Welcome Letter

view from above

In an effort to continue our core belief of full transparency and to make the transition to your new home easier, we offer this information regarding The Condominiums At Sugarloaf:

Liaison

As you can imagine, it’s all hands on deck at this project. We are on schedule to construct 24 units per year thus significantly reducing the time frame for completion of the project while maintaining our commitment to quality construction. But with success comes its own challenges. And one of those challenges is to continue supplying a quality product as well as quality service. In an effort to do so I have hired Kate Parody to be our liaison with our home owners. I will work with all buyers until the purchase of the unit and thereafter Kate will be available to meet the needs of the Condos at Sugarloaf community (now being called “The Village” by many of the current owners). Kate will consult with me and others to make sure any issues you, as buyers, may have are addressed by the right people and in a timely fashion. She will also be the first line in determining if an owner’s issue is covered under the warranty or is something caused by wear and tear or by normal environmental impacts. I will still be very visible at the project so please wave or say hello and I will try to stop by and do the same as time permits. Kate can be reached at 413-563-5953 or [email protected].

Initial Each Page

This document is given to you at the time you reserve your unit and again with our “Welcome Home” package you will find on the kitchen counter of your new home after your closing. Please initial each page of this document and email it to me at your convenience. 

We realize the trauma most go through trying to make the move to a new home and don’t want you to have to sift through boxes looking for this letter if you have any questions, that’s why we supply a copy of it in your Welcome binder as well as now. Also there may be additional information we want to make available to you that was not available when you reserved your unit and could be when you close. 

Utilities

Currently, the electric, water, sewer and gas are under Parody Builders, Zayac Construction, Mark Wightman or RAGUS, LLC. Once you are given a closing date please contact the utility companies listed below and have the accounts transferred to your name and mailing address on the date of the closing. Tell the utility company that you’re closing on the sale of a condo unit on whatever the closing date is and the street/mailing address: for example, 9B Snowberry Circle, South Deerfield, MA also known as Lot 2 Unit B. 

Eversource for Electricity

Customer Service 877-659-6326 or 888-783-6618 or Eversource.com. They occasionally ask for the meter number to your unit, if that happens please let us know and we will get it for you.

George Propane for cooking fuel, hot water and heat

George Propane supplies propane to all of the units in this project. We have received a fantastic deal because of the volume we will use. And its so easy for the home owner. There is no ordering propane and there is no service charge for George making their monthly reading. And we received a very good propane gas rate on top of it. The propane tanks are already buried and one tank supplies propane to 4 units. So once a month George will read a meter for your unit just like an electric company, and they will send you a bill based on the reading that tells how much propane you used.  If you use a minimum of propane George may not send a bill every month.  George can be reached at 413-268-8360 or 800-464-2053, P.O. Box 102, Goshen, MA 01032.  Our project contact at George Propane is Michael George, Owner. However, the office staff can take care of most of your inquiries so you can also contact John Puchalski at [email protected]e.com or call him at 413-222-2509.

Town of South Deerfield for Water and Sewer

Call Pat Kroll at the Town offices: 413-665-1400 ext 111 and ask Pat to please put the water and sewer in your name as of the closing date If you have any issues affecting the use of these utilities that cannot be rectified by Pat you can call the DPW Superintendent  Kevin Scarborough at 413-665-2036 or Water Dept Superindendent  at 413-665-3540.

Comcast for Telephone, Internet and/or Cable TV

1-800-COMCAST (226-2278). We do not have an account for Comcast at your unit, so you will be calling to set up an account. If you currently have an account with Comcast be sure to mention it; it should make the process go more quickly. Current customers looking to transfer service can also do this online at xfinity.com/moving. All of our homes are wired for land line telephones, cable and internet. But Comcast will have to run connections from the home to the Comcast system located outside the unit, which they are aware of.

Carriage Lights

Every unit has two carriage lights located on either side of your garage door. They are referred to as “dusk to dawn” lights as they automatically come on at dusk and turn off at dawn if the switch in the house to these lights is left on. The switch for the lights is generally located next to the washer/dryer in your mud room. Some buyers have turned on the switch and put a piece of tape over the switch so they will not inadvertently shut it off. The lights are LED and should last a very long time. They are not excessively bright so they won’t be obtrusive if every unit has them operating. We think it gives just enough light for security and maneuvering in the dark. But it’s your decision how you choose to use them. 

