Ghost Town to Board of The Year: An Educational Seminar at the CAI Conference and Expo

Horizons at Woods Landing, professionally managed by Association Advisors NJ, is the shining example for CAI’s educational seminar, Collaborating with CAI – How an HOA Went from Ghost Town to Board of the Year at the CAI Conference and Expo.  The seminar is at 11:00 am at the Community Association Institute (CAI)Conference and Exposition on October 18, 2107, at the NJ Conference & Exposition Center in Raritan Center.

Horizons at Woods Landing Community Board of the Year
Horizons at Woods Landing receives the CAI Community Board of the Year Award

The Board of the Year Award is given to an outstanding community board that has demonstrated exceptional leadership and participation in conjunction with CAI’s mission.

Dr. Kahrmann and Paul Raetsch, both from Horizons at Woods Landing, will discuss how their community was able to go from a developer’s bankruptcy to an award-winning board by efficiently educating its volunteers and selecting the right vendors for their association.

Dr. Robert Kahrmann is a past treasurer of the Horizons at Woods Landing HOA;  a retired College Dean from Seton Hall University, the Academic Dean at the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology and the Enrollment Dean at Hudson County Community College. He holds a doctorate from New York University.

Paul Raetsch retired from a 42-year career in federal service. Mr. Raetsch moved  to southern New Jersey and served as president of the Horizons at Woods Landing HOA, located in Atlantic County. Mr. Raetsch, authored a CAI article in the form of a quiz entitled “What is LAC and Why Should I Care?” It is a quick and informative quiz for board members of common interest communities.

Horizons at Woods Landing has overcome many obstacles along the path to Board of the Year

Some of these obstacles include:

  • Ghost Town status
  • 3 years to find a new developer to complete the community and its amenities
  • proper management of the community and its resources
  • controlling expenses and efficiently managing the budget
  • updating policies and resolutions to reflect CAI’s recommendations. ADR, age restricted census requirements and board transparency were all part of CAI’s recommendations.
Completed Community Center
Ghost Town Picture
Horizons Woods Landing in the Ghost Town Phase

The Horizons at Woods Landing board members have written several articles for Community Trends in 2016 and the annual shoot the cover contest was won by a board member in 2015.

Accepting the CAI Gold Star Community Award

Horizons at Woods Landing belongs to the CAI Pennsylvania & Delaware Valley and New Jersey Chapters. In 2015, Horizons at Woods Landing received the Gold Star Community award from the Pennsylvania & Delaware chapter.

Helpful Hurricane Tips. Are you prepared?

Hurricane Season is here.  Are you prepared for a hurricane or major storm with a significant power outage? Here are some facts and tips to get through a hurricane or significant storm.

A hurricane can be up to 600 miles wide and include storm surges, floods and  extremely high winds that spiral in an inward and upward motion of 75 – 200 mph.

Hurricane season is June 1st through November 30th.  In the New Jersey and New York areas hurricanes are most likely to strike in August through late October.

What is a Hurricane Watch vs. Warning?

Hurricane Watches are when conditions are favorable within 36 hours of the watch issue.  Hurricane Warnings are when conditions are expected within the next 24 hours. In coastal areas, the hurricane warning can remain in effect after the actual hurricane has passed due to the probability of more high winds, storm surges, flooding, tornadoes and/or rip currents (all by-products of a hurricane).

The best way to survive a hurricane or significant storm with the smallest amount of personal drama is to PLAN AHEAD.

  • If told to evacuate – listen to the local officials and evacuate
  • Fill vehicle gas tanks prior to the storm because gas pumps require power and may be damaged after the storm
  • Keep cash with you. ATM and credit card machines need power to operate
  • Bring outside items (patio furniture, plants, wind chimes, etc.) inside to a secure area
  • Secure windows and doors with shutters and locks and close chimney flues
  • Stay away from doors and windows in case of glass breakage
  • Stay inside and beware of the eye of the storm.  The eye is the “quiet” before the backside of the storm arrives (sometimes with little to no warning)
  • Charge all cellphones and electronic equipment.  Remember texting uses less battery power than talking.
  • Plug in a land line if possible
  • Turn air conditioning and refrigerators lower to stay cooler longer.  Minimize opening doors to preserve coolness inside.
  • Pack coolers with ice and drinks so the refrigerator does not need to be opened as much
  • Pack freezer with extra ice to keep it cooler for a longer amount of time
  • If the power goes out, turn off/unplug appliances to help the “surge” when it comes back on
  • Use flashlights instead of candles – reducing the risk of fire
  • Have a known and previously practiced Evacuation Plan in place
  • Have grills and properly stored propane ready for cooking if needed.

