4 Easy Ways To Save Money At Home

One of the more effective ways to save money is to reduce the costs of doing the things that you do every day. You can find information today on solar panels that help lower electricity cost, but there are also ways you can save money at home without making that large of an investment.

Install A Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat allows you to keep your home at different temperatures under a variety of situations. For example, you can lower your home’s temperature at night to make sleeping more comfortable and to save money on your energy bills. You can also lower your home’s temperature during the day, because no one is at home that would need to use up the extra energy. Within a short period of time, installing a programmable thermostat can pay for itself several times over.

Load Up The Clothes Washer

If you put full loads of clothes in the washer every time, then you reduce how much water your washer needs to get the job done. This means using less water, and using less energy to warm the water. You could take this a step further by utilizing the great outdoors to dry your clothes on nice days instead of using the clothes dryer.

Use More Natural Light

When you need some light in a room in your home during the day, then open a curtain instead of turning on an artificial light. The habit people develop to flip on a light switch whenever they need light is a hard one to break, but it can save you a lot of money if you can just learn to open the curtains instead.

Appliance Routine Maintenance

Once a year, you should bring in a certified technician to do routine maintenance on everything from your refrigerator to your furnace. By having routine maintenance done on your home appliances, you extend their lives and maintain their levels of cost efficiency.

There are a lot of ways you can save money on the things you do every day, and the home appliances you rely on. When you take the time to discover money-saving tactics, then you will have the extra money you need to take care of your debt, save for a vacation or help fund your child’s education.

Buy the best Study Table for your room

With all those limited spaces that we have at our homes these days, getting a fully fledged study room is only a dream that a few can live with. For all the others, the option worth considering is to buy a spacious study table that does the needful. Imagine for great it would be if you would get an option to buy the best study table without even having to step out of the house or spend all your time looking for a great carpenter who can do the needful. Orange Gubbi brings you a team of great professionals who would sell all these services to you online. No matter which type of study table you want to buy, our widest range and options would definitely help you find the one you were looking for.

Untitled

Most of the people these days have to bring work home or in some cases how to work from home. A convenient option to do that would be with the help of a classic wooden study table. We offer you a range of fully functional furniture that would be perfect to place in your bedroom or the living area depending upon your needs. With the great wood, color and texture options that we have to offer you when you buy study table from our website, you won’t need to look for it anywhere else and you would be easily sorted with all your needs. With a convenient table top where you can place your laptop or simply study your files and the proper leg space to sit in a comfortable manner, the study tables we sell are designed keeping in mind all your needs and thus would be an investment completely worth the price that you pay.

With the sleek designs and compact study table options that we have brought for you, you would get to buy the best product that you always wanted and see how easily all your needs get taken care of. Apart from giving you the customization options when you buy any kind of furniture from us, we also offer you great purchase and warranty schemes that could help you build your trust in buying the table and the study chair online from our website. We have a range of study tables that offers you a lot of storage space as well. So when you buy something like a Marcus study table so that you can keep your files, important papers or books as well in the space given.

In our small attempts to help you get the best of the furniture options that fit your budget and space related needs, we make sure that we have something to offer to all our customers. With all the chic style options of the tables that we have brought for you, all you need to do is choose the design, specifications and other related options and place an order. We would personally get it installed and help you start using it the way you planned.

 

What Makes Chennai the Top Place for Professional Services

urban 1Often there are many professionals in many cities, including Chennai, but what makes it more difficult for people to avail professional services there?

  1. Language barrier: There are a very few professionals who would converse in anything but Tamil which makes it difficult to get professionals, although people often learn Tamil, but it may take quite some time and until then you can be out of luck, you might get professionals in a field or two that might speak in Hindi/English, but what about the rest?
  2. Unfamiliarity with tariff: This is not only an area specific but a worldwide problem, and rates vary from city, location etc. Even autos have difference in tariff as per the city, so it is natural to have variation in other sectors including the field of professional services.
  3. Different analogy: Again with many other cities, it can cripple your budget, like how in Mumbai people measure size of flats in sq-ft, whereas in Delhi there is a different scale, similarly different services are scaled differently.

