July 30, 2009

Family alone in 32-story condo tower

A New Jersey firefighter says he and his family are the only residents of a 32-story Florida condominium building -- and they want out.

Victor Vangelakos, 45, of Weehawken, N.J., said he purchased the Oasis I condo in Fort Myers from Miami-based The Related Group for $430,000 and closed in November, The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press reported Thursday. Vangelakos intended to use the condo as a vacation getaway and, when he retires in four years, as a permanent residence.

But prices have dropped precipitously since a real estate bust, and only a handful of buyers who put down deposits closed. They have since swapped their Oasis I condos for units in neighboring Oasis II, said Betsy Lu McCoy, vice president and associate corporate counsel for Related.

McCoy said Vangelakos did not switch to the other building because his lender was unwilling to agree to the change.

John Ewing, Vangelakos' Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based attorney, said the family wants Related to buy the condo back due to maintenance issues and other complaints.

They have the ability to buy him out, Ewing said. They can resolve this in a fair way.

But McCoy said the problem lies with Vangelakos' lender, JP Morgan Chase Bank.

His concerns have not fallen on deaf ears, she said. However, she said the bank's decision not to transfer the mortgage to Oasis II is not Related's fault.