Winter Storm Watch In Effect

Winter Storm Watch in Effect

Dear residents,

A Winter Storm Watch is in effect from late Friday night until Saturday afternoon.  Temperatures are expected to dip into the upper teens at night over the weekend.  Please be sure to take the necessary precautions in regards to freezing temperatures.

Home tips
Frozen pipes can lead to a big mess. Here are a few tips for guidance on avoiding weather-related disasters at home:

  • Allow a small trickle of water to run overnight, preferably through a faucet on an outside wall.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets so warmer air can circulate below the sinks.
  • Know the locations of your shut-off valves, in case a pipe bursts.
  • Shut off any outdoor spigots and bring in hoses

Plants
If you haven’t already taken steps to protect your plants, here a few ways to care for them during the cold weather:

  • Bring your smaller container plants, especially succulents, indoors. Mulch or cover outdoor plants with straw, blankets or cardboard.
  • Be sure to turn off automatic sprinklers, detach hoses from faucets and wrap the faucets to protect outdoor pipes.
  • Don’t worry if plant leaves wilt; they protect themselves against cold by dehydrating themselves. Given time, most will perk back up

Pets
Pet owners should take special precautions with their animals during freezing temperatures. It’s best to keep all pets indoors.

Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm, including car engines. Before you turn your engine on, check beneath the car or make plenty of noise by honking the horn.

Thanks for your attention and stay warm!

Thoughts Entering The New Year

Thoughts Entering the New Year

As we begin another year, the community association board wants to offer some thoughts about how we can improve our community in the upcoming year and beyond.

Responsibility. We all take responsibility for adhering to rules and meeting our financial obligations to the community so we can avoid the costly and unpleasant task of pursuing legal actions.

Sharing. We want everyone to share ideas, perspectives and concerns so we can work together to build an even better hometown.

Fellowship. We actively participate in the recreational, social and cultural activities of the community.

Involvement. Consider attending association meetings and taking the time to review important information about our community.

Inclusiveness. We actively welcome new residents, making all owners and renters feel part of the community.

Pride. We are proud to live in this homeowners association community and recommend it to others who are looking for a good place to call home in the Southeast.

We will certainly strive to do our part as members of the elected board. It’s our goal to serve as neighborhood facilitators and regard our authority as a temporary stewardship, even as we plan for a future well beyond our tenure on the board.

We wish you a happy and healthy new year!

Tips For Saving On Home Owners And Renters Insurance

Tips for Saving on Home Owners and Renters Insurance

Whether you own or rent your home in our community, insurance is essential to protect your property and household goods. Comparison shopping for the best rates will certainly save you some money, but you also can save by following these tips:

  • Choose a higher deductible—increasing your deductible by just a few hundred dollars can make a big difference in your insurance premium.
  • Don’t forget to ask your insurance agent about discounts. Dead bolts, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, security systems, storm shutters and fire-retardant roofing material are just some of the home safety features that can often lower your rate. You also may be eligible for a lower premium if you are a long-term customer or if you bundle other coverage, such as auto insurance, with your provider. Some companies also offer senior discounts for customers who are older than 55 years.
  • Be sure not to include the value of the land when you are deciding how much coverage to buy. If you insure your house, but not the land under it, you can avoid paying more than you should. Even after a disaster, the land will still be there.
  • If you’re a renter, don’t assume your landlord carries insurance on your personal belongings. She or he most likely doesn’t. Purchase a separate renters’ policy to be sure your property—like furniture, electronics, clothing and other personal items—is covered.

Don’t wait until you have a loss to find out whether you have the right type and amount of insurance. For example, many policies require you to pay extra for coverage for high-ticket items like computers, cameras, jewelry, art, antiques, musical instruments and stamp and coin collections.

Furthermore, not all coverage will replace fully what is insured. An “actual-cash-value” policy will save you money on premiums, but it only pays what your property is worth at the time of loss (your cost minus depreciation for age and wear). “Replacement” coverage gives you the money to rebuild your home and replace your belongings.

Finally, a standard homeowners’ association policy does not cover flood and earthquake damage. The cost of a separate earthquake policy depends on the likelihood of earthquakes in your area – so Southeastern residents do not have to be as concerned as other HOA residents. Homeowners who live in flood-prone areas should take advantage of the National Flood Insurance Program.

