Frequently Asked Questions About Reserve Studies - FAQ


What is a reserve study?

A reserve study is a written report that evaluates the common areas of a homeowner association. It provides guidance on how much your association should be setting aside each month for reserves so it can meet its future obligations without special assessments. Reserves are needed to pay for the replacement of common area components such as roofs and parking lots and to pay for major maintenance items such as exterior painting. The California Civil Code sets forth the minimum requirements for reserve studies. Obtaining a reserve study is part of the budgeting process.


What is the standard procedure for the preparation of a Level I Reserve Study by Pacific Reserve Studies?

While it is not practical to list every step and every detail, we have prepared a summary of the major steps involved in preparing a Level l reserve study.


Can our HOA board waive the legal requirement for a reserve study?

Absolutely not. Reserve studies are required by law. In addition, they are excellent planning tools. Also, without a current reserve study, your homeowner association’s balance sheet will not be accurate, and therefore, it will be misleading to those who rely upon the accuracy of your association’s financial statements.


What is likely to occur if our HOA fails to obtain reserve studies as required by law?

Failure to obtain a serve study can result in any one or more of the following types of harm:

  • It may result in a large special assessment being imposed which some members of the association may find difficult or impossible to pay.
  • A member of the association may find it difficult to sell or refinance his or her home which may cost money or even result in a foreclosure. Buyers and lenders are becoming more knowledgeable and are often refusing to become involved with associations that do not comply with the law.
  • Owners may suffer the consequences of being a member of an association involved as a defendant in litigation brought by another member.


Our former reserve study provider prepared a reserve study for our HOA which our board reviewed very carefully. We disagreed with several of the key assumptions as being unrealistic and overly conservative. We shared our thoughts and all backup data to support the changes in assumptions we collectively believed should be made and we were rejected. Will Pacific Reserve Studies review another company's reserve study report and provide us with your option? The difference in assumptions used are material resulting in a big difference in the amount owners will be required to pay each month.

Yes. We can do exactly what you require. Call us for additional information.


Do mortgage lenders routinely request a copy of an association’s most current reserve study before they will offer to refinance a real estate loan or make a loan to a new buyer?

Today, most, but not all, lenders request a copy of the most current reserve study or ask questions that must be responded to in writing concerning the association’s financial position. Some lenders will refuse to make a loan to someone who owns or intends to purchase a home in an HOA where the board does not comply with the law. Others will charge a higher interest rate to compensate for the perceived additional risk to the lender.


Who should make the site visit or inspection from the reserve study provider?

The person making the site visit should have experience as a contractor, construction manager, or cost estimator if you want a reserve study that your board of directors, members, lenders, and new buyers can rely upon. There is no substitute for this type of direct experience. Many reserve study providers use accountants and engineers with no direct, in-depth experience in evaluating the condition of a building’s components. This is not something that you pull out of a manual. Preparing a meaningful reserve study is not a number crunching job to be performed by an accountant.


When a reserve study is being performed, does the person inspecting the association's common areas, typically do any invasive testing such as examining attics, plumbing pipes or sewer lines?

No. Most reserve study inspections are performed at the ground level and from flat roofs if there is a staircase leading to the roof.


What type of people do you have on your staff?

We have a construction expert who has more than 30 years of construction and cost estimating experience in California as a licensed general contractor, plus two data processing assistants who receive their direction from the construction expert.


Do you use specialized software to prepare reserve studies?

Yes. The software we utilize was designed specifically for generating reserve studies.


What is Percent Funded?

Percent Funded is a calculation required by law in California. It is a comparison of the ideal reserve balance and the total accumulated reserve fund expressed as a percentage. It is considered a measure of the overall financial strength of the association.


Is there a reason to avoid funding major repairs and replacements with special assessments?

Yes. Special assessment always unfairly penalize some owners while benefiting others. Some owners end up paying costs that should have been paid by other owners. In addition to being unfair on its face, special assessments often lead to criticism of the board and sometimes litigation.


Upon request, will you revise our reserve study after our board has had an opportunity to review it?

Yes. After discussing the report with the board, we will make one revision at no additional cost.


How much does a reserve study cost?

