Posts Tagged ‘Inhouse Corporation’

Inhouse Corporation: Our 25th Year

July 28, 2014

Celebrating  25 Years of Service

(Image Credit: Inhouse Corporation)

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AS WE ENTER OUR TWENTY-FIFTH YEAR OF SERVICE we are proud to look back at our accomplishments. Its a track record that includes non-subsidized affordable homeownership, manufactured/ modular homes, real estate broker services, multi-family/ commercial property management as well as the creation and operation of residential cooperatives for modest income households.

Among the entities we’ve assisted are municipalities, government agencies, investors, landlords and residents/ tenants with administrative services, management, consulting, research, training and mentoring for all sorts of issues, problems, questions and day-to-day routines as they relate to housing and income properties.

Although New York is our home state, as internet technology has grown over the years so too has our ability to render many of our services online to virtually all corners of the state. And we’ve even taken assignments in other areas on a case-by-case basis. Yet our philosophy remains the same — we don’t try gaining business by cutting friendly personal attention, reducing value or sacrificing quality to our existing clients. We build our firm one client at a time. Its probably one reason many remain clients for years.

Many thanks to all our friends, clients and business associates who helped us to reach this point.

We look forward to working with you and making new friends and clients during the next twenty-five years.

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Need consulting, coaching or problem troubleshooting regarding other single-family or multi-family housing issues? We’ll be pleased to help you. Visit us at the Inhouse Corporation website or contact us at inhouseco@aol.com

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Blog Terms of Use and Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to promote awareness and general discussion of the presented topic. Use of this blog shall be the reader’s agreement this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified professional and each action that may be taken shall be under the specific guidance and oversight and/or performance of a professional qualified in the subject matter. If you have a question or want assistance with a featured or related matter please contact us at InhouseCo@aol.com (include the blog article title on the subject line). Links, references and credits in this blog are for convenience only and are not endorsements by the author or Inhouse Corporation. Statements and/or opinions of guest authors may or may not reflect those of Inhouse Corporation.

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Improving Non-Subsidized Affordable Home Ownership

February 22, 2014

2014-02-22 - Home Affordability

Affordable Housing and Home Ownership   

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IN THE SLOWLY RECEDING WAKE OF FORECLOSURES, AFFORDABLE HOME OWNERSHIP continues to inch along an uneven path. The stubbornly sluggish economy and tighter lending practices have had many opting to rent rather than buy and its a situation that is more than just an interesting phenomenon in housing trends.

Most jurisdictions actively seek substantial levels of home ownership as one significant factor that helps stabilize neighborhoods. In fact, there are numerous benefits to folks owning their homes, not only for society in general but also for the homeowner and the homeowner’s household. In 2012 those benefits were documented through the research and reporting of the National Association of Realtors (http://www.realtor.org/sites/default/files/social-benefits-of-stable-housing-2012-04.pdf).

However, this blog article will not recount all the positive attributes of homeownership. And for now, at least, we’ll avoid any debates about taxpayer dollars subsidizing affordable housing (also known as worker class housing) or the bias some affluent neighborhoods may have against worker class housing. Instead, we’ll focus on and acknowledge the value of home ownership that has been and is formally demonstrated in specialized low-income state loan programs and municipal affordable housing projects that are underwritten with tax money in an effort to extend the American Dream to many folks of modest means.

With home ownership being important enough to warrant such governmental affordable home programs, rather than just relying on tax money, especially during anemic economic times, shouldn’t legislators take actions that better ensure private sector affordability whenever possible? It certainly seems the logical and fiscally prudent way to go. And it would free those funds for other needed purposes. Yet, for whatever reasons, some jurisdictions impose taxes and unique regulations on manufactured housing—a viable form of non-subsidized private sector affordable home ownership currently available (see our January 26, 2014 blog posting entitled Manufactured Housing: A Reputation Revisited). So let’s take a look at this situation in New York, our base state.