Chennai, being a metro city has a vast population, yet the one with great opportunity, primarily because of the language barrier. There are companies racing ahead to meet the challenges and explore a tremendous opportunity.

One of them is UrbanClap India, a company that selected Chennai as the fourth city in India after its successful steak in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. The company provides over 50 professional services that include – Corporate event photography, Home Cleaning services, makeup artist, etc. to name a few.

The UrbanClap company has always targeted a distinct part of India, like after Delhi, it targeted west (Mumbai) and then subsequently chose to move into south India (Bangalore), so it was quite likely that it would pick up something in east India (Kolkata), but the company chose Chennai, in spite of Hyderabad and for an obvious reason – growth, and getting more number of people under the service net.

Chennai has an impressive 9.12 million inhabitants with the most unorganized sector, so while Urban looks to expand in 15 other cities, it first opted for Chennai.

That just explains how much important people are attaching to Chennai and yet again it looks set to drive growth in south India.

In 20th century, Chennai was dominant, yet Bangalore over took it, with unprecedented growth in local economy and it turned out to be a magnet of foreign investment, but it looks like Chennai is still in the race.

For those who migrate to Chennai, UrbanClap looks like a great option, run by alumni of the esteemed Indian institute of technology, UrbanClap has featured in Indian as well as International media, and has been a daring of investors, recently it UrbanClap raised about $10 million, making it one of the very high value company in professional services.

It is highly likely that applications like this are bound to change the landscape of the professional services in Chennai where such services are needed the most and moreover, apps like UrbanClap works on a zero fee model, where they don’t charge neither user nor the provider any sort of fee, thereby making it a completely free app.

UrbanClap review among the users in the cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore are very positive and now it is taking small yet significant steps to take on the most lucrative yet underrated markets in India.

It is easy to do business in Chennai, but the challenges in small towns are enormous, and hence the greatest challenge that any company would face would be a growing multilingual user base. Currently UrbanClap is available in English only, but it would be interesting to see, whether they would include Multilanguage support to cater to more people.

You can get UrbanClap from Google play or App store and start searching for competent professionals in Chennai.

Efforts to Help Homeowners Fail Their Troubled Mortgages

Home Foreclosure Sign
The number of delinquent mortgages continues to fall, but the foreclosure crisis is still taking its toll on hundreds of thousands of borrowers.

Of the approximately 952,000 borrowers who are 90 or more days past due on their monthly payments, but not yet in foreclosure, 62 percent have already been through some form of home retention program, according to Black Knight Financial Services. They are, it seems, beyond help. Home retention programs were established by lenders and the government to work with borrowers to enable them to keep their homes.

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“The percentages do look significant,” said Ben Graboske, senior vice president of Black Knight’s data and analytics unit. He pointed to trends in the government’s modification program, which has given borrowers less relief of late.

In 2010, homeowners on average could have received a $530 monthly payment reduction. That has dropped to the $450 range today. Graboske said that it is a major reason you are not seeing better performance for these homeowners today.

Banks are also getting more aggressive in pushing delinquent loans through the foreclosure process, rather than offering more modifications. As home prices rise and demand surges, banks can sell the homes more easily in today’s market than they could during the height of the crisis. Retention actions are down 42 percent over past two years, but of the new modifications or payment plans, 70 percent have already been through one or even more modifications that failed, according to BKFS.

Banks are also favoring short sales more, rather than taking the home to final foreclosure and selling it. A short sale is when the bank allows the home to be sold for less than the value of the mortgage.

“The ongoing shift away from [final foreclosure] sales is a driver of improving home prices since bank-owned properties typically sell at a larger discount than short sales,” noted a new report from CoreLogic (CLGX). Distressed homes accounted for 12 percent of March home sales, according to the report, down from 39 percent at the peak of the foreclosure crisis.

The numbers still vary dramatically place to place. Ironically, Washington, D.C., where the federal loan modification program was born, led the nation with 67 percent of its seriously delinquent inventory having gone through some sort of home retention activity. Maryland, Georgia, Texas and Connecticut followed with each seeing 66 percent of their 90-plus-day delinquent inventory involved in a home retention action.

