Drafting the Best Condo Rules and Regulations by a Washington D.C. Property Management Company

A very popular and common question for new condo associations is figuring out how to develop effective rules and regulations for the association. One thing that many associations do not realize is that the bylaws associated with the condo are not a full set of rules and regulations. In fact, many bylaws contain language that instructs the association board to set forth rules and regulations for how the condo association will operate.

Typically, the bylaws will specify how these rules and regulations are to be written. The main goal is to be detailed and to share information on how the association functions. The information contained in those rules and regulations should really touch upon a number of topics. For example, noise is a major issue that has to be dealt with in condos. There are often move in and move out procedures listed in the rules and regulations as well. You should have language that addresses alterations to the property, pet policies and issues around tenants and how they are to comply with the association when the owner is not living in the property.

At Chatel Real Estate, we have about 150 examples of different rules and regulations that we feel have been effective. A professional property management company with experience working with condo associations can be a great help and offer lots of guidance when it comes to establishing those rules.

The most important thing you can do is be specific. Outline the expectations you have and the consequences that will follow. For example, attaching fines to behavior that violates the bylaws or the rules and regulations is often necessary and effective. You also want to make sure that every property owner and tenant has a copy of those rules and regulations. Lots of associations charge a move in fee when a renter moves into the property. This is a very good idea, because it puts the tenant on high alert and it also gives them an opportunity to sign a copy of those rules and regulations so you know they were received.

This is a broad topic, and if you have any questions or you’d like information on how to write rules and regulations for your own condo association, please contact us at Chatel Real Estate.

Organize Your Condo Board and Responsibilities by a D.C. Property Manager

To run a successful condo association, it’s critical to properly organize the condo board and establish some defined roles for the members of that board. You want a set of clearly defined objectives and responsibilities, a great communication structure and ongoing transparency.

Roles
The most important thing a condo association board of directors can do is to be extremely clear about its responsibilities and the responsibilities of each individual board member. Put those expectations in writing so that everyone knows what is expected, and you have a marker in place which can be used to measure yourselves. When you spend a little bit of time early in the process, you will really be able to benefit everyone. You’ll also save time and provide direction for each one of your board members.

Communication
Make sure you communicate regularly as a board. Email is a terrific tool for staying in touch, and we also do a lot of work setting up message boards for the condo association boards we work with. When you use message boards, everyone has access to them and you can keep information really current. Make sure to schedule a few face to face meetings throughout the year as well. This will give you an opportunity to discuss larger items and ensure everyone knows what’s going on.

Transparency
Be as open as you possibly can with your condo association board. Any time you try to hide things or keep big secrets from one another, you’re not running the association effectively. Try to keep politics out of the board. Remember that most members of condo association boards aren’t getting paid to do the work on behalf of the association. Keep everything as calm and reasonable as possible. You’ll get more done, and you’ll have more people willing to serve on the board.

Finally, get a good property manager to work with the condo association. Look for someone who has done a lot of work with boards like yours and understands the roles of each member and how effective associations can be. It will help you tremendously to have a professional property manager involved in helping you run the daily operations of your association.

We manage over 150 condo associations in the Washington, D.C. and Alexandria area. If you have any questions about your own board or you’d like help with some specific issues, please contact us at Chatel Real Estate.

Common Area vs. Owner Responsibility by a D.C. Property Manager

One of the questions that often comes up when you own a condo or participate in a condo or homeowners association is: what’s the responsibility of an individual owner versus the responsibility of a condo association overall? It would be great if we could say that there is one solid answer that covers all condo associations everywhere. However, that is not ever going to be the case.

Responsibilities should be identified and assigned in your condo bylaws or the rules and regulations that have been adopted by the condo association board. That’s the first place to check when you aren’t sure who should cover what. The rough guideline is this – if the system or the item serves more than one unit, it would be the condo association responsibility, and if it serves just one specific unit, it’s the owner’s responsibility.

Some things are pretty clear. Elevators, for example, benefit the entire condo building, which means the repair and maintenance of elevators is up to the condo association. Appliances in your unit are only for you to use, so when they break down it will be your responsibility to have them fixed or replaced. There can be a few areas that are not as simple to determine, however. For example, plumbing and HVAC systems can be hard to ascertain. If you develop a water leak in your unit, it seems like it should be your own responsibility, but what if the leak is due to plumbing that feeds into different parts of the building? In some cases, the condo association will assume responsibility for whatever happens behind the walls. Not always, however.

The best way to address these concerns is to make sure your condo association spells out the responsibilities in the bylaws. If there is nothing in the bylaws to assign who takes care of what, they should adopt language in their regulations to help property owners know when they will be held responsible for repairs and maintenance. That way, everything is clear before something happens. Property owners will know what they are and are not responsible for.

