Monthly Archives: April 2014

Rents Continue to Increase for Residential Properties

Demand for rentals remained strong in March, according to the latest REALTORS® Confidence Index. Among those REALTORS® involved in a rental, 48 percent (46 percent in February) reported higher residential rents compared to 12 months ago. Rising rents may make home ownership more attractive but also may slow the ability of current renters to save […]

Which Foreigners Had the Greatest Interest In U.S. Homes in 2013?

Based on information from realtor.com, NAR economists have formulated a country search index delineating which countries had the most home search contact on realtor.com in 2013. The index is based on a count of actual house searches by potential buyers from specific countries (excluding Germany and Japan due to large numbers of U.S. citizens residing […]

REALTORS® Expect Modest Price Growth in Next 12 Months Based on March 2014 REALTOR® Survey

REALTORS® generally expect prices to increase over the next 12 months at a modest pace with a median expected price increase at about 4 percent, according to the latest REALTORS® Confidence Index. Low inventory compared to demand is expected to continue to buttress prices, as well as the declining share of distressed sales in the […]

More Home Owners Carve Out Outdoor Entertainment Spaces

Traditional Patio by New York Photographers CM Glover   By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine Landscaping projects are being driven by two main reasons: To create entertainment spaces and fix yard problems, according to the Spring Houzz Landscaping Survey of more than 4,500 users on the remodeling website. Fifty-six percent of home owners surveyed say […]

Does your community association have its own brand?

When you are asked to think of iconic brands, names like Nike, Apple, Starbucks and Coca Cola probably come to mind very easily. These companies all engaged in costly, strategic and sustained brand building over many decades to ensure that their company names would convey a recognizable, memorable and successful image to their customers and potential customers.

Companies certainly use branding to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Apple did a masterful job in portraying its users as young, hip and creative while painting Microsoft fans as stodgy fossils. Undoubtedly, Microsoft would have liked a different image in the marketplace but it was forced to play defense as a result of Apple's more nimble use of branding.

When you think of community associations, do some communities do a better job of branding themselves than others? Should more communities be concerned about building their brand before the market or their detractors pick one for them? 

If you think branding is irrelevant to your community, think again. Chances are you already have a brand in the market and it might not be one your board or previous boards have carefully cultivated. Do you want to know how your community's brand manifests itself? Start by asking what kind of reputation your community has in the market. Is your community seen as a trendy upscale high-rise catering to young professionals in an urban area or is your community more the laid-back, family-friendly suburban  enclave? Often a community's brand is related to the unique community components supporting a specific lifestyle with equestrian, marine and country club communities being a few examples. 

When was the last time you asked neighbors outside your community, local realtors and others in your city how they would describe your association? Is your community seen as stodgy or hip? Flexible  or rigid? Upscale or budget-friendly? The list of possible brand permutations is vast.

What goes into branding?  Successful branding really tells a story about who you are and why folks should want to associate with you. Among other avenues, your story is told by the way your community looks and functions, your signage, the communication portals you use such as newsletters and websites, your approval process, the manner in which you handle a number of member issues including welcoming new residents, helping neighbors in need and dealing with collection issues. the way your employees perform and the types of events you host. Your association members are certainly essential to your community's brand and their contributions can change your brand for the better or the worse over time depending on how happy or unhappy they are.

It is no coincidence that communities with the most positive brands are also those with the greatest level of volunteer involvement, the highest property values and the most membership satisfaction.  Your community's branding (or lack thereof) will go a long way towards attracting or repelling the purchasers, renters, employees and vendors you want. Isn't it time your community started thinking about your brand and took the steps needed to strengthen that brand?



Unrecorded Deeds

QUESTION: An owner of record sent me an unrecorded deed showing that he put his wife on title. Does an unrecorded deed make his wife a member?

ANSWER: Not necessarily since ownership may not have transferred. At this point, it is impossible for the board to know whether the wife is a member or not.

Membership Defined. As provided for in Civil Code §4160, membership is tied to ownership of a separate interest in a common interest development, e.g., a condominium or lot. Transfer of real property requires the following:

  1. It must be in writing;
  2. Parties must be properly identified;
  3. Parties must be competent to convey and receive property;
  4. The property must be sufficiently described to distinguish it from other real property;
  5. There must be granting language;
  6. The deed must be signed by the conveying party; and
  7. It must be delivered and accepted.

