Crowdfunding Condominium Renovations

shutterstock_crowdfunding-1280x960(Summary; crowdfunding condominium renovations with emerging platforms can lead to substantial savings when proper engineering assurance is also performed.  Contact us for more information)

The 20/10 Rule

After the first 20 years, a condominium building may see a major system repair every 10 years for the life of the building.  After year 20, a building may start to see increased maintenance costs on major systems.   They start as small problems such as a roof leak, a broken water valve,  some wood rot under a window sill, a blown compressor, etc.  As the frequency and severity of the problems increase, the cost of repair and insurance claims exceeds the price of replacing the system.

The Funding Paradox

Once a system enters a mode of cascading failures, a major system renovation needs to happen immediately.  The cascading failures also happen in the financial side: an insurance claim triggers higher premiums, a water damage disclosure devalues real property, frequent shutdowns cause resident complaints, and the cost of constant repairs is progressively more significant.

The backlash from enforcing special assessments on residents can be severe.  People are willing to pay their fair share, but it is not fair to ask a current resident to subsidize past residents who enjoyed a trouble-free system.  Nor is it fair to ask them to subsidize future residents who will enjoy a trouble-free systems after renovation.  At this point, banks have you backed into a corner.  Bank loans must be collateralized by liens on the community cashflow, bank fees can cost between 0.5-1.5% of the cost of repair, and interest rates can average 5% (effectively doubling the price of the work over 15 years)

The cost of having the problem has a compound negative impact on the ability to fix the problem.

Crowdfunding

Humans have a remarkable ability to adapt to constraints on their environment. When money is constrained by economic factors, people are figuring out new ways to get the job done.  Today, new crowdfunding platforms are appearing for every known cause from funding start-up companies, to paying medical bills, education expenses, community coops, even public services.

Coengineers, PLLC is encouraged by what we have seen in the crowdfunding movement.  These are not banks, they are a platforms that allow a community to borrow money from themselves. Instead of a special assessment, the board “borrows” the assessed value from the residents and pays it back from the dues collected over time.

3 Benefits of Crowdfunding Condominium Renovations

1. Current residents no longer subsidize future or past residents – they can carry an interest bearing loan from the HOA.  A resident can move and still collect on the debt.

2. Loan terms are (to a large part) decided by the community, interest rate, initiation rate, assets secured, etc.

3. Money stays home instead of paying bank shareholders in a far off city – all fees, work, repairs, and repayments stay in the community.

A word of caution about crowdfunding for construction

One thing that banks and insurance companies perform very well is due diligence. Old institutions have long-term memory that enables them to know what types of investments work and what type do not.  These institutions are very familiar with construction loans and associated financial hazards.  Banks and insurance entities are vigilant in requiring a certain amount of preparation and professional documentation in place before underwriting a project. This data is matched to past data and risks are pooled and diversified.  Before a community attempts a crowd fund, they should make certain that they can effectively duplicate the technical and financial due diligence that a bank or insurance company would perform.

Further, the project MUST be insurable during and after completion in order for mortgages to remain viable.  It is essential that your insurance company accepts the conditions under which a renovation is performed.  They are already very comfortable accepting the opinions of your bank, but will they accept the vetting of the HOA Board?  Future mortgage lenders must be certain that the property was renovated to banking standards or they will not lend to future homeowners.  These are serious implication that the HOA board must be aware of.

Crowdfunding Assurance Engineering

Coengineers, PLLC specializes in representing the community’s best interest by performing the condition assessment, the reserves study, the feasibility study, the statement of work, contractor vetting, and ultimately, the maintenance plan for HOA properties attempting to crowd fund their projects.  Coengineers, PLLC has developed a set of processes that may accomplish these goals specifically in support of crowdfunding platforms.

Pillars of Engineering Assurance

The condition assessment tells the HOA exactly what the problem is and the scope of the required repair. The reserve study looks at all property systems and determines their estimating service life and scope of repair over a 30-year period.

The feasibility study will compare various options that an HOA may be considering for scope, cost, and payback.  The statement of work tells the contractor exactly what needs to be performed in contractual form.

Contractor vetting is required to make certain that the contractors’s capability and solution are consistent with the objectives of the community. It is also important to verify milestones of the project and adjudicate the release of funds to the trades for work completed.  Finally, the community needs to know the precise maintenance schedule which will ensure that the new system experiences the maximum service life.

Quality is everything

One other thing to keep in mind is that anyone can buy these notes underwritten by the HOA as long as the asset is of sufficiently high quality.  Coengineers helps to assures the quality of the asset thereby broadening the investor base. Outside investors such as area merchants, future residents, insurance companies, and even contractors may carry these notes at an interest rate that beats many long term investments.  When communities are self-supporting and the money stays home, everyone wins.

Solid value

Crowdfunding condominium renovations may be an excellent choice for some communities to bring their property up from a D grade to an A grade while saving significantly over a bank loan and without imposing a special assessment on the residents.  However, it is recommended that an engineering firm is contracted to provide project assurance that will reflect positively to future lenders, insurers, future residents, real estate values, and community resilience. Feel free to contact us at coengineers.com for more information on crowdfunding platforms and the Coengineers Crowdfunding Assurance Package of services.