Manufactured homes here are technically categorized as personal property (chattel), as opposed to traditional “stick-built” housing being real property. The chattel category includes all personal items such as vehicles, boats, tools and all other objects not deemed real property (real estate, land). As chattel, obtaining long-term manufactured home purchase financing through conventional mortgages is a challenge, if possible at all.

Excluding modular homes from this discussion, the cost for a new manufactured home is often thirty percent (30%) to fifty-five percent (55%) less per square foot than traditional housing (depending on the actual location). Hence, for the most part they are inherently more affordable as a housing purchase option.

But that affordability is undermined. Like other chattel, a new manufactured home is subject to sales tax, but unlike other chattel, once the home is installed it is also subject to real property taxes as well. No other form of housing is known to be subjected to sales and property taxes, a factor that makes such housing less affordable.

Further, municipalities have been known to adopt restrictive zoning codes on manufactured homes that frequently prevent them being placed on private parcels. As a result most are placed in multi-family manufactured home communities, which in most cases yield an arrangement where the individual owns the manufactured home but rents (leases) the site upon which the home rests. Such communities are operated under municipal permits that require periodic renewals, sometimes as often as once per year. Each renewal usually entails payment of a fee. Again, other multi-family residences don’t have this requirement or expense, the cost of which is often proportionately passed along to the homeowner through site rent.

And then the entirety of manufactured home communities are subjected to annual health department inspections in order to obtain the required annual operating permit from that department. This permit is in addition to compliance with whatever conditions the building department  may impose in a particular municipality, it carries its own annual fee and yes, other multi-family properties don’t have this annual health department mandate or expense. This cost is also proportionately paid by the homeowners.

Comparatively, in many municipalities if an inspection is conducted in an apartment building the building department typically does it on a particular unit when a complaint is filed or, depending on the involved municipal code, before a new tenant moves into vacant unit.

In the end, the effect of such regulations and tax further reduce the limited purchasing power of folks with modest incomes thereby preventing or making more difficult their ability to be homeowners. In the case of manufactured housing, what should be a significant resource for non-subsidized private sector affordable housing and home ownership is rendered less so.

Considering the favorable aspects of home ownership, removing or restricting barriers to affordability would be a needed change for the better.

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Need coaching, training or problem troubleshooting regarding the foregoing or other housing issues? Visit us at the Inhouse Corporation website or contact us at inhouseco@aol.com

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Blog Terms of Use and Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to promote awareness and general discussion of the presented topic. Use of this blog shall be the reader’s agreement this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified professional and each action that may be taken shall be under the specific guidance and oversight and/or performance of a professional qualified in the subject matter. If you have a question or want assistance with a featured or related matter please contact us at InhouseCo@aol.com (include the blog article title on the subject line). Links, references and credits in this blog are for convenience only and are not endorsements by the author or Inhouse Corporation.

A Co-Op Nightmare: When Conflict Rules, Part 3

February 15, 2014

Conflict, many persons

Conflict: When a cooperative divides.

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SOME SHAREHOLDERS ALSO FEEL THEY DON’T NEED TRAINING, after all they just need to pay occupancy charges on time and comply with the cooperative documents, right? No … not exactly.

While its true occupancy/ maintenance charges must be paid and there must be compliance with the cooperative documents, our work shows most shareholders either have little specific knowledge of those documents or forgot what they contain. The cooperative certificate of incorporation, bylaws, rules and regulations and occupancy agreements (proprietary leases) are often an unread series of mysteries.

Of course, we are not suggesting shareholders have intimate knowledge of every last detail in that paperwork, especially since it can be overwhelmingly voluminous. But at a minimum they should have a basic, if imprecise, understanding and familiarity with the documents sufficient to optimistically search for and locate relevant passages that address particular cooperative situations as needed.

