Ah, the joys condodebtorship.
When Jerry O’Leary, 54 and retired, put down over $100,000 dollars toward a new million-dollar condominium in February 2005, he thought he was buying his way into an innovative downtown lifestyle proposed by Vulcan Inc. Vulcan Real Estate’s $200 million 2200 project on two and a half acres at Westlake Avenue…
However, on March 26, 2007 O’Leary filed suit…after a series of delays and construction disputes left him with a condo that…was “substantially [different] from the scope, nature, and extent of the project as it was described”…O’Leary recounts, “The quality, as promised, sounded great.” Instead, he describes the building to The Stranger as “basically a Motel 6.“
…some of the problems include irreparably damaged door and window frames; a poured concrete deck that sloped toward his apartment, causing leaks in the unit below; mounting construction delays; and unmet expectations. …O’Leary is not the only person to encounter problems with 2200.
…tenants have dealt with minor annoyances such as low water pressure and leaky shower doors and pipes, as well as major design flaws like incorrectly positioned halogen lights that threatened to ignite kitchen cabinets. The problems were compounded, they say, by promises of room service from in-house restaurant Marazul, a rooftop “garden”—which according to a third resident is nothing more than “a big cement area with a couple of trees stuck in it,”
As of press time, several real-estate websites list 38 condos being resold in the building, and Craigslist reveals at least a dozen units available for rent or sale. … according to John L. Scott Real Estate agent Ben Kakimoto, the number of units being flipped by investors “seem[s] like a lot” when compared to other condo projects of similar scope. Some of these units have sat unsold for months, with several of the pricier units remaining on the market even after $100,000-plus price reductions.
While Vulcan would not release information on its vacancy rate, anecdotal evidence hints that 2200 currently isn’t the bustling urban utopia it was supposed to be. Resident Chris Tanaka notes that he “never see[s] that many people” in the buildings, and Dierst remarks that “the building is not full.”
Matt Goyer, the operator of Seattle condo blog Urbnlivn and a program manager at real-estate website Redfin…believes the problem is oversaturation. “It feels like they’re overbuilding in the higher-end market…. Goyer faults vacancies at 2200 to “people trying to make a fast buck. A lot of [these] people [have] unreasonable expectations.”
Huh? What’s so unrealistic about purchasing overpriced downtown condos during the peak of the greatest real estate asset bubble in history and expecting to flip them for an easy buck?
…units [at 2200] for sale have seen price reductions ranging from $1,000 to $175,000. And one seller is even throwing in a 42-inch flat-screen TV to sweeten the deal.
Is that 1080i or 1080p?
Addressing the O’Leary lawsuit, Jeffries states, “I don’t know why Mr. O’Leary feels like that’s something he needed to go to the media about.” She would not respond to anonymous complaints about the development (nor did she return several calls after a few residents put their names by the complaints). “We’re doing everything we can to take care of our homeowners. The vast majority of people at 2200 are really happy,” she originally told us. We asked Vulcan to put us in touch with some of those tenants, they did not respond to the request.
On a recent Saturday night, as 2200’s three concrete and glass towers loomed in the night—the downtown skyline to the southwest…many of the windows were dark, save for the glow of several flat-screen TVs large enough to be viewed from the street.
During 2005 in downtown San Diego, I noticed much the same. At the time I just assumed that everyone was simply still working at 10pm each night, desperately trying to make their $4500 mortgage payments.
When I am ready to purchase my next house after the crash, it certainly won’t be a condo. I probably won’t buy anything made after 2000 as they’ve likely been built of balsa wood and bailing wire.
While it’s difficult to tell if Seattle will be hurt as badly as other bubbly areas such as San Diego (and this is only the beginning), it certainly won’t be pretty. Be patient – a sixteen year speculative bull market in housing doesn’t land quickly – and certainly not “softly”.
As they like to say on HB, “got popcorn?”
(Jonah Spangethal-Lee,The Stranger, 04.12.2007)