Why Do We Need Reserves?

Why Do We Need Reserves?

Equipment and major components (like the roofs) must be replaced from time to time, regardless of whether we plan for the expense. Living in the Carolinas you could experience weather damages, which can be pretty expensive, if you haven’t set the money aside ahead of time. We prefer to plan and set the funds aside now. Reserve funds aren’t an extra expense—they just spread out expenses more evenly. There are other important reasons we put association monies into reserves every month:

  1. Reserve funds meet legal, fiduciary and professional requirements. A replacement fund may be required by:
  •  Any secondary mortgage market in which the association participates (e.g., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA).
  •  State statutes, regulations, or court decisions.
  •  The community’s governs documents.
  1. Reserve funds provide for major repairs and replacements that we know will be necessary at some point in time. Although a roof may be replaced when it is 25 years old, every owner who lives under or around it should share its replacement costs.
  1. Reserve funds minimize the need for special assessments or borrowing. For most association members, this is the most important reason.
  1. Reserve funds enhance resale values. Lenders and real estate agents are aware of the ramifications for new buyers if the reserves are inadequate. Many states require associations to disclose the amounts in their reserve funds to prospective purchasers.
  1. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) requires the community association to disclose its reserve funds in its financial statements.

 

Cold Weather Advice

Cold Weather Advice

Snow can make children squeal with delight, but it can also make adults snort with dread and frustration. Although we don’t get much wintery weather in the Southeast, the homeowners association does try to remove any snow and ice quickly and safely from roads and walkways, while still allowing the kids to have some fun. In the meantime, please keep these cold-weather tips in mind:

  • The homeowners association has shovels and salt available for good-Samaritan residents who wish to help out with the sidewalks. Shoveling can be good exercise, but pace yourself and drink plenty of water.
  • Please ask your kids to use the designated sledding areas. They’re safer for your children and easier on our landscaping. Make sure sledders have a buddy and only sled during daylight hours. We want to make sure everyone stays safe and has fun!
  • If possible, for everyone’s safety, clear the snow away from fire hydrants near your home.
  • When you warm up your car, wait a few minutes before turning on the heat to give the windshield time to adjust. Drastic changes in temperature can cause your windshield to crack. That includes pouring warm water on cold glass outside or immediately blasting your defroster inside the car. If you just can’t wait, consider using de-icer sprays instead, which are quick and effective. Rain-X defroster wiper fluid, or similar products, prevent ice from bonding to your windshield making your scraping job much easier.
  • Keep a supply of drinking water and food on hand. And remember to keep blankets, flashlights and warm clothes handy. If you lose power, it’s up to you to call the utility company before you call us.
  • Don’t expect to see the snow plows until at least multiple inches of snow have accumulated—that’s what we’re contracted for. Please keep this in mind before calling us with your reminders and questions. In cold weather, don’t go out if you don’t have to. Be smart and stay warm.
Rules For The Holidays

Rules for the Holidays

The holidays are just around the corner, and for many people in the Carolinas, that means lots of festivities with friends and loved ones. With all of the merriment that’s sure to ensue, it’s important that residents who are hosting celebrations are not only considerate of their neighbors, but also take note of the HOA rules. A complete listing of your homeowners association rules and regulations can be found in your Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), but here are a few key items to look up that are particularly pertinent during the holiday season:

Outdoor Decorations: Decking the halls with seasonal ornaments is a great way to bring the holiday spirit home. Many homeowners love to spread the joy by decorating the outside of their homes and front yards as well, but before you scurry up that ladder to hang the decorative lights along the side of your roof, take a quick peek at the CC&Rs to find out the guidelines for outdoor decorations, as well as the guidelines for flags and signs. This will help make sure your outdoor winter wonderland isn’t an association violation.

Parties: If you plan on hosting a large get-together or party, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. First, keep the revelry and noise to a minimum, and wind the party down at a reasonable time—you don’t want your celebrating to interfere with your neighbors’ attempts to get visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Check your CC&Rs to find out what the association deems acceptable noise levels and what the quiet hours are, as well as guidelines for hosting parties.

