Traditions at Newton's Landing

Farmhouse, 87 Shipps, Clubhouse rule HOA meeting
Date:  4/23/2019

                                                                                                                       Residents at Tuesday's Homeowners Association meeting

By Joseph Busler

The Spring HOA meeting Tuesday was short and sweet: 45 minutes filled with mostly good news:

• The 12-year saga of long-vacant 87 Shipps Way ended with its sale for $312,500, culminating a Byzantine series of transactions that left the HOA nearly $25,000 ahead while preserving its non-profit status.
• Plans for the extensive expansion and renovation of the 15-year-old Clubhouse are expected to take off next week with the selection of an architect and, hopefully, be completed within a year.
• No significant snow last winter and one-time revenue from new home sales has left the HOA budget in really, really good shape.
• The Caprotti family, who have been occupying the Farmhouse under a lease-purchaser agreement for three years, are expected to become its owners by June, making the Farmhouse the 264th home in the HOA.
• The pool will open Memorial Day weekend, by which time the new pool furniture is scheduled to have been delivered. Residents will have three dates before then on which to have their pool passes validated for 2019.
• The next meeting, on July 23, will be the Annual Meeting and Election. Trustees Gwen Williams and Ken Harris are expected to run for reelection to the two Board seats up for election, and Beth Anastasi and Henry Lopez will become members at large.
• Sidewalk issues continue to be hashed out.

The sad tale of the Navesink II at 87 Shipps Way dates back to the beginning of the real estate recession in 2007, when its owners suddenly abandoned the house and their mortgage. With banks and mortgage companies flooded with home loan defaults, 87 Shipps fell through the cracks. The title became unclear and the house sat vacant for years as every month the HOA assessment went unpaid and late fees accumulated. At some point, foreclosure took place, and later, in August of 2014, the Federal National Mortgage Association – Fannie Mae – acquired the title.

At one point, Fannie Mae found a buyer, but the sale fell through at settlement: Fannie Mae had assumed the HOA would forgive the back assessments and late fees, which were well into five figures. Wrong!

The Board was determined not only that the HOA be made whole but also that the house be once again an asset to the community rather than meet the fate of so many foreclosed houses that were unloaded by banks or Fannie Mae for a song to marginal buyers.

“Anyone buying that house would have to satisfy the HOA’s liens [which had climbed to about $60,000],” said Board Treasurer Stan Suski. “This made it unsalable. At some point, Fannie Mae decided they needed to get this thing off their books.”

What happened next was the brainstorm of the late Mary Goldberg, long-term HOA president who died in 2017: The HOA made Fannie Mae an offer it didn’t refuse. On May 14 of last year, the HOA became the owner of 87 Shipps Way for $200,000.

It spruced up the house and put it on the market for $319,900 and 129 days later, on March 29, it sold it for $312,500, 2 percent below list.

The sale itself, after closing fees, netted the HOA $292,835. Since the Board had invested $268,011 into the purchase, rehabbing and legal fees, the HOA netted $24,824 on the exploit, Suski said.

“But we are a non-profit, so we can’t show a profit,” Suski said.

The solution to that dilemma came from the $53,465 in unpaid HOA assessments, late fees and violations owed the HOA. The HOA managed to collect $24,824 of that amount and wrote off the remaining $28,641, money at that point it owed itself and would never be able to collect from anyone else anyway. The paper loss eliminated the profit for accounting purposes.

Board President Mario Napolitano expressed satisfaction at the outcome.

“These impressive results are the result of years of work and the foresight of Marty Goldberg,” he said.
“If we are ever confronted with a similar situation in the future, we may do the same thing again.”

Napolitano said that the Board has received proposals from three architectural firms for the expansion of the Clubhouse and will soon proceed by selecting one.

“By the time of this meeting next year, we hope it will be done,” he said.

