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Blog :: 2009

Reston Condo Living, Part Three: Are my condo fees too low??

Coleson Cluster Townhouses Reston VA Lake Anne Area NeighborhoodColeson Cluster Townhouses Reston VA Lake Anne Area NeighborhoodIf you live in a condo where the fees haven't gone up for years, or if you are looking to buy a condo where they are advertising a low condo fee as a "feature" take a closer look. It's likely that the costs of goods and services have not gone down. Try to determine if something isn't happening that should be happening?

When evaluating the financial position of a condominium there are some cost-of-ownership items that don't apply in single-family home ownership. One glaring item is the cost of delinquencies. In today's world of upside down mortgages and foreclosures many condominiums are struggling with a loss of operating revenue (monthly condo fees), due to delinquent condo fee accounts.

Well-managed condos will actually provide an allowance for some percentage of delinquent accounts to insure that they have adequate operating cushion. When looking at a condominium's resale package be sure to look at the dollar amount of delinquent accounts and ask what that number represents as a percentage of the whole.

So what's the upside of condo ownership? In a well-run, well-managed condominium where the Board of Directors takes its responsibility seriously, property values are protected through active maintenance and enhancement of the property. You not only get to enjoy a well maintained property while you live there and you can feel confident about the condition of your property when you go to sell.

Reston Condo Living, Part Two: What are my condo fees paying for anyway?

In a condominium, the fees fund two categories: operating expense and reserve funds. The operating expenses are the monthly costs required for trash, grounds maintenance, and snow removal, administration and condo management.

The reserve funds represent the anticipated cost of replacing and repairing common elements of the property like roofs, sidewalks, and elevators. The amount of money needed in the reserve fund is determined by a study which by law, is undertaken at least every 5 years for the purpose of determining how much money is needed to repair, replace and restore the capital components of the property. Every year condominiums (in Virginia) are required to review their study results and confirm that they are reserving enough money to repair, replace and maintain the property.

Before you choose this form own ownership consider:

  • Condo life involves a lot of governance
  • Well-run condos always include an active membership
  • Some leadership decisions might be unpopular, but ultimately protect the membership from unplanned assessments by insuring that reserves are adequate to meet the expected and unexpected repairs

When looking at condominium ownership, you will have a chance to review a  Resale Package that will include the condominium bylaws, rules and regulations, current financial reports, and audited financial reports. Review these carefully looking for potential problems.Questions to ask should include:

  • What do the audited financial statements say about the reserve funds? Are they adequate?
  • What major projects/repairs are anticipated for the upcoming year?
  • What projects were completed in the prior year?

The other thing to consider is what type of condo environment are you looking at? Is there a Doorman, a Concierge? The cost of people always go up, so if you are looking at a condo with these types of amenities you should expect a slow steady rise in condo fees.

Next week: Are you condo fees too low?

Reston Condo Living, Part One: Are condo fees a total rip off?

While helping a couple narrow down the focus of their Reston home search recently, the husband made a statement that he would never own a condominium because the fees were in his opinion "a total rip-off."

The fees at this Reston Condo cover spectacular community amenities including: Concierge, Dining Rooms, Hot tub, Party Room, Pool, and Spa

The fees at this Reston Condo cover spectacular community amenities including: Concierge, Dining Rooms, Hot tub, Party Room, Pool, and Spa

As a condo dweller active on my condo's Board of Directors for years, I've heard this sentiment on condo fees many times before. So I decided to take the opportunity to talk about the true cost of ownership.

When you own a townhouse or a single family home you understand that sooner or later you will have replace your water heater, roof, windows, siding, appliances. Hopefully you have a financial plan that allows you to save for the replacement of things as they wear out.

It is a "pay me now or pay me later" situation, but you are going to pay. Most people would prefer to save a little bit each month rather than face a large unplanned expense.  Condo management requires this forced savings.

Every year condominiums (in Virginia) are required to confirm that they are reserving enough money to repair, replace and maintain the property. If a condo has not adequately reserved (saved) the money needed to make repairs and has a sudden failure in a common element, it must make a special assessment in order to make whatever repairs are needed to maintain the property.

So, a rip-off? Not if your property is properly maintained. More on that next week.

Waterview Cluster, Reston VA

This is the first in a series of blog posts that focuses on different Reston neighborhoods.  It was hard to pick a place to start, there are so many amazing places to live in Reston; so much architectural diversity. I chose a place close to home... Waterview Cluster.

