog drains.

Always:

  • Run cold water when operating the disposal. Keep the water running for at least 30 seconds after you turn off the unit.

Never:

  • Use hot water when operating the disposal.
  • Put non-food materials through the disposal. This includes all types of glass, plastic and metals (e.g., bottle caps, aluminum foil and plastic wrap).
  • Put harsh chemicals in the disposal or down the drain.

Sometimes:

  • Grind bits of citrus peel to help clean and freshen the disposal.
  • Grinding a little ice once a month helps scrape away deposits and remove odors.

Maybe:

  • Running small amounts of eggshells or coffee grounds through the disposal is sometimes suggested to sharpen the blades; however some sources warn against the practice. Consult your user’s manual for recommendations specific to your model.
Big Tips For Small Fixes

Big Tips for Small Fixes

Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects can be immensely rewarding, but even a small repair can turn into a more frustrating and time-consuming job when you encounter unexpected problems. Here are some easy tips from the homeowners association for tackling common home hardware problems that will leave you with a sense of accomplishment rather than a sense of frustration:

Loose Screws: If a screw has become loose and is barely gripping, remove it. Wrap its threads with a few strands of steel wool and screw it back into the original hole. If a screw has been completely ripped out of its hole and the threads can no longer grip, slide a wooden match into the hole and then replace the screw.

Tight Screws: Twist screws into a bar of soap first to make them easier to insert. A few drops of white vinegar will help remove stubborn screws from a metal surface.

Better Grips: Improve your grip by wrapping a thick rubber band around the plastic handle of a screwdriver. This makes tightening and loosening screws less strenuous.

Hammer Help: When hammering a small nail, brad or tack, slip the fastener between the teeth of a pocket comb to protect your fingers from the hammer’s blow. If you don’t have a comb handy, you can also use a bobby pin, a paper clip or tweezers to hold the nail. When hammering a nail in a tight spot or hard-to-reach corner, a bit of modeling clay or chewing gum will hold the nail in place for the first couple of blows.

Rusted Nuts and Bolts: Removing a rusted nut or bolt can be an especially frustrating task. Pour hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice or cola over the rusted fastener and wait half an hour. The mild acid will dissolve the rust enough for the nut or bolt to turn freely.

Rusted Tools: Working with rusted tools makes any job more difficult. Clean off the rust by rubbing a paste of six parts salt and two parts lemon juice on the rusted areas with a dry cloth, then be sure to rinse and dry thoroughly.

 

Bike And Scooter Safety Tips

Bike and Scooter Safety Tips

Your homeowners association wants your children to be safe while riding their bikes and scooters in the community, taking into consideration you can’t be there to watch them all the time. Here are four steps that could increase their safety when you’re not around.

  • Teach kids how to fall. Learning how to ride correctly is only part of what keeps children safe. Falls are inevitable, and teaching your children to fall correctly will prevent many serious injuries when the inevitable happens. Teach them to roll on impact, relax their body and try to land on their padded, fleshiest parts.
  • Inspect equipment. Check bikes and scooters for cracks or dents, sharp metal parts, jutting edges and slippery surfaces. Replace any defective equipment and consult a professional for repairs. Apply self-adhesive, non-slip material to slippery surfaces.
  • Make sure your kids know only one person is allowed to each piece of equipment at one time. They might be less likely to hop on a friend’s scooter if they know it’s unsafe and they’ll have to pay for replacing it if it breaks.
  • Require protective equipment. Scooters, roller blades, bikes and similar equipment cause thousands of injuries every year. Make sure your children are wearing helmets, knee pads and elbow pads, especially if they are still in the learning stages. Buy a helmet your kid thinks is cool and you know is safe—it’s worth the extra money to know your child will like to wear it.
Clarifying The Community Manager’s Role

Clarifying the Community Manager’s Role

Association management boards employ highly qualified professional community managers. It is often times helpful for residents to know what the manager has—and has not—been hired to do. A paid association manager has two primary responsibilities: to carry out policies set by the board and to manage the association’s daily operations.

Some residents expect the manager to perform certain tasks that are not part of their job. When the manager doesn’t meet those expectations, residents are naturally unhappy. Since we want you to be happy, we’re offering a few clarifications to help you understand what the manager does.