There is no standard price for reserve studies. The cost is based on many factors which include:

  • Whether the reserve study requested is a Level I, Level II, or Level III reserve study;
  • The size of the property;
  • The number of components to be evaluated;
  • The knowledge and experience of the person assigned to make the site visit. Construction experts with over twenty years of experience maintaining buildings, estimating costs, and most importantly, estimating the remaining useful life of building components, are more costly to hire than people without these necessary skills.
  • The quality and quantity of documents provided, including prior reserve studies, contracts for jobs recently completed, proposals for jobs expected to be completed in the near future, etc. We do not charge extra because the board needs fast service. We value our clients and never take advantage of them.

Please call for a quote or request a quote online.


Does the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) require minimum reserve contributions and reserve studies?

Yes. The FHA requires reserve studies and insist that reserve contributions be at least 10% of the total budget for homeowner associations.


Does the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) require minimum reserve contributions and reserve studies?

Yes. The FNMA, also known as Fannie Mae, which buys loans from mortgage lenders, requires that reserve contributions be at least 10% of the total budget for homeowner associations. They also request copies of current reserve studies.


Does Freddie Mac (FHLMC) require minimum reserve contributions?

Yes. The FHLMC, which buys loans from mortgage lenders, requires that reserve contributions be at least 10% the total budget for homeowner associations. They also request copies of current reserve studies.


What is a reasonable “percentage funded” amount?

You will get various opinions but most professionals who provide reserve studies use the following guides:

90% to 100%   Excellent

70% to 89%  Good

30% to 69%  Fair

Under 30%    Poor


Does Pacific Reserve Studies provide reserve studies for Churches, Synagogues, and Temples in Southern California?

Yes. Please contact us for a competitive quote for a first-class reserve study.


Does your company provide reserve studies for commercial and industrial condominium properties?

Absolutely. We provide reserve studies for office condominiums, medical office condominiums, and industrial condominiums anywhere in Los Angeles County or Ventura County.


Does Pacific Reserve Studies provide reserve studies for mutual water companies in California?

Yes. Pacific Reserve Studies performs reserve studies in Los Angeles County and Ventura County.


Does Pacific Reserve Studies provide any services other providing reserve studies to homeowner associations?

Yes. We provide expert witness and litigation consulting services to attorneys throughout California who need an expert in the area of reserve studies and HOA budgeting.


Is our board required to follow the recommendations of our reserve study provider? We don't want to set aside as much money as Is recommend.

Your board is not required by law to follow the recommendations of your reserve study provider. However, if you decide not to follow the recommendations, you should disclose that fact to the membership by reflecting the board's decision in the minutes of an open meeting and then distributing those minutes. The disclosure should warn the membership that they should anticipate a special assessment, or assessments at some future date or that the association may be unable to make all required repairs and perform all required maintenance. Please refer to: Consequences of Failing to Obtain Reserve Studies. We strongly recommend that boards set aside adequate reserve funds in order to maintain their property and protect the property value of each member's home.


Does Pacific Reserve Studies recommend fully funding reserves?

The decision is entirely up to each successive board, however, we do not recommend fully funding reserves because we find it is unnecessary and it results in each member paying higher monthly reserve contributions than what is required to maintain a positive cash flow over 30 years. We recommend that your association’s goal should be a 30 year positive cash flow projection prior to adding a 5% to 6% contingency factor. This will usually result in a percentage funded calculation well above 70%.


What is a reserve funding plan?

A reserve funding plan is that part of a reserve study that indicates how an association plans to fund the association's obligation for repairs and maintenance of the components identified in the reserve study. It will include the payment requirements along with any projected increases and the dates of those increases.


Is a reserve fund a savings account?

It is far more than a savings account. The balance in your association’s reserve account should be equal to the estimated deterioration of the common area components. For example: If your HOA has $1,000,000 in its reserve account, the estimated deterioration should be approximately $1,000,000.


Can accumulated reserves in the reserve account be used to pay for any reserve component needs to be repaired or replaced?

Yes. Your reserve account is a pool of money that is available at any time for any common area component.


How do you determine the estimated remaining useful life of the many components included in most reserve studies?

The estimated remaining useful life of reserve components is determined by the construction expert making the site visit by carefully observing the condition of each component. This is a skill developed over many years. These numbers are not found in a manual.

While the estimated useful life of a new component can be found in various manuals, if the component is not new, an estimate must be calculated by the construction expert based on his or her observation and skills.

For example: A new roof might have a useful life of 20 years. When the roof is 5 years old, its remaining useful life may be more or less than 15 years. Twenty years is an estimate only. Depending on weather conditions and maintenance preformed or not performed the remaining useful life will vary. Your reserve study should be based on what a construction expert estimates the remaining useful life of every component to be. Your reserve study should not be based on a simplistic math formula which is exactly what some reserve study providers give their clients.


