A year after Surfside condo collapse, two California startups are creating Carfax-like reports for HOAs

Christopher Gardner, founder of the new consumer product, CondoFax. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

As family and survivors commemorate the one-year anniversary of the deadly Surfside, Fla., condo collapse on Friday, June 24, two Southern California companies are offering new tools to help condo buyers and owners assess the soundness of their own homeowner associations.

Their goal is to avoid pitfalls like the ones that may have contributed to last June’s tragedy, when the 12-story Champlain Towers South pancaked into a heap of rubble, killing 98 people.

Press reports showed the Champlain Towers board had squabbled for years over how to pay for $15 million in critically needed repairs. The repairs didn’t begin until it was too late.

While the federal inquiry into the cause of the collapse isn’t expected until 2024, the Miami Herald reported that construction flaws coupled with years of deferred maintenance caused a deteriorated pool deck to pull away from the foundation, toppling pillars and causing the building to fall like a house of cards.

In May, Association Reserves, a Westlake Village company that had the Champlain Towers South as a client, unveiled a new product to help buyers, owners and board members assess the financial and physical health of their “community associations.”

“We’ve looked at condo associations across the country, and really, it’s bad,” said Christopher Gardner, founder of the new consumer product, CondoFax. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG) 

Called Association Insights and Marketplace, or AIM, it seeks to create a database covering the nation’s 370,000 “association-governed” communities, including condominiums, co-ops and townhomes.

HOAs are being recruited to upload their information into the database, which will then be used to create reports on maintenance reserve funds, finances and the physical condition of buildings, said Robert Nordlund, Association Reserves CEO and co-founder of the new AIM product.

The reports are free to participating condo associations and their members, but will cost buyers $50.

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In addition, AIM is creating a FICO-type score for each complex, called the FiPhO score. Had the score existed before the Champlain Towers collapse, the Florida towers would have received a 45 out of 100, Nordlund said — a weak score.

“We’re here to change the entire ecosystem of the community association industry,” Nordlund said.

Nordland and the founder of another new HOA reporting firm, Condofax, said they hope their products will become the condo industry’s version of Carfax, which provides used-car reports to auto buyers.

Founded last November, Condofax charges $299 for reports based on a deep dive into an HOAs’ documentation. Like AIM, it produces a brief report and its own version of a credit-type score.

“We’ve looked at condo associations across the country, and really, it’s bad,” said Christopher Gardner, Condofax founder and an executive with FHA Pros, which helps condo complexes qualify for Federal Housing Administration mortgages. “Somehow condo associations have largely eluded any scrutiny. It’s pretty astonishing, and we hope to change that.”

A third California organization, Oakland-based Transparency HOA, a nonprofit organization, provides reports on HOAs for free. A fourth company, Indiana-based InspectHOA.com, has been providing $189 reports for 2 ½ years to companies such as title firms, iBuyers and …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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