Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Family and Condo Woes

Next Holiday Please:  Now that Halloween is over, we are trying to figure out the plan for Thanksgiving.  We are hosting this year and Nightingale's parents (Cartwrights) will visit and stay with us.  We are also trying to talk the Adamas into coming down for a 2nd Thanksgiving that Saturday.  And if flights are cheap enough, perhaps SIL#2 can fly in that Friday as well.

When this family is more functional than yours
So the only issue then is my side of the family.  I want to invite them over because they haven't seen the new house yet.  There just wasn't a good weekend all summer to try and fit it in and I figure this is as good a time as any since we are driving to Michigan for Christmas.  The only catch?  Most of the family doesn't want to be around my mom.

She certainly has earned their wrath with her attitude and toxic behavior.  Still, I'd think they could suck it up for a few hours and come hang out with us in the name of "family" during the holidays.  It's kinda a shame that my family is this way, though I know we aren't the only family like this.  I have two cousins from another branch who I never see because they live out of state.  I suspect they did their best to get as far away from their parents as possible.

Meanwhile, back at the Condo:  Last winter we would get emails from Kesha, the poor lady who does all the hard work of running the CA Condo Association President asking people to pitch in with snow removal.  Like most of the chores of a self-managed association, a small subset of owners actually pitch in while the others -- mostly the ones who no longer live in the building -- skirt their obligations to help out.  I will go on the record here that in my decade plus of living there I'm probably just slightly above average for pitching in.  It should be noted that not a lot of effort was organized until Kesha took over.

Anywho, to avoid the surprise guilt trip emails this year, I sent out an email to the group suggesting that we do something very crazy, like be proactive about snow removal.  Snow, I reasoned, usually comes every winter here in the Midwest City of  Chicago.  I pitched two options:
  1. Engage a snow removal service and pay for it with a temporary increase in association fees, or if costs are tight...
  2. We take the 13 weeks between Dec and March and every condo owner pick a week.  If it snows during your week, you are responsible for removing the snow.  If it doesn't snow, you won the winter lottery.
Pretty straight forward.  Now I know you probably think everyone jumped on the brilliance of these ideas and wanted to get started right away.  Au contraire mon ami.  There was the typical resistance with a twist of WTF.  One owner actually wrote:

"I think it's a great idea but I don't live there either and will be hard with a bad snow fall for me to make it over in time to clear.. I hope we can work it out without raising the assessment.. Let me know what I can do.."

Hmm, let's see.  You don't want to pay more money but you don't want to figure out how to get to the condo 1 week out of 13 for your turn to shovel.  Maybe magical bunnies can come over and shovel for you.  What can you do?  Maybe adjust  your outlook on life to realize that everything has a cost associated with it whether it's an actual cash disbursement to a Snow Removal Service or your time and effort to shelp over to the condo you own and shovel the snow.
What do you mean bad snow?

I did send a second email answering questions and asking if anyone had a better idea to please speak up.  I suspect yahoo, gmail and all the other ISP must have gone offline because of the responses since no one has said boo since.  After all,  as Nightingale pointed out, I called everyone out on being negligent and uninvolved and put them on the spot by suggesting we plan in advance. 

The problem in our Lord of the Flies run Shangri-La is that owners are at different places in their life.  When you live in the building you have a more vested interest in taking care of it.  When you don't, it's hard to make the effort to get over there.  But it’s more than that. 

I'd say half the people want to pay for services like lawn care, common area cleaning and snow removal.  Or I should say they feel their assessment should cover that because it did when they first bought into the place.  The problems with that is that 1) it was over 10 years ago and guess what kiddos, prices do go up over time, and 2) I'm not quite certain that our costs were budgeted correctly in those early days.

FWIW I’m not one of the Originals that bought in the building, rather I'm the second owner of my unit, like the majority of the other owners.  Among the First Ones, only two still reside in the building.   The rest have moved out and are renting  their places until that long lost friend The Market returns.  I think there are one or two Originals who specifically bought as an investment property and either never lived here at all or moved out after the first year because you could easily buy more property during the boom years.

Alas, the mentality is pretty interesting.  The same people who don't want to increase the assessment also want to wait until the market returns such that they can make back every penny they spent on the place.  The ones who bought before I  did got in on the ground floor and after a decade, really out to be able to sell their place today.  They won't get the asking price they paid, but it really ought to be enough to cover whatever they owe the bank.  But their thinking is along the lines of "I bought Sears stock at $50 a share that's now $25.  If I just wait long enough it will come back to $50."

I will really be surprised to see how this works out.  Kesha and I are soliciting quotes from Snow Removal Services but I suspect that we'll end up just like last year with people suddenly being out of town when the call for shoveling comes.  Because collectively, our association has all the foresight of Ray Charles in a snow storm.

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