Turning Back the Clock

A guide to helping your property look years younger

Is it time for a little Botox or would it be better to have a facelift?  The answer to that question depends on whose face, and whose wallet you’re talking about.  If it is someone else’s face and your wallet Botox will be just fine.  But what if it’s your face and your wallet?  Now the decision gets harder!  (It is also where this analogy ends, as my face is what it is and no amount of Botox or a facelift is going to help).   

The discussion around the table at the HOA Board meeting probably goes something like this:…“Fifteen or twenty years ago, our HOA was the pride of the neighborhood.  We were a fairly new association, our buildings were up-to-date, the landscaping looked great, but now look at us!  This place is not looking so good anymore!  The paint is faded and chipping and the colors are dated.  The landscaping is overgrown and some of the bushes are dying.  Our association really needs to do something about how our buildings and grounds look before our property values start to decline.” The next question frequently is, “What can the association do to enhance and update our appearance without breaking the bank?”

We all look a little worse for the wear than we did 15 or 20 years ago.  So, what will it be – a little ‘building Botox’ or an entire facelift?  The decisions are not always easy when they are our homes and our wallets, but the following suggestions may help.  Some may seem overly simple, but they should not be discounted just because they are simple.  Other suggestions will seem obvious to some, but they may be difficult politically to accomplish. 

Work to make sure that the reserve funds are sufficient and are being properly funded to cover the cost of exterior maintenance so it can be completed when it should be.  If the Board needs to pass an assessment and/or get a loan when it comes time to do regular exterior maintenance work like painting, deck coating, roofing etc. then there could be a tendency to push the project off and delay it for another year or another Board to deal with.  Deferred maintenance always costs more in the long run.   If the reserves are there, the Board can fund the needed maintenance and repairs and the work will be accomplished on time.

Make sure maintenance items such as repainting the buildings, trim or wrought iron and recoating the decks, are performed in accordance with the regular maintenance schedule.  The cost to repaint buildings that have been properly painted and maintained in accordance with a maintenance schedule will be much less expensive.  There will be less damage to the underlying surfaces and it will therefore be easier to repaint than buildings where the surfaces are badly worn and may need a great deal of repair or even replacement before they can be painted.   Adhering to required manufacturers’ maintenance schedules will also protect warranties for certain products such as the deck coating.

Don’t ignore serious issues and think that a good coat of paint will solve all problems.  When it is time to paint, if the above suggestions have been followed, there should not be many serious issues.  However, if the buildings have been neglected and not painted on a regular schedule there may be other more serious issues that will need to be addressed prior to painting.  These issues may include water intrusion, dry rot and/or termite damaged materials.  A coat of paint won’t repair dry rot and contrary to popular belief caulking will not solve all water intrusion issues.   Caulking may resolve a condition temporarily but is seldom the correct solution for a permanent fix.

Should other building and grounds elements or upgrades be considered as part of the maintenance/repair project?  If the goal is to enhance the appearance of the property and maintain it in good condition, maybe it is time to take a serious look at all exterior conditions that impact the properties appearance.   Prior to painting or re-landscaping would be a good time to consider the following renovations: 

  • Landscaping – Landscaping may need to be trimmed back off the buildings so that the painters can access the building to complete the painting process.  This may be a good time to consider replacing some plantings that have aged out, look woody or sparse and are no longer attractive.   It is also a time to change sprinkler heads from spray heads to drip heads so that the new paint won’t have irrigation overspray and will last longer.
  • Garage doors – Are they the old, heavy wood tilt-up doors that consume an inordinate amount of time and money to maintain and are also a safety risk to the owners?  If they are going to be replaced in the near future with sectional doors maybe that should be coordinated prior to repainting the complex so that door colors, new door jambs and trim can be considered. 
  • Light fixtures – New LED fixtures can enhance the beauty of the complex and lower the monthly electrical bill.  Changing out fixtures can easily be done in conjunction with a painting project.
  • Asphalt – When was the last time the asphalt had any maintenance?   As with paint on the buildings, a good slurry coat on the asphalt will not only enhance the look of the property but will prolong the life of the existing asphalt and therefore save the association funds in the long run.
  • Windows/doors – Depending on the age and architecture of the property it might be a good time to replace doors and/or windows.  If the existing windows are single-pane, new dual-pane windows will not only be more attractive but will be much more energy efficient. Depending on the HOA’s CC&Rs this item may take some political effort to accomplish if the windows are considered the individual homeowners’ responsibility.  However, having a uniform look to all windows at the property can make a big difference in the value of the homes.  
  • Roofing – If the building architecture includes sloped roofs, what is the condition of the roofing?  Many times where wood replacement and painting is the original scope of work, damaged fascia board at the roofline means that there may be other roofing problems that needed to be addressed.  Replacing wood fascia can also damage the existing roof and or void warranties or cause roof leaks so proper care and coordination of these interfacing elements is very important.   If the roof has outlived its useful life than certainly it is time to consider replacing it.  There are many attractive roofing options today that will enhance the look of a building.   

Time takes its toll on everything.  Most of us look a little different than we did 15 or 20 years ago; however, if we maintain our bodies with regular checkups, proper diet and exercise, we may be able to avoid major health issues down the road.  Our buildings are quite similar in that with routine and proper maintenance they will last longer and serve us well.  There will come a time when they need a little ‘building Botox’ or a major facelift; however, with proper planning and good decision-making, coupled with quality workmanship, the “new look” will result in something that all homeowners can be proud of and property values will be enhanced.      

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Dennis Brooks is a founder and President of Design Build Associates, a construction management firm serving the HOA industry with offices in Los Angeles and Orange County. 

He can be reached at DennisBrooks@dbuild.com