In this podcast, Reuben Saltzman and Tessa Murry host Kyle Miller from All Around, exploring the nuances of home inspections within Homeowners Associations (HOAs). Kyle emphasizes the critical importance of understanding the division of responsibilities between homeowners and the association, shedding light on financial obligations, liabilities, and the prevalence of water intrusion issues during exterior renovations in multi-family buildings. The discussion covers the need for potential buyers to assess the external maintenance standards of HOA-managed properties, the necessity of inspecting exteriors despite being assumed to be covered by the association, and the challenges of outdated construction methods leading to water-related problems in almost every renovation project. Practical insights on roofing, siding, and window selection offer valuable guidance for potential homebuyers navigating HOA-managed properties.
The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Reuben Saltzman: Welcome to my house. Welcome to the Structure Talk podcast, a production of Structure Tech Home Inspections. My name is Reuben Saltzman, I’m your host, alongside building science geek, Tessa Murry. We help home inspectors up their game through education, and we help homeowners to be better stewards of their houses. We’ve been keeping it real on this podcast since 2019, and we are also the number one home inspection podcast in the world, according to my mom. Welcome back to another episode of the structure talk podcast. I’m Reuben Saltzman, along with Tessa Murry. We just got off a long series of interviewing home inspectors from all over the country, figuring out how they do home inspections, that’s what we just finished with. And today, we’re jumping right into another guest. Man, we’ve got some guests stacked up. Today, we’ve got a guest who has been a long time coming. I’ve been promising Kyle for the last 6 years that we’re gonna get him on the podcast, even though we’ve only been doing this for 5 years. [chuckle] I keep telling him we gotta do a show together. We’ve got Kyle Miller from All Around. I’ve known Kyle for a long time before we started doing the podcast, and I do the radio show with Kyle. All Around has a weekly radio show that we do together, and Kyle ends up hosting. What do you think, Kyle? Probably about half of the time?
Kyle Miller: Not quite that much, I would say 25% now. We change our format a little while ago, so I’ll do three, four weeks in a row, and then I won’t be on the show for a few more weeks after that, but it’s been great. We love having you on, and I’m looking forward to being part of the Structure Talk podcast.
RS: I’m glad you’re finally here, we just had to get our schedules.
KM: Yeah. Yeah. You brought it up to me when it was just an idea, and I was like, “Yeah, I’d love to.” And then I just kept being a bug in your ear about it.
RS: Yeah, that’s all it takes. You just gotta bug me, man, we get there eventually. But Kyle, let’s start out…
Tessa Murry: But bribes work really well with Reuben.
RS: Bribes do work. It’s true. Yeah, never got a bribe, but we still got him on the air. Let’s talk about who you are and who All Around is. We have had Charles on the show. Charles talked about storm chasers, that was a great episode, and I think we talked about insurance scams and a bunch of stuff like that. But that was probably a year or two ago. So refresh our memory.
RS: Who is All Around, Kyle?
KM: Well, thank you for the opportunity to tell your listeners about us. We are a local exterior general contractor, we’ve been in close, I’d say strategic partnership. We don’t do any official business between Structure Tech and All Around are very limited, but we send a lot of referrals their way, they send even more referrals our way for customers in the Twin Cities that need roofing, siding, windows or decks built on their homes. We don’t do any new construction or custom builds, we’re strictly remodel. So my focus is on the HOA, multi-family and commercial aspect of the business. It has been for a few years now.
TM: Kyle I’ve got a question for you. How many employees are there at All Around? And do you guys subcontract out work when you’re doing roofs and decks, or are they all in-house employees?
KM: I do everything. So sales, installation, I entertain customers, I’m kidding. So we have 30 or 31 now full-time employees, so those are W2 employees, which is kind of a rare model when it comes to exterior companies, most of… Not necessarily our competition ’cause we don’t consider all the X, Y, Z roofing contractors in town, our competition really, but more of the big name companies, a lot of them, they have 1099 sales people, they don’t have a strong company culture. They are saving a lot of money on costs. Even their production staff is, some of them are 1099. Well, here we have 13 dedicated project consultants, I’m dedicated to just commercial and multi-family work.
KM: We have a sales manager that oversees our residential team, eight production employees. We have a marketing department, admin department, and we have Nick and Charles who are the partners, the owners of the business that are very involved as well, and it’s a big well-oiled machine. It doesn’t make us perfect, but in general, we can deliver a high volume of projects to a lot of customers and most of the work is subcontracted, that’s the nature of how our industry works. If you see a company that has in-house installation crews, they would be somebody that’s providing union labor to government projects or whatever demands union labor. It’s just too expensive to be able to employ and ensure and everything that comes along with that, all of those installation crews. So we are much more robust than most other companies with a similar business model, but at the same time, we have to subcontract most of the work with full siding, full roofing projects.