Determination. “Delivery” means more than giving someone physical possession of a deed. In the situation you described, the husband must have the intention to immediately pass title to his wife. For all you know, the unrecorded deed is nothing more than a ruse by the husband to get his wife on the board. There are two ways to determine if a valid transfer occurred: (i) a ruling by a court or (ii) a recorded deed. Obviously, a recorded deed is the only practical option for associations to know whether ownership actually transferred.

RECOMMENDATION: In my experience, the only time someone waives around an unrecorded deed is to put an unqualified person on the board to cause problems for the association. Whenever proof of membership is at issue, associations should require a recorded deed. I routinely include the requirement when I restate governing documents. Contact me if you have any questions.

INSPECTING
GARBAGE

QUESTION: Our condos have an ongoing problem with residents not placing their garbage bags properly into the bins. This creates a mess when workers move the bins because bags break and spread garbage around. Can the board inspect the bag’s contents for the purpose of identifying who is causing the problem?

ANSWER: Yes you can. People have no reasonable expectation of privacy when they put their trash in a public area. (California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988).) Trash collectors, the homeless, neighbors, the police, anyone can go through garbage once an owner puts it in a trash bin. Therefore, a board can go through the trash to identify who is causing the problem.

RECOMMENDATION: Board members or staff digging through trash is unsanitary and unseemly. If you want to catch scofflaws, you should install a camera in the trash area. Don’t use hidden cameras. Highly visible cameras help deter bad behavior. Hidden cameras not only offend people, they reveal things you may not want to know.

FEEDBACK

There were too many responses to our gun control article to print them all. Following is a sampling:

Gun Control #1. Gun control in an HOA? WOW! The HOA police need to remember community harmony. You might as well walk around with a big target on your back and a sign that says shoot me. There is no other way to piss off someone than to tell them they can’t have something that they are entitled to. How are you really going to patrol this without violating someone’s protection against search and seizure? There are much better ways to handle this if one feels threatened; call the police and report it. Do I need to say REALLY! -Ted S.

Gun Control #2. I have to share that in one community we had to pass the “no guns at association meetings” rule. Who wants to be a board member arguing with someone wearing a .357? -Mark J.

Gun Control #3. I am an avid shooter and reload for both pistol and rifle. That means from time to time I have small amounts of smokeless gunpowder. A gun enthusiast who shoots muzzle loading weapons could have black powder, a dangerous class-A explosive. If he stored a lot of it in original containers and a fire reached them, there would be an explosion. If a board learns that a resident has black powder, they should require it be stored in a fire-proof box. This is a reasonable and customary precaution and would be in the best interest of all residents. -John A.

Gun Control #4. Good article. As a conceal carry holder in California and a former law enforcement officer (and retired infantry officer), I enjoyed your comments very much. I think that restricting residents from carrying firearms in the common areas is problematic. The association would need to provide a way for the gun owner to get the firearm to the separate interest. Since California no longer offers open carry, I guess locked in a container you can transport would suffice. I don’t see how they could enforce a pure prohibition that did not at least allow folks the ability to get the gun to and from their home in a concealed manner. -Roy H.

*****

Longest Serving Director #1. Our secretary has been on our board of directors for 25 years. He is 86 years young. I enjoy your newsletter it is very informative. The president and I subscribe to it. We always discuss articles that sound like some of the stuff we have going on. Keep up the great newsletter. -June-Ella B.

Longest Serving Director #2. Meadow Bay North is has 125 units and was built in the early 70s. Eddie Evans, an original owner, has been on the board since 1980. His 34 years may be a record. Eddie has also been board secretary for at least 25 years. -Dan W.

Longest Serving Director #3. The home my parents purchased in Lake San Marcos has a 5 member board. One of the original owners, who signed the original recorded CC&Rs in 1964, has just stepped down for the first time this past month at the age of 94. My parents have now passed on and I have taken on this board position. We thank Gus Kroger for all his years of service at Mall 1 Lake San Marcos. I think he may be the longest living board member! -Kaye D.

RESPONSE: Congratulations to all long-serving directors. Their dedication to their communities is quite amazing. A special congratulations to Gus Kroger for his astonishing 50 years of service!


Adrian Adams, Esq.
Adams Kessler PLC


“Legal solutions through knowledge, insight and experience.” We are friendly lawyers; you can contact us at (800) 464-2817 or info@adamskessler.com.

