Decorating with Flair… While Keeping it Fair

WordPress Blog_ Community Decorations

 

Decorating is one of the most fun aspects of the holidays. It’s the time of the year when your lawn goes from the same everyday style to a winter wonderland. If you’re in a community with an HOA or are looking to keep everyone in your neighborhood happy, this one’s for you.

Keep it Tasteful

It’s very easy to get carried away with holiday decorations, Christmas and Halloween especially. Keep in mind, that while it’s on your own lawn, everyone in the neighborhood will be subjected to anything you place on display. If your Holiday lights create too much light pollution, you may need to keep them off during respectable hours so as to not wake any of your neighbors up. Lights that blink or are too bright can be subject to local ordinances as well. These rules vary by city or county and violations could result in ticketing and fining.

As tempting as going extreme Holiday decorating is, it’s not worth giving yourself a record.

Talk With Your Neighbors

If you’re new to the area or want to start decorating this year, try asking a community member about decorating policies for your community. Talking with the people who live around you creates a sense of Holiday cheer and helps you stay in good graces with people you could be living next to for a while. It’s not always possible to please everyone but stick with a good balance of your own tastes with your communities.

Community Policies

Does your community have an HOA? Does that HOA prohibit year round decorations, lights, or signage? Some communities are more lenient for the Holidays and are worth the quick chat with your association members to find out. Keep in mind that these rules and regulations are contractually enforceable in your neighborhood.

Keeping the Peace

There are a multitude of ways to celebrate this Holiday season. It may be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or maybe nothing at all. Many neighborhoods are multi-cultural, and part of being a good neighbor is to respect everyone’s right to celebrate how they choose.

This is the time of year to think about each other.

If you have a theme for your front yard, be polite and kind about your presentation and do your part to keep peace in your neighborhood for the Holiday season.

Bottom Line

The best way to keep your Holiday Decorating stress-free is to research, talk with your neighbors and community members, and to be thoughtful in your planning.

 

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Four Swaps To Upgrade Your Diet

Healthy SwapA healthy diet consists of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts and lean proteins such as chicken, fish and eggs. It is possible to switch to a healthier diet without making a dramatic change. Here are a couple of simple food substitutions that can transform your diet:

Have a protein smoothie or shake for breakfast

Sometimes, with our busy schedules, we do not have time to make breakfast. Instead of skipping breakfast or choosing bad options, try a protein smoothie. Ingredients like peanut butter, oats and Greek yogurt are natural ingredients that provide a protein boost. They will help you burn more calories all day, keep your energy high and balance your blood sugar. Smoothies from many retail outlets are loaded with sugar. When making your own, opt for fresh or frozen, no-sugar-added fruits which make your smoothie sweet. Sneak in some greens – like spinach or kale – to add to your veggie intake. (You’ll never taste them.)

Eat quality meats

When it comes to meat, try to avoid antibiotics, pesticides, hormones and mercury from grain-fed eggs and meats. Swap them for products from grass-fed, pasture-raised and free-range animals. If you are looking for fish, shop for wild-caught varieties.

Increase Healthy Fats

Some fats are good for you! Foods such as avocado, wild-caught salmon and olive oil are healthy. So are nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachios. Try increasing these foods in your diet.

Cut the coffee

The caffeine in coffee can rev up your stress hormones. Try reducing your caffeine intake by switching to green tea. The caffeine is less, and you get the added benefit of healthy antioxidants. You can also try cutting down caffeine by mixing your regular coffee with decaf, or look for lower-caffeine varieties.

Source: UCF College of Medicine

It’s Almost Back to School Time!

Back to SchoolMost of the Central Florida school districts will be kicking off the 2017 school year in the next week or two.  It’s hard to believe it is that time already!  This can be both an exciting and a stressful time for kids and parents.  We have a few tips to help ease you into the school year like a pro and make a great start for your kids (and you!)