Plans call for extending the multipurpose room to encompass what is now an open porch separated from the pool pad by a wrought iron fence. The Board also wants to refurbish the kitchen and bathrooms, replace wallpaper, etc. None of the plans call for extending the existing roof line or moving internal walls.

Napolitano said that work won’t begin until the end of the pool season, and he hopes it will be completed by next spring. No cost estimates were given.

Whatever the cost, the HOA is well situated to foot the bill.

For 2018, the HOA anticipated income of $517,865 but actually took in $540,639, or $22,774 more than anticipated. While it projected spending $517,865, it only spent $465,564 , or $52,301 less than anticipated, largely because of the snowless winter. Combining these two, the HOA – the, uh, non-profit HOA – came out $75,075 in the black. And as of year’s end, we had net reserves of $611,102.

Much of the extra income was from “Extraordinary Income” of $83,774 – new owner income, deposits and collections -- largely one-time income resulting from the sale of the new homes on John Maher Way.

“Last year was a good year,” Suski said.

Because the snowless winter continued into this year, first quarter of 2019 results show the HOA budget $84,687 in the black despite anticipated new-home income of $3,255 not appearing due to failure of more John Maher Way homes to sell. Net reserves have grown to $971,491.

The HOA Annual Meeting and Election will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 23, and Meet the Candidates Night will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, both in the Clubhouse. Ballots will be mailed out in advance, and they can be mailed in to brought to the Annual Meeting, Napolitano said.

Seats currently held by Gwen Williams of Emery Way and Ken Harris of East Shipps Way will be up for election, and both are expected to run, he said. Harris was appointed to serve the unexpired term of Board President Larry Anastasi, who died last October.

Beth Anastasi of Harris Court and Henry Lopez of Emery Way are expected to be appointed Board members at large, with a commitment to run for positions as voting trustees in 2020, when seats currently held by Napolitano, Suski and Vince Cipriano will be up.

The pool will open Saturday, May 25 – the first day of Memorial Day Weekend – and residents will be able to get their pool passes validated for 2019 on May 9, 11 and 14. Admission to the pool and pool pad area requires a validated pool pass. Napolitano said that replacement pool furniture, ordered last year, should be delivered the week before the pool opens.

“I may have to call for volunteers to help set it up,” he said. “The vendor doesn’t do it all.”

The Farmhouse, the 19th-Century brick structure next to the pool, is poised to become the 264th resident-owned home in the community.

Envisioned first as a community center and, for a decade, kind of Newton’s Landing’s elegant white elephant, the Farmhouse was leased three years ago to Michael and Marie Caprotti under a lease-purchase agreement which is now up.

“Just about everything is ready; the township approvals are done,” Napolitano said. The sale should take place by June 1, maybe earlier, he said.

Long a 250-home community, Newton’s Landing has added 13 new houses on John Maher Way, and the Farmhouse will be the 264th home once ownership passes from the HOA to the Caprottis. Several lots and a sample home remain unsold on John Maher Way.

Napolitano said that all sidewalks in the neighborhood that have been damaged by Delanco-owned “street trees” have been repaired and that Delanco has paid the HOA for part of the cost.

“But not nearly enough,” said Napolitano, who said the Board is seeking a meeting with township officials in an effort to boost the payment.

He also said that the county-owned sidewalk between the traffic circle at Newton’s Landing Boulevard at Pennington Court and the Clubhouse remains closed off because erosion caused by rainwater runoff has undermined some of the sections, making it potentially unsafe.

Although the HOA mows the land between the retention basin and the Russ Farm Way houses on which the sidewalk sits, the land on which the sidewalk sits is owned by the county, Napolitano said.

“This complicates who is responsible for fixing it,” he said.

Since virtually no one but Newton’s Landing residents use the sidewalk, repairing it just might not be the county’s highest priority, but fixing something on someone else’s property is problematic in its own right.

“We’re in negotiations,” Napolitano said.

About 40 residents attended the meeting, which adjourned at 7:45 p.m. Trustees Cipriano and Harris were absent.

An Partner.
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