Evacuation Plan

  • Pick a rendezvous place outside of the evacuation area that everyone in the household knows to go to
  • Have an out of state (or at least out of the hurricane area) contact everyone can check in with
  • Make copies of important documents like insurance papers, household contents lists, driver’s license and passports, birth certificates and  social security cards. Store in a waterproof container with the Emergency Kit.
  • Emergency Kit as stocked below

Have a well stocked Emergency Kit

These are some of the most basic things needed for and emergency kit.

  • 1 Gallon of Water per person for each of 3 days
  • Non-perishable food (especially people with special dietary needs) for each of 3 days
  • Battery powered or crank flashlight for each person in your household
  • Battery powered or crank radio, preferably with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) capabilities
  • Extra batteries for flashlights and radios as necessary
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • First Aid kit
  • Personal hygiene items (toilet paper, women’s hygiene, shaving supplies etc.)
  • Emergency blanket
  • Area maps in case cell phones/satellites are not working
  • Medications and glasses or contacts – to be added when evacuation is eminent

Also bring, or keep with you, during evacuation or a significant storm with a power outage

  • Medication (preferably 1 week’s worth because the pharmacy’s power could be out for a few days)
  • Special access peripherals (wheelchair, cane, crutches, etc)
  • Sturdy shoes and multiple clothing changes
  • Baby needs including formula, diapers and wipes as well as that special blanket and binky
  • Pet needs

Hurricane evacuation and preparedness plans/kits vary by the authority presenting them. Take all recommendations as a guide and personalize your particular kit as it applies specifically to you.

An informative and printable copy of an evacuation plan and preparedness guide, from Monmouth County, New Jersey, is available by clicking here.

Memorial Day History – Do You Know The Facts?

A Memorial Day History

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed  the last Monday in May, to celebrate U.S. military personnel that died while serving their country.

Do you know these historical facts?

  • In 1868, after the Civil War, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and became a holiday in the North honoring the military dead with flowers.
  • It quickly became an official holiday throughout all of the Northern states.
  • Throughout the South, mostly women’s groups put flowers on the graves of fallen Confederate solders.
  • The Southern states attached the word “Confederate” to the Decoration Day holiday name to make it different from the holiday in the North.
  • Major military losses on both sides led to the creation of national cemeteries.
    • They were usually located near major battlegrounds.
    • By 1870, there were almost 300,000 buried in national cemeteries.
    • All soldiers buried in a national cemetery became American no matter what their heritage. It was considered a “baptism of blood”.
    • Speeches given on this day were a combination of religion and nationalism.
  • Decoration Day became Memorial Day in 1882.
    • In 1967, Memorial Day was officially adopted as a national holiday.
    • In 1968, it became the last Monday in May.

There a many Memorial Day Traditions being celebrated by Americans every year. Some of these include:

  • Parades that current military personnel and veterans march in.
    • The 1st Decoration Day parade was held in Doylestown, PA in 1867.
    • The longest continuous parade celebration is in Ironton, Ohio. Their yearly parade started in 1868.
  • Visiting national cemeteries or memorials and placing flowers and/or flags on the graves.
  • Wearing “poppies” as a symbol of honor.
    • In 1920, poppies were adopted as the official symbol of the National American Legion.
  • In 2000 – The National Moment of Remembrance was started. This minute of silence, at 3pm, is to remember the military personnel that lost their lives defending this country.
  • Flying the American flag at 1/2 staff for the morning then returning it to its full position at 12 noon. This symbolizes that the living not let “the sacrifices made be in vain and continue to fight for liberty and justice for all”.