5 Questions About Reserve Fund Studies

EngineerThe Reserve Study is one of the most important documents that a shared asset community can own. Coengineers, PLLC complies with the more stringent standard of the Canadian Reserve Study Act combined with the ASTM E2018-08 standard for building condition assessments where practical.   This standard of care provides the Board, The Management Company, and the community of owners with the highest level of legal and technical resilience in the industry.  Don’t sell your community short on  reserve fund analysis. No other purchase can pay for itself in multiples as a rock solid reserve study.

Adapted from www.mayflower.ca  

Who Is Allowed to Prepare the Reserve Fund Study cfl Jersey sizing (Canada)?

The Regulations to the Condominium Act 1998 (Canada) note who is permitted:

  • Members of the Appraisal Institute of Canada
  • Persons who hold a certificate of practice within the meaning of the Architects Act
  • Certified Engineering Technologists
  • Architectural Technologists
  • Holders of a CRP (RS – USA) designation
  • Persons who hold a certificate of authorization within the meaning of the Professional Engineers Act
  • Quantity Surveyors
  • Graduates Polytechnic University with a Bachelor of Technology new  (Architectural Science) Building Science or Architecture option.

Notwithstanding the above, there are regulations on who cannot prepare the Study which include members of the Board, the condominium’s property manager, certain relatives of Board members, an owner or a resident in the-condominium. In addition, the person/company being considered cannot have any direct or indirect interest in a contract or proposed contract with any Board member outside of his/her capacity as a Board member.

Aside from professional credentials, you want someone who has demonstrated experience with condominiums. Notwithstanding the Study being a budget document, it is also a technical report that involves the review of architectural and engineering drawings and the visual inspection of common elements. A trained eye can identify building problems for which repair costs can be included in the Study. In addition, much of the future Reserve Fund expenditures will be due to building envelope (roofing, windows, exterior cladding) and structural restoration (parking garages, balconies). These costs are often very site dependent for which “costing manuals” are of little use. Companies that have designed and administered these types of rehabilitation projects will be better suited to provide budgets for similar future work that the Corporation may be facing.

The regulations to the Condominium Act stipulate the minimum liability insurance requirements; $1,000,000.

What Information Does the HOA Need to Provide?

Once you have hired a consultant, he/she will require information about the condominium corporation. This will include the following:

  • As-built drawings and specifications.
  • The Declaration and Description.
  • Reciprocal cost sharing agreements.
  • Previous reserve fund studies.
  • The most recent audited financial statements.
  • What the current annual contribution to the Reserve Fund is.
  • Repairs or replacements to the common elements that have already been completed and when. Similarly, scheduled future work needs to be accounted for.
  • A summary of problems being encountered by the Corporation that should be reviewed. As an example, water penetration concerns.

What Is The Process?

The process is as follows:

  • The consultant is provided the above information. One of the most important are the drawings. They will be reviewed prior to visiting the site in order for the consultant to become familiar with the overall design and construction schemes.
  • Site inspection. In order to have an understanding on the current condition of the common elements, visual inspections are undertaken. Problem areas noted above can be reviewed. After the first study, the next study update can be completed without a site inspection. The next update must include a site inspection.
  • The report is then prepared (see next question). The drawings are used to “take-off” quantities such as roofing, exterior wall cladding, asphalt, hallway finishes etc that will assist in preparing the replacement/repair cost budgets. It is recommended that a draft report should be submitted in order for the Board and Property Manager to review it prior to it being finalized. The consultant should be available to attend a meeting to review the report.
  • Upon receiving direction from the Board of Directors, the Reserve Fund Study is finalized and submitted.

What Is The Report Format?

Each consultant will have a different format, but in general, the Reserve Fund Study will contain a Physical and Financial Analysis:

  • Background Information about the Corporation in general; where it is, its age, a general description of the property as a whole.
  • Inspection Report. Based upon the results of the site inspection, the report will provide an itemized overview description of the major common elements. This will include general condition, the need and timing for remedial work or replacement and any other information that the Board should be aware of.
  • Information Tables. There is typically a table that summarizes the common elements in terms of current age, life expectancy, remaining service life and current and future cost budgets.
  • Expenditure Tables. The data from the Information Tables is summarized to show in a tabular format when the itemized common element repair/replacements are estimated to take place. For each year, these expenditures are summed. The annual projections must be a minimum of 30 years commencing in the year the Study (and updates) is prepared.
  • Cash Flow Tables. Based upon the estimated expenditures, different contribution plans can be provided. Often, one plan includes the contribution level currently being used as a form of comparison to other scenarios.

What is the Funding Plan?

As part of the Financial Analysis, the study must in recommended funding plan projected over 30 years from the date of the study. The plan must show:

  • The estimated cost of major repairs and replacements based upon current costs.
  • The same costs adjusted to account for an assumed inflation rate. The inflation rate must be stated in the study.
  • The opening balance of the reserve fund.
  • The recommended amount of contributions to the reserve fund determined on a cash flow basis that are required to offset adequately the expected cost in the year of the expected major repair or replacement common elements and assets.
  • An estimate of the interest earned on the reserve fund contributions based upon an assumed interest The study shall state the assumed interest rate. The Condominium Act requires that interest generated by the Reserve Fund is reinvested into the Fund.
  • The percentage increase in annual contributions to the reserve fund for each year of the 30 year study.
  • The estimated closing balance of the reserve fund for each year.