RS: So Kyle, we’re having you on the show today, really the big focus today is we’re gonna talk about buying homes that are in a Homeowner Association, and things to look out for ’cause you’ve had a lot of unique experience in that department. So that’s really gonna be kinda the title of our show is focusing on that area. And I wanted to hear what kind of advice do you have for somebody. If you’re buying a town home or maybe even a condo, or a stand-alone town home, even. Something where you’ve got a Homeowners Association that’s gonna take care of a bunch of the common stuff, what advice do you have for people buying these types of properties, Kyle?
KM: It would be really nice to have a realtor on this show to be able to fill in the gaps. So what I know is from my side of the business, and that’s construction, that’s executing… Well, inspections and then contracts with boards of directors at HOAs and property managers, property management companies and that circular relationship. And there’s this other piece that we’re talking about buyers, what to watch out for, where we could really benefit from having a real estate agent chime in because what I don’t know is what is a new buyer entitled to know when they’re doing their due diligence and discovery before buying a town home. And there’s information they should know in regards to not only the conditions of the property, which you guys will help them understand what sort of work needs to get done now and in the near future, or even the foreseeable future. Maybe there’s something that’s gonna inevitably come up in 10 years. I don’t know if that’s something that you guys cover in your inspection reports or if it’s just kind of in the here and now or the near future, but the homeowner should have a really good understanding, or future homeowner, homeowner to be, should have a good understanding of what’s covered by the HOA in terms of expenses and maintenance to the exterior of the building, and what’s not.
KM: What is their HO6 insurance gonna be required to cover in terms of insurance, and then the personal liability that comes along with that. So you have this personal liability and insurance liability, and sometimes they go hand in hand, and sometimes they’re completely separate. And what I find a little bit perplexing is in a lot of cases, in most cases, actually, you have the HOA that is covering expenses to siding and roofing. But then you have the homeowner is on the hook for any expenses relating to a deck, a balcony, windows, things that are very clearly a part of the exterior building, building envelope, building assembly or structural components that are homeowner liability, but they’re on the exterior of the building. So you really should have a good understanding of what you are on the hook for versus what is an HOA expense, I would say, first of all. And I don’t know if you have anything to add to that, Reuben, before we continue.
RS: Well, a lot of the time, we’ll be doing town home inspections and we’ll have people say, “Well, you don’t need to inspect the exterior, you don’t need to look at the roof, the siding, the windows, any of that stuff on the outside, ’cause that’s all covered by the association.”
KM: Yeah, you laugh that away. All the way to the bank.
RS: Right? Now, what is the problem with this, Kyle? And talk about it from a contractor standpoint. Why is this foolish to skip that part of the home inspection?
KM: It’s not much different than buying a single-family home, the roof over that home, that town home, the siding enclosing that building protects it. It’s directly related to the value and therefore should be covered by the home inspection And whether it’s an insurance claim that results in new siding and roofing or down the road, the association has to sometimes, a lot of times nowadays do a special assessment, you’re gonna get this huge bill or have to vote on a special assessment to replace the siding or roofing materials, and it’s gonna be a big, big dollar amount. There’s very few HOAs that are fully… I’m trying to think of a good way to put this, that are so fiscally responsible and have done such a great job at raising dues, collecting dues, budgeting, getting their reserve studies done just on the ball with that stuff that they can afford 100% of the costs that come along with replacing an old roof or old siding at an entire HOA. And in the 90% or more of associations where they don’t have adequate funds, you either wait, count on a hailstorm, which isn’t a great idea, or you’re assessed for those additional costs.
KM: And now the community, in most cases, they vote on it. If they’re gonna assess a high percentage cost back to the owners, it’s more than just the board decision. But a lot of times it gets to a point where the community has to be in shambles before anything is done about it. And inevitably, you’re gonna have to pay just like you would in a single-family home, there’s gonna be extra expenses, it’s just how and when versus… It’s just no different. Let’s put it that way.
RS: Yeah. Yeah, and I used to be a member of a town home association, and I remember we ended up getting hit… We had an assessment, I can’t remember how much it was, they went and they replaced all these rotting bottom panels on the overhead garage doors. And then another year, they had to replace all the fences, had an assessment for that, and then they had to replace the parking lot. I remember that was like a $1200 assessment, and that was… At the time, that was like one of my mortgage payments was 1200 bucks and it was a lot. It’s like I had no idea this was coming. And so…
KM: How long ago was that, Reuben? How many years?
RS: Oh, probably 20 years ago, probably more than 20 years ago.
KM: Yeah. 1200 bucks, that’s probably like 12,000 now, you know? [laughter]
RS: Exactly. Exactly. But these things happen and you don’t know about it. When I just wanna make sure people understand if you’ve not bought a home before, if you haven’t bought a town home or been involved in this, an assessment means you gotta bill and you gotta pay it, that’s what it comes down to. And there’s no arguing with it, it just, this is your responsibility, and there’s nothing you can say about it, unless you’re attending board meetings.