How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Rental Property


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I haven’t had many problems with animal infestations in my time as a landlord but one problem that seems to come up over and over is ants. As a property owner, I’m always looking for ways to reduce my expenses to get rid of ants.  I think some landlords are way too quick to just call […]

Read more on How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Rental Property

House Flipping: How to Increase the Chances of Selling Your House, Part 4


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This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series House Flipping: Getting Started A lot of new house flippers have come to me with concerns on being able to sell their properties after the rehab work has been completed. Will they be able to get the right price? Will their house even sell? Or will […]

Read more on House Flipping: How to Increase the Chances of Selling Your House, Part 4

No more clipboards for home inspections

Architect with mini tablet

Some habits are difficult to let go. For example, property inspectors are familiar with using the pen and clipboard method when conducting property inspections. With everything going digital these days, it is hard to find software that maintains the familiarity of traditional inspection reports. Snap Inspect is property inspection software that keeps the traditional checklist method for inspection reports, but provides these reports in an easy-to-understand digital format. We spoke with Sam Ovens from Snap Inspect to learn more.

APM: Hi Sam, it would be great if you could go into more detail about Snap Inspect.

Sam: Snap Inspect is property inspection software that works on iPad, iPhone or Android devices. Residential, commercial and vacation property management companies use it. For example, vacation rental management companies when families rent a home out for several days near Disney amusement parks. Basically, it allows a property management company to take their existing pen and paper forms and move them inside SnapInspect. We don’t change the checklist companies are used to using. We also don’t change the process that companies are used to using. We try not to change anything other than moving it from pen and paper to digital. We try not to interrupt the way they’re used to working. We try and make their reports look exactly how they want them to look. The key reasons why someone would choose SnapInspect over the competition is because we can customize their checklists to be exactly how they want it. We can make the finished PDF reports that they email their clients look identical to what they’re currently using, whereas other property inspection apps force you to use their format.

APM: Can you talk about some of the features that SnapInspect offers?

Sam: Well, our most popular feature, offered only by SnapInspect, is the video walk-through. You can do an inspection, use a checklist, write comments, take photos, and you can also do a video walk‑through of the property. SnapInspect helps create the report, turn it into a PDF, and then place a thumbnail of the video inside the report for people to access. There is also a URL they can go to if they have a printed version and are unable to click on the thumbnail. They are directed to a unique page where they can view a walk‑through video of the property, and also receive a normal condition report. Regardless of what city, state or country they are in, property investors can access the walk-through video and access the paper report. Property investors have a clear idea about the condition of their property.

APM: If we were to talk to your top three customers, what would they say?

Sam: Our top three customers are large companies. They have experience with our competition. They’ve tried and tested most of the inspection products available and assessed them thoroughly. These guys are spending thousands of dollars a month on software because they have so many offices. These are national franchises, and big real estate chains. Often the head office is trying the product, and when they’re sure they’ve found the best one, they mandate it for their entire franchise. Once they’ve picked one, they let their franchise know, “It’s now mandatory to use this product.” However, in order for them to mandate a product like that, they have to do a thorough test. They’ve tested the three major competitors, side- by- side for 6 months, out in the field and everything, and they chose SnapInspect.

APM: What’s the background story with SnapInspect?

Sam: I actually did not have a background in property management. I just remember watching my parents’ house go through an inspection. The guy walked around with a pen and paper, and I thought there must be a better way to do this. Everyone has smartphones, and everyone uses apps. Why is the property management industry still using pens and paper? I started calling different types of property management companies to learn how they handle property inspections. Even the biggest, most tech‑savvy companies were still using pen and paper. I could not believe it. I decided to mock up an idea. I was just drawing and talking to different developers. Eventually I found a development company that could do it for an affordable price. I went back to all the people I know and said, “Hey guys, I’m thinking about doing this thing. What do you think?” They all loved it. So I built it. We started off small, with just five to ten users, added some more, and the number has been increasing ever since. We constantly try to improve the product, and our software is used globally. Our main customer base is the US though. We have more customers in the United States than any other property inspection app.

APM: That’s a really unique background. It sounds like you just wanted to create a simpler product for home inspection reports.

Sam: I just wanted to solve a problem.

APM: Is there anything else you would like potential customers to know?

Sam: I’d be happy to do a special deal on SnapInspect for all of your customers. We can offer 10% off the monthly SnapInspect prices.

To Sum It Up!

SnapInspect is inspection software designed with the property manager in-mind. SnapInspect keeps the traditional property inspection, checklist format, in an effort to make the transition process easy. SnapInspect also offers a very unique feature, the walk-through video! Property investors can take comfort in knowing that wherever they are located they can receive their inspection reports along with a video to see their property’s current status.

Like this article? Check out other similar articles with information on technology resources on our Property Management Tech Tools Reviews Page!