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Here’s some more on the news I mentioned yesterday:

Downtown’s biggest condo project, Vantage Pointe, got important permission yesterday from the state Department of Real Estate to begin opening contracts with buyers for units there.

The developers of the 679-unit project have split it into several pieces in the wake of major trouble with finding buyer financing and finishing construction earlier this year. I’ve written a lot about this project over the last year.

Now, buyers can open contracts on some of those condos, so I thought it was time for an update. I chatted today with Tina West, who’s overseeing the building’s sales.

What’s available for sale right now includes:

  • CityVibe: 99 units on the second through ninth floors, most priced between about $250,000 and $470,000.
  • SeaScape: 33 units on floors 10 through 26, most priced between about $550,000 and $750,000.

The sales team is first trying to sell 70 percent of the CityVibe project. They have to have 70 percent of the units contracted to buyers who make 3 percent deposits before any buyers can close escrow. West said the sales team has about 30 units committed to buyers. (Here’s some background on that financing ratio from last spring.)

The 244 units in the center tower are being rented out, with more than 110 already leased. Lease rates were between $1,600 and $2,600 but have been raised to start at $1,850 and stretch to just under $3,000, West said.

I checked out the building last week with sales manager Sheridan Mantor. I found the lobby (developer photo) really nice. Since some of the previous buyers had been investing in upgrades for their units, some of the condos have hardwood floors and upgraded features. Most of the units in CityVibe are quite small (611 to 926 square feet) and that especially shows up in the second bedroom in some of them.

West said that square footage means the units’ price-per-square-foot is higher than many other projects downtown, but she said the overall prices on most of those CityVibe units “hits the sweet spot” for downtown buyers.

Mantor said they’ve been showing the building off to downtown brokers like Jim Abbott. The sales team is offering a lucrative 5 percent commission to brokers who bring