Many Sporting events are held Memorial Day Weekend:

  • The Indianapolis 500, since 1911, on the Sunday before Memorial Day and the NASCAR  Coca-Cola 600 (since 1961) later the same day.
  • The Memorial Tournament – golfing tournament since 1976
  • NCAA Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse Championship

Casual Memorial Day Celebrations

Many Americans celebrate Memorial Day in a more casual way with barbeques, family gatherings, fireworks and pool openings.

Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of Summer!

No matter you celebrate, remember our fallen military, have a great Memorial Day weekend and let’s get the Summer season started!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Board Member Educational Seminar

Association Advisors NJ sponsored and presented another successful Board Member Educational Seminar last night, April 11, 2017.

This Board Member Educational Seminar was held at 618 Restaurant in Freehold and featured top industry officials in the insurance and legal fields. The topics of the night were Insurance and Legal Issues and how they affect community living. The industry professionals answered questions from the audience consisting of both board and management team members.

Attendees learned about topics from the Insurance and Legal categories. Discussions included how these topics affect both the board members and their communities.  Topics discussed were:

Insurance

  • The ABC’s of Associations Insurances
  • Are you adequately insured
  • Board Member liability
  • Handling claims and/or catastrophes

Legal

  • Legal updates and trends in the industry
  • Specific legal legislation that applies to condominium and homeowner associations
  • How to pick a litigation attorney
  • Potential legal issues with a big claim
  • Consignment versus hourly litigation costs and negotiating with your chosen attorney

Horizons at Woods Landing – CAI Community Board of the Year Award

Horizons at Woods Landing proudly accepted the Community Associations Institute (CAI) Community Board of the Year Award.

The award was presented at Community Associations Institute (CAI) Annual Awards Dinner,  held on February 16, 2017.  Bob Kahramann and Mike DiGuglielmo attended the awards ceremony and accepted the Community Board of the Year Award on behalf of the complete 2016 Board.  The award winning board consists of: Paul Raetsch (President), Carol Young Picket (Secretary) , Bob Kahrmann (Treasurer),  Arlene Blosch  and Mike DiGuglielmo (both Board Members).

This award is given to an outstanding community board that has demonstrated exceptional leadership and participation in conjunction with CAI’s mission.

  • The original builder declared bankruptcy and abandoned the community.  After several years of tireless work, the board partnered with a new builder to complete the community and its amenities.
  • The Board’s past president is on the Legislation Committee (LAC). The current president is a past member of the New Jersey Community Association Volunteer Leaders (NJCAVL) committee.
  • The board is a member of the NJ and DelVal Chapters of CAI. They participate in legislation affecting community living in both chapters.
  • Policies and resolutions were recently updated to reflect CAI’s recommendations. Some topics that were addressed are ADR, age restricted census requirements and board transparency.
  • The Board President, Paul Raetsch, authored an article in the form of a quiz entitled “What is LAC and Why Should I Care?” It is a quick and informative quiz for board members of common interest communities.

Horizons at Woods Landing  was awarded the DelVal CAI Chapter “Gold Star Community Award“.

The Board has written several articles for CAI’s Community Trends magazine in 2016.  A board member won “Shoot the Cover” contest.

The Horizons at Woods Landing board encourages professional development for their manager.

Horizons at Woods Landing is clearly the Community Board of the Year! Congratulations to the board and all of their hard work to achieve this award.

Canal Walk in January Community Trends Magazine

Canal Walk is “The Community Spotlight” featured in the January edition of Community Trends Magazine. Association Advisors NJ is proud to be their professional management company.  Community Trends is Community Association Institute’s (CAI’s) monthly magazine focusing on community living.

Why Choose Canal Walk?