TM: Kyle, what percentage of condos or town homes these associations that you work with, would you say there’s a pretty significant chunk of change that’s passed to the homeowner because they don’t have enough money in their reserves?
KM: I can’t really say much as a percentage just because I don’t have the data to give you guys and your listeners accurate information. But speaking on my personal experience ’cause that’s what I know, I would say 90%.
KM: And that’s HOA. Condos are a little bit different, but Minnesota has a huge multi-family stake. We have… Look everywhere, you see not only existing town homes, but new ones being built. It’s a huge market here, and I think I’ve had two or three projects in the nine years I’ve been in this business where the HOA was able to fully fund out a reserves, a full roofing or full siding project, and there’s plenty more out there that have the money there. Maybe they have a financial planner and they’ve invested that money and it’s helped grow to fight those inflationary factors that have come into place, especially over the past 3 years.
KM: But another thing that a potential buyer can do is observe. Look, not only are they gonna have Structure Tech or good home inspector help them understand what’s gonna need maintenance on the outside of the building in the future, but just use your eyes, like how well preserved is that community ’cause really that speaks volumes. It’s like going into any of the house of a friend or family or customer, you can tell the ones that have been good responsible homeowners, just like you can tell HOAs that have been good responsible HOAs for the most part. There’s a caveat to that. Maybe they’re in a lot of debt, in that case, there is disclosures or extra costs that might be passed on to new buyers that they’re gonna be made aware of it before that sale. But just using your eyes and looking around, you can make a good determination how well that community is being maintained and kept up, and that’s to the benefit of the homeowners there.
TM: So how often do you guys come across water intrusion issues though when you’re taking the siding off of an old town home or an old condo building, multi-family building and you realize, oh, water’s been getting in around this window for the last 30 years, we’ve got a problem. Does that happen pretty frequently, or not so?
KM: Almost every project.
RS: Oh, God.
KM: Almost every single project that… Well, so let’s be clear. If we are replacing, let’s just say, siding what else… What’s the reason that we’re replacing that siding? Most of the time it’s because it’s old. It’s time to do it. They’re sick of maintaining this old cedar, maybe it’s super duper old vinyl, whatever it was. And there’s a couple of reasons for that. They let it go for too long. It wasn’t properly maintained, and the building codes, the building standards, the construction methods that were used that long ago, let’s say 20-40, even older than that, weren’t the same as they are today. And then you add in the factor of like, this is just done poorly, or we didn’t know what we know now to be able to stop the water, or allow the walls to breathe, whatever that scenario is, that… It’s almost inevitable, we’re gonna run into something, and it’s usually around windows, it’s usually in regards to flashing, cocking, the redundant systems that you’re supposed to use when you’re closing in the exterior envelope of a building were not done properly in order to keep the water out. And that’s something I know that you guys look for exhaustively during your inspections.
KM: Oh, heck, yeah. Heck, yeah. I was just teaching a class on that last night on that exact topic, just what home inspectors can do to help find that hidden damage in walls.
RS: Well, Kyle we’re winding down on time, but I had a few questions I wanna seek in for a quick little lightning round since this is your bread and butter. Number one, can you install a roof this time of year? We’re talking mid to late November, you’re in Minnesota, should… If you know you needed a new roof, should you do it now or should you wait until the spring when it gets warmer?
KM: You can absolutely put on a new roof, a great roof in this weather, however, there are caveats. We don’t do steep roofs this time of year, it’s gotta be something that’s more cut and dry. We prefer a couple of shingle brands like Owens Corning, Malarkey, they seal down much better, much faster. GAF, still a good shingle. We don’t like using on this late in the year ’cause they just don’t seal down fast enough. We look at this north slope, is it gonna get any sun whatsoever? Is it gonna seal down before the snow flies and try to take that into account. But yeah, we can still roof this time of year. And it’s like people always ask, “Well, when can we start roofing in the spring?” And I say, “When’s spring coming.”
RS: Yeah. Whenever it gets warm.
TM: June. [chuckle]
KM: Hey, now, that’s wrong.
RS: Get out of her Tessa.
TM: So is there a cut off for like what temperature is too cold to safely put shingles on?
KM: I don’t know, safely…
TM: Not safely, but for manufacturers for the shingles to seal.
KM: Some manufacturers, they don’t actually specify a temperature, they’ll give you a recommendation or a guideline. We don’t like to go below 40, mid-40s, although the rubberized asphalt shingles that was the SBS shingles, they seal down like a son of a gun in 40, 45 degree weather. It’s crazy how well they seal down, those are more expensive shingles, but they’re still a product that your average buyer can get into, and they seal down great this time of year.
