Reserve Funding 101

A reserve fund is a special account for the long-term repair and replacement of commonly-owned property in a community association.

A good example of this is the roof of a condominium building. All of the unit owners in the building share ownership of the roof. Every 50 or so years, the singles and other items will need to be replaced. The condo association will set aside a specific amount of money each year to go towards replacing/repairing the roof.

When an association plans for a reserve fund, they call on trained experts known as reserve specialists. These assess examine every detail of the association’s common areas to determine their lifespan and condition. They also include factors such as inflation to determine the cost of replacement at the end of the item’s lifespan.

Finally, the last step is to determine how much money the association needs to set aside each year. There are three basic plans for reserve funding: baseline, threshold, and full funding. These determine how prepared the HOA or condo will be when the item’s lifespan is up.

Full funding offers the least amount of risk for owners. With full funding, the replacement item in question will be fully funded by the end of its lifespan. With threshold funding, the association plans to have a certain limit, say 50%, of the item paid for by the end of its lifespan. The up-side to this is cheaper dues. The down-side is that is puts the owners at a greater risk of reaching the end of the item’s lifespan without having the proper funds available to repair or replace it. Finally, baseline funding aims to keep the reserve fund above a $0 balance at the end of the item’s lifespan.

Whichever path the association decides to take, the funds needed are figured in the budget. A portion of the regular assessments paid by homeowners or unit owners goes towards the reserve fund. Some states require associations to maintain a reserve fund by law. Most of the mortgage loans on condos are underwritten by the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA requires that a minimum of 10% of the association’s budget be designated for the reserves. If an association is not allocating at least 10% of its budget, it loses it’s FHA certification. This will almost always have negative consequences for the unit/home values.

Aside from that, who really wants to buy into an association that isn’t planning ahead? That isn’t executing good judgement, and should be a red flag to potential buyers. Adequately maintaining a reserve fund will mean higher assessments over the course of time. However, this is much better than the alternative of a large special assessment. If you community association needs guidance when it comes to reserve funding, trust the financial experts at Clark Simson Miller. We’re not reserve specialists, but we have over 100 years of combined experience in the association management industry. We’ll be glad to schedule a consultation and assess your community’s overall financial health.