  1. Canal Walk received the prestigious Courier News readers’ choice award of “Best of the Best” 2016 Adult Community in Somerset County.
  2. Financial stability is  has held maintenance fees at the same rate for the last 6 years.
  3. This is a very diversified community with over 1100 living units and 30 acres of common ground.
  4. Attention to detail, many clubs and high end amenities make Canal Walk a very desirable community.  For example, the main clubhouse is one of the largest and well equipped in the state of New Jersey.   Card rooms, a library, billiards, fitness center and in indoor pool with hot tub are some of the well-appointed amenities to enjoyed by residents and their guests..
  5. Canal Walk is convenient for shopping in New York City or Philadelphia.
  6. Broadway show transportation is via the community jitney.
  7. Staying local means enjoying the area’s  many gourmet restaurants, golf courses, theaters and parks.

 

New Year’s Eve Celebrations

New Year’s Eve is a worldwide celebration.

New Year’s Eve celebrations are unique throughout the world and date back to Mesopotamian times.  The Mesopotamians made resolutions to do better in the upcoming year, participated in religious ceremonies, performed rituals, sang, danced and ate during an 11 day festival.

The Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball is a New Year’s Eve icon watched by 1 billion people worldwide.

The Times Square Ball is based on time ball drops originating from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England.  In the 1800s, time balls were dropped at 1pm everyday so nearby ships could set their chronometers. The US Naval Observatory, in Washington, DC still drops a ball at 12 noon everyday. The New Year’s Eve Ball, in Times Square, faithfully drops at midnight every December 31st, except for 1942 and 1943 due to “dim-out” restrictions during World War II.

The New Year’s Eve Ball has undergone 7 modifications since the original. The first ball, in 1907, was made of iron and wood. It weighed 700 pounds and had 100 25-watt light bulbs.  The current ball is 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles, 32,000 state-of-the art LEDs with the capacity of 16 million colors combining into billions of patterns. It weighs almost 12,000 pounds and is 12 feet in diameter.  On this New Year’s Eve, the light patterns will represent The Gifts of Fortitude, Kindness, Wonder and Imagination.

New Year’s Eve celebrations are worldwide events but the celebrations are anything but standard.

  • In Latin America celebrants wear colored underwear representing their hopes for the new year.  Red is for love and passion; yellow for happiness and peace; white for fertility and health.
  • In Brazil white flowers are released into the sea to honor Yemanja, the Queen Of The Sea; representing energy and strength for the upcoming year.
  • In Spain, 12 white grapes are eaten at the 12 strokes of midnight; symbolizing the 12 lucky months to come.
  • Russian traditions include the New Year’s Tree celebration.  Russian Santa and his granddaughter leave gifts under tree for children to unwrap in the New Year. Live music, singing and fireworks make this tradition bigger than traditional Christmas celebrations.
  • Ecuadorians bring in the New Year by burning a scarecrow (representing the negativity of the year ending) to cleanse the area and let in the positive energy and good luck of the new year.

 

7 Safety Tips for Trick or Treaters

  1. All masks should allow full vision to the wearer
    a. Eye holes need to be totally visible so the person inside has full range of vision
    b. This prevents potential accidents from walking into the street and not seeing the approaching car to knocking other trick or treaters down in an effort to get to the next door.
  2. Keep costumes trip-proof
    a. No long dresses that could become a tripping hazard.
    b. No baggy clothes that could fall down and trip the wearer as well as embarrass them
  3. If nighttime trick or treating carry a flashlight, glow stick, or wear reflective clothing
    a. Enables the trick or treater to be seen.
    b. Flashlights and glow sticks enable the user to see clearly in the dark.
  4. Do not eat candy while trick-or-treating
    a. Do not split attention from surroundings to unwrap/eat candy
    b. Inspect all candy for signs of tampering (pinholes, re-wrapping, foreign objects.)
  5. Stay in Areas you know
  6. Smaller children should be accompanied by an adult or responsible older sibling
  7. Do not go in a house your don’t know

Remember the 3 best things about Halloween. . . .

  1. Wear a really great costume
  2. Be safe while out trick or treating
  3. Have fun and get lots of candy!

Ghost Town to Gold Star Community – Horizons at Woods Landing

Professionally managed by Association Advisors, Horizons at Woods Landing HOA has gone from a builder bankruptcy nightmare ghost town  to a Community Association Institute (CAI)  Gold Star Community.  Association Advisors is proud be a contributing partner in the journey to Gold Star Status for Horizons at Woods Landing.

