HOA Insights: Common Sense for Common Areas

030 | HOA Board Heroes: Successes of a Small DIY HOA Board

November 20, 2023 Hosts: Robert Nordlund, Kevin Davis, Julie Adamen Season 1 Episode 30
HOA Insights: Common Sense for Common Areas
030 | HOA Board Heroes: Successes of a Small DIY HOA Board
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Discover the triumphs of a small DIY HOA Board and how they enhanced community living on this special “HOA Board Heroes” Episode!
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Join us as we delve into the inspiring journey of a small DIY HOA Board, navigating the complexities of community management. Our episode uncovers the skills, leadership, and strategic decisions that propelled property values and community engagement to new heights. Learn from an HOA Board Hero about the intricacies of laws, governance, and effective management. Whether you're a new HOA board member or a seasoned professional, this episode is packed with valuable insights to elevate your community!

Chapters from today's episode: HOA Board Heroes- Successes of a Small DIY HOA Board

00:00 Patience and reactivity in HOA board meetings.

02:20 Ad Break: FIPHO Health Score

02:52 Intro to Board Hero Robert Willis and his community

07:28 What it’s like being a Absentee HOA Board Member

09:40 HOA Board leadership and maintenance of a condominium complex

12:33 Robert’s feeling on HOA Board meetings

13:22 Robert’s unique way of funding his community

16:04 Robert’s relationship with property managers & his most interesting challenge while serving on the board

19:31 What Robert will be doing to improve his association over the next year

22:30 Final words of advice for HOA Board Members from Robert

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Julie Adamen
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Kevin Davis, CIRMS
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Robert Nordlund, PE
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Robert Willis:

I'd say Be patient. If you're having a board meeting and people are ranting and raving about things just just take it in and and talk to your board about it later and respond to the person with an email or maybe even have our managers do it depending on who it is and what it is. Be careful in that respect. Because you never know. So I've always found that it's just good to to don't be reactive. You know, take your time.

Announcer: HOA Insights:

Common Sense for Common Areas exists to help all 2 million volunteer board members nationwide have the right information at the right time to make the right decisions for their future. This podcast is sponsored by four companies that care about Board Members Association insights & Marketplace, Association Reserves, Community Financials, and Kevin Davis Insurance Services. You'll find links to their websites and social media in the show notes.

Robert Nordlund:

A Thankless job, what comes to your mind when you hear those two words. Having served on the board of my condominium association followed by decades of experience in this industry. There is one job that without a doubt deserves to be at the top of the list, and elected volunteer community association board member. So as a regular feature of our weekly podcast, it's one episode a month devoted to sharing the stories of real life unsung board heroes. In Our Eyes aboard here was one of the 2 million elected volunteers who are worthy of recognition for simply performing this thankless job. Well, welcome back to HOA Insights: Common Sense for Common Areas. I'm Robert Nordlund. And I'm here to share the story of an unsung board hero named Robert Willis. This is episode number 30. And if you missed meeting our other board heroes, you can find them on our website, Hoa insights.org, or by subscribing to the HOA insights podcast on your favorite podcast platform. But before you hear Robert story, let me introduce you to one of our generous sponsors.

Paige Daniels:

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Robert Willis:

My name is Robert wills. I've serving on the volunteer on the board of directors at silver cord condominiums. And I've been doing this now for 11 years. When I'm not working on the board. I'm spending time with my family and my hobbies. And, of course my job.

Robert Nordlund:

Silver spur court is an 18 unit apartment style condominium community in Rolling Hills Estates California with a budget of about $160,000. The building is 12 years old and about 83% owner occupied. As you just heard, Robert has lived there and served as president of the board of directors for 11 years. So we asked him what first motivated him to get involved with the governance of his community association.

Robert Willis:

These condominiums went up on auction. I was at the auction. So I saw all the people who who won the units. And I looked around and I said to myself, there's so much mechanical stuff. There's so many things that need to be checked out. It's been sitting for a year who's going to do this? And I just said, Well, maybe I'll do it. You know, so I just jumped in. And ever since then I pretty much have not been able to get off.