The specifics:

Waterview Cluster was designed in 1965 by award winning architect Chloethiel Woodard Smith. As its name implies many of the two and three story townhouse have beautiful water views of Lake Anne with the remaining situated on lushly landscaped wooded lots. The townhouses in this beautiful community have a charming mid-century modern meets cottage vibe. They are light and airy, with very inviting interior spaces. The mix of size and styles, some tall and skinny others short and square make for a unique and charming neighborhood.  Like most of Reston,  Waterview Cluster is very walk-able with paved walkways leading to Lake Anne Village Center and Reston Town Center. There is currently one active listing in Waterview Cluster.

The Waterview residents I know are unwavering in their affection for their neighborhood; they seem to share a kind of collective recognition that they live some place unique.

The links below for examples of different Waterview Cluster homes.

Small Waterview House - Medium Waterview HouseLarge Waterview House

Lake Anne Waterfront Townhouse Reston VA

What makes a neighborhood awesome?

I've been thinking a lot about what it is that makes a neighborhood a great place to live. What is it that moves a group of structures from dwellings to community? It helps to have a location that has a sense of "place" a sense that once you arrive you are someplace.

Those of us who live in Reston are fortunate to have many gathering places--public use spaces that were designed into and planned for from the beginning. What a difference it makes to the character of our neighborhoods.

I live in the original village center of Reston on Lake Anne Plaza; a mixed use small scale commercial and residential development with beautiful architecture, built around a lake with open spaces that beckon people to take their time, to stroll the boardwalk, or to sit under the umbrellas overlooking the lake. All of this taken together makes this a wonderful place to live--but still there is something else here. Its community, people from all kinds of backgrounds that choose to live in close proximity to one another. We are bound by our love of this place--it gives a common connection, something we value together; and I wonder if that's it, is that what makes this neighborhood a great place to live?

Reston VA Home Search Launch Day

Hi All,

So today is launch day of my new Reston VA home search website. I hope you will find it a useful tool as you research all that Reston has to offer.  I will be doing a series of articles on Reston neighborhoods and well as news and events. We are so fortunate and have so much to take advantage of right here in Reston.

Today I'm taking a few minutes to talk about the Reston Farmer's & Crafter's Markets, held down on Lake Anne every Saturday morning. A great Saturday morning activity this Farmers Market was voted number 1 by Northern VA Magazine in 2009.  In addition to great fresh produce, dairy and meats you will find amazing handcrafted jewelery and other beautiful items from around the world. There's a balloon twister and face painter for the kids and at least two and sometimes 3 places where you can stop and enjoy some music.

The Market is open from 8:00 - 1:30 (get there before 12:00 for the Farmers!) every Saturday from May - November.

Craft Market Vendor Reston, VA Lake Anne Village Center, Reston VA

If you've had a great time at the market on Saturday I hope you'll leave a comment. Also since this blog is all about Reston neighborhoods I hope you'll contact me if there's something you think I should know about.

Have a great week.

Welcome to the Reston Neighborhood Blog!

Welcome to the Reston Neighborhood Blog! I hope you'll be stopping by often for news and information about what's happening in Reston. The goal of this blog is to cover much more than information on neighborhood housing trends...though there will be some of that. Our goal is to talk about what's going on in the various neighborhood centers of Reston from Hunter's Woods to Reston Town Center and everywhere in between. If you hear about anything you think needs coverage please drop me an email and I'll check it out.'s what's coming up!

Lake Anne Village Center - The Farmers Market opens Saturday May 9th at 8:00 am. The Reston Farmers Market at Lake Anne is now in it's 12th year and was recently voted Number 1 in Northern Virginia. Along with the Farmers is the Reston Crafters Market - a great collection of vendors selling everything from stunning hand made items to imports from all over the world. A great way to spend a Saturday morning. Music, balloon twister for the kids, face painter & fresh tomatoes--what more could you want?!

Reston Town Center - May 16 - 17 10 am - 6 pm. The top ranked Art festival in the United States returns to with some of the best fine art, fine crafts people to be found. This year don't miss performances from CIRQUE-TACTULAR(TM) an amazing high wire thrill. So drop by Lake Anne than spend the rest of the day. The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival is produced by and benefits Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE), a not-for-profit visual arts organization.

Waterfront like along a lake