Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Who is looking out for the Brandywine Crossings out there?

The Advoc8te has several friends who purchased condos at  the Brandywine Crossing Condominiums in Ward 8's Washington Highlands neighborhood. What was once an exciting and joyous time has turned into the stuff of nightmares. First, their property management company was "alleged" to have embezzled mismanaged their association fees and as if that wasn't enough there seems to be serious issues with mold and unit construction.  I wish I could say this unfortunate situation is limited to Brandywine Crossing  but I cannot. Four years ago, when I was looking for my first home I toured a lot of properties in Ward 8. Most of the condominiums were really nice, very responsible rehabs or new construction.  Others... let's just say that when you looked closely they fell far short of the "affordable luxury" they advertised in their marketing materials.

I recall standing in a "totally renovated" condominium project across from Brandywine Crossing (at the time the standard for "high-end" living on the block).  The building exterior was lovely, the paint was fresh, and the landscaping lush.  It didn't look too shabby -- at first -- and the price was a steal. It wasn't until I went inside and noticed that the floors were so uneven I was able to roll a quarter from one end of the unit to the other! When I brought the floor issue to the attention of the sales agent he told me flat-out and with no shame that the developer  had to, "Cut a few corners to keep things affordable."  Needless to say I did not purchase there, but I am sure someone else did. Most likely an excited and eager first-time homebuyer, and I have a feeling those floors didn't just even themselves out.

Over the past 12 - 18 months tales of mold, shoddy construction, and questionable property management practices have started to emerge in the Ward 8 condominium market.  Add to that the worst economic downturn in decades and you have a recipe for disaster. First-time homeowners who were once so excited and proud of their new digs are now overcome with dread, some seriously considering walking away from their homes altogether because they feel powerless to stop the tide of property neglect and financial ruin.  I can think of at least four condominiums in Ward 8 that are facing serious financial and construction related issues. I have one friend who paid her mortgage and condo fees faithfully (and on time) who found herself without heat this winter because there was no money in the condominium association's coffers! Regardless of the reasons, there definitely seems to be a disturbing trend emerging. What do you do when your American Dream turns into a nightmare?

Savoy Court Condominiums - NOT a nightmare 
I have been lucky (and in no small part to my control freak personality) that I happen to live in one of the really good condominiums in Ward 8, Savoy Court.  Our developers didn't cut corners, they continue to be very involved in the property (they meet here weekly), and our property management team is very capable and trustworthy. We have had only one foreclosure in four years (owner disappeared) and the vast majority of our owner's pay their condo fees in full and on time.  It doesn't hurt that our Homeowner's Association (of which I was president for two years) is very vigilant (don't even think about putting a doormat in the hallway). We stay on the ball because we can't afford not to. To be fair,  we probably paid a little more for our units than some of our neighbors, but that shouldn't exclude them from expecting (and getting) quality workmanship. At the end of the day, water should not be pouring through your "brand new" ceiling 18 months after you signed on the dotted line, and you definitely shouldn't be living with mold.

It does make me wonder, "Where do questionable development and property management companies go when they want to do business in the District?"

Northwest or Southeast? The more "affluent" and connected neighborhoods of D.C. or those literally "over the river and through the woods?" Where do first-time homebuyers with limited resources go when they find themselves left holding the bag? Who hears them? Who stands up for them? Who makes sure the standard is being met and addresses it when it is not?

I don't want my neighbors to end up in the poor house — or the crazy house -- just because they dared to believe in the "American Dream. I don't want them to move just because the idea of staying is just too traumatic.

Real estate shouldn't make you cry.

P.S. If there are any reporters out there looking to do a story on this issue please contact me. I would be happy to put you in touch with some of my frustrated neighbors. 


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, there have been times where I've considered walking away from my condo...regardless of the consequences...while my buildings are not in disrepair like Brandywine Crossing..I am fearful of what can happen with these fly by night "Property Management" companies....and shady developers who still own the majority of these condo conversions...

Something needs to be done and soon!

Braveheart said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I live in Brandywine Crossing and it has been a nightmare for me and my neighbors. We did everything right, but it seems like the American dream is out of our reach thanks to people like David Tolson and his development firm, DBT Development.

I don't want to walk away from my mortage based on my religious values, but something's got to give here. I've never been late on a single payment but can not pay for a home that's not livable.

Anonymous said...

DBT as developer and who as manager who is said to be mismanaging association money? If it is DBT controlled why has a law suit not been filed? Is it neglect or fraud? I don't know - just asking?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing attention to this. Basically, the condos are built on the potomac river. There is a water source directly under Brandywine St which causes the buildings to move. This should have been disclosed at the time of closing. The builder knew this. And this is the crux of the matter.