Monday, January 21, 2008

Filling a Market Niche

There is a posting on Craig's List touting the services of a "TIC Finance Manager."

In our 6-unit building, we decided ten years ago it was too expensive to pay a Management Company to handle our common operational details, which include paying City property taxes, property insurance bills, common area utility bills and (before we fractionally refinanced) the mortgage. Idealistically, in the early years we decided to split up the duties. The property tax bill was sent to one owner, PGE bill to another, and so on. We had a common bank account with six, yep six, names on it.

Needless to say, this was folly. No one owner knew what any other was (or was not) doing. We ended up paying a penalty on our property taxes because the bill was paid late. The bank almost called our loan because our insurance nearly went into default. Checks were lost, payments were in disarray, no one was keeping tabs on what we spent and what we had remaining in reserve. This wasn't the result of malice. It was the consequence of inexperience and the supreme occupational demands that one takes on (sometimes to the exclusion of almost all else) when one faces the financial challenges of owning, renovating and maintaining a home for the first time.

At some point one owner in our building nominated her roommate (not an owner) as a candidate for taking over the job of house finance manager - for a monthly fee, of course. Wisely the rest of the group nixed the idea of handing our bank account over to an outsider. (We were naive but not that naive.) In any case, the roommate moved out three months later, validating our belief that a renter will never have the long-term commitment that an owner does to participating in a TIC.

Thankfully one of our owners decided to quit his job and go back to school. This left him with the extra time necessary to manage the house finances, for which the group paid a nominal fee - a fraction of what a management company or accountant would cost. We put all the bills in this owner's name, and took four of the owners off our bank account, leaving the new house manager and one other owner, who would only step in and write checks in an emergency if our house manager could not. Since then, we have not had any issues with our house finances. (Other than wishing we had more money, of course.)

But every TIC might not have a partner with copious free time and financial organizational skills. Most of us are working hard and managing family obligations and so on. So while I can't endorse any particular service provider, it is interesting to note that the service category "TIC Finance Manager" has appeared on the local radar. If such a person has the right qualifications and is charging a reasonable monthly fee ($100 or less) for the few hours of work per month required, it could be a good deal for some.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Plan C TIC Rally February 6

Plan C and the SF TIC Coalition are organizing a rally on February 6, the day tickets are being pulled in the 2008 Condo Conversion lottery. I encourage all TIC owners to attend and make some noise at City Hall. Here's an excerpt from the announcement.
Please join Plan C and the SF TIC coalition for a rally to support condominium conversion reform! On February 6th the City will hold its annual condominium conversion lottery. This year, we’re using this once-a-year opportunity to show our dissatisfaction with an outdated process that unfairly penalizes first time homeowners!

We'll meet on the City Hall steps starting at 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday, February 6. We'll have Peet's coffee for you - and petitions to reform the lottery process. Just before 9 a.m., we'll walk together to Room 400 where the lottery is held. On the way, we'll also walk to the Board of Supervisors’ offices to leave petitions asking for condo conversion reform.

We need to let City officials know how many of you are waiting patiently through a process that takes too long to complete...With only 200 "winning" units each year, the odds of winning have gotten steadily worse.

Plan C has backed condo conversion reform for a long time, but these efforts have met with failure at City Hall. Why? -- because San Francisco's TIC community has not organized to fight for fair treatment at City Hall. February 6 is an opportunity for you to have your voice heard! Join us at 8:15 on February 6 at City Hall.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Condo Envy

As a TIC owner, do I sometimes feel condo envy? What if I could get a mortgage at a competitive rate instead of being limited to an expensive fractional? What if I lived in a bigger, more anonymous, new building that didn't require haggling over all the maintenance details? Yes, as I've seen The Hayes go up down the block I've been feeling the envy. Silly, perhaps, considering that the square footage at the Hayes is about the same as what I have now at double the price. And particularly silly in light of the fact that all of my envy is based on a tricked out marketing site and no actual show units. The place still looks like shell from the street. When they say early 2008 move-ins does that include running water? Or do you get a hipster squat experience as part of the bargain until they hook up the utilities?.

That's the thing about envy - usually it is based on some delusional, romantic notion. Perhaps the people buying into The Hayes will one day walk past my building and feel a pang of regret that they didn't buy into a historic Edwardian.

75 Lily Street

Looks like a nice renovation - new plumbing, electrical, roof, double pane windows, radiant heating, in-unit washer and dryer - the works. No parking, though, so you have to lease parking or Zipcar it. And from the photos it looks like a shower only in the bath. No tub?

7 Year Itch

I have been a partner in the same TIC since 2000. They say in marriage you hit a 7 year itch. Well I think I'm hitting the 7 year itch point. We have an outdoor staircase in our 100 year old building that needs to be replaced. It is a second means of egress for three of the units in our building. Three other units, on the other side of the building, have a fire escape ladder. Neither of these things conforms with current city code. The fire escape is in good working order; the wooden staircase is a hazard. It seems to me, and most of the partners in the TIC, that repairing the staircase is a no brainer. Why is there always one dissenter who makes things difficult for everyone?

Yes, we have someone in our building bombarding us all with emails that advocate for the removal of the staircase, which would leave three units with back doors to nowhere and no doubt get us in hot water with the City fire safety inspector.

This is a level of ridiculousness that after seven years of negotiating every detail of building management I find hard to take.