Insurance

If you’re getting a loan and your bank is asking if you have obtained property insurance let them know that the Home Owners Association (HOA) covers the interior and exterior property insurance through your HOA dues. The insurance agency handling the account is Rist Insurance in Turners Falls, MA, 413-863-4373. You may want to speak with Tracey or Michele who created the coverage. Your attorney should have called Tracey to have a Certificate of Liability Insurance issued with your name and new address in the lower left hand corner under “Certificate Holder”. Even if you are not getting a loan it’s still important to have the property insurance Certificate. 

Your attorney has probably taken care of this but it doesn’t hurt to ask him/her. You will still need to get a Contents Policy to cover the appliances and your furniture etc. and personal items. If you have an insurance agency you work with, you can show them the Certificate from the HOA so they know exactly what other insurance you need.  Or you can have Rist write the contents policy for you as they are handling the rest of the insurance at the project. They are very professional and easy to find as they are located on the Main Street (Avenue A) in downtown Turners Falls. 

Trash

Unfortunately, at this time the materials recycling facilities are telling us not to bother sorting out recyclables. China is no longer taking the used plastics of the world and the used cardboard/paper market is flooded. So for the time being put all of your trash, including recyclables, into regular heavy duty trash bags (flatten all cardboard) and leave it/them at the end of your driveway by 8am Saturday mornings. Trash will be picked up some time in the morning. This service is also taken care of by your HOA dues. You can also put the bags in a trash can, but currently we ask you to use bags and not put the trash directly into a trash can. You no longer have to purchase Town of Deerfield bags so a regular trash bag is permitted. You may also flatten cardboard and tie it or secure it in some fashion to be set next to the trash bags/cans. Please be sure it’s secured well, the first couple of weeks we had paper flying about from owners leaving unsecured stacks next to their trash bags/containers. Our trash hauler will alert us when we can go back to recycling.

Punch List/Warranty Items

Constructing a home is a monumental task where thousands of pieces of material are fit together to make your beautiful home. Although our crews are very careful to make everything just right, sometimes they may miss something. So before we close the sale on your new home, the General Contractor walks through the home looking for any issues he feels should be rectified. After the GC’s crews have completed his requested repairs, I walk through the condominium looking for any issues missed by the GC (the GC is so involved in the construction of your home that he doesn’t see things I might) If I find any issues, I give them to the lead person on the build and that person attempts to get those items corrected before you move in. A day or two before the scheduled closing I will also ask you to walk through your new home with me, and I will point out any items that have not been corrected and let you know when they are scheduled to be taken care of. We do not want to be bothering you as you are moving in to your new home or right after you’re settled so we try very hard to make sure we get these small items completed before the closing. Some things that may need to be attended to just aren’t able to be seen until someone is living in the home. So once you move in, please do the following: 

1.) Keep a list for us to review at 15-days, 6 months, and 12 months of any items you believe need to be dealt with, but are not infringing on your daily enjoyment of your new home. Submit the list after these intervals, so we can take care of the items all at once and in an orderly way. After we handle any items from the 15-day and 6 month lists you can keep another list until near the end of the 1 year warranty period and we will take care of those items, if any, as well. 

We ask that you be reasonable. Nothing in this world is perfect, and because we are supplying beautiful homes with great finishes, we find buyers reporting very small issues that aren’t covered by the warranty. Also understand homes these days are created to keep the windows closed because of the conditioning of interior space regarding the energy efficiency devices in the homes. I love fresh air and would keep my windows open whenever possible (not when construction trucks etc. are causing dust though haha) but having the windows open  can cause doors and wood floors to swell in summer and shrink in the cooler/colder month. More on this later in this document. 