The government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, introduced in 2009 and recently extended, has offered just more than 1.8 million loan modifications to date. Banks and mortgage servicers have also done independent loan modifications, including millions of dollars in principal reduction and principal forgiveness.

Although the number of both delinquent loans and those in active foreclosure is down dramatically, they are still two and three times their precrisis norms, respectively, with 28 percent of the remaining foreclosure inventory located in just three states: Florida, New York and New Jersey, according to BKFS.

Why Insurance Deductibles Should Be So High They Hurt

 

home covered

NEW YORK — You can save up to 41 percent in home insurance premiums if you raise your policy’s deductible — but there is risk.

Insurers will charge you less in premiums if you hike your deductible, although the amount you save depends on what state you live in, and often works in their favor by putting more financial burden on the homeowner in the case of such problems as fire or flood.

For example, if a small fire causes $4,500 in damage to your home and your policy has a $5,000 deductible, you’re on the hook for the entire cost of repairs.

Since savings vary so much from state to state, consumers need to consider the bottom line before increasing deductibles.

“Since savings vary so much from state to state, consumers need to consider the bottom line before increasing deductibles,” says Laura Adams, senior analyst at InsuranceQuotes.com. “While switching from a $500 deductible to a $5,000 deductible sounds appealing because it lowers home insurance premiums by an average of 28 percent, it could be a risky move for consumers who don’t maintain that much in savings.”

Of course, homeowners can raise their deductibles less. Boosting a policy’s deductible to $2,000 from $500 saves a homeowner 16 percent, on average,according to InsuranceQuotes.com.

Some states are more generous on their homeowner insurance rates than others. North Carolina for example, allows homeowners to save 41 percent on their policies by raising out-of-pocket deductibles. Rhode Island (26 percent) and Florida (23 percent) residents can also save big.

On the other end of the spectrum on saving with deductibles are such states as Hawaii (at 4 percent savings) and Texas (6 percent).

Insurance industry experts say the decision is really based on how you view homeowner’s insurance.

“If your deductible doesn’t hurt, it’s not high enough,” says Kevin Foley, an insurance broker at PFT&K Insurance Brokers in Milltown, New Jersey. “Why so high? Because insurance is for disasters — things that make you drop to your knees and thank God you have insurance. It’s not for maintenance.”

Consequently, you shouldn’t use your insurance unless you absolutely have to, Foley adds. “Having a low deductible lures you into wanting to use the insurance when you have minor problems,” he says. “What’s $250, if the insurance pays the other $1,750?”

“The problem with that is most insurance companies allow you two strikes in three years and then they cancel you,” Foley explains. “Replacement insurance is unbelievably expensive, and you’re stuck with it for three years before anyone will talk to you. Plus, you can’t hide from your losses, because they all share information.”

Some homeowners agree that raising insurance deductibles was good for them.

“We significantly increased our home deductible and saved 32 percent on our homeowner’s and our auto insurance,” says Mark Zoril, founder of PlanVision, a Plymouth, Minnesota-based financial services firm.

Zoril’s process was straightforward. “I reached out to six different firms and could have reached out to many more — Farmers, American Family, Liberty Mutual, Travelers and AAA … I imaged copies of all of our policies with Allstate and sent them to each office. I told them to just match the coverage and provide a quote.’

Zoril ended up choosing Liberty Mutual and raising his homeowner’s policy deductible to $10,000. “We decided to treat our home insurance as coverage for a catastrophic event,” he explains. “This reduced our premium a lot. [But] our risk is that our house or roof will suffer severe damage in a storm or weather event.”

State by State: How Much You Must Earn to Pay the Rent

Young couple  taking selfies in their new home
The gap between wages and rents continues to grow in America, making it difficult for low-income workers to afford a modest apartment, according to the latest annual “Out of Reach” report.

The 2015 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which promotes affordable housing, shows that renters need to earn anywhere from $12.95 an hour to $31.51 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment, depending on the state in which they live.

