Care-free living. It’s the fantasy of every condominium owner. Forget the lawn mowing, deck sealing, and gutter cleaning. Leave behind worries about furnace repairs, peeling clapboard paint and curling roof shingles.
But of course, none of those projects, large or small, disappear when you move into a planned community. The difference is that someone else takes care of them — and you simply pay for them through your monthly fees.
While the regular maintenance tasks — from swimming pool cleaning to snow shoveling — are obvious, it’s easy for condominium owners to forget that the big issues don’t fade away because “management” is responsible for them. And, just as when the roof on a single-family home starts to leak, or the siding on the house begins to look a bit shabby, the components of a multi-family building will eventually reach the point of needing major repairs or replacement.
Like the unhappy homeowner faced with a contractor’s estimate for a new roof, the community association must be prepared to foot the bill. That’s where the association’s Reserve Fund comes into play — and if the association has been handling its finances well, money has been tucked away from every monthly fee to fill the Reserve Fund coffers.
Condominium owners who have relocated from single-family homes are familiar with the concept of annual furnace maintenance, regular septic system pumping and chimney cleaning. First-time owners, on the other hand, might be surprised by the myriad home systems that require regular attention — and even more surprised if they are notified of a special assessment to pay for a roof replacement or deck repairs that were not adequately covered by the Reserve Fund.
Regular maintenance, of course, can help extend the useful life of many multi-family building components; furnace inspection and cleaning, water filter replacement, and parking lot sealing can avert premature failure. A regularly-updated Reserve Study will reveal the expected lifespan of each building element — along with current and likely future costs of major repairs and replacements. While general guidelines exist to estimate the useful lifespan of components, a Reserve Specialist will provide a more accurate assessment of each item’s current status and likely life expectancy.
Carefree living? There can, indeed, be such a thing — if owners understand that every building, whether a single-family Victorian, urban high-rise or contemporary townhouse condo — requires regular attention and eventual major repairs.