Can our HOA save money buy purchasing a package of three reserve studies, a Level I, Level II, and Level III?

Yes. Your association will save on average $300, or $100 per reserve study.


Our board refuses to obtain a reserve study for our HOA. Can board members be held legally liable for negligence if they won’t obtain a reserve study?

Yes. Negligence is a civil wrong (tort) that has the following elements: (1) the defendant must owe a legal duty to conform to a certain standard of care for the protection of the plaintiff, (2) the defendant must have breached his or her duty by failing to conform his or her conduct to the required conduct, (3) the breach must be a legal cause of the plaintiff’s harm or injury, and (4) the plaintiff must have suffered harm or an injury.


Given that interest rates offered by financial institutions are low, can our HOA invest our reserve funds in a mutual fund?

Absolutely not. All funds must placed in an account insured by the United States Government.


What do we need to provide Pacific Reserve Studies to obtain a reserve study?

The list is incorporated into our standard Reserve Study Agreement which in on this site.


Do you prefer to have a board member or the property management company participate in site visits?

Yes. They can often answer questions that expedite the completion of the report.


How can our HOA management company assist you in performing a high-quality reserve study for our condominium association?

Your manager can provide us with copies of ail repair and replacement contracts entered into by your association during the last three years for all components to be addressed in your reserve study. He or she can also provide us with copies of any proposals received for repairs and replacements that have not resulted in contracts covering any components to be addressed in your reserve study. Lastly, your manager can provide us with any data that is available concerning major repairs and replacements that are required in his or her professional opinion.


How long has your company been in business?

Pacific Reserve Studies has been providing homeowner associations with first class reserve study reports since 1993.


What is the best time for an association to request a reserve study?

Since you will need it for your annual disclosure package, including the budget and any fiscal year-end accountant’s review, you should make the request about 60 days before you will need the report for those purposes. For example, if your homeowner association has a December 31st year-end, you must send out your disclosure package. including the budget, 30 to 90 days prior to January 1st. Depending on your target mailing date, you should allow 60 days to safely receive your reserve study. See: Example Timeline.


Can Pacific Reserve Studies assist our HOA board of directors in establishing an annual operating budget for our homeowner association in addition to a reserve study?

Yes. We have assisted hundreds of homeowner association boards establish annual operating budgets for their HOA.


When our association's reserve study is completed, what should we do next?

Upon completion of your reserve study, you should do the following: (1) Formally approve it at an open board meeting, (2) Memorialize the approval in your board's minutes, (3) Prioritize the required repairs and maintenance, (4) Approve any required special assessments or increases in monthly assessments, and (5) If applicable, explain to the membership the reason for any increased assessments.


I'm 87 years old and live in a condominium. I live on a modest fixed income and would like my monthly HOA assessments, which include a reserve allocation, to be as low as possible. I would prefer low assessments even through it will result in special assessments in the future because I may not be alive to pay them. If I'm alive I will pay my share. If not, the new buyer can pay any special assessments. Is there anything wrong with this?

Yes. The obligation to maintain the common area is the obligation of the HOA acting through its board of directors. Your board members have a fiduciary duty to maintain the common areas notwithstanding your personal situation or preference. Forcing future owners to pay special assessments so you can be subsidized is unfair to them and could result in one or more of those future owners making a claim against the association for negligent conduct, resulting in monetary damages. A budget that depends on future special assessments is never a good plan.


After reviewing our updated reserve study, we have determined that a great deal of work needs to be done in the next few years. Hiring a general contractor would be very expensive. Can you recommend a good construction manager that can save us money?

Yes. Call us for details.


What is a construction punch list?

A punch list is a document prepared by an owner or his or her construction manager near the end of a construction project listing those items that do not conform to contract specifications that the general contractor must correct prior to final payment. The list may include work not completed and any damage done that needs to be repaired. Most experienced owners will hire a contraction manager to prepare the punch list.


Do you have any recommendations for a company that collects delinquent homeowner association assessments?

Yes., which is affiliated with our firm, collects delinquent HOA assessments and court judgments anywhere in California.


May we distribute your articles to others and add them to our website?

Yes, provided we are given credit for writing the article. Every one of our articles includes our identifying information at the bottom which must be included. There is no cost for using our articles.


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