  • Planning ahead is crucial! The more you can try to get prepared for ahead of time the better.
  • Start getting your children back to their school sleep routine now. This will help ease them back into it so it is not so difficult for them to fall asleep/wake up when the school year starts.
  • Post a family calendar so everyone can keep track of all of the activities the school year brings. Consider posting a second homework calendar to help keep everyone focused on what the kids need to do and when they might need some help from Mom or Dad.
  • Consider organizing some playdates with some of your kids’ classmates. Hopefully they are going back into the school year together so this will help reestablish those friendships that may have gotten neglected over the summer.
  • Check through last year’s school supplies in case there are things that didn’t get used. This can save you some money when you go shopping!
  • Use this time before school officially starts to get your kids accustomed to laying out their clothes for the next day the night before, packing things that will be needed in the morning before bed, etc. This will hopefully make those hectic mornings run more smoothly!
  • Make an inbox for school related documents. Teach your child to remember to put things that need a parent’s attention in the inbox and remember to check this inbox every day for things like permission slips or homework that needs review.
  • Make an age appropriate rewards program for your children. This will help add motivation for your child to meet important goals.
  • Don’t forget to carve out time for fun activities and happy family time. Don’t let yourself or your children get too burned out by working constantly.

Follow these tips along with anything else you can think of that will work with your family routine.  Don’t be afraid to give your child age-appropriate tasks to be responsible for during the school year.  This will help give your kid a sense of ownership and control over their day.  Most importantly, remember to work together as a family unit!  This can be a hard time for families, but you are all there to support each other so lean on one another when needed!

We wish you all a happy and successful start to the school year!

Three Natural Therapies for Falling Asleep Easier

iStock_72421373_LARGE-500x333Not being able to fall asleep can be very frustrating, especially when you consistently struggle to get a good night’s rest. Insomnia and other sleep disorders can affect your health, and while sleep medications can bring on the zzz’s, you should not be relying on medications to help you sleep in the long term.

Try these techniques to help prepare your body for sleep:

Mind-body Therapies – Techniques such as yoga, meditation, tai chi and deep breathing techniques can help you relax and calm your thoughts. These techniques foster a greater mind-body awareness.

Natural supplements – Certain natural supplements and herbs can help reduce anxiety and help your body prepare for sleep, with less risk of developing a dependence on using them than if you were to take sleeping pills. Some popular natural sleep aids include melatonin, magnesium, chamomile tea and L-theanine. Try not to take the supplements every day, and only take them when you need extra help falling asleep.

Get On A Sleep Schedule – When you stick to a sleep routine, your brain learns these patterns and can better prepare you to fall asleep (kind of like the famous Pavlov’s dog experiment). Stick to the same bedtime every day (weekends included) and wake at the same time every day to set your biological clock. Also, develop a routine to help train your brain that it is time for bed: put on pajamas, drink some chamomile tea, read a book and brush your teeth. Your brain will learn these cues and prepare for sleep.

Source: UCF College of Medicine

Fourth of July Safety

Can you believe that it’s Fourth of July weekend already?  Many people will be getting togetfireworks-dc-56a236c45f9b58b7d0c7f731her to enjoy celebrations and valuable time with friends and family over the long weekend.  There will be much fun to be had in communities and towns all over the country.  We hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday and also a safe one.  Below are some safety tips to keep in mind to make sure your holiday is fun and without any incidents.

 

  • It is best to view fireworks at a public event
    since these shows are managed by professionals.
  • If you do decide to have fireworks at home, make sure they are never given to children, that there is water nearby, that fireworks are never pointed towards any person or animal, and that you never try to relight a dud firework.
  • Barbecue grills should always be supervised while in use.
  • Never grill indoors.
  • Use tools with long handles that are specially made for the grill.
  • If you are heading to the beach or pool, make sure you check weather conditions.
  • Do not swim while under the influence of alcohol and do not swim alone.
  • Ensure that children do not dive headfirst into shallow water or water of unknown depth.
  • Beware of rip currents if visiting the ocean.
  • Wear sunscreen when outdoors to protect your skin.
  • Stay hydrated and be sure to drink water even if you don’t feel thirsty at the time.
  • Pets can become frightened with the sounds of fireworks.  Make sure your pets are safe and secure inside.