Robert Nordlund:

Silver spur court has four seats on his board and there are no term limits to board member seats. With Robert's term ending in January. We wondered if he planned on staying involved in the association.

Robert Willis:

Ah, yeah, I kind of I have a whole lot of choice. Now I'll stay involved I you know, I shouldn't really say that I don't want to be there's been tough times. You know, we've had tough we've had some tough people that have lived there. They're not there now. You know, so we have a good group of people but even with just 18 units you get your share, you know, this you don't get the same share you do if you have 40 or 80 or 100. What's motivating me to stay on the board of directors is is my ability to have my hands and what's going on at the condo be able to help make the place better place to live for everybody. Help with the I'm keeping things maintained, my team is a good team. And we all just work together and we save, we save 1000s each year. I mean, we save a lot of money, we save a lot of money. And we we just, we do periodic maintenance together. I have a few guys that are retired, and they just do things. And I let them buy what they need to buy. And we slowly make it a better place. Robert is

Robert Nordlund:

clearly motivated to stay on the board and invest his time in improving the Association for the sake of the community at large. We asked him how much time he invests each week, as well as what special gifts he brings to the Board of Directors. All

Robert Willis:

it kind of varies. There was a year probably I wasn't, I was probably spending several hours a week. But now I can spend not much at all, just few phone calls. Very, very little time. Very little time. I like to make things happen. I like to I like to, I like to get things done. And if I have a goal, I want to make the goal happen. So for the condo, it all started with the evey cars, we had just one or two people plugging in. And I said, No, you know, we got to do something about this eventually, you know, it's too early, you know, this kind of thing. And I just pushed on by myself, and I found the charge Ready program, okay, with Edison, and I just started going down the road with it, and found out that I can put this entire system in and charge everybody $1,000 Can I make them do that? You know, so I talked to everyone I said, here's the problem, we're going to do phase one, which is the upper parking can't do the lower parking yet, but yet you guys get to pay two. And everybody was willing to do that. We have some guests we had, we had a guest parking charger put in so people who lived in the lower level could could use that. But that was a good thing about it. We actually had people that were willing, you know. And then after we put that system in two years later, we did the second phase with Edison and, and another $1,000 each owner and now everybody in the entire condo can park and can charge in their own parking spot. So that's a, that's a great thing. So that saved us over almost what 400,000 US dollars to put the system in. And we only paid 1000 each.

Robert Nordlund:

Unlike the previous board heroes that we featured on this program, Robert is an absentee owner, meaning that he does not currently live at Silver spur court. Even though he is serving on the board, we were curious as to how he felt about the renters in the community and how being an absentee owner might affect the dynamics of the board. Here's what Robert had to say,

Robert Willis:

being an absentee owner in this condominium for this 18 units. I don't, it really doesn't make a difference to anyone there, whether I'm there or I'm not because I treat it as if I live there. You know, and I take care of the places if I live there, because I want it to be nice for all of us, you know, eventually I may want to retire it. It's a great place and a nice place. Now as far as as far as my tenants. I've been very lucky. Okay, I've had I've had very good people. In my unit. I've had retired people the whole time. You know, I have people that that that actually want to take care of it and keep it as new as it's been since I purchased it. I'm very lucky in that respect. So I'm in good shape. I have someone in there now that will probably stay you know, so as long as I will allow her to stay she can say you know, so it's been good for me. The renters have been pretty good when they move in, we give them we give them a set of rules, we're not crazy, or anything we just kind of tell them Look at this is what you have to, you know, this is what you should not do and what you can do. You know, I mean trash and when you're throwing things and this kind of stuff, just the basics of living around other people. We don't we don't wish everybody were you, you know, micromanage everyone. We don't do that, you know, if you want to put a little plant outside your front of your door, you can put a plant outside in front of your door. You know, there's certain things that that we we we don't want to go crazy. You know, this is a place for everybody to live. So y'all want to be comfortable. Y'all want to feel good. Y'all want to enjoy your place. So we don't want to constrain it that much. Moby also, you know, don't want strollers and things sitting out in front of the worst Mr.