Knowing the ropes can alleviate a sense of helplessness shareholders sometimes experience. Not knowing why certain tasks and responsibilities are necessary or the reasons for board actions can make them feel, rightly or wrongly, that they deliberately are kept in the dark. Moreover, if there is a lack of adequate communication between the board and shareholders that feeling can substantially magnify. Circumstances may veer out of control when shareholders perceive themselves as powerless and having  little to lose by venting their frustration as board meeting disruptions or circulating unverified rumors and allegations that can be hurtful to the cooperative, other shareholders and/or board members.

Such an environment is fertilizer for shareholder discontent and turmoil despite the fact that shareholders as a group typically hold the real power within a cooperative—and shareholders can exercise that power when they correctly employ the appropriate procedures usually provided within the cooperative structure. If a board overtly or covertly believes there is a benefit to have shareholders floundering in their efforts to make changes or have grievances redressed, that board should quickly reconsider that position. A suitably trained board would realize a cooperative is designed to be a democratically run organization in which every shareholder in good standing has a voice, a vote and energetically participates in the efficient operations of the cooperative.

Ironically, we find the more stable cooperatives are those that adhere to cooperative principles, are transparent and aggressively ensure continual communication with shareholders. Those boards proactively seek ways to create incentives that encourage shareholder participation at all meetings, on committees and at social events. Such activities boost shareholders’ realization that they truly have a stake in their cooperatives’ success which, in turn, fosters an ownership interest in the cooperative and thereby aids in dispelling the harmful “landlord versus tenant” temperament that too many mistakenly embrace in the co-op setting.

Moreover, filling a seat on the board should not be a lifetime activity for any person. Ideally every shareholder should serve on the board of directors at some point. This would give each of them the hands-on experience of knowing the challenging difficulties a board encounters and strives to deal with on a regular basis … hopefully portraying the board and shareholders are on the same side.

Consequently, appropriate shareholder training would impart or restore the basic understanding of a cooperative, explain the gains derived from participation in all activities and show shareholders how to responsibly and respectfully employ such authorities as are given them in the cooperative documents. It would also help them understand their obligations as well as those of the board. All of which often quells or reduces the conflicts, disagreements and organizational gridlock that can grip less transparent co-ops.

All in all, effective training establishes the platform on which a successful co-op can be built.

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Need coaching, training or problem troubleshooting? Visit us at the Inhouse Corporation website or contact us at inhouseco@aol.com

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Blog Terms of Use and Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to promote awareness and general discussion of the presented topic. Use of this blog shall be the reader’s agreement this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified professional and each action that may be taken shall be under the specific guidance and oversight and/or performance of a professional qualified in the subject matter. If you have a question or want assistance with a featured or related matter please contact us at InhouseCo@aol.com (include the blog article title on the subject line). Links, references and credits in this blog are for convenience only and are not endorsements by the author or Inhouse Corporation.

A Co-Op Nightmare: When Conflict Rules, Part 2

February 9, 2014

Conflict, many persons

Conflict: When a cooperative divides.

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SO WHAT CAN BE DONE TO AVOID CONFLICT IN THE FIRST PLACE? We have yet to find the one remedy that works in every situation. Differing situations typically require differing variations of cure. However, there are actions that should be implemented in all cases to proactively help reduce conflicts and diminish their severity when they do take place.

Experience shows disagreements between residential cooperative shareholders and their boards of directors are frequently rooted in misconceptions and misunderstandings, which seemingly result from something many co-op boards seem to dismiss too readily: Training — regular specific training for the board, co-op officers and shareholders. Consequently we’ll begin to look at training.

Too often we find a co-op views training as an unnecessary expense or needless luxury … and we’ve heard most, if not all, of the so-called rationale reasons to avoid it: The board has an attorney and knows what to do; shareholders don’t need training; its a waste of time; we already do what’s right; no one will attend; etcetera, etcetera.

Unfortunately, reality frequently paints a contrasting picture.  Many times board members have little or no background in business (yes, a residential cooperative is a business), have an incomplete knowledge of applicable co-op and housing laws, and may be unfamiliar with the corporate documents to be enforced. This is not a criticism but rather an observation that underscores proper board training can be beneficial and open opportunities for each board member to give his/her best efforts in service to the cooperative.

