When it Comes to Maintenance, It’s Time to Think Outside the Box

Nearby condo replacing noisy steel carport roof with … noisy steel carports roof

Maintenance doesn’t necessarily mean repairing something back to its original condition.  If it did, we’d all still be using outhouses. And while we’re pretty good at changing interior spaces to suit our living needs, often exteriors are left out.

Here’s an example.  In my building, probably 80 percent of our balconies are (unfortunately) enclosed and will likely (unfortunately) remain that way.  Outside those enclosures are the original railings which give owners a nice prison-bar view from the waist down.  Not very enticing.

When it came time to repaint and repair the exterior of the building, railing repair was part of the drill.  My question was why couldn’t we ask the city if the railings on those completely enclosed balconies couldn’t just be removed.  They served no useful purpose, were unattractive and ultimately cost money to maintain.

Going a step further, I suggested that the remaining open balcony railings be replaced with glass railings (which given how few there were, I’d assume would be cheaper than maintaining all the balconies in perpetuity.

It would be a win-win with all residents getting improved visibility, the building presenting a more modern face and ultimately saving money.

People don’t think outside their box very often.

Imagine my surprise when a neighboring building recently performed work that could have had a better outcome.  The Preston Place fire caused damage to neighboring buildings’ roofs, including those of their carports.  You know carport roofs?  Those corrugated steel awnings you park under?  The same ones that when it rains or hails produce an exquisite cacophony?  Yeah, those.

Note how close the windows are to the steel drum of a carport roof.

So this neighboring building is getting their carport roofs replaced … with the same noisy steel they had before. I was dumbfounded.  Surely there are materials that would absorb the sound of a driving rain. (Just tacking on some AstroTurf would have to be better.)  But no one seems to have thought about it, even though their owners’ windows are inches above the carport roofline. If I can hear the thunderous rain noise many hundreds of feet away, it’s got to wake the dead in those condos, and yet…

Other older buildings with single-pane glass still allow any breakage or cosmetic replacements to be replaced with single-pane glass. I’d hazard a guess and say that they should’ve been requiring multi-pane window replacements since at least the mid-1980s.

Most multi-family buildings in Dallas don’t have master contracts for cable TV and internet.  The savings for residents are enormous but it just doesn’t occur to them.

Of course smart thinking is great, but financially abusive spending is just as bad.  One high-rise is performing a lot of restoration work to their public areas.  It’s costing a bundle but they thought they’d saved for it appropriately to avoid special assessments.  Enter a bossy committee member with solid gold taste that not enough people would stand up to and the result was a special assessment for the restoration work’s blown budget masked as routine maintenance.

(Aside: What is it about bossy older ladies who are often loathe to spend their own money but become punch-drunk spending everyone else’s?  I’ve seen it time and again since writing for CandysDirt.com.  Aside from longevity, I’m at a loss to understand why these stories always start with, “Some woman …”

We’re all adults and so my question is, “How old do you need to be before you stop being bullied by these people?” I’d think even at 60 or 70, finally telling a bully to eat dirt would feel mighty nice.)

The list could go on forever.  My point is that condo and townhome complexes need to cast a wider net for input before embarking on these projects.  While it’s unlikely every opportunity would be uncovered, it would at least increase the pool of people thinking about it.

Instead, HOA boards more often than not just do the same thing that was done before (it’s brown, let’s repaint it brown). Doing things differently takes more time and it’s likely they’re hardly experts themselves. Management companies should be experienced enough to share best practices from other buildings they manage. But at the end of the day, owners must participate in their communities and take pride in moving the ball forward.  I guarantee it’s more exciting and rewarding than watching Wheel of Fortune while eating dinner off a TV tray.

 

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors has recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.

 

8 Comment

  • But, Jon, your practical ideas involves change and maybe spending slightly more money so these owners say no. If it’s not about their own specific unit, or it increases someone else’s aesthetics, it’s a no. It’s a wonder they are even doing the carport replacement. Small minded and self-centered thinking.

  • Why don’t they change anything? Because generally people can live with the status quo even if they aren’t happy with it but once you open the box everyone has very, very serious opinions and will make it well known that they will be very, very unhappy with the change if it isn’t 100% to their liking.

    Years and years ago after constant complaints about the landscaping at my condo the board decided to form a landscaping committee that would decide on the seasonal replanting. I think 3 or 4 times a year we pull out most of the flower beds and replace the plants with weather appropriate ones. This is probably a huge waste of money but we are already budgeted for it and it looks nice so fine, it’s just a thing we do.

    This was not like some major landscaping plan, it was just the landscaping company saying all of these plants are appropriate and in budget, do you want the purple one or the red one. I was on this committee, I happened to be asked but anyone was free to join. Once it formed all of a sudden everyone had very strong opinions but didn’t want to attend any meetings, I had to listen to constant bitching about how we were doing everything wrong but they had nothing to contribute besides that we were screwing things up. I left the committee, eventually everyone else did, now every year we bid out the landscaping including seasonable replanting, we get what we get, I don’t know who decides, maybe the board? Maybe the the building manager? Maybe the landscaping company, who cares, none of us love it but we don’t argue about the pansies in the elevator anymore.

    • mm

      I feel your pain. The number of meetings I’ve sat in where the literal war of the roses gets fought continues to shock me. I have a simple solution. If you’re not helping, you don’t get an opinion. Bitching to bitch doesn’t fly with me.

      • Sometimes I just think when there are a lot of opinions to be had and a lot of voices that deserve to be heard in a shared building like a condo there is something to be said for it just is because it is.

        It’s brown, someone decided a long time ago that it will be brown, who knows who did, maybe brown paint was on sale, it doesn’t matter, it’s just brown now so we don’t have an argument over paint.

        I get what you are saying but some things are better left as they are simply because it isn’t that important but the argument about it will go on forever. Yes for thinking outside of the box but just think long hand hard about what box you are going to open.

        • mm

          Oh yeah, definitely don’t sweat the small stuff. But do explore things that will have an impact (beyond brown vs tan).

          • You guys are just so spot on… I like what John with an ‘h’ said: everyone had very strong opinions but didn’t want to attend any meetings. After being very involved with a prior HOA and serving a few years as president, I was just so over it. You get three residents in a room, you get five opinions… that sort of thing. But I agree, some change has to be considered, especially infrastructure improvements, which can cost exponentially more money down the road if left ignored.

  • You are exactly right Jon! Unfortunately HOA boards are typically light in the qualification department and tend to be penny wise and pound foolish! A high rise building is a complex structure with many complex and expensive system. All too often, HOA board members had their arm twisted to serve and lack the time and dedication required to be informed and educated enough to make good decisions. If you are lucky, you live in a community that has an attorney, a CPA, an insurance or risk mananent professional and ideally an HR person to serve on the board and provide adequate oversight of the management company and have the skills for forward planning and decision making. You can look up and down a Turtle Creek Blvd and easily determine which of those buildings have had competent HOA boards over the years.