Robert Nordlund:

Roberts, positive attitude and outlook on the community governance are vital for a board president. We wondered if the rest of the board shared the same outlook. Here's Robert speaking on the overall culture of silver spur courts, board of directors.

Robert Willis:

The culture of our board now that we have today is probably the best we've ever had. You know, I'm having a few, several retired, actually all retired guys, and all were engineers, and all like to do things. So you know, it's like a, it's like a kid in a sandbox, they, they, they get to go do things around the condo, and they do. We even calibrate our, our exhaust fans for the for the parking garage, carbon monoxide detection, you know, I just bought the guys the canisters of, of carbon monoxide to do the test with they just calibrated them and put Cal stickers and did all that. So we save right there, we saved several 1000 We don't let things break. You know, we we do periodic maintenance on things, something squeaking or about to break or you know, it's going to break, okay, or it's hanging by a bicep, you know, we'll fix it, we'll stay on top of things before they cost us a lot of money in the end. Because that's usually how it ends up being ends up being an emergency or something like that, you know, the most expensive thing that we have to maintain are elevators, I'd say if there's anything in a condo complex, that's going to cost you the most money, it's going to be keeping keeping those up to code and you're going to maintain, you know, they don't break but the maintenance is expensive.

Robert Nordlund:

The board's unanimous drive towards protecting, maintaining and improving the state of the Community Association seemed almost too good to be true. We asked Robert, if there were any areas where the board could improve even further for the

Robert Willis:

board. Now. I think everything they do is is is great. I really have good people, you know, and they they like what they're doing, and they work hard to make it work. As far as the board goes our board that I would like, different as far as the people at this particular time, nothing. You know, we have a we have a great a great group, I couldn't have a better I keep wanting to get off the board. Because I didn't want the load. And these guys keep taking the load off of me. And it makes it much easier to the point where okay, I really don't have to even be there or go there. I make sure you know they they take care of it. Otherwise, I would be there. I'd have to be there. There's things that you have to you have to have your hands on. You know, so to be an absentee Board of Directors president, if you will. You need good people there that have their eye on everything, you know. And otherwise, I'd be going over checking things out all the time,

Robert Nordlund:

Robert seemed to really enjoy and cherish the working relationship he had with his fellow board members. We were curious if this extended to the board meetings as well. Here's how Robert feels about those.

Robert Willis:

Do I enjoy them? I would say not. Not in particular, I don't really enjoy the board meetings that much. I mean, we do get things accomplished the with the good people, it's good. But then you'll always have somebody who who has their say about something or is pushing, you know, in some direction. And you know, you have to deal with that. You try to get the owners to participate. But sometimes you can't get them all to participate. Right. So you'll you'll have usually out of 18 We have about six or seven that do. I mean, but for the most part, that's okay. I don't look forward to them. It's okay. We do them because we have to do by

Robert Nordlund:

this point, it was pretty clear to us that service per quart Hoa is a well managed Association. But there's a difference between well managed and being well funded. We asked Robert, if he felt that the association fit into that latter category,

Robert Willis:

what we're told to do, or what we're told we should do. Okay, and what we're doing are two different things. We've been told, you know how big to make our reserves, right? We look at what we're doing what we're fixing what's ahead, we look out 5678 10 years, where do we need to be? So when we were told up to 18%, that year, we only went up 5%. Now, if you want to look at what they consider well funded and not well funded, okay, where we're at the higher end of the red, but we look at it this way. Okay, there's 100 and a big 160,000 in reserves, that the moment we know what the things are that we need, you know, we know the size of our place, we know pretty much everything about it. So we said okay, do we do we put this big wad of money in there just let it keep growing or do we let it grow? Okay at a decent pace. And we let everybody keeps her money. And then if the time comes where we need something that pushes us a little further then we just do a special assessment. And we all we all pitch in on it.