2.) If the issue will negatively affect your daily living like the air conditioning/heat isn’t working or a breaker keeps popping etc, or the issue could cause additional damage like a door scraping on the wood floor please call/email Kate during business hours (9am – 3pm). We generally have someone at the project who may be able to go over and take care of the problem or be able to schedule a visit. Please do not call or email after hours as Kate will think it’s an emergency. If there is a problem, outside business hours, that you believe could cause severe damage to your home or bodily harm please call 911 or the appropriate authorities, then call me at 413-665-3099 any time 24/7 and I will meet the emergency people and assist in any way I can. You can also try the project cell number of 413-376-5496. PLEASE be descriptive when explaining the issue to Kate. Telling her, for example, the refrigerator is leaking water out the back is much different than saying the refrigerator leaks water out the back when we press the water dispenser on the fridge door. The former requires immediate attention regardless of the time of day, whereas the other can be taken care of during business hours. Sending pictures is, of course, the best way to show us your issue. 

ALERT: Due to COVID we are not entering homes to perform warranty work unless its an emergency. Your valid requests for repairs will be honored and we will enter once its safe. 

Lawns

The new storm water requirements from the State and Town requires storm water to be drained into the soil onsite. They have required us to create “islands” for each home where water rolls down from the house into swales that carry it to our infiltration basins and allows it to also permeate in the swales. This has caused us to have to re-tool how we grow grass and how to deal with the ramifications of slopes on every lot. Also, I try to remember to tell every buyer before they commit that I am not creating golf course-like lawns. That takes a lot of fertilizer and other chemicals not conducive to a clean aquifer, which the project sits atop. We will hydroseed your lawn and we will create “Country Grass” and use fertilizer and weed killer sparingly but regularly. The lawns will be green but it will be weeds as well as grass. Once the owners take over the Home Owners Association you can vote to do as you please, but for now I am trying to keep the HOA fee low and respect the environment.  Additionally, in our first year of growing grass we had a terrible erosion problem caused by the massive amount of water coming from the downspouts on the units. To alleviate this we are laying sod at the downspouts and extending it as far as we feel necessary to eliminate or drastically reduce the erosion issue. This will allow the water to run on the sod and not create erosion of any consequence. Also, please understand it takes time for lawns to fully mature. Give us about 2 growing seasons to get you a full green lawn. 

Acclimating Homes

As you can imagine I am a big advocate of energy conservation. However, with sunshine must come a bit of rain. When constructing your homes we are required to follow the Massachusetts Building Code, and because South Deerfield is a “stretch” code Town we must meet an even higher energy efficiency than the State Building Code requires. To this end the State and Town has us constructing homes that are so weather tight and air sealed that we must install air exchangers to make sure clean air is getting pumped into your homes to keep the interior environment healthy. But these codes cause other issues and the institution of these applications are so new that all of the contractors and subcontractors working on your homes with decades of experience and the ability to use anecdotal information gathered over those decades are now having to react to the consequences of these new codes instead of relying on their experience. Imagine having your windows open on a humid day. You have your ceiling fans moving the air about and all is good in the world. In reality having windows open on a humid day is introducing a lot of moisture into the home. No big deal, the ceiling fans are on and the air is moving in and out of the windows right? Here’s the problem. The humid air is being introduced into the home by the open windows AND by the air exchanger that runs on a time frame figured by an algorithm we have no control over. The air exchanger cannot be shut off. So the air exchanger is pumping your home with humid air and so too are the open windows. If the windows were closed and the air conditioning was on (air conditioning dehumidifies the air) then the humid air from the air exchanger is counteracted by the air conditioning. However, the air conditioning would typically not be on when the windows are open. So the home is flooded with moist air and trapped inside once the windows are closed. If the temperature has dropped at night and you haven’t had to turn the a/c on then all that moist air has to go somewhere and it settles on items in your home. This can cause wood doors (cabinet and others) to swell, bulge, warp etc. This is not an issue of poor craftsmanship or poor quality. It’s a product of an energy code that is suggesting to us we need to have buyers keep their windows closed and air conditioning on during humid weather, whether you want to or not. Is this right? Well, we all need to conserve energy. But it would have been nice if someone told us folks in the construction field that this sort of code requirement would have some negative effects. So we are letting buyers know why we are seeing the occasional issue created by these required codes. All of us in the industry are learning how to cope with what has been required of us and we ask you to work with us on these issues. The best we can suggest at this point is to leave your windows closed on really humid days and run your air conditioner. To make matters more complicated, the opposite will be true during the winter. Winter air is naturally drier so, without a humidifier, you could see your wood floors separating, doors not latching and caulking on baseboards and other areas splitting, although our experience has shown us this is very rare. I’ve painted a terrible picture, on purpose, so you can understand the importance of working with your heat/air conditioning and air exchanger systems to give yourself the most comfortable living environment and to minimize the call backs where you will request us to fix the unfixable. We will adjust your doors in the summer if they swell as part of our one- year warranty commitment but come winter they will shrink. So the best defense against this back and forth issue is as explained above. This is very complicated and not wanted or expected by any of us, Please feel free to contact our Liaison at any time if you have questions or need assistance from issues caused by humidity or lack thereof, but please try to adhere to the suggestions above.