Yet, beyond other responsibilities involving legal, operational and residential aspects of the cooperative, the board needs to be a driving force for unifying and keeping co-op members on the same page. Like any group, a cooperative is most effective when everyone pulls in the same direction. It’s no easy task and is a never-ending work in progress. Even for the cooperative that does provide occasional board training, we’ve found new board members under the impression their only task is to attend board meetings. While attendance at meetings is necessary, newbies and veteran members alike often have no clear or full idea what is expected of them, what their authority is or what comprises their responsibilities. For example, some board members are shocked to learn they typically have a fiduciary duty to the cooperative–that is, placing the interests of the cooperative ahead of his/ her own personal interests.

When a board is in this situation it flies by the seat of its pants, generating decisions that can easily become inconsistent (or worse) and cause confusion that can leave the cooperative vulnerable to strife as well as potential liability. Without understanding their roles there is an absence of focus or a straightforward vision, and without focus inadvertent inconsistencies are likely to follow. When it occurs such erratic behavior tends to ferment uncertainty for shareholders, who may see it as whims that fluctuate according to who is involved and the prevailing mood. By itself this type of climate yields a fertile ground for uneasiness that can turn into shouting matches at board meetings or divide shareholders into factional camps. But if this situation is coupled with a lack of adequate two-way communication between the board and shareholders, it starts to get nasty with rumors and accusations running amuck.

This is especially true when the board needs to enforce rules against shareholders.  When the board interprets a rule one way for a violator then interprets it another way for a different person, anyone who is treated more harshly may feel “picked on” or singled out, an event that can turn ugly very quickly.

So, the very first thing to consider for smooth cooperative operation is proper training for the board and its officers, which can be two different types of training sessions. If both types of training are not provided on a regular basis, at least once every two to three years, they should be.

Certainly, each cooperative shareholder should be grateful for every person who serves as a board member. But what should be gratitude can be rapidly replaced with contempt, and it can happen even more quickly without the guidance and focus of training. Indeed, when the cost of training could be a bargain when compared to the stress and burdensome expense of dealing with these difficulties.

More next time.

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Need help with training or problem troubleshooting? Visit us at the Inhouse Corporation website or contact us at inhouseco@aol.com

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Blog Terms of Use and Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to promote awareness and general discussion of the presented topic. Use of this blog shall be the reader’s agreement that at no time will the reader rely upon or act upon anything contained or implied in this blog and that any and all actions that may be taken shall be under the specific guidance and oversight and/or performance of a professional qualified in the subject matter. If you have a question or want assistance with a featured or related matter please contact us at InhouseCo@aol.com (include the blog article title on the subject line). Links, references and credits in this blog are for convenience only and are not endorsements by the author or Inhouse Corporation.

A Co-Op Nightmare: When Conflict Rules, Part 1

February 2, 2014

Conflict, many persons

Conflict: When a cooperative divides.

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                                                                                Go To Inhouse WebSite

WHENEVER WE’RE ASKED TO ASSIST WITH RESOLVING RESIDENTIAL COOPERATIVE complaints and instances of noncooperation we generally see fingers pointing in all directions: From shareholders towards their board of directors and property managers; from the board or manager towards shareholders; and/or from one group of shareholders to another.

How can this be? With the very term “cooperative” suggesting folks will cooperate, what causes the breakdown? Unfortunately there may be many factors at play, meaning identification of the culprits can be a tricky undertaking. An organizational division can stem from almost anything if not properly handled and even then it may still occur. Examples are: A seemingly inconsequential two-neighbor spat that grows to encompass the community; the effect of no regular purposeful interaction between the board as an entity and shareholders as individuals; board members or officers who are not properly trained to perform their tasks; or shareholders who aren’t taught ways they may participate in and monitor cooperative operations.