Insurance is another matter for property owners and condo associations to grapple with. You’ll need to be covered individually for your own unit, and the association will also need to maintain its own insurance coverage.

There are a lot of specific details we can get into, so if you have any questions about what you are responsible for and what your association needs to cover, please contact us at Chatel Real Estate, and we’ll answer all the questions you have.

Condo Association Financial Planning by a D.C. Property Management Company

At Chatel Real Estate, we manage many condo associations in the area, and we’ve been doing it for decades. There is quite a bit of financial planning that condo associations must do to protect the long term interests of the association.

It’s important for an association to have accurate and complete financial records. You are dealing with a lot of individuals within your association, and to keep all the accounts accurate, you want to take care of them on a monthly basis as well as an annual basis. You also need to file taxes every year. Condo associations are considered nonprofit organizations, and if the financial accounts are not tied out well, it can be an issue from a legal perspective.

Set up a realistic budget for your condo association. You will need to budget for general, ordinary expenses that are easy to project and you must also budget for any special expenses that may involve longer term maintenance repairs or larger projects. In addition to budgeting for expenses, you want to put at least 10 percent of your annual budget into a reserve fund. That reserve account should slowly build up in relation to an overall reserve study that is conducted for your association. Reserves will pay for things like a new roof to the building or a new elevator or any of those major projects that come along very rarely. When you have a reserve study done every few years, you’ll get a sense of how old those items are, and how much it will cost to repair or replace them. Once you have that information, your reserve account should match what you’ll need. When your reserves are strong, you don’t have to hit up your association for a special assessment for a new roof or some desperately needed repair.

That reserve account should build from long term contributions, but if you’re prudent and smart, you can also use the power of compound interest to reduce those long term costs. Contributions can be reduced when you invest them wisely.

There are many additional issues that condo associations must face when dealing with their financial planning. If you would like to talk more in depth about how we help condo associations keep themselves organized and efficient, please contact us at Chatel Real Estate, and we would be happy to talk to you.

HOA Advice: Pros and Cons of Self-Managing Your Condo in Northern Virginia

Property owners who have investments in condo associations often struggle with the decision of whether they should self-manage the building or hire a professional property manager to do it. Before you make that decision, you really need to consider the pros and cons of both options.

Costs
Managing can certainly seem like an opportunity to save some money. You won’t have to pay a management fee every month to a third party. However, that’s sometimes deceptive and it can actually cost more to try and manage the property on your own. We often find the money people save in the management fee is lost with a lot of expenses you wouldn’t run into if you had a professional manager. There can be a lack of quality financial oversight, and if you don’t have strict financial controls in place, it’s easy to lose money. Deferred maintenance can also get backed up when you self-manage, which means routine expenses and repair work is ignored so long that the problem eventually becomes bigger and more expensive to fix. Most of the clean-up efforts we are involved in are in properties where an owner self-managed for a number of years, and all of the things that needed to be taken care of were not addressed.

Physical Presence
Another thing people mention is that when they live in the condo complex, they can be present for any repair work that needs to be done. You might think that you’ll be available to meet the vendors who come to do work at the property. That can be true, but you have to remember that vendors typically work normal business hours. Unless it’s an emergency, they will schedule appointments between the hours of 9-5, on weekdays. If taking care of this condo association is your full time job, that will work out fine. If not, you’ll have to miss work or reschedule things going on in your own life just to meet a vendor. That can be problematic.

Work Load
Unfortunately, the work that needs to be done to manage a condo association isn’t always fairly divided. Typically, a couple of board members end up shouldering most of the work and they usually aren’t paid for that work. That results in an unfair division of labor to take care of this building. Bringing in a professional property manager from the outside can fairly shift the load. Sometimes, when you decide to self-manage your condo association, the work just doesn’t get done. People are very busy, especially here in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia. That means the operations of the condo association just won’t be where they need to be. Financial oversights can occur and maintenance items get missed. You can also run into problems when members of the condo association are behind on their dues. That’s not the conversation you want to have with your neighbor on an evening or a Saturday morning when you both happen to be home.

Increasingly, we are noticing that lenders and buyers are wary of self-managed condo associations. They ask if the property is self-managed, and when we say that it is not, they are happy to hear it.

You may have additional questions on this topic, so if you’d like more information on managing a condo association, please contact us at Chatel Real Estate.

Why Choose Full Time Property Management in Alexandria

Self-management can be a huge temptation when you own a rental property. However, there is a lot of value in having someone who is a professional manager take care of your property. The market expertise of a good property manager is unbeatable. Our staff conducts dozens of real estate transactions on a  monthly basis, so we get a good sense of what the pricing is, both for rentals and for sales. We also get a good sense of what kind of value an investor can get for a specific property.

