Group Financing Smart Planning, Smart Spending

Projects, projects, projects – do they ever end!? The short answer is...nope, they sure don’t. 

Whether it is New England, New York, Florida or California, the nature of condominium projects (i.e. roofing, siding, decks, pavement, etc.) is essentially the same. The condominium industry has adopted a 30-year ‘lookout’ when it comes to planning and executing major repair/replacement projects. Unlike a single-family homeowner, who can scramble to find the funds to replace the shingled roof on their house when the time comes, a condominium association should (must!) begin planning for the expenditure when the project shows up on the radar 30 years, or less, down the road. 

A crucial component of knowing how to plan for major upcoming repair/replacements is understanding how long certain key elements – I call them the Big 4 repair items – can be expected to last, and how much they cost, on average,  to replace. The Big 4 are roofs, siding, decks and pavement, and they always dominate the discussion about reserves and construction costs. However, ancillary items such as retaining walls, fencing, swimming pools, tennis courts, septic systems and/or wastewater treatment plants can not be left off the list. This column will focus on typical suburban townhouse construction, but the concept is the same for urban high-rise buildings as well. 

Roofs 

Most townhouse condominium buildings are roofed with asphalt shingles. Up until the 1990s, the vast majority of these buildings were covered with standard, 20-year, three-tab shingles. Most of the time, the two decades of expected life held true, although some defective shingles that found their way into the housing industry resulted in premature replacement on some properties. Over the last 20+ years however, much better and longer-lasting shingles have become commonplace. The newer shingles project to last 30, 40 years or even longer. 

It’s not just about the shingles though; related items (things like ice and water protection, ridge and soffit vents, skylights, gutters, and downspouts, to name a few) all play a role in the scope and pricing of a major roof repair or replacement. For planning purposes, $7 per square-foot starts the discussion – though, of course, the amount varies depending on particulars. And if you are halfway through the projected useful life of your roof(s), hopefully you have half the money needed for a replacement. I have been on many properties where the long-time residents talk about the ‘new’ roofs, only to find out that those ‘new’ roofs are actually 15 years old! Shingle reroofing projects at townhouse condominium complexes regularly run into the millions of dollars. 

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