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In 13 states and the District of Columbia, workers need to earn more than $20 an hour to rent a two-bedroom apartment.

The federal minimum wage, by comparison, has remained at $7.25 an hour since July 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Several California cities have adopted higher minimum wages in recent years, with the latest, Los Angeles, raising it to $15 an hour by 2020.

Other places that have adopted higher minimum wage levels include Seattle, Chicago and a couple of cities in New Mexico. (See “The ‘New Norm’? Los Angeles Ups Minimum Wage to $15” to learn more.)

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s study, which has been conducted since 1989, California and Washington are among the 10 most expensive states in which to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Illinois is No. 17 and New Mexico is No. 32. Here are the states where affording a two-bedroom apartment currently requires the highest wages, along with the wages earned by the average renter in those states:

  1. Hawaii: $31.61 an hour (average renter earns $14.49 an hour)
  2. Washington, D.C.: $28.04 (average renter earns $26.08)
  3. California: $26.65 (average renter earns $18.96)
  4. New York: $25.67 (average renter earns $22.21)
  5. New Jersey: $25.17 (average renter earns $16.92)
  6. Massachusetts: $24.64 (average renter earns $18.20)
  7. Maryland: $24.64 (average renter earns $15.71)
  8. Connecticut: $24.29 (average renter earns $16.16)
  9. Alaska: $22.55 (average renter earns $17.47)
  10. Washington: $21.69 (average renter earns $16.30)

Here are the states where a two-bedroom apartment requires the lowest income, along with the average renter’s wages:

  1. Iowa: $13.46 an hour (average renter earns $10.98 an hour)
  2. South Dakota: $13.41 (average renter earns $10.67)
  3. West Virginia: $13.21 (average renter earns $10.46)
  4. Kentucky: $13.14 (average renter earns $11.38)
  5. Arkansas: $12.95 (average renter earns $11.68)

The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s findings are similar to those of Forbes’ 2015 rental rankings, which show that the most expensive cities for renters are:

  1. San Francisco
  2. Oakland, California
  3. San Jose, California
  4. Manhattan
  5. Los Angeles

Check out “Where Being a Renter Really, Really Stinks” to learn more about Forbes’ rankings.

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How One Couple’s Dream Home Nearly Tanked Their Finances

 

Luxury home

In our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses. Today, one man shares how stretching his budget to buy a big home left him and his wife financially — and emotionally — strained.

Once upon a time purchasing a home landed at the very top of my bucket list.

At 25 years old it felt like the next logical step in growing up — a move that would inch my wife, Jessica, and me closer to the American dream.

From the outside it appeared we were ready for it. We’d built up our emergency fund, paid off our car loans, and started setting aside cash for a down payment. We did everything by the book.

Well, not everything.

When it came time to pull the trigger on our new home, we completely maxed out our budget — effectively signing ourselves up for months of financial strain, emotional stress and major regret.

Landing Our Dream Home — $50,000 Over Budget

In 2009 Jessica and I were living in the Dallas–Forth Worth area. At 23 and 24 years old, respectively, we were doing great.

I was a firefighter/paramedic, and Jessica was studying photography at the University of North Texas while working as a preschool teacher. Together, we pulled in $75,000 — and had zero debt, no kids, and about $25,000 saved up between our emergency fund and retirement accounts.

We were renting a one-bedroom apartment for $750 a month, but loved the idea of putting down roots and moving into a home where we could eventually raise a family.


Courtesy: Clayton CollinsAs new homeowners, Clayton and Jessica went from financially flush to living paycheck to paycheck.

So, with giddy excitement, we began house hunting for properties in the $150,000 to $170,000 range — a number we settled on after plugging our finances into an online mortgage calculator.

We also decided to look into an FHA loan for first-time homebuyers, which would only require us to make a 3 percent down payment. I knew 20 percent was the rule of thumb, but it just wasn’t really something I saw other first-time buyers my age doing. Plus, putting down 3 percent would preserve some of our savings, and I liked having a reliable cushion to cover us in emergencies.

