Is your condominium, or the one you are planning to buy, up to PAR?
With the condominium market now reviving in Chicago, the Private Association Rating report, or PARScore®—a high-tech data-driven analytics process that helps condo buyers evaluate their home purchase in advance—is becoming more and more popular among consumers.
“The PARScore® is similar to a credit score for condominium and homeowners associations, or a CARFAX® for condos,” said Michael Reilly, Chief Operations Officer for Association Evaluation LLC, a Chicago-based real estate data-analysis firm that created PARScore®.
“Through our proprietary algorithm, PARScore® provides a standardized rating between 400 and 900,” said Sara E. Benson, CEO of the company. Financially healthy and well-run associations receive higher ratings while risky associations plagued with low bank balances, non-paying owners, special assessments and lawsuits receive lower ratings, Benson explained.
Every association is assigned a unique Permanent Identification Code (PIC). More than 140 data sets are analyzed and scored against the coded individual associations by using the patent-pending PARScore® point system.
Launched in November of 2012, Association Evaluation currently has more than 70,000 homeowner associations in their proprietary database and has run scores and processed reports across the U.S. from coast to coast. Call 844-PAR-SCORE (844-727-7267), or visit: www.AssociationEvaluation.com.
The newly designed, consumer friendly 2015 PARScore® report now features a comparison algorithm: “How does your association compare?” The technology also utilizes geo-coding with longitude and latitude satellite reporting.
“Just because you live in the Gold Coast doesn’t mean your building will have a 24-karat gold PARScore®,” noted Benson. “Wealthy neighborhoods can be an asset due to the walkability, proximity to recreation, and quality of life, but there may also be individual buildings representing high risk to a new buyer.”
Some vintage Gold Coast buildings have had lower scores due to low reserves balances, lawsuits, and deferred maintenance, Benson said. Life safety compliance is also an issue in many older buildings.
“Always remember condominium and homeowner association boards are run by volunteer homeowners with different backgrounds, experience and goals,” Reilly said. These boards of directors have a major impact on the financial health of an association. That fiscal (and physical) health will directly impact their PARScore®.
Some condo boards make decisions that may negatively impact the other owners: for example, instead of investing in the future mechanicals and infrastructures, the board may choose to spend money on redecorating the lobbies or outfitting the workout room with new equipment, leaving few to no dollars left for critical infrastructure maintenance.
“Following a professionally prepared reserve-study plan should rule the investment dollars spent from the association’s reserve fund,” Benson said.
Imagine two identical buildings standing side-by-side on the North Side. Both are six-unit 1920s walk-up buildings. One building has $60,000 in the reserve fund and 100-percent owner occupancy, with a strong condo board. The other building has no money in the reserve fund, less than 50-percent owner occupancy, and a condo board with no leadership.
“Although the location, age, and materials of construction may be identical, owners in the first building may expect their sale prices to be nearly double than those in the second building,” Benson explained. “PARScore® will reflect that,”
The highest achievable rating is 900 and indicates the most creditworthy and healthy associations. Lower ratings reflect associations with high assessment delinquencies, excessive foreclosures, high non-owner occupancy, pending lawsuits, low financial reserves, and known unabated health hazards such as mold and radon, for example.
Association Evaluation recently conducted a survey to analyze scores condominium associations have posted in popular Chicago neighborhoods. The results of the survey follow:
• Loop, East Loop & River North. With a mix of vintage rehabs and newer high-rise buildings, the PARScore®s range runs from 640 to 800. The area is bounded by Congress St. on the south, Lake Michigan on the east, Chicago Ave. on the north, and the Kennedy Expressway on the west.
• South Loop. This area, with many newer high-rise buildings, has an average score of 770. The area is bounded by Roosevelt Rd. on north, Cermak Rd. on the south, the lake on the east and the Chicago River on the west.
• West Loop. Scores range from 660 to 810 depending on whether the project was new construction or a conversion of an older loft building—and the extent of the developer’s rehabilitation of the building. The area is bounded by Halsted St. on the east, Lake St. on the north, Ashland Ave. on the west, and Congress St. on the south.
• Gold Coast & Streeterville. Scores run from 700 to 830. The Gold Coast is bounded by Oak St. on the south, North Ave. on the north, the lake on the east and LaSalle St. on the west. Streeterville is bounded by the Chicago River on the south, the lake on the east, Michigan Ave. on the west and East Lake Shore Dr. on the north.
• Lincoln Park & Old Town. Scores vary dramatically and range from 570 to 880. The area is bounded by Lincoln Park and LaSalle St. on the east, Division St. on the south, Diversey Pkwy. on the north, and the Chicago River on the west.
“The wide range in scores reflects rental ratios, building maintenance, association-loan balances, insurance, lawsuits, whether the association has conducted (and is following) a recent reserve study, and if an association recently levied a special assessment,” Benson said. Some newer, well-funded luxury owner-occupied buildings enjoyed exceedingly high scores.
• Lakeview & Wrigleyville. Scores average around 720. Some buildings had building-code violations which affected the PARScore®. The area is bounded by the lake on the east, Diversey Pkwy. on the south, Irving Park Rd. on the north and the Chicago River on the west.
• Uptown, Edgewater & Rogers Park. The average score for the area is 710. Scores vary widely based on the age and type of building. “Many high-rise buildings constructed and/or converted during the condo boom of the 1970s are now in need of substantial renovation of mechanical systems—elevators, roofs, masonry and balconies,” Benson noted.
Some older, walk-up buildings have experienced higher scores depending on the amount of reserves compared to the number of units in the association. The area is bounded by the lake on the east, Irving Park Rd. on the south, Howard St. on the north and Ashland Ave. on the west.
• Outlying Chicago neighborhoods. Scores range as high as 875 and as low as 405.
Depending on the size of the association, or number of units, pricing—including a site visit and PARScore® rating—ranges from $300 to $850.
“Collected data includes direct investigations with association directors and/or property managers, and on-site inspections of the communities,” said Reilly. “Additional data sources include monitoring corporate filings such as lawsuits, judgments, bankruptcies, and the certificate of good standing with the Secretary of State’s office.”
Financial reporting includes verification of operating and reserve-account monies. Board minutes are examined for adherence to standard accepted business protocol procedures and to ensure against unexpected and costly special assessments that have been discussed by the association’s directors, but not yet levied at the time of sale.
For more housing news, visit www.dondebat.biz. Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit www.escapingcondojail.com.