  • While the manager works closely with the HOA board, he or she is an advisor, not a member of the board. Also, the manager is not your advocate with or conduit to the board. If you have a concern, send a letter or email directly to the board.
  • The manager is responsible for monitoring contractors’ performance, but not supervising them. Contractors are responsible for supervising their own personnel. If you have a problem with a contractor, notify the manager, who will forward your concerns to the board. The board will decide how to proceed under the terms of the contract.
  • The manager inspects the community regularly, but even an experienced manager won’t catch everything. Your help is essential. If you know about a potential maintenance issue, report it to the manager.
  • The manager is trained to deal with conflict, but he or she will not get involved in quarrels you might be having with your neighbor. However, if association rules are being violated, the manager is the right person to call.
  • Although the manager works for the board, he or she is available to residents. That doesn’t mean the manager will drop everything to take your call. If you need to see the manager, call and arrange a meeting. If a matter is so urgent that you need an immediate response, call the association emergency number or 911.
  • The manager is always happy to answer questions, but he or she is not the information officer. For routine inquiries, like the date of the next meeting, please read the newsletter or ask a board member.
  • The manager has a broad range of expertise, but he or she is not a consultant to the residents. Neither he or she an engineer, architect, attorney or accountant. The manager may offer opinions, but don’t expect technical advice in areas where he or she is not qualified.
  • The manager does not set policy. If you disagree with a policy or rule, you’ll get better results sending a letter or e-mail to the board than arguing with the manager.
  • Although the manager is a great resource to the association, he or she is not available 24 hours a day—except for emergencies. Getting locked out of your home may be an emergency to you, but it isn’t an association emergency. An association emergency is defined as a threat to life or property.

If you’d like to learn more about how a community manager can help your neighborhood board, contact us at Southern Community Services for a free quote.

SCS Is A Member Of The South Carolina Chapter Of CAI

SCS is a member of the South Carolina Chapter of CAI

Our state’s chapter of the Community Associations Institute, The South Carolina CAI (SC-CAI) works with community associations in Greenville, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Hilton Head to provide them with the tools necessary to receive various accreditations.

As a CAI-certified company, Southern Community Services is confident that our managers are savvy and well-equipped to handle the wide array of tasks involved in successfully guiding HOA (a.k.a. POA) boards through day-to-day operations.

The SC-CAI serves the educational, business and networking needs of SC’s  five geographical locations to enhance property values and the quality of life in community associations by promoting leadership, excellence and professionalism.

Members include condominium, cooperative, and homeowner association volunteers, professional association managers, management companies, and those who provide services and products to community associations.

For more information, visit www.cai-sc.net.

Source

All SCS Community Managers Are Certified By The Community Associations Institute

All SCS Community Managers are Certified by the Community Associations Institute

At Southern Community Services, our team is composed of some of the most experienced, seasoned professionals in the business. We take professional development very seriously, and we encourage our community managers to earn as many certifications as they can.

Community Associations Institute (CAI) is one of the most esteemed providers of such certifications. As a CAI-certified company, we open doors for our managers, making it easy for them to pursue multiple certifications. This in turn allows our customers to benefit from managers who are well-educated, engaged and excited about what they do.

An international organization dedicated to building better communities, CAI provides information and education to all parties who work with homeowners associations, including managers and boards of directors.

The CAI mission is to inspire professionalism, effective leadership and responsible citizenship, ideals reflected in communities that are preferred places to call home.  This is done by:

  • Advocating on behalf of community associations and CAI members before the U.S. Congress, federal regulatory agencies, state legislatures and the courts.
  • Providing globally respected professional development courses, online and in classrooms, for community managers and other industry professionals.
  • Providing professional designations that offer recognition of your achievements, as well as continuing education opportunities to help you excel and succeed.
  • Offering unsurpassed education programs for community association board members and other homeowner volunteer leaders.
  • Publishing an award-winning magazine, Common Ground™, and specialized newsletters that provide practical information and perspective about association governance and management.
  • Holding national and international events, including the Annual Conference and Exposition, and chapter events that provide one-of-a-kind opportunities to develop contacts and build support networks.
  • Publishing both web content and the largest collection of books and guides on community association governance and management available anywhere.
  • Offering the Directory of Credentialed Professionals, where you can find credentialed managers, reserve providers, insurance and risk management specialists and attorneys.
  • Offering an extensive, user-friendly Service Directory to help you find thousands of businesses and professionals who provide products and services to community associations.