Since complaints against a board appear more commonplace, though not always deserved, we’ll begin with that aspect here. In other writings we’ll look at problems some boards have with shareholders as well as problems that occur when shareholders take sides.

Overall, if a cooperative board does not conduct its affairs openly (except for executive session items), if it doesn’t endeavor to generate shareholder interest in and contributions to operational matters (interaction), and if it isn’t aggressive in assuring a steady flow of accurate communication with shareholders, there is little, if any, transparency of cooperative business. Since shareholders are generally entitled to have this information, lack of transparency should be expected to cause  negative speculation (gossip) that likely translates into suspicion which, in turn, could ignite a slow-burning distrust that incubates just under the surface, covertly evolving into shareholder noncooperation, and complaints to the board as well as to governmental authorities. Moreover, distrust can flare into serious disruptions of cooperative business that may seem to have no basis, though usually do, or it may explode into lawsuits.

Naturally, none of the foregoing dismisses the possibility of legitimate grounds for a complaint. The problem is taking the time to find it objectively and avoid jumping to premature conclusions, especially when its embedded in misperception or distortion. Taking action on wrong information can make the situation worse, perhaps much worse, but not seeking to resolve it in a deliberate and timely manner may lead to other consequences. For these reasons the process can be painstaking but if conducted properly, implementing findings that are produced can offer an opportunity to restore and improve cooperative relationships and efficiency … provided, of course, all parties are genuinely willing to accept indicated reform. If the matter polarized or became encrusted in spite, bias or personality conflict it becomes increasingly involved and may be more difficult to correct, though the prospect of a fruitful outcome should make the effort worthwhile.

So what can be done to help avoid such occurrences in the first place? We’ll discuss this next time in part 2 of this article.

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To go to the Inhouse Corporation website click here or contact us at inhouseco@aol.com

Blog Terms of Use and Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to promote awareness and general discussion of the presented topic. Use of this blog shall be the reader’s agreement that at no time will the reader rely upon or act upon anything contained or implied in this blog and that any and all actions that may be taken shall be under the specific guidance and oversight and/or performance of a professional qualified in the subject matter. If you have a question or want assistance with a featured or related matter please contact us at InhouseCo@aol.com (include the blog article title on the subject line). Links, references and credits in this blog are for convenience only and are not endorsements by the author or Inhouse Corporation.

Manufactured Housing: A Reputation Revisited

January 26, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Street scene of properly managed manufactured home community (Inhouse Corporation photo).

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WHENEVER  A MANUFACTURED HOME COMMUNITY is mentioned what does your mind perceive? Is it a decent place where folks of modest means can affordably own a home and enjoy a plot of land, or is it a ramshackle and rundown collection of “trailers” sitting amid weeds within an arm’s length of each other?

Although most folks have become more familiar with manufactured homes and manufactured home communities, some of the old negative stereotypes and misconceptions still seem to persist — as was evidenced during a recent discussion with other real estate agents. Some of those agents convey a sense that such homes do not standup well and decline in value while their communities deteriorate to unflattering conditions. They speak in terms that imply the homes themselves are to blame.

To be sure, such misperceptions have been addressed by manufactured home representatives numerous times in the past. So we’ll just briefly touch upon these issues here.

Despite being built to the same construction codes, are there manufactured homes of good to excellent quality? Yes, indeed. And are there manufactured homes of lesser quality? Yes, of course. But on the flip side of that same coin are there not stick-built homes of good to excellent quality while some stick-built homes have lesser quality … even though they are all fashioned under the same building code? Yup.

So why should manufactured homes be viewed as though the structures themselves are devilishly possessed by some monstrous intent to unnaturally force their own deterioration? Obviously, they should not be. If the owner of any structure does not maintain it, the structure degrades whether it is manufactured or stick-built.

Moreover, with all other factors being favorable, whether a structure is manufactured or stick-built if it is properly maintained it will either keep or increase its value.

