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.


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