The Pros of Joining Your Condo or Co-op Board

by Michele Lerner

Early in 2010, UrbanTurf ran a two-part series on the joys and pains of becoming a member of the condo or co-op board in your building. Here is the first installment and look for the second next week.

Originally published on January 10, 2010

The Pros of Joining Your Condo or Co-op Board: Figure 1

In the initial excitement of homeownership, many condo and co-op owners consider attending monthly condo board meetings with the idea of becoming active board members. Most experienced condo dwellers will warn against blithely walking into a board meeting, having learned that the thirst for new volunteer blood can lead to a feeding frenzy from committee heads eager to replace themselves.

“If you show interest in getting involved, be careful, because you could be elected president as I was,” a condo owner in Kalorama told UrbanTurf. “And then no one will volunteer to run against you, so you are stuck in the position.”

While this responsibility may discourage some from getting involved, it also comes with the ability to have a say in the way your building is managed and the decisions that are made.

Richard Levy, a former board member at The Lawrence in Columbia Heights, liked the idea of having a say in the way management decisions affected the future of his building.

“Being on the board means you have control over what gets done and what the priorities are,” he said. “I appreciated the sense that I could get things done my way versus a board that might do things differently.”

Levy noted that even though board members are the ones making decisions for the building, it is important to vet any perk or perceived benefit with the rest of the board.

In addition to the decision making, being on the board means that you get an insider’s view of the building’s financials.

“One of the most interesting aspects of serving on the condo board is learning the budget of the building and seeing why condo fees are needed and how they are allotted each month to things like employees, utilities, bulk trash pick-ups, hallway light bulbs, snow removal, et cetera,” the Kalorama resident told UrbanTurf.

She also appreciated the ability to have input into decisions that could improve the value of the units in the building, and learning why major improvements such as repointing brick, repairing the roof and modernizing the elevator matter over the long run.

Other condo board members that UrbanTurf interviewed mentioned picking up skills that could help them in other aspects of life, including learning how to use the famed “Roberts Rules of Order” to control a meeting and working with the varied, sometimes wild personalities who show up at meetings.

Perhaps the best reason to get involved on the board, especially if you are new to the building or the neighborhood, is the chance to meet your neighbors and develop friendships. Despite the sometimes volatile nature of condo board meetings, plenty of long-term relationships have resulted from people working together to improve their community. One board member mentioned that a nice benefit of the board is “having someone thank you on the elevator or at the mailboxes for your service.”

See other articles related to: dclofts, condo buying, condo board

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_pros_of_joining_your_condo_or_co-op_board/1668


  1. anon said at 9:19 pm on Monday January 11, 2010:
    Be warned -- you also become the scapegoat for everything that goes wrong in the building, and the recipient of recrimination when fees inevitably go up. That's the real lesson from serving on a condo board. Every owner should serve at least one term to understand and accept this reality and just deal with it. Ideally every prospective buyer's condo papers would contain the following: "due to inflationary pressues, maintenance costs and captial expenses, you will experience regular increases in HOA fees over time. Sign and initial here to acknowledge that you've read and understood this statement."
  1. Janson said at 1:13 am on Tuesday January 12, 2010:
    What's really remarkable is how much a good board will influence the quality of life, finances, and investment return of a condo. Boards that run condos well are rare, but the returns, especially in a building with 10 or fewer units, are definitely there for an owner willing to invest an hour a week on the building. By reviewing and rebidding contracts, understanding structural maintenance, and not folding on every resident's demand for improvements in personal areas, our board has had no dues hikes in five years and has increased the reserve rate to 35% from 10% three years ago. With the major capital improvements behind us we'll be getting into improving amenities soon and possibly reducing dues. It's very satisfying!
  1. Dan said at 7:27 pm on Wednesday January 20, 2010:
    While I can see the logic in wanting all owners take some responsibility and join the board at least once for experience, it's not something I would recommend. You don't want to have 'one issue' members that have a self serving agenda or those with apathy 'join' to perform their duty. Chaos ensues and you're left battling to do not only the primary goals for the betterment of all members for the community, but one of getting off track altogether. Having these individuals 'volunteer' on projects may be a better solution; something that they may not be able to undermine. And don't forget to delegate so you're not the only one doing the work.

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