Similar rationale should be applied to manufactured home communities. After all, if an apartment complex falls into disrepair most folks blame its management for the problem. The same should be true if a crumbling manufactured home community is encountered. It is not the homes within that community causing the trouble. Most times it is the lack of appropriate property management.

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To go to the Inhouse Corporation website click here or contact us at inhouseco@aol.com

Blog Terms of Use and Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to promote awareness and general discussion of the presented topic. Use of this blog shall be the reader’s agreement that at no time will the reader rely upon or act upon anything contained or implied in this blog and that any and all actions that may be taken shall be under the specific guidance and oversight and/or performance of a professional qualified in the subject matter. If you have a question or want assistance with a featured or related matter please contact us at InhouseCo@aol.com (include the blog article title on the subject line). Links, references and credits in this blog are for convenience only and are not endorsements by the author or Inhouse Corporation.

Credit Score: When Closing Accounts May Go Wrong

January 19, 2014

2014-01-18 - Credit App Review
Inhouse Corporation photo. See Disclaimer below.  

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Not too long ago we helped unravel a situation worth mentioning: If you will soon apply to rent (or purchase) a home, be wary of closing zero balance accounts.

What does this mean? Evidently some prospective tenants with many credit cards believe a landlord rental application review can be improved by “strengthening” their credit reports through consolidation of debts on several credit cards into just one or two cards then closing the others that have a zero balance. Perhaps they think reducing total available credit lines will not only decrease their ability to use credit but also have the converse effect of somehow amplifying the perceived purchasing power of their income. Since their earnings and overall expenses are likely to be stable during the landlord’s review process, at first glimpse  such a thought process may appear appropriate … though in reality an adverse result from account closures is probable and more likely to occur in the near-term.

Of course, having too much available credit for a given amount of income can be a negative factor. But voluntarily closing accounts should be carefully planned. Even if the level of debt remains unchanged, account closures elevate the percentage of debt against the total credit limit, which could have an unfavorable outcome on a credit score. To illustrate the principle involved, let’s look at a hypothetical case.

For simplicity we’ll assume: (i) Mr. Applicant has annual income sufficient for his housing and overall expenses; (ii) his credit card debts total $16,000; (iii) he has two credit cards, each with a credit limit of $15,000; and (iv) he has two more credit cards, each with a credit limit of $10,000. Accordingly, his overall credit limit is $50,000 ($15,000 x 2 = $30,000;  $10,000 x 2 = $20,000;  $30,000 + $20,000 = $50,000). Under this scenario he would be using 32% of his credit lines ($16,000 of debt  / $50,000 overall credit limit  = 32%).

If Mr. Applicant consolidates his credit card debt into the two $15,000 limit credit card accounts, then closes the two $10,000 limit accounts, he would reduce his overall $50,000 credit limit down to $30,000. With this credit limit reduction Mr. Applicant’s use of his credit lines suddenly vaults to 53% ($16,000 of debt / $30,000 overall credit limit = 53%).

Since a credit score is inclined to prefer a low debt percentage (which is often a benchmark less than one-third of the credit limit), if the percentage jumps above the benchmark it may lower a credit score and capture the attention of the landlord, which could strain a rental application review. So if you’re seeking to proactively improve your credit score for a rental or purchase application, or any other reason, you should first talk with and get the advice of your financial advisor or accountant before taking action.

To go to the Inhouse Corporation website click here or contact us at inhouseco@aol.com

Disclaimer: The purposes of this blog are to promote discussion of the presented topic as well as generate general awareness of services that Inhouse Corporation offers. At no time should the reader rely upon or act upon any advice, suggestion, speculation, comment and/or fact that may be stated or implied in this blog without the consent, guidance, oversight and performance of a professional qualified in the subject matter. If you have a question or want assistance with a matter featured in this blog, please contact us at InhouseCo@aol.com (include the blog article title on the subject line). Links, references and credits in this blog are for the informational convenience of the reader only and are not endorsements by the author or Inhouse Corporation.