If you have ever been woken up in the middle of the night because there’s a problem at your property, or you’ve had a tenant call you with an emergency while you’re on vacation, you can appreciate how valuable it is to have a team in place to handle any potential emergency. When you work with a professional property manager, you get expertise and experience, and you also get your own time back. A good property manager will have someone on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to any situation. I once took care of a leaking pipe during a Super Bowl game. A vendor we work with on a regular basis was willing to respond to the leak at the property, and the problem was fixed immediately. I’m not sure a property owner managing his own rental would have been able to get the same results with a vendor he didn’t work with on a daily basis.

In real estate, there is more financial paperwork than a lot of people realize. It is important to keep accurate and complete financial records. Document the investment you have as well as all the income and expenses associated with that investment. A full time property manager will work with accountants to ensure all of your financial paperwork is in order and to make sure you get all the potential tax deductions on your property. Your property manager will get you set up correctly, keep you in compliance and provide a complete and accurate financial profile of your property.

Your professional property manager will also be able to analyze your property and get a sense of the benchmarks you should be reaching. This type of expertise only comes with managing a large number of properties. We’ll be able to tell you if you’re spending too much on electricity or other utilities, or if you’re overpaying for repairs. We can help you ensure your property is operating at its optimum level.

Access to reliable vendors who provide high quality work is another good reason to work with a property manager. We have worked with the same vendors for a long time, so they are always responsive and they give us the best prices. You don’t have to worry about being stuck with someone who doesn’t do great work – that’s a hard mistake to recover from.

If you have any questions about property management in general, or the types of services we can provide, please contact us at Chatel Real Estate.

Foreign Investment in D.C. Rental Properties: What Should a Property Manager Handle?

The Washington D.C. market is a tremendous opportunity for foreign investors. It has been stable and growing with an underlying economic strength that is due to solid fundamentals. Washington, D.C. has the federal government and a highly educated workforce. This market is one of the best performing areas not only in the country, but worldwide. A number of investors have turned to us as a partner to help them take advantage of the opportunities available here.

The first thing you need to know as a foreign investor is that the market here is very local. There are different submarkets in the area and they vary neighborhood by neighborhood. Individual streets can even be different from the next street over. It is essential to work with a property manager who understands that. Every neighborhood is different; you’ll have different tenants, different rents and different expectations from place to place.

Anytime you are going to own real estate, you want to have someone local who can handle emergencies as well as the physical maintenance of the building. That’s especially important in the Washington, D.C. market. Things come up, and you need someone who can respond, get to the property and take care of those issues right away before they become real catastrophes. There could be broken pipes in an older building, or break-ins to take care of. Things like that don’t happen very often, but when they do, you don’t want someone several time zones away to be in charge of the situation. You want someone in the neighborhood who can take care of the problem immediately.

Having a local property manager who knows the area will also help you with the leasing of your property. You know you’ll have someone available who can physically show up at the property and show a potential tenant around. You’ll get good tenants and you’ll have a local expert be available to answer questions about the area and the neighborhood. A local property manager can also check out the property once in a while and make sure everything looks good.

The Washington D.C. market is transparent, and there are a lot of local laws that property managers have to be aware of and work within. You want to make sure you are following all those rules and filing the necessary paperwork when you become a landlord. If you aren’t working in this market on a regular basis, you may not realize what all those legal regulations are, and you run the risk of falling out of compliance.

There are lots of specifics to cover when it comes to helping foreign investors in Washington, D.C. Please contact us at Chatel Real Estate, and we can discuss any new opportunities you might be interested in, or current properties that you own in the area.

Tax Strategies and 1031 Exchanges to Grow Your D.C. Investment Properties

There are tax strategies available to investors who are looking to own or sell real estate. As an investment, real estate is a tremendously taxed advantage asset class. There are a lot of things you can do to make sure you are optimizing your investment and minimizing the tax consequences of your transactions. Anytime you engage in tax planning or investment strategies, it’s important to be precise and careful in what you do.

The different strategies available for your real estate investments depend on what you want to do and whether your property has been your primary residence or an investment property that you have rented out to tenants. There are associated timelines and paperwork required for each situation. For example, if you are selling a primary residence, that home must have been your primary home for two out of the previous five years. If you decide you want to move out of that home and hold onto it as an investment with the ultimate goal of selling it, make sure you set your time clock five years out. It’s the best way to shield the first $250,000 you earn from the sale of that property.