Horizons at Woods Landing is spotlighted in the current issue of Community Assets Magazine; the bi-monthly magazine publication for members of the CAI Pennsylvania Delaware Valley Chapter.  The article is on page 34 of the September-October Issue.  Below is the content from the article if you do not have a login for the chapter website.

GHOST TOWN TO GOLD STAR
Horizons at Woods Landing HOA

Paul Raetsch, President and Dr. Bob Kahrmann, Treasurer Horizons at Woods Landing HOA
In the Fall of 2015, Horizons at Woods Landing (HWL) achieved the Gold Star designation from the Pennsylvania & Delaware Valley Chapter of CAI. The journey from the first closing, surviving the builder’s bankruptcy, and then achieving Gold Star Community status in twelve years is a unique story.

Kara Homes began construction in June 2004 of Horizons at Woods Landing, an adult community of 249 single family homes in Mays Landing, Atlantic County, New Jersey. In the twelve years since, HWL has undergone transformations from the original optimism a new community enjoys. Worst was despair after the Kara bankruptcy in 2006, when The Fiscal Times named our community one of the “9 Worst Recession Ghost Towns in America.” Now we are a development that proudly earned a Gold Star Community Award from CAI.

Horizons Woods Landing under construction
After the builder declared bankruptcy

 

By December 2004, 25 homes had closed. Kara had predicted 149 homes would be sold by June 2006 and a clubhouse would be finished. Unfortunately, in October of 2006, after selling 144 homes, Kara suddenly initiated bankruptcy proceedings. Kara’s prime creditor, ING Bank, took possession of HWL but efforts to find another builder did not succeed.

For three years, board members worked tirelessly to find another builder. In July 2009, residents voted to accept Fernmoor Builders to complete the development. That Autumn, Fernmoor began to complete ten homes that had been started but abandoned by Kara.

                                        Completed clubhouse
Completed clubhouse

In April 2010, Fernmoor began construction of the clubhouse. Finished in June 2011, the pool opened to residents that July. Initially the sale of homes went slow partly due to the closing of casinos in Atlantic City. As of May 1, 2016, HWL has 179 occupied homes and five more under contract.

 

In 2012, the board began working with a new property management firm, Association Advisors, and refined the budget to better manage its finances. The board created a number of line items in the budget including capital reserve and deferred maintenance based on our Capital Reserve Study.

The 2012 budget set a monthly fee of $210. We have not raised the fee since due to proper financial planning. The board established a number of committees to govern and operate activities for the community, including Entertainment and Social Events, Finance, Grounds and Landscaping, Architectural Review, Newsletter, ADR, and others.

One of the keys to achieving the Gold Star is managing resources and controlling expenses. One good example of this was installing solar panels on the clubhouse. The panels are primarily on the rear of the roof and have reduced the $17,000 annual cost for electricity to under $8,000 per year. In addition, we established multi-year contracts with the management company, insurance coverage, landscaper, and pool management company, saving costs with low year-to-year increases. We recently changed counsel to retain an attorney who specializes in HOA matters.

Working with the management company’s controller, the HOA invested funds in a CD ladder program replacing the very low interest rate from regular savings accounts for which we actually had to pay a maintenance fee. This ladder program provides the best interest rates as CDs roll over each year. We invested $20,000 each in one, two, three, four, and five year CDs. Each year they will roll over and gain us interest on a five year repeat cycle.

To increase the number of activities, the Entertainment and Social Events Committee (ESEC) created a number of events that have helped to build a close-knit group of residents through events such as a bocce league with over 80 members, game nights, Quizzo night, pool tournaments, trips, holiday parties, Valentine’s Day dance, and more. When the developer holds open houses, ESEC hosts an event too for new neighbors and to welcome potential buyers. Thanks to many mahjong games, yoga, aerobics, and gym users, the clubhouse is in constant use. Last year 75 residents, almost 25%, volunteered to serve on committees.