Two months into our search, we noticed a “for sale” sign on a stunning house just a few doors down from a home we’d just viewed. When our realtor offered to give us a peek on the spot, it was love at first sight.

The house was enchanting: It was just a few years old, with four full bedrooms, 2,400 square feet, and a lush backyard. We couldn’t find anything wrong with it, until we heard the price — $206,000.

We knew it was well over our budget, but couldn’t bear the thought of letting it go. Plus, we’d been pre-approved for a $200,000 loan, which felt like permission to purchase a home of that size.

In hindsight, I know this was a terribly risky move, but at the time I didn’t know any better. And none of our friends or family advised us against buying the home.

After the closing costs were said and done, the total came to around $207,000. We plunked down $7,000 — and moved in August 2010.

Plenty of House, Not Enough Cash

Although we loved the home, we were instantly struck by our high expenses.

While our original $150,000 to $170,000 price range would have put our housing costs at a manageable 30 percent of our total income, springing for a $200,000 loan shot that number up to just shy of 50 percent.

But we felt confident we could handle the expenses, since I was banking on a steady flow of raises from my employer. (Spoiler alert: They didn’t.)

We’d just have to tighten our belts to sustain our $2,000 housing bills, which included the mortgage, insurance, taxes and utility bills.

That meant some serious lifestyle changes, like declining after-work drinks with friends and passing on the dinner date nights we loved. We couldn’t even afford to fully furnish and decorate the place — inviting friends over to an empty house was really tough on my pride.

Living out of a backpack for two years really changes your priorities. Having financial security and a better quality of life now means much more to us than a fancy house.

Even worse, our new bills put an end to the $250 savings contribution we used to make every month. And forget about retirement — our nest eggs were put on hold entirely after moving into the house.

In a matter of months, we had gone from feeling financially flush to pinching every penny — a change that put unnecessary stress on our marriage. More and more we found ourselves nitpicking and bickering with each other.

Over the next nine months, as Jessica and I had many conversations about our decision, it became more apparent that we were being seriously weighed down by the house. We felt stuck, and began to wonder: Had we made a huge mistake?

About a year and a half after moving in, we made the drastic decision to put the house on the market in August 2012. There was no straw that broke the camel’s back — you can only go so long living paycheck to paycheck before you realize that something’s got to give.

While waiting for it to sell, we did everything we could to start saving again. We had a feeling we might take a loss on the house, and wanted to lessen the sting. So we began selling our belongings — our boat, TV, cars — and socked away the profits.

Jessica and I also explored ways of bringing in additional money on the side. She picked up freelance photography work, while I began building websites. All in all, we were able to shore up an additional $15,000.

We finally sold the house at the beginning of 2013, taking a $10,000 loss. While the hit didn’t feel good, the sale took a massive weight off our shoulders.

Our New Life: House Poor, Cash Rich

Armed with about $30,000 in savings and two travel backpacks, Jessica and I did something even crazier after giving up our homeowner status: We left our jobs — and decided to travel the world.

For two years we went all over Europe and South Asia, mastering the art of budget travel. We picked up odd jobs teaching English, painting houses — and even herding sheep! I also continued to do some Web development work and invested in a few blue-chip stocks.

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By the time we returned to Texas in the fall of 2014, we had about $100,000 to our names — and were ready for a fresh start.

Jessica is still doing freelance photography work, as well as running a few photography workshops. And I continue to take on Web development projects.

But, in a strange twist of fate, I also decided to break into the real estate industry. A few months ago, I earned my realtor’s license and was recently hired at a national agency. I’m looking forward to helping guide other first-time buyers to find a great house — in their budget.

Although we’re certainly not in any hurry to buy another home, if we ever do I’ll definitely be taking my own advice: Buy only what you can afford.

As you might imagine, living out of a backpack for two years really changes your priorities when it comes to material possessions. Having financial security and a better quality of life now means much more to us than a fancy house.

In the end, our version of the American dream has turned out to be different from most. But I’m happy that it’s ours.

