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Escaping Condo Jail Paperback – October 8, 2014
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Her book is full of the HOA horror stores those of us in advocacy positions have become all too familiar with. But we need to know what can go wrong to begin to understand how to prevent it or fix it when it happens to us.
A surprising solution is her suggestion that serving on the board be mandatory. This quote particularly made me laugh, "Most of the angst of running for the board would be removed, because all association members would be eligible to be called upon to serve their terms. Do you risk ending up with the “village idiot” as a board officer? Of course, but nothing could possibly be any worse than some of the politicians who have held office in Washington, DC."
For anyone trying to walk through the maize, this is a horror story in the sense that the bad guy keeps rising no matter how many times you think you have beaten him. Yet at least it offers some creative ways out, things you may not have considered. I think Sara's book is a great addition to the growing number of resources for owners fighting their way out of HOA Hell.
Three months after JoAnne closed on a gorgeous, sun-drenched condo in Manhattan, she was hit with a $60,000 special assessment. JoAnne had ninety days to pay or face foreclose.
Alas, JoAnne has plenty of company. Steve had to move out of his condo in Orland Park, Florida, after mold caused by seeping water started ruining his health. James, 79, was butted in the stomach at a condo association meeting in Chicago due to a disagreement about rental restrictions. And a hoarder in Atlanta managed to burn the building down before the community association manager was able to gain access to his unit.
In their carefully researched and thoroughly footnoted book, authors Sara Benson and Don DeBat lay out these and scores of other stories about the risk of condo ownership. They are experts in this field, having worked in the trenches for years – Benson as a Chicago realtor and consultant to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and DeBat as a real estate editor at two major Chicago newspapers.
While Escaping Condo Jail alerts readers about what can go wrong with condo ownership, it does not stop there. The 613-page book is chuck-full of tips, advice and useful information. Its lengthy appendix is replete with sample forms, check lists and a comprehensive glossary.
The book includes detailed histories of the condominium movement; the real estate market, in general; fair housing issues; urban revivals; banking practices; legal cases; and economic trends. All these forces have made homeowners associations the most common form of home ownership in the United States as well, perhaps, the most perilous. The wealth of information the book provides should make the condo lifestyle work for anyone, despite the pitfalls. One helpful but surprising recommendation is to never pay cash up front for a condo. “Keep your cash in your pocket and make you lender a partner in risk management.”
If it does not, however, Escaping Condo Jail – as its name implies – offers unhappy condo owners multiple exit strategies. These including the short sale, strategic default, loan forbearance, selling; renting; squatting; negotiating “keys for cash,” or even finding a way to fall back in love with your unit and staying put. One fascinating exit strategy, described as an “ace up your sleeve,” is to check who holds the promissory note on your condo. “The theory is that a ‘naked’ mortgage – a mortgage without a promissory note – cannot be foreclosed upon.”
As either a guidebook or a good rousing read, Escaping Condo Jail is both informative and entertaining. It could also save you tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. - By Greg Borzo, author of The Chicago “L”
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I'm an avid book reader and book buyer but I rarely review books on Amazon. As I sit at my desk tonight holding a copy of Sara Benson's and Don DeBat's book,...Read more