When Special Assessments Lead to Special Occasions
"Well, what would you do in my situation?"
Don't we all get this question from time to time? I know that for me, responding with first-hand experience imparts a validity that perhaps another California mortgage lender might not have. So I am happy to share with clients and prospects what I know, when appropriate, not only as a home loan professional, but also as a property owner and president of two homeowners associations (HOA).
The first property I owned was a condominium unit at Larkspur Isle, in Larkspur, California. A great little place on the water in Marin County, about 15 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, I later kept it as a rental unit. I always felt it essential to stay engaged in the leadership decisions that impacted my investment and its value and twelve years later I remain on the board as president of the HOA.
Like many HOA's, we rely heavily on external professional management, and years ago, together realized that we were facing a critical time in our property's life. It sunk in that if we did not take a serious and comprehensive look at funding and improving many vital components, we could easily find ourselves in deepening disarray and perhaps even the downward spiral that ensnared so many common interest developments during the real estate downturn.
We did not need to look any further than outside our clubhouse windows and behold our failing pool. Larkspur Isle, completed in the early 1970's, built on bay mud and subject to much soil settlement had its most prominent selling point in accident-waiting-to-happen status. But was our price tag to replace it going to be measured in five, six or seven digits? Would any vote to the owners, some in such hard times already, pass? Should/could we address all other critical components contemporaneously or would that be "piling on?" As a board, as a majority of owners, we put our collective nose to the grindstone and opted to pass a sweeping, yet financially manageable special assessment, and fund it all.
And so it was that on the first day of summer in 2014, I had the privilege to stand before a sparkling new pool, built on helical piers to withstand future settlement. I had a chance to thank all of the owners, all of the engineers and tradespeople who undertook the massive project, our management company, my fellow board members and our faithful contractors who treat this property as their own. After many, many winter days of tough decisions and financial sacrifice, we all got a chance to enjoy a very long day in the sun. We celebrated with a Mexican fiesta --- food, drinks and a chance to check out the new pool and spa.
Special assessments are rarely fun and they are a concern for everyone who owns, or is thinking of buying, a condominium in Marin and elsewhere. Yet we learned they can be done prudently. Yes, the board needs to care. Management needs to care. And most importantly, the owners themselves need to care. When they do, special assessments can indeed lead to some very special occasions.
A special thanks to the Oscar-quality cast that made this day reality:
Sally Raskin, LIHOA Archivist and Architectural Consultant
Mortgage Loan Originator
NMLS: 22343 CalBRE: 01297944
Cell: 415-367-5959 Fax: 415-366-1590
1058 Redwood Highway, Frontage Road, Mill Valley, CA 94941
RPM Mortgage, Inc - BRE# 01818035 – NMLS# 9472 - CA Bureau of Real Estate, Real Estate Corporation License. Equal Housing Lender.