KM: 40, 45 degrees. If it was me, I would just… Ideally, I would want my roof done in April or May, you’re still a great cooler weather where the shingles aren’t marring, you get that asphalt super hot and flexible and the granules can get kinda marred off the shingle easier when you’re roofing in July or August. I want my roof to be done in the spring when it’s not too warm, that your shingles are marring, but then you got all spring and summer for them to seal down and discover any issues or leaks or whatever when it rains. It’s kind of the best of everything if I was the buyer.
RS: Okay. Got it.
KM: Would you agree with that?
RS: I would.
TM: I like it.
RS: I definitely see problems when you have singles installed in colder weather when they don’t seal down, but it’s all dependent upon the weather, it’s what’s coming and how much sun ends up hitting it, just like you said. I personally, I would be hesitant to do it when it’s as cold. But if I need it done, I’d get it done. If I have the choice to wait…
KM: If 40 mile an hour gusts too?
RS: Yeah. Yeah, if I have the choice to wait, I would prefer to wait until I know there’s gonna be warmer weather coming. I’d feel much more comfortable installing a roof with that.
KM: What’s Tessa’s professional take on that.
TM: I’d say, I agree with you what you’re saying, but there’s always caveats to why you might need that roof right now. So depending on the circumstance, you’ve just gotta make a judgment call, what’s best for you in your unique situation.
KM: See builders do it all the time. New construction homes and apartment buildings, it’s like middle of winter, they’re there shingling and gosh, I just cringe when I see that.
RS: Yeah, and we find the evidence of what happens when they do it, that’s the problem. [laughter] We find shingles blown off, we find shingles coming off in sheets, you find more sloppy workmanship, nobody does their best work when it’s really cold outside. Sorry, it’s just a fact. And then, alright, Kyle, you can put any type of siding on your house, what type of siding would you use?
KM: In my neighborhood, even if I had a champagne budget, I probably wouldn’t wrap my whole house in a premium cladding like SmartSide, just ’cause it’s over improving. When you go to sell, we’re not gonna get that investment back, and there’s great options with vinyl nowadays. They’re very durable, very beautiful. If I was gonna let just say build my dream home, I would be on the fence between SmartSide and steel, steel has the best finish in the industry in terms of keeping its color and not having to really do anything for maintenance except for some cocking around your openings. But big enough hailstorm rolls through or the kid throws a baseball, it gets dented. LP SmartSide with a Diamond Kote, 30-year pre-finish would probably be my go-to, my number one if I had to choose just because it covers every… The full spectrum of durability, of beauty, sure, you’ll have to put a coat of paint on it after 20, 30 years, but you budget for that, and that’s probably what I would go with.
RS: Okay. Alright, and then…
KM: I’ll do SmartSide Diamond Kote pre-finish.
RS: Sure. Okay. And then the last one. What about Windows? What would you put on for Windows, Kyle?
KM: So in my house, it was built in ’99, and I got some older windows are… Gosh, I’m spacing out the brand, but they’re like a builder brand, but they’re wood windows, so they’ve lasted a while. But when we started replacing windows, I put Eagle from Andersen, which is your wood and aluminum-clad windows casements, and they’re gliding patio doors. And they’re amazing. Just such a high quality product. Andersen 400s have been their bread and butter for 30 years. Can’t go wrong with Andersen 400 vinyl wrap sash, you don’t get the staining and the water damage on them. The hardware, the crank-outs on the casements, we see still functioning fine after 25, 30 years in many cases. And then the Marvin Ultimate is pretty much the apples to apples to the Andersen Eagle. We also have put some Marvin Ultimates in our house, and you really can’t tell the difference between those and the Andersens, so I would probably go with one of those two. Partially because its familiarity, and with Andersen, there’s a little bias there. But overall, when it comes to performance, longevity, customer, warranty support, that sort of thing, those two brands do a great job at all of those.
RS: Okay. Cool. Well, thank you, Kyle. It’s about time we got together and did this. If people wanna reach out to you, reach out to All Around, how can they get in contact with you, Kyle?
KM: Well, if you’re on the side of community management, you live in an HOA, I would love to work with you directly and easiest is always email, email@example.com. Again, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com is our generic one, and you can always go to our website, Google All Around, you’re gonna find us. And even if you just have a question or wanna ballpark on something you’re planning on, we’re the type of company that just wants to help people. So sure, we would love to earn additional business, but we’re here to help just in general, if people have questions, concerns, need opinions and ideas, we can be that team as well, just like Structure Tech.
RS: Cool, that’s awesome. Well, thank you, Kyle. We really appreciate you making time to come on the show. And for any listeners, if you got any questions, comments, concerns, thoughts for new show ideas, whatever, please email us, our email is firstname.lastname@example.org. And I am Reuben Saltzman, for Tessa Murry signing off. Thanks for being here you guys. This was fun.