Generation Rent: Why Millennials Aren’t Buying Homes

House For Sale sign and daffodils, Spring of 2010
Back in the day, moving out of your parents’ home probably meant you were moving into one of your own.

But whether you blame it on the economy or just a generational shift in values, young adult homeowners are becoming increasingly rare.

Case in point: recent stats find that only 38 percent of millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 owned homes in 2012, compared to 52 percent of the same age group in 1980.

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So just why is “generation rent” so adverse to home-buying?

Well, that depends on where they live. Asurvey from Carrington Mortgage Servicesfound that the underlying causes actually vary from region to region.

In the Western states, for example, millennials are most worried about being able to shore up enough for a down payment. That makes sense — considering the region’s average down payment amount tends to far exceed the national average.

Moving over to the Midwest however, millennials have misgivings for a much different reason: student loan debt. Experts suspect this is because salaries tend to be lower here, leaving student loan debt taking a greater chunk of the generation’s take-home pay — and making homeownership a more daunting challenge.

In the Northeast, Gen Y is most concerned with credit card debt, while Southern millennials actually shy away from homeownership for two reasons: concern about low credit scores, as well as simply not knowing where to start.

But not everyone is ditching the white-picket fence altogether. Despite their current low confidence, more than half of millennials surveyed said that they plan to buy a home within the next two years.

How to Successfully Live Under a Homeowners Association

 

Row of Houses

If you buy a condominium, townhouse or single-family home in a newer development, you’re likely to become a member of a community association.

About 20 percent of Americans live in a community governed by a condo association, homeowners association or co-op board, according to the Community Associations Institute, which educates volunteer board members and association management professionals. The number of communities covered by associations has grown to more than 333,000 today from about 10,000 in 1970.

Community associations come with rules that determine everything from the number of pets you can own to what color you can paint your front door. Some include amenities such as pools, clubhouses and golf courses, while others provide services such as road maintenance and streetlights.

The associations are set up by developers and then turned over to a volunteer board of homeowners once all the units in the development are sold. Those volunteers are responsible for making sure facilities are maintained, collectingmaintenance dues and enforcing the rules. “This is the ultimate form of democracy,” says Frank Rathbun, vice president of communications for the institute.

Satisfied — or Not?

While stories of homeowners associations that deny permission for kids with cancer to build a playhouse or veterans to fly a flag on the wrong kind of pole may steal the headlines, institute statistics show that 64 percent of residents are satisfied with their community association experience and 26 percent are neutral, with only 10 percent dissatisfied, according to a 2014 survey.

But the same survey shows that almost a quarter of residents have experienced a significant disagreement with their association, with landscaping and parking being the two most common causes, followed by finances and architectural issues.

Whether you like or hate the rules that come with community association life, once you’ve bought or rented in an association, you’ve signed on. Being a member of an association ties your fate to your neighbors’ in ways that living in a traditional subdivision doesn’t. “You have to overcome that ‘my home is my castle’ issue,” Rathbun says.

Property Values, Property Values, Property Values

Rules are designed to protect property values, and 70 percent of the respondents in the CAI survey believe they do, while 26 percent believe they make no difference. Disagreements over which rules are required to protect property values often leads to conflicts that can cost residents both time and money if they’re handled poorly.

“People ought to know that being in a condo is a give-and-take kind of thing,” says Patrick Hohman, author of “Condos Townhomes and Home Owner Associations: How to Make Your Investment Safer” and a longtime volunteer board member who is now a part-time, on-site manager at a condominium near Louisville, Kentucky. He also runs an educational website calledwww.CondoHOAinfo.com. “It’s a nonstop process of building trust and maintaining trust,” Hohman says. “You learn to be forgiving of others and forgiving of yourself. You deal with people where they are and as they are. It’s kind of like dealing with your extended family at Thanksgiving.”

“Board members are almost never trained in property management,” says Richard Thompson, who publishes The Regenesis Report, a weekly newsletter for board members and developers. He also writes a syndicated column for Realty Times and just published the book “Trade HOA Stress for Success.”

