Saturday, April 28, 2007

How to read financials

Financial tibits
Sat Apr 28, 2007 5:39PM;article=8143;title=Habitat%27s%20Board%20Talk

Both BP and AdC are absolutely correct in both their points.

Let me add a couple of things to look at on your financial statement.

Under "Assets," check to see how high the "Cash & Cash Equivalents" is. That's the money in the bank -- savings. It's the money that pays the everyday bills, and it's the money held back for a pipe break, facade work, or boiler breakdown. That is, major expenses. The bigger the amount, the less likely shareholders will have to face an assessment.

(So how big is big enough? Our accountant says a rule of thumb -- and it's just that, not a rule -- is to have reserves equal to three months' maintenance. If you don't have that figure, and if you want to know how to find it based on your financial statement, respond to this post and I'll walk you through it.)

Second, under "Liabilities and Shareholders' Equity," look at the Income category. This will show how much money comes from sources other than the maintenance fee. There are probably several categories.

You may see an assessment or a surcharge, for example. Those are typically added to maintenance fees, which you will pay (unless those charges have ended; ask your lawyer or a neighbor).

Of all the other income categories: Add them together. Are they together more than 25% of the maintenance income (called "carrying charges")? If so, that's a good sign that the building makes money in ways other than charging shareholders. Typical categories are rental income from retail space and the fee from having cell phone attenae on the roof.

Then, below all the expenses, look at "Excess after depreciation and amortization." You want that number to be positive, because it's the co-op's profit (in very general terms). That's money that goes in the bank to save for a rainy day -- for emergencies, capital improvements, or a remodeled lobby.

Finally, read the supporting notes. Accountants say that these are the most important parts of the financial statement. The notes will tell you what's going on financially, what the big purchases were, the size of the mortgage, whether the co-op has other loans or a line of credit, how many apartments are still owned by the sponsor (if any), and any significant event that happened in the new year by the date of the accountant's letter (the cover letter).

For example, an accountant told me that in one of his client buildings, he had to include mention of a fire that happened in, say, January 2005, even though the financial statement was only for 2004 and 2003. That's because repairs to a fire would have a financial impact on the building.

Good luck!

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