Parking: The holidays bring many people together, and that means extra cars will need to be parked. To make sure your guests are covered, look at the CC&Rs to find out the rules on visitor parking in the association, including where they can park and what kind of parking passes they may need.

Overnight Guests: It wouldn’t be the holidays without relatives and guests spending the night after an eventful evening. Of course, depending on how long your overnight guests are staying, you may need to let the HOA association know. The CC&Rs will give you a breakdown on the rules for both short-term and long-term guests, so take a look at them before you break out the extra cot.

Following the association’s rules and regulations helps ensure that all residents can enjoy this special time of year, so please help the community by doing your part. Stay safe and have a wonderful holiday season.

Saving For The Holidays

Saving for the Holidays

In these tough economic times, many homeowners are trying to stretch their dollars and keep their debt as low as possible. The following tips from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), offer easy ways to save:

  • ŸCut $5 a day out of your incidental spending. Mindless spending and impulse shopping take a bigger chunk out of your spending than you might care to admit.
  • Ÿ Empty the change in your pocket into a jar each night. Pocket change can add up to between $30 and $50 a month.
  • Ÿ Resolve to carve $10 a month from each of five discretionary spending categories. For example:
    • Shopping: stay out of malls, and shop only when an item is needed.
    • Medical: sign up for one of the discount plans on prescriptions currently being offered by many national drug chains.
    • Utilities: lower the thermostat at home.
    • Food: plan meals in advance and never grocery shop on the run.
    • Eating out: order water to drink when dining at a restaurant.
  • Eliminate bank fees. Bank with an institution that has ATMs near where you live and work, eliminating any fees assessed by using a machine outside of your network. Don’t pay for your checking account when many banks offer free checking with few strings attached. Never overdraw your account.
  • ŸKick your bad habits. Buying a pack of cigarettes and a lottery ticket each day can add up quickly.
  • ŸStop charging and pay with cash. Studies show that people who pay for their purchases with cash typically save about 20 percent. Therefore, if you put $1,000 onto a charge card each month, you stand to save big bucks.
  • ŸDon’t have too much of a good thing. Examine your cell phone package. Are the minutes right for your calling patterns? Look at your cable plan. Are you paying for channels you never watch? Switching to a plan that is right for you yields big savings.
  • ŸGet insurance check-ups. You don’t want to be over-insured or underinsured, but if you can handle raising your deductible, it will save you money each month.

For professional help finding hidden money in your budget, call a National Foundation for Credit Counseling member agency. To locate the counselor closest to you, dial (800) 388-2227, or go online to www.DebtAdvice.org. To find a Spanish-speaking counselor, call (800) 682-9832

Keep Warm, But Safe

Keep Warm, but Safe

December, January and February are the deadliest months for home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). And, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires and home fire deaths. That’s why it’s important for you and your loved ones in your HOA community to take extra precautions during the winter.

Thinking of buying a space heater? The NFPA recommends, and your homeowner association insists, you make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions or have it professionally installed. If you have an electric-powered space heater, plug it into an outlet with sufficient capacity. Never use an extension cord. Your association may not allow liquid-fueled space heaters.

Turn off space heaters whenever the room is unoccupied or when manufacturer’s instructions say they should be turned off. Portable space heaters are easy to knock over in the dark. To avoid any type of accidents, it’s best to turn them off when you go to bed, or at least make sure they’re placed in lit and low traffic areas.

If you use a fireplace or wood stove, use only dry, seasoned wood to avoid the build-up of creosote, an oily deposit that easily catches fire and accounts for most chimney fires and the largest share of home-heating fires. Use only paper or kindling wood, not a flammable liquid, to start the fire. Do not use artificial logs in wood stoves.

Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. After the ashes have cooled downl, dispose of them in a metal container, which should be kept at a safe distance from your home.

Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside, that the venting is kept clear and unobstructed, and that the exit point is properly sealed around the vent. This is to make sure deadly carbon monoxide does not build up in the home.

Other reminders from the National Fire Protection Association include:

  • Don’t use your oven to heat your home.
  • Inspect all heating equipment annually, and clean as necessary.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly, and install a carbon monoxide alarm outside each sleeping area.

For more information, visit www.nfpa.org.

Are HOA Residents Happy?