Professional Management Is Common

He recommends professional management — hiring trained and experienced property managers to oversee operations — for most associations. “If the board hires competent people, they’re going to stay ahead of the curve and not put fires out,” he says. About two-thirds of associations hire professional managers, but the rest are managed by the residents themselves.

Communities are dependent upon the skills and personalities that residents and board members bring to the table. Some people are better than others at working with their neighbors, and residents with poor people skills can create problems for everyone, especially if they get on the board.

Experts say that communications and transparency — being very clear about where the money goes, welcoming residents and board meetings and sharing information about how decisions are made — go a long way toward building community harmony. “There is no substitution for communication between the association and the residents,” Rathbun says.

How to Get Along

  • Know the rules before you move in. Too few prospective residents understand the rules before they buy or rent. It’s particularly important to be able to live with policies on pets, parking, collection, rentals, noise and architectural guidelines. “Folks buy into a homeowner association without any clue of what they’re obligated to do,” Thompson says. “Few prospective buyers research these things before they close the deal.”
  • Follow proper procedures. Boards should set up clear procedures for everything from getting permission to paint your front door to rental applications to installing a satellite dish, and homeowners should expect to follow those procedures.
  • Go to your neighbor before you go to the board. The board is there to make sure the rules and regulations of the development are followed, but if your neighbor’s loud music annoys you, talk to your neighbor first before taking your complaint to the HOA board.
  • If you don’t like a rule, get your neighbors together to change it.Changing circumstances may make some rules outmoded, and boards should review the rules every few years to make sure they’re all serving the community. If you don’t like a rule, talk to your neighbors and petition the board collectively for a change.
  • Volunteer to help your community. It’s not always evident from the outside what work the board of directors is doing and what issues the community faces. Once you move in, volunteer to help with a project or serve on a committee, and expect to serve on the board at some point. “Get involved. Don’t wait until you’re dissatisfied about something,” Rathbun says.
  • Try to stay out of court. Every community has a few people who think the rules don’t apply to them, and some would rather fight than comply. A court battle can be costly, both in money and in emotional turmoil within the community. “Win, lose or draw, we are still talking about neighbors who have this bigger wall between them,” Thompson says. Adds Rathbun: “Be reasonable: That applies to both the homeowners and the volunteer homeowners who serve on the board.”
  • Have a long-range plan. State laws regarding reserves and planning vary, but it always makes sense to plan for items you know will have to bereplaced or repaired, such as roads, roofs and pools. If the community has no reserves and no plan, a roof leak at a condominium complex could mean a surprise assessment of thousands of dollars for each homeowner. “If the board had been collecting money and planning for this … every member along the timeline would have been paying some portion,” Thompson says.

How to Successfully Live Under a Homeowners Association

Row of Houses
If you buy a condominium, townhouse or single-family home in a newer development, you’re likely to become a member of a community association.

About 20 percent of Americans live in a community governed by a condo association, homeowners association or co-op board, according to the Community Associations Institute, which educates volunteer board members and association management professionals. The number of communities covered by associations has grown to more than 333,000 today from about 10,000 in 1970.

Community associations come with rules that determine everything from the number of pets you can own to what color you can paint your front door. Some include amenities such as pools, clubhouses and golf courses, while others provide services such as road maintenance and streetlights.

The associations are set up by developers and then turned over to a volunteer board of homeowners once all the units in the development are sold. Those volunteers are responsible for making sure facilities are maintained, collectingmaintenance dues and enforcing the rules. “This is the ultimate form of democracy,” says Frank Rathbun, vice president of communications for the institute.

Satisfied — or Not?

While stories of homeowners associations that deny permission for kids with cancer to build a playhouse or veterans to fly a flag on the wrong kind of pole may steal the headlines, institute statistics show that 64 percent of residents are satisfied with their community association experience and 26 percent are neutral, with only 10 percent dissatisfied, according to a 2014 survey.

But the same survey shows that almost a quarter of residents have experienced a significant disagreement with their association, with landscaping and parking being the two most common causes, followed by finances and architectural issues.

