Don DeBat

Don DeBat

There is a rumor that condominiums are carefree living at their best.  No lawns to mow, no snow to shovel (in areas where it snows) no maintenance, all an owner has to do is pick up the phone, call the manager or a friendly board member, report a problem and poof, as if by magic, the problem is taken care of.  Right?  Well, if you believe that I have bridge to sell you.  No one tells you about your responsibilities as an owner or the hours “volunteers” donate to the association. There are other misconceptions associated with condo living, carefree living is the least of them.

Don DeBat joins us On The Commons this week.  Don is a long time reporter, a newspaper columnist who has written hundreds of newspaper columns on condominium and homeowner association living.  He is a Pulitzer Prize nominee for a series he wrote on shoddy home repairs, He has authored a number of books, including co-authoring “Escaping Condo Jail: Navigating the Risks and Surviving the Perils of the “Carefree Community Lifestyle” with Sara Benson.  The multi talented DeBat wrote the press release for the new homeowner satisfaction survey conducted recently by the Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest (CHPPI) We talk to Don about his career as a Real Estate reporter, his research for his latest book and we find out how he managed to get his nickname, Batman.  Tune in for a fun interview.  

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One thought on “Don DeBat”

  1. Three of the core problems that are rarely mentioned with HOAs include: lack of (financial management) money management skills, embezzlement, and absence of the ability to prioritize and manage maintenance projects.

    HOAs are a business. Big business. With tremendous responsibility to make the right decisions at the right price at the right time to keep the buildings well-maintained.

    After a decade of living in an HOA, I can honestly say from my observation that most HOAs could not function well if the dues were $2,000 per month on a condo in rural America. Why? Because the board members have no clue what they are doing. Many have financial problems themselves. And in the case of my HOA the board president has filed bankruptcy at least once. Paying dues into an HOA is no different than giving a teenager a credit card and dropping them off at the mall to shop until they drop. The amount of waste, embezzlement, and kickbacks are out of sight.

    I disagree with Don DeBat that buying into a condo is like buying stock with Starbucks. If the stock drops, I lose my investment. In a condo, if the board engages in a lawsuit (s), takes out a million dollar loan, has a thief on the board or as a property manager, or fails to perform maintenance on a sidewalk and somebody falls and gets injured, the condo owner is liable for payment on all of that. They don’t just lose the value on their property they can lose every dime in their retirement and investment accounts, too. The risks are massive when buying into an HOA and far greater than buying a stock investment. Not to mention the investment industry is highly regulated and when crooks like Bernie Madoff get caught they go to prison for years. Criminal acts involving HOAs barely receive a slap on the hand.

    I do agree with Don when he says he would not take a condo as a gift. Knowing what I know now about HOAs, I would not take one, two, or twenty condos as a gift. Even if it was paid in full with no taxes, had a chef, housekeeper, chauffeur, nail tech, and massage therapist included, I would refuse the gift.

    My American dream is to live HOA-free for the rest of my life!

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