Condensation in Basements

Remember the old days where water dripped from everything in a basement, the water pipes would sweat, the air would be musty and mildew grew? To some extent those days are in the past. With the introduction of heat, air conditioning and rigid foam on the exterior walls, basements are much drier. Yes you may get a small amount of condensation on a duct, you might even get a small amount at the base of the concrete walls as they cure. But for the most part this problem has been reduced to a point where it’s negligible. If for some reason you experience enough condensation to cause dripping or puddling (rare) let us know and we will apply some insulation to the duct(s) to stop the issue. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about the curing walls but this action will not cause puddling, rather a discoloration where the floor meets the wall. If you have a puddle of any size please let us know. Most importantly, understand we have spent considerable time and resources to combat wet basements caused by a high water table. So any water in your basement will be from sweating pipes or drying concrete and possibly from one of these typhoon type storms we have been experiencing where we receive massive amounts of water in a small amount of time along with high winds that can spread open your bulkhead and allow enough water in the bulkhead to puddle on the floor. My suggestion to stop this is to hang a rope on the bulkhead lock bar then attach a weight of some sort to the rope. This weight will help to keep the bulkhead doors closed in high winds. Also, when there is high humidity or a strong change in temperature the bulkhead may “sweat” and cause some condensation in the bulkhead. These issues are normal and are not covered under the Contractor supplied One Year Warranty.

Electric

As stated in this information, we are learning what positive and negative effects the new building codes for energy efficiency are causing. We are getting reports from owners that their electric bills are higher than expected. We have done some research and believe we have narrowed down the culprits. The first is dehumidifiers. As with any basement there will be humidity. Ours appear to keep a lower humidity level because there are ducts in the basement supplying air conditioning and heat. As most of you know, one of the ways air conditioners cool the air is by functioning as dehumidifiers, hence the reason for water weeping from window air conditioners etc. This helps relieve some of the humidity always found in a basement. However, our homes are newly constructed which means the concrete is still curing (releasing water into the air) and the immense amount of lumber being used must also dry. These things cause humidity, especially in the basements. So some owners are using dehumidifiers in their basements and dehumidifiers are extremely inefficient/expensive to operate, using a lot of electricity. It is suggested humans fair best with humidity levels around 55%. If you feel you need a dehumidifier running in the basement during the summer, I suggest you set it at 60% or 65% humidity +-. The unit will go on less and this should reduce the energy consumption. Over time the home will “dry” and our hope is the need for a dehumidifier will decrease. We believe the other culprit attributing to the higher than expected electric bills is the energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system that is mandated by State/Town code to be installed in all of our units to assure clean air is introduced into these very “tight” homes. The unit is powered by electricity and as the name suggests, this unit expels air from inside the condo and pulls in fresh air. 