Whether you like or hate the rules that come with community association life, once you’ve bought or rented in an association, you’ve signed on. Being a member of an association ties your fate to your neighbors’ in ways that living in a traditional subdivision doesn’t. “You have to overcome that ‘my home is my castle’ issue,” Rathbun says.

Property Values, Property Values, Property Values

Rules are designed to protect property values, and 70 percent of the respondents in the CAI survey believe they do, while 26 percent believe they make no difference. Disagreements over which rules are required to protect property values often leads to conflicts that can cost residents both time and money if they’re handled poorly.

“People ought to know that being in a condo is a give-and-take kind of thing,” says Patrick Hohman, author of “Condos Townhomes and Home Owner Associations: How to Make Your Investment Safer” and a longtime volunteer board member who is now a part-time, on-site manager at a condominium near Louisville, Kentucky. He also runs an educational website calledwww.CondoHOAinfo.com. “It’s a nonstop process of building trust and maintaining trust,” Hohman says. “You learn to be forgiving of others and forgiving of yourself. You deal with people where they are and as they are. It’s kind of like dealing with your extended family at Thanksgiving.”

“Board members are almost never trained in property management,” says Richard Thompson, who publishes The Regenesis Report, a weekly newsletter for board members and developers. He also writes a syndicated column for Realty Times and just published the book “Trade HOA Stress for Success.”

Professional Management Is Common

He recommends professional management — hiring trained and experienced property managers to oversee operations — for most associations. “If the board hires competent people, they’re going to stay ahead of the curve and not put fires out,” he says. About two-thirds of associations hire professional managers, but the rest are managed by the residents themselves.

Communities are dependent upon the skills and personalities that residents and board members bring to the table. Some people are better than others at working with their neighbors, and residents with poor people skills can create problems for everyone, especially if they get on the board.

Experts say that communications and transparency — being very clear about where the money goes, welcoming residents and board meetings and sharing information about how decisions are made — go a long way toward building community harmony. “There is no substitution for communication between the association and the residents,” Rathbun says.

How to Get Along

  • Know the rules before you move in. Too few prospective residents understand the rules before they buy or rent. It’s particularly important to be able to live with policies on pets, parking, collection, rentals, noise and architectural guidelines. “Folks buy into a homeowner association without any clue of what they’re obligated to do,” Thompson says. “Few prospective buyers research these things before they close the deal.”
  • Follow proper procedures. Boards should set up clear procedures for everything from getting permission to paint your front door to rental applications to installing a satellite dish, and homeowners should expect to follow those procedures.
  • Go to your neighbor before you go to the board. The board is there to make sure the rules and regulations of the development are followed, but if your neighbor’s loud music annoys you, talk to your neighbor first before taking your complaint to the HOA board.
  • If you don’t like a rule, get your neighbors together to change it.Changing circumstances may make some rules outmoded, and boards should review the rules every few years to make sure they’re all serving the community. If you don’t like a rule, talk to your neighbors and petition the board collectively for a change.
  • Volunteer to help your community. It’s not always evident from the outside what work the board of directors is doing and what issues the community faces. Once you move in, volunteer to help with a project or serve on a committee, and expect to serve on the board at some point. “Get involved. Don’t wait until you’re dissatisfied about something,” Rathbun says.
  • Try to stay out of court. Every community has a few people who think the rules don’t apply to them, and some would rather fight than comply. A court battle can be costly, both in money and in emotional turmoil within the community. “Win, lose or draw, we are still talking about neighbors who have this bigger wall between them,” Thompson says. Adds Rathbun: “Be reasonable: That applies to both the homeowners and the volunteer homeowners who serve on the board.”
  • Have a long-range plan. State laws regarding reserves and planning vary, but it always makes sense to plan for items you know will have to bereplaced or repaired, such as roads, roofs and pools. If the community has no reserves and no plan, a roof leak at a condominium complex could mean a surprise assessment of thousands of dollars for each homeowner. “If the board had been collecting money and planning for this … every member along the timeline would have been paying some portion,” Thompson says.