We hope that these tips help ensure that everyone has a safe and happy holiday.  We wish you lots of fun and time with loved ones!

How to Find Reliable Health Information Online

We’ve all done it, you have pain or a symptom that you’re concerned about and the easiest laptop-small-500x333resource to go to is at your fingertips- Dr. Google.  The internet has so much information it’s difficult to know what to trust.

What websites can you trust?

  1. Sites that end in .gov like cdc.gov or cancer.gov. These are linked to federal agencies that address research and training needs for health care topics.
  1. Non-profit sites that end in .org like familydoctor.org are often powered by a reputable organization, such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, so you know your source is credible.
  1. Websites from trusted medical institutions, like Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, have detailed information about many health conditions, symptoms, treatment options and more.
  1. Look for the HON code symbol at the bottom of the website which means the website has been certified for its credibility by the Health On the Net Foundation, a non-governmental organization that certifies health and medical websites.

Red flags to look for:

  1. Websites that are not authoritative sources and don’t cite their facts
  1. One-sided, biased or outdated information
  1. Claims of a miracle or secret cure based on testimonials

If you have a medical concern, the internet can provide useful background information to help you make informed decisions, but always consult a physician to be diagnosed. Don’t base your medical decisions solely on what you find online or what friends tell you.

Talk to your physician before making any changes to your medications or treatment.

Source: UCF College of Medicine

6 New Reasons to Try Yoga

iStock_000039178872_Large-500x334A central premise in yoga is “everything is connected.” That’s clear when you look at the health and fitness benefits of yoga that scientific research is confirming. Yoga is not just a way to stay fit — but an overall health aid. Here are some ways that yoga affects your health that you may not have considered:

 

  1. Stress Relief:  Yoga reduces the physical effects of stress on the body by encouraging relaxation and lowering the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Related benefits include lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving digestion and boosting the immune system, as well as easing symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, asthma and insomnia.

 

  1. Pain Relief:  Yoga can ease pain. Studies have demonstrated that practicing yoga, meditation or a combination of the two, reduces pain for people with conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune diseases and hypertension as well as arthritis, back and neck pain and other chronic conditions.

 

  1. Better Breathing:  Yoga teaches you to take slower, deeper breaths.  This helps to improve lung function and trigger the body’s relaxation response. It also helps improve circulation and more efficiently moves oxygenated blood to the body’s cells.

 

  1. Flexibility:  The goal is not to bend and stretch like a performer from Cirque du Soleil. Even slight gains in flexibility and mobility help increase range of movement and help to reduce aches and pains.

 

  1.  Better Body Alignment: Yoga brings awareness to body alignment, resulting in better posture and helping to relieve back, neck, joint and muscle problems that you are unknowingly causing yourself.

 

  1. Focus: Yoga helps us to focus on the present, to become more aware and to help create mind-body health. This helps to improve coordination, reaction time and memory.

Budget Season Behind the Scenes

Fall is the time of the year when many HOAs shift their focus to the next year and begin working on the annual budget. A solid budget helps track progress, plans for growth and makes adjustments throughout the year. Here are a few of the things we look at when preparing your annual budget.

Know the History:Picture1

It’s good to review the HOA financial information for at least the last two years to get an accurate picture of where you are vs. where you want to be. Budgeting is rarely an exact science because there are usually unforeseen situations. Knowing the history helps us understand the adjustments needed to the budget and/or assessment fees to keep your association in a solid financial position.

Evaluate Maintenance and Projects:

It’s important to include the correct amount for monthly services, seasonal maintenance and special projects. We identify all vendor contracts that are due for renewal and budget any changes in rates and record any updated insurance information. Then we assess and prioritize any major projects for the association and include the association cost in the budget.

Budget for the Reserve Fund:

No budget is complete without funding the reserves. The percentage of revenue that you put in reserve depends on the long-term liabilities and obligations identified in your reserve study. Adequately funded reserves can’t eliminate special assessments but it decreases the likelihood that special assessments will be needed.