When you have an investment property that has not been your primary residence for two out of the last five years, you have other options. The best tax advantage in this situation is a 1031 exchange. With this program, you are allowed to exchange one investment property for another and shield the proceeds of your sale from any tax liabilities. As long as you continue to buy new investment properties after selling an old one, you don’t have to worry about the taxes until the final property is sold. There are other details involved in a 1031 exchange, but it generally works out well for investment property owners who want to continue owning investment property. This is a pretty specific and somewhat complicated strategy, and we probably don’t have enough time to go into detail about the requirements and the consequences today.

Contact us at Chatel Real Estate, and we can discuss all of your options and investments a little bit further. We look forward to talking with you.

Why Work with Chatel Real Estate

Chatel Real Estate is a full service firm providing real estate and property management services in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia. We have offices in Georgetown, Dupont Circle and Alexandria, Virginia. We believe people like to work with us because they can trust us. That’s at the core of our business success, and there are also some great specific reasons you might want to consider working with Chatel Real Estate.

Experience
We have been doing this for over 60 years. All of us here have a lot of experience helping clients with whatever they need. We really do a good job of putting our property owners and customers first, and making sure all their needs are being taken care of. That might mean caring for a property they have owned for a long time, or selling a property they have lived in for a number of years. It might also mean helping them find a new investment in the area. Many of our staff members have been here for decades. That experience turns into a depth of knowledge about the individual markets as well as the specifics involved in each transaction.

Specialization
At Chatel Real Estate, our professionals all specialize in specific areas and have precise roles. Our property managers will be dedicated to taking care of properties. They don’t have to worry about splitting their time and doing other things. We also have dedicated rental and sales agents who assist our owners in finding good tenants and selling properties. Typically, those roles do not overlap, so each professional has the freedom to do what’s required for their individual area of expertise. An agent has the time to run around looking at properties and a property manager is able to stay close to home, fielding calls and solving problems.

Hyper-Local
Our three offices are in strategic locations that allow us to divide up the market and cover properties close to each office. It’s easy for us to literally walk to one of the properties we manage, in many cases. All of our properties are no more than a short drive away from where we work, so we can get there quickly when needed. It’s also easy for our vendors to come through and pick up a key in the office and then complete the work and come back quickly. This is one reason that vendors like working with us.

Unique and Historic Properties
This local market includes a lot of buildings and townhouses that are converted historic structures. A lot of their systems are not what you typically see in homes. We know the quirky things that might be there, and we have vendors who can help make sure all these historic details are taken care of properly. We only use professional vendors who deliver high quality and reliable work.

If you have any other questions about why you should work with us, please contact us at Chatel Real Estate, and we can talk to you more about the work we do.

Chatel’s New Online Destination

For over half a century, Chatel Real Estate has focused on providing the highest level of customer service to our clients in Washington D.C. Over the years, we’ve had the privilege to partner with many of the capital’s premier landlords, servicing thousands of residences in the process. Today, we are excited to announce the next phase for Chatel Real Estate, as we launch our new website, complete with interactive portals for our clients and tenants. We believe this development is yet another example of our innovative and proactive approach that has long made Chatel Real Estate the leading property management group in D.C.

Interacting with Our Customers

At Chatel Real Estate, we understand the value we provide to landlords. The relationships we have cultivated with homeowners and real estate investors in Northern Virginia and  Washington D.C. serve as the foundation of our business. For that reason, we knew we wanted to build a web destination that would allow us to streamline our connection with our customers.

When it came to creating a dynamic web presence, we turned to the experts at OpenPotion, who are known for their property management websites. Together, our teams have been working feverishly to bring our vision to fruition. We’ve worked to incorporate numerous tools into the Chatel Real Estate site that we believe will help our customers to better communicate with us and share their concerns. From live chat functionality to the dedicated repair requests form, we are aiming to set the standard for property management in the capital.

Reaching New Tenants

Connecting with potential tenants is one of our most important jobs at Chatel Real Estate, and our new site makes it easy to do just that! Our comprehensive listings tool displays photos, complete rental information, and a map of the local area. Best of all, interested renters can submit their application directly from the listing. This new tool allows us to quickly review a would-be tenant’s file and find the right renters faster than ever before.

Catering to Condo Associations

We feel honored to work with a multitude of unique clients, including individual property owners, real estate investors, and large property groups. Condominium associations also serve as one of our valued partners in the real estate industry. The new Chatel Real Estate site provides a comprehensive overview of our services for interested parties, in addition to a fully-functional portal for both condo boards and unit owners. These resources give us the ability to provide an unparalleled level of customer service for the many condo buildings scattered across our beautiful city.

As we look to the future, we are confident that our clients will appreciate the work that’s been poured into the new Chatel Real Estate site. We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to our friends at OpenPotion, who helped turn our grand ideas into reality. Best of all, we look forward to providing our customers with a more impressive customer service experience than ever before, as we prove that we are indeed the best property management firm on the East Coast.