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How do we communicate with homeowners and residents?
Nearly everything is posted on this website
We meet with you in person whenever possible because Watergate is a community of neighbors
Watergate Homeowners Association
The community's affairs are managed by a Homeowners Association that is governed by a Board of Directors whose five members are elected to staggered three-year terms. Board elections are held in September of each year at the Annual Homeowners Meeting.
Board meetings are open to all homeowners who wish to attend. Meeting announcements are posted on the Board Meetings page of this website, and all board materials are posted to the Board Minutes & Homeowner Documents page of this website as they become available.
The current board members and standing committees are:
Vice President (Term expires 2018)
Secretary (Term expires 2020)
President (Term expires 2019)
Treasurer (Term expires 2018)
Member-at-Large (Term expires 2018)
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Q&A Regarding Homeowner Fees & Assessments
The association collects monthly fees from homeowners. Here are answers to routine questions that the association receives regarding those fees.
What do our homeowner fees pay for?
The association uses homeowner fees to pay for current operating expenses and to fund replacement reserves that pay for future capital improvements. Operating expenses are costs that we incur to provide the routine and recurring association services listed to the right. Capital expenses are costs that we incur to replace the capital components listed at right.
Why don't our fees pay for things that I care about, like problems directly involving my unit, and why do our fees pay for things that I don't care about, like problems not involving my unit?
Watergate's bylaws, which are posted to the Board Minutes & Homeowner Documents page of this website, list the items for which the Association is responsible and the items for which individual homeowners are responsible. Some items are shared responsibilities. The board makes every effort to abide by the division of responsibilities outlined in the bylaws and apply them consistently and fairly to individual homeowners when specific problems or concerns arise.
Why are our fees increased?
Homeowner fees rise from time to time for two reasons.
First, increases in our operating expenses -- particularly for things outside of our direct control like government taxes and fees, insurance premiums, utitlities, and general inflation which drives most other costs -- eventually lead to increases in homeowner fees. We try to eliminate, reduce and contain costs wherever and whenever possible, but there are limits to what we can do, particularly over the long run.
Second, Watergate turns 40 years old in 2017, and with every passing year the number and scope of major maintenance projects grows. This is the nature of living in an established community, and market expectations regarding these ongoing costs is "priced into" the purchase price of homes at Watergate as they are everywhere else (i.e., new construction typically costs more than existing like-kind). Association fees are going up in part because these infrastructure projects are funded by them.
However, by every conventional measure, Watergate's fee increases have been reasonable. Homeowner fees were increased in only the last four of the past ten years. There were no fee increases in the six years before that. And in the two most recent years, 2016 and 2017, we repainted the entire community, and in the two years preceding that, 2014 and 2015, we were preparing to rebuild a crumbling length of brick wall, replace all the original gutters and downspouts, and renovate one of the pedestrian archways.
Painting is one of the largest expenses that a condominium faces, and the Internal Revenue Service has ruled that painting is an operating expense and not a capital expense, which means that we have to pay for painting out of our current operating budget and not out of our replacement reserves. And we have never had to replace things like walls or archways until now.
In addition, over the last 10 years, the average annual Watergate fee increase -- 1.8 percent -- matched the average annual increase in the Consumer Price Index for housing costs over the same period of time.
A chart comparing Watergate's fee increases and the CPI changes for the past 35 years has been posted to the Board Minutes & Homeowner Documents page of this website.
Rather than accumulating funds for future infrastructure repairs via current homeowner fees, why don't we just charge homeowners for their share of the costs via a special assessment when such repairs are made?
We save today for a rainy day tomorrow because our bylaws require it, Virginia law mandates it, the real estate market expects it, and it is the most prudent thing to do.
Watergate’s bylaws, which are posted to the Board Minutes & Homeowner Documents page of this website, require the association to set aside adequate funds to repair or replace, as needed, all capital components for which the association is responsible (a list of those capital components is to the right).
Virginia's condominium law is even more specific, requiring Watergate to conduct a reserve study at least once every five years to determine the total amount it would cost to repair, replace and restore all our capital assets. While we are not required to keep this total amount in reserve at all times, we are required to conduct a meaningful review of our capital assets each year, estimate their remaining useful life spans, and use the replacement cost and other data from the most recent reserve study to determine an appropriate current level of replacement reserves. By law, we are required to keep this calculated amount in reserves.
The most recent reserve study conducted in 2014, and the current reserve calculation that was included with the FY 2018 budget that was sent to all homeowners, are both posted to the Board Minutes & Homeowner Documents page of this website.
Over the years, real estate brokers have informed the association that prospective home buyers are wary of communities that make special assessments against their homeowners, because it is a potential warning sign of fiscal irresponsibility and mismanagement. Absent special circumstances, properly managed communities are expected to plan and prepare for all foreseeable capital projects without the need for extraordinary financial measures, such as making special assessments or borrowing money.
There are two opposing and irreconcilable philosophical views of living in a condominium community such as Watergate. One view is embodied in our bylaws, Virginia law, and the well-founded expectations of local real estate professionals. Those who enjoy living at Watergate should pay an incremental amount above what it costs to pay for the day-to-day operational expenses of the proprerty to fund major capital replacement projects in the years ahead.
The other view is that the 100 owners of Watergate at the time a disaster strikes or other major problem arises should be entirely responsible for addressing the problem -- whether this represents $2,000 to replace worn-out garage doors, or $200,000 to rebuild crumbling buildings. Some who hold this view argue that our homeowner fees are too high to start with and deter some potential purchasers from buying, or they can't afford endless fee increases that make long-term home ownership at Watergate difficult, or allowing the association to hoard and hold large amounts of replacement reserves encourages the board to spend the funds imprudently or wastefully.
The responses to these criticisms are that front-loaded homeowner fees are part of the all-in cost of living at Watergate, the fees replace many of the back-end out-of-pocket costs that single-family homeowners have to pay for vital home repairs, people necessarily give up some independence and control when living in a condominium community, and, understandably, Watergate may not be the right place for some folks to live for a variety of reasons, including financial means.
A Word About Watergate
Most of us who choose to live at Watergate of Alexandria do so because of its close proximity to Washington, D.C. and Old Town, the character of the homes, and the property's immaculately and imaginatively landscaped grounds.
Watergate will never be the most affordable place to make one's home, but it will always be the most beautiful shared community in Old Town. The proof surrounds us every day.
All who have been responsbile for managing and maintaining our property through the years have shared this simple goal.
We celebrated our 40th birthday in 2017, and look forward to the next 40 years to come.
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