While doing this, the unit recovers the heat or cool temp of the expelled air and transfers that heat or cool temp to the incoming air to reduce the need to acclimatize the fresh air being brought into the unit, thus saving on the expense of having to heat or cool the fresh air being pumped into your home. However, this system can only recover a percentage of the heat or cool in the expelled air thus requiring the heating or air conditioning system to do the rest. This of course, costs money in the form of higher electric usage for the air conditioner and propane usage for the heating system. We haven’t had any complaints regarding the amount of propane being used for heat, cooking fuel and hot water. But the nature of the ERV might be affecting the electric bill by requiring the electrically fueled air conditioning system to run more than it would if there wasn’t an ERV.  Additionally, the exhaust fans in the bathrooms also expel interior air based again on an algorithm so they will be running at a reduced rpm throughout the day, thus removing interior air and forcing fresh air into the home while causing the same effect described above. Both the ERV and the bath fans ability to expel air are designed to run on an algorithm and not be controlled by the owner. We can do nothing about these systems and their energy use. As stated, we are bound by State and Town codes to install these systems. 

Home Owners Association (HOA) Dues

Currently the HOA fee goes toward the maintenance of the lawns and shrubs, plowing of the subdivision roads and driveways, shoveling of front walks, paying interior and exterior insurance for each unit and trash/recycling collection. Most HOAs cover the cost of exterior insurance, but we made the choice to have the insurance for both the exterior to the back of your sheet rocked walls and also cover the interior of the units. This was done to reduce any issues that may occur between separate insurers if there were an accident that incorporated the need for repair of the interior and exterior of a unit. Because of this, in the near future the $34/month cost of the interior insurance will probably be compensated by increasing the HOA dues by the $34.00/month thus creating a monthly HOA dues of $284.00. This will allow the HOA to put more money aside for short and long term maintenance/repairs/replacements. 

Vertical Pipes and Stakes

These items will be found in your front yard and are marking where the sewer line clean out is and where the private line meets the town sewer and the location of the exterior shut-off for the water line (curb stop). At the completion of each phase they will be triangulated and put on a plan in case they have to be located in the future, then the pipes/markers will be removed. 

Furnace Warranty Extension

Within 60 days of closing you may register your furnace, coil, and compressor model and serial numbers with Nortek to double the length of the warranty at no charge. Go to http://www.gibsonhvac.com/central-system-warranty/. Or call 800-422-4328. Nortek is the manufacturer of your Gibson heating and air conditioning systems. 

Cleaning Behind Refrigerator

Please use caution when cleaning behind the refrigerator or washer. There is a copper pipe tube that feeds water to the ice and water dispenser on the fridge door. You must be careful not to pull the fridge out too far so as to kink the tube. It’s similar if someone wants to clean behind the washer. If you pull it out too far the drain hose will come out of the drain, and unless you realize it has come out, you will have a terrible mess and lots of damage. The copper line varies in length in every condo. My suggestion to those who don’t have wood or sheet rock walls surrounding their fridge is to pull it out a couple feet and see how much play there is in the copper line. For those with walls around the fridge, figure the plumber was able to have the fridge away from the wall far enough to hook up the copper line, so move it out slowly and look behind it when it’s possible to do so. The plumber had to get in there to connect everything, so it should be able to be moved out enough to get a body behind the fridge. 

Estimated Completion Dates

My General Contractors spend a lot of time trying to give me the most accurate completion dates for each build. However, there are many things out of our control that play havoc with our schedules.  Materials shortages, bad weather, labor issues and COVID to name a few make it impossible to give anything but an estimated completion date. This summer I had several homes that were ready within a few days+- of their estimated completion dates. However, I had just as many fall as much as a month and a half behind due to problems we encountered that have been rectified, but new challenges will certainly occur. I implore you to understand we cannot guarantee these estimated completion dates. A rule of thumb is when the first floor decking (sub-floor)  is being constructed on top of the foundation walls your build should take 4 to 5 months to be completed.  Approximately 30 days prior to completion of your home we will be able to give you a firm completion date so a closing can be scheduled.

Sheet Rock Cracks

As time goes by components in your new home like the lumber, sheet rock compound, concrete etc will continue to dry. This can cause minor cracking of the sheet rock. This typically happens on inside corners on the ceiling and any sheet rock seam on the walls and ceiling are also susceptible to cracking. Most of our homes have had no cracks at all, which is typically unheard of. Some have had only a couple and a couple have had several. Unsightly as they are we ask you to let the house go through four seasons so the house will have a chance to dry and settle. We will then take care of fixing all the cracks, over a certain size, all at once. If you notice an abnormally large crack width or length wise, give us a call and we can take a look at it to make sure its not indicative of a bigger problem. This occurrence would be rare in a new home and we have not had it happen. 