Are HOA Residents Happy?

Do you know you are among the more than 60 million Americans who live in homeowners associations and condominium communities? We think most residents are happy living in our SCS managed community—and we certainly hope you are among them—but how do these 60 million residents feel about their own homeowners associations? Are they happy with their elected community management boards? How do they feel about the rules?

The Foundation for Community Association Research, an affiliate of Community Associations Institute (CAI), sponsored a recent national public opinion survey to answer these and other questions.  Here are some of the key findings:

  • 71 percent of residents say they are satisfied with their community association experience. Only 12 percent express dissatisfaction and 17 percent are neutral on the question.
  • 89 percent believe their homeowner association board members strive to serve the best interests of the community, while 11 percent say the opposite or they aren’t sure.
  • 76 percent say their professional managers, like Southern Community Services, provide value to their communities, while 24 percent say the opposite or they aren’t sure.
  • 70 percent believe their community association rules “protect and enhance” property values. Only 2 percent say rules harm property values, while about 29 percent see no difference or didn’t know.

We’d like to think that we would do even better than the national averages. If you feel differently, please let us know what you think we can do to make our community a better place to live. If you’re especially pleased with our community, we’d love to hear about that, too!  It’s always good to know we’re on the right track.

More national survey results, which include comparative data from similar surveys in 2005 and 2007, are available under “Research Projects” at www.cairf.org.

 

 

Surviving Job Loss

Surviving Job Loss

It’s never a good time to lose your job. However, the current economic environment has resulted in business closures, downsizing and layoffs for many in our community. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling offers the following tips for surviving a layoff:

  • Resist the urge to tell your boss what you truly think of him or her. Remember, you may need him or her as a reference for a future job.
  • Allow yourself to be upset or even afraid, these are natural reactions. However, if they become intense, seek professional help. Talking things through and hearing another person’s perspective can bring relief and restore your positive outlook.
  • Take advantage of any assistance your workplace offers. Many companies provide placement assistance, job retraining and severance packages. Make sure you are aware of all benefits offered.
  • Apply for applicable government benefits. Your HR representative at work will be a good resource.
  • Don’t be tempted to live off of your credit cards. Someone with a good line of credit could actually support the family at the current standard of living by using credit, but there’s no guarantee a new position will materialize any time soon. Expect one month of job search for each $10,000 of annual income you hope to replace. In other words, if you seek a $50,000 salary, it may take you five months to land that job.
  • Resist the urge to solve your problems by spending recklessly. It may feel good for the moment, but the high of spending won’t equal the low of dealing with additional debt when there is no income.
  • Take a personal inventory. Consider all assets, income and expenses. No one wants to liquidate assets to survive, but it is good to know what you have to fall back on.
  • Drastic times call for drastic measures. Nothing is off-limits. Consider selling the second car or recreational vehicle, real estate holdings, rental properties or jewelry.
  • After you review your income versus debt obligations, if you don’t have enough money to make ends meet, calculate how much you’ll need for basic household expenses and HOA fees. Your goal is to pay everyone, but if you must make a choice, keep food on the table and your home life stable by paying your rent or mortgage, association assessments, utilities, childcare, insurance premiums and health care.
  • Contact your creditors to arrange lower payments. Most major credit card issuers have help programs. Explain your situation and what you’re doing to resolve it. The creditor may be able to temporarily lower your monthly payment and reduce interest.
  • Have a family meeting that includes the children. You don’t want family members pulling in different directions, and a joint effort yields a better result.
  • Make cutbacks wherever possible, knowing that your austere lifestyle will only be temporary. Resolve to stop all non-essential spending immediately.
  • Inform your mortgage lender of your situation. Be prepared to provide documentation of your setback, and have a resolution plan in mind. Since the average consumer doesn’t know all the loan modifications available, sit down with a certified housing counselor and map out a plan best suited to your situation.
  • Tracking your spending is always a good idea, but when money is tight, it’s essential. Write down every cent you spend. After 30 days, review where the money went and decide where to cut back. You’ll be amazed how much you can save without feeling the pinch.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a national nonprofit credit counseling organization. For more information, visit www.DebtAdvice.org or call (800) 388-2227. En Español, dial (800) 682-9832.