We participate with other associations in town in an active police community managers monthly meeting. We also arrange for the local fire department to have a yearly inspection of smoke detector batteries, changing and replacing as needed, for the home owners.

We also established a petty cash account and charge a nominal fee for many events to help offset activity costs. The Finance Committee and ESEC use the surplus to buy supplies for the clubhouse.

Another part of the Gold Star evaluation is to review rules established and enforced by the board. These rules range from architecture and grounds to collecting for non-payment of monthly fees. The month this article was written, only one resident is more than one month late with assessments, while three bank-owned properties have fallen seriously behind with monthly fees. These delinquencies are approximately 2% of our 179 homes. We add legal fees and fines to the delinquent accounts for collection. Residents who are not in good standing lose privileges such as access to the pool and the clubhouse. We fine residents for ignoring violation letters and can suspend their privileges. We do well collecting fees.

Horizons at Woods Landing is one of many active adult communities in the Delaware Valley. Like others, our clubhouse has many amenities, bocce courts, shuffle boards, pool tables, exercise rooms, ping pong, card rooms, pools, and libraries. However, we are unique because our residents rose from “ghost town” during the bankruptcy and persevered and strengthened enough to achieve our own Gold Star Community Award.

Gold Star Award
Gold Star Award Presented to HWL at the Clubhouse

 

5 Pros and Cons of Condo Living

There are many reasons people choose to live in a condominium.  Friends that live in condos will either love it or hate it.  Be informed before taking the leap into condo/community living. No matter what the final decision is, these are just a few items to research and review before deciding whether condo living is for you.

5 Pros for Condo Living

  1. No lawn and low to no outdoor maintenance.  This is a very popular reason to move into a condominium.  No lawn work, no shoveling snow, no building and roof maintenance are just some of the outdoor plusses to living in a condo.
  2. Amenities.  Most condos have some amenities such as a pool, a fitness center, tennis courts and bocce courts available to the residents in the community. These amenities can be cost prohibitive in a standalone environment but are included in condo living.
  3. Affordability.  Condos are usually more affordable than standalone homes.  Affordability depends on the location but many times this is a good opportunity for first time homebuyers to own their space. 
  4. Security.  Controlled access for residents such as gated communities, security guards and electronic access to the buildings and underground parking garages help foster a sense of security; a big plus for many residents living in a condo.
  5. Sense of community.  This is especially popular in senior communities.  Interaction with your neighbors and likeminded people helps foster a social feel to your community.

5 Cons for Condo Living

  1. Close Neighbors.  Depending on the style of the community, many times condos share walls, floors and ceilings.  Hearing a neighbor’s theater sound system late at night might annoy a common wall neighbor.
  2. Privacy.  Sometimes privacy in a condo community is at a premium.  Shared walls, close neighbors and community rules might limit your ability to enjoy your privacy in a condo.
  3. Condo Fees.  Condo or Association fees can be a costly addition to normal monthly expenses.  While these fees pay for the amenities and maintenance of the community, the average monthly fees range from ~$200 to ~1,000 in addition to your other monthly expenses.  The variance if fees directly relates to community type and locations as well as amenities and luxuries available to the homeowner.
  4. Dwelling Only Ownership.  Condo living is ownership of the dwelling you reside in.  The resident does not own any land.  Use of land can be allotted to residents if space and the governing documents allow. Land is not a deeded feature of condo living.
  5. Harder to Sell.  Depending on the location, if a resident wants to sell their unit, condos can be harder to sell than standalone houses due to the restrictions imposed by the community.

Community living as a whole is both a pro and a con and not a decision made in the moment. Some points to consider about community living are:  • All amenities are maintained by the community.  • Maintenance is minimal.   • Joint decisions are made on common area issues.  • No external individuality. • Rules and regulations govern all aspects of community living. • Modifications require permission from the governing board.  • Financial stability of the community can depend on all the owners paying their fees.

Whether you decide condo living is right for you or not;  an informed decision will help make your living arrangements more agreeable with your lifestyle choices.