Robert Nordlund:

It's certainly unusual for an association to purposefully stay underfunded and take care of special assessments as they come. We asked Robert if they ever tried to pass special assessments in the past

Robert Willis:

Yeah, small ones. I mean, 1000 here and there, we've had to do. And that worked. That was okay. Because this is, well, I know because it's 18 units, but because the people do care about their, where they live, and they do care about how well we take care of the plates, you know, when there is a special assessment like, like the fence on Crenshaw Boulevard, we had to put in a section of fence, when the city was doing their fencing, I jumped on the city and say, hey, you know, although that you have to do that, they said, I said, okay, then then can we jump in on your, on your site and your contractor, and then they did like 25% of what it would cost if we had vinyl concepts, or somebody do it. So we do a lot of things that way. And we're able to improve a lot of the things that they put on the list that you have to replace door entry systems and things like this, right, we're gonna all buy a great system with video and all that we put it in ourselves. But we're lucky in that respect, you know, that we have, we have people that can that can do these things.

Robert Nordlund:

Robert has spoken at length about the board at Silver spur Corp Hoa, but we hadn't heard much about the property managers that they work with. We asked Robert about how he felt about their working relationship,

Robert Willis:

the way I would characterize the way we look at our property managers, that it's a very good group, I liked them. The the woman who was taking care of us for the longest time is no longer there, we have somebody else. But she's she, we've worked with her before. And she's very good, too. But no, I've always, I've always had no problem with it. I can make a phone call or just a an email in the morning, hey, I need this done real quick. And she'd be emailing me back during the day. And that's happening now too. We don't have to engage calling each other or anything like that, I can just do this easily by by phone, and it makes it worth it. There's too much that has to be done on a on a monthly basis, you know, to manage the operation, if you will, because it is like a business. And it's something that I don't want to be doing or I don't want my secretary to be doing or anything like that. It's too much. This way, it's done. Everything's done properly. We get our monthly reports, we get our status reports, we get all these things, you know, we may not agree with some of the numbers and things but that's okay. You know, we we've been there long enough And and we know, we know, we know what we want what we need. But But overall, it's been a good experience. And I think it's worth I think it's worth the the money that we spent

Robert Nordlund:

From what Robert had been describing serving on the board of directors at Silver Spur Court, it appeared to be a pretty pleasant experience. We asked Robert, what his most interesting challenge as a board member was in the 11 years he'd spent on the board.

Robert Willis:

My most interesting challenge with this condominium complex has been a couple of owners that we've had a woman decided that she was going to paint the concrete by the by the elevator by herself. And when she was selling her unit, you know, and they always look at the judges always look

Robert Nordlund:

It goes without saying that between the COVID 19 at these owners more than they look at the HOA. She actually won this case that we tried to get her to pay to remove the paint. And we've had people that have said, well, I don't like where the drain comes down out of the building, I want to move out or something right. These are the types of things you have to deal with. pandemic and high inflation, the past few years have presented numerous challenges to shared living communities and their associations. We asked Robert, if any external factors in the world were affecting the operation of Silver Spur Court HOAs board.

Robert Willis:

I think as far as things that are changing around us that would affect the way we operate the board, maybe just the the costs of things, you know, the cost of electricity, the cost of of everything. In our case, we don't have to worry about EVs. We're already set. Now, that would be a big thing for a lot of condominiums. I think. Maybe we're Californians, it's different. You know, because it's, it's there's a push for electric in, you know, and I just saw it coming for us. So I decided to do it early. But that's that. That would be one of the things that I think a lot of the associations will be facing is what do you do for the people with electric cars? Robert

Robert Nordlund:

seems determined to forecast any sea changes that might affect the association and the community at large. We asked him what the association will be doing in the next year to improve its financial, physical or operational health.