Concrete Cracks

Simply put: Concrete cracks. Our crews do a fantastic job compacting soils before concrete is applied which reduces cracking but, concrete still cracks. We have been very fortunate to have zero cracks in our concrete garage floors, front porches and back porch patios. But we have had a few cracks in our basement floors. Its such a large area that its prone to cracking. To reduce the amount of cracks we cut expansion joints in those large areas like the porches, basement and garage. The hope is when the concrete cracks it will do so in the expansion cuts, but it doesn’t always work. So please expect some cracks in your basement floor. These are not covered by any warranty. However, if a crack is a result of heaving please let us know. Again, we haven’t had this happen but if it did we would want to see if there was an issue beyond the cracking. 

Water Under Garage Doors

Obviously water will run down the garage door and accumulate at the base where it can come into the garage when the door is opened. Our seal from concrete to garage door is very good, but expect a small amount of water in your garage following a strong rain. 

Front Gardens and others

I have watched as many of our Home Owners have created wonderful gardens near their front doors. Just want to make sure we are all on the same page as I started to see shrubs being planted. I am the HOA at this point and had deemed no shrubs would be allowed in the front bed but it appears an overwhelming amount of you want to put shrubs in the front garden. So lets allow it. However, there have to be some rules so the shrubs aren’t causing damage and the extra maintenance from them is taken care of by the home owner.  So if you want to have shrubs in the front garden they can not touch the bldg or the front railing. This is why all of our shrubs are planted two feet from the building. The diameter of our shrubs should reach 3′ so they wont touch the buildings and will allow air to circulate to reduce mold to the buildings and rot to the shrubs. Its also to make sure the shrubs don’t cause damage to the bldg or railings. Planting in this fashion must also be followed when creating flower beds on the side or backs of the units.  Any additional maintenance caused by the shrubs will also be the responsibility of the owner of the unit. So any mold that does grow behind the shrubs should be removed by the home owner. Also, nothing should be planted between the shrubs the builder has planted or in the mulch beds we are installing at every home. The HOA is responsible for taking care of those beds and you are responsible for anything you plant. And I want to keep some continuity of the look of the beds we plant. So please don’t plant anything in the bark mulched area that the builder installs. Any additional plantings on the sides or back of the building should also have mulch that matches that of the front/side bed that the builder installs. Anyone who wants to put in one of these beds on the side or back of the bldg can contact Kate and she will get you the name of the mulch being used and where you can purchase it. However, your front garden can have any ground covering you choose, lets let some creativity be allowed in that location as Ive seen sand, gravel, mulch etc being used already. Its wonderful to watch the creativity of so many of our Home Owners as they plant and mulch these beds near the front doors. Some have statues, some have shrubs, many have annuals and some have perennials or a mix of all of it. Very cool. And if you don’t want to plant in that bed, just let us know and we will be sure to maintain grass in that area.  

Asphalt

Driveways and sidewalks in this project are constructed using bituminous concrete, otherwise known as asphalt or tar. One of the reasons we use it for sidewalks instead of concrete is concrete will disintegrate quickly if salt is applied. Asphalt must be babied, so please don’t ever turn your tires while on the driveway and do not set anything on the asphalt that could mar it, that includes chairs with thin legged bottoms etc. Any damage caused to the asphalt by the home owner will be the responsibility of the homeowner. 

I hope you find this list helpful and it makes your move to your new home that much easier. If you have any questions prior to purchase, please contact me at your earliest convenience and please contact Kate, if your question arises after you take ownership of your home. And let me be the first to congratulate you on your purchase and to say: WELCOME HOME. I hope you have many years of comfortable, safe and enjoyable living at The Condominiums At Sugarloaf.  

Best Wishes,  

Mark Wightman

(413) 376-5496

[email protected]
The Condominiums At Sugarloaf/RAGUS, LLC – Manager

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