Assess general and administrative costs:

This is a good time to review insurance premiums and deductibles to ensure that they are budgeted correctly. Some associations may need to review the budget for legal, collections, mailings and other professional services required by the association.

Leland and the Board have a fiduciary duty to manage association funds and property in a sound manner. We take every precaution to ensure your association adopts a stable financial plan for the coming year.

For any questions about your association budget please contact your Leland accounting manager.

 

 

CAM Designations & What They Mean

Earning one or more property management certifications is a challenging process that tests a manager’s knowledge, application and understanding of the laws surrounding property association management. These credentials indicate that an individual takes a professional approach to their career as a property manager and is a credible resource for your association.Picture1

Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA)

Awarded by the National Board of Certification for Community Association Managers (NBC-CAM) and created by the Community Associations Institute (CAI), this is one of most useful and practical certifications a property manager can obtain. Members are actively kept up to date on the latest property management laws applicable to their state and are networked to other local CMCAs.  However, members are also required to fulfill continuing education requirements to maintain the certification.  If you are pursuing a career in property management, and expect to manage properties besides your own, I would highly recommend getting your CMCA certification.

Association Management Specialist (AMS)

Awarded by the Community Associations Institute (CAI), the AMS designation requires two years of experience in the financial, administrative, and facilities management of at least one association, the successful completion of at least two advanced level continuing education courses, and a passing score on the CMCA exam.

Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM)

The PCAM designation is the highest professional recognition available nationwide to managers who specialize in community association management. Awarded by the Community Associations Institute (CAI), the PCAM designation requires a minimum of five years of direct community association management experience, the successful completion of all six advanced continuing education courses, and a passing grade on the CMCA exam.

Accredited Association Management Company (AAMC)

The AAMC accreditation demonstrates a company’s commitment to providing the unique and diverse services community associations need. An Accredited Association Management Company ensures that their staff has the skills, experience, and integrity to help communities succeed. Its managers have advanced training and demonstrated commitment to the industry. The AAMC accreditation process requires a company have a minimum of three years of experience based on client verification, a PCAM designee as the company’s senior manager, and a staff of which 50% of managers hold a professional manager credential (CMCA, AMS, or PCAM).

Leland is proud to employ some of the best Community Association Managers in the state, many of whom hold multiple professional designations. Our company earned the AAMC designation in 2013.

 

The Importance of Reserve Studies

nordlund_9608As we enter into a new year many associations are adopting a new budget, many of which contain a reserve study. Here at Leland we recommend that associations maintain a current reserve study as a barometer for future expenses that are non-annual. A reserve study provides a current estimate of the costs of repairing and replacing major common area components (such as roofs or pavement) over the long term. Ideally, all major repair and replacement costs will be covered by funds set aside by the association as reserves, so that funds are there when needed. This requires: examination of the association’s repair and replacement obligations; determination of costs and timing of replacement; and determination of the availability of necessary (reserve) cash resources.

Because the board has a fiduciary duty to manage association funds and property, a replacement reserve budget is very important. Not only does this information supplement the annual operating budget in providing owners with financial information; the reserve study is also an important management information tool as the association strives to balance and optimize long-term property values and costs for the membership.

Potential buyers may want request a copy of the reserve study before purchasing. Fully reviewing and understanding the reserve study is an important part of evaluating the value of an association. For association members, reserve planning helps assure property values by protecting against declining property values due to deferred maintenance and inability to keep up with the aging of common areas and amenities.

A good reserve study shows owners and potential buyers a more accurate and complete picture of the association’s financial strength. The reserve study should disclose to buyers, lenders, and others the manner in which management of the association (i.e., the board and management company) is making provisions for non-annual maintenance requirements. Preparing a reserve study calls for explicit association decisions on how to provide for long-term funding, and on the extent to which the association will set aside funds on a regular basis for non-annual maintenance requirements. A good reserve study may also function as a maintenance planning tool for the association.