Robert Willis:

Yeah, financial, I think we're good. I think as far as the physical feel of the place is kind of what we're we're kind of bumping up a little bit, putting more signage, making things look a little nicer. I mean, I I don't know if you've ever been to Hong Kong or anything, but if you've ever been to a parking garage in Hong Kong and you, you just fall in love with what they do, they paint the carpet, it's painted, the walls are painted. I mean, it's so beautiful, right. But that's, that's expensive in the states to do that, but it would look so cool to drive in there and have that present to you this way, right? Our elevators, you know, just the interior of the elevator, you don't need to use the elevator guys, for that you can MIT you can have really nice panels built and you just hang up, just like you're hanging the protector stuff, you know, you can do all these we can do all this stuff are ourselves. And I just want to make it elegant and nice, you know, the mercom door entry keypad like your old Bell phone, you know, lose that thing. Right? And have video. So if you come to my gate, you know, I see you on my phone, I can talk to you, I can let you in. You know, we don't have to hand out the gate codes and things like this, you know, security wise, I'd like to tighten it up a little bit for the parking garages. Because I mean, they're, it's, it's mostly courtesy don't come in. You know, it's like the courtesy lock on your bathroom door. Right? You know, it's like, it's like that, I kind of want to make that a little bit a little bit tougher. To get in, we added cameras, I put in cameras. So alpha place a good friend of mine, and I put that system together. But that's a good example. I had a guy on our board go get quotes. And we looked at what he got quotes for my got my friend to quote the system out. And he was like, not even 75% with these guys were made for more cameras, and a much better system. We've added a few cameras since and it actually paid off once already. They had somebody tried to to break into one of the well they actually got into one of the storage owners a storage locker, you know, it's actually a room, you know, you open the door and you got to space. Everybody has one, our cameras were good enough to capture their faces capture their license plate. And then the sheriff's department caught them in Lomita, just from cameras that are out on the roads. And they found where they were and they were in some hotel and they nailed these people. Two days later, you know, we got everything back.

Robert Nordlund:

Finally, we want to close this episode out, as we usually do by asking Robert if he had any advice that you'd like to share with other board members tuning into the program, I'd

Robert Willis:

say Be patient. If you're having a board meeting and people are ranting and raving about things just just take it in and and talk to your board about it later and respond to the person with an email or maybe even have our managers do it depending on who it is and what it is. Be careful in that respect. Because you never know. So I have always found that it's just good to to don't be reactive. You know, take your time.

Robert Nordlund:

Thank you for listening. And thank you to Robert for performing a thankless job well, we hope you gain some HOA insights from his story and that it helps you bring common sense to your common area. Thank you for joining us and we look forward to another great episode next week.

Announcer:

You've been listening to HOA Insights, Common Sense for Common Areas. You can listen to the show on our podcast website, hoainsights.org, or subscribe on any of the most popular podcast platforms. You can also watch the show on our YouTube channel. Check the show notes for helpful links. If you liked the show, and want to support the work we do, you can do so in a number of ways. The most important thing you can do is to engage in the conversation, email your questions or voice memos to podcast@reserve study.com Or leave us a voicemail at 805-203-3130. If you gain any insights from the show, please do us a HUGE favor by sharing the show with other board members you know, you can also support us by supporting the brands that sponsor this program. Please remember that the views and opinions expressed by the podcast do not constitute legal advice. You'll want to consult your own legal counsel before making any important decisions. Finally, this podcast was expertly mixed and mastered by Stoke Light Video and Marketing. With Stoke Light on your team, you'll reach more customers with marketing expertise that inspires action. See the show notes to connect with Stoke Light.

Patience and reactivity in HOA board meetings
Ad Break: FIPHO Health Score
Intro to Board Hero Robert Willis and his community
What it’s like being a Absentee HOA Board Member
HOA Board leadership and maintenance of a condominium complex
Robert’s feeling on HOA Board meetings
Robert’s unique way of funding his community
Robert’s relationship with property managers & his most interesting challenge while serving on the board
What Robert will be doing to improve his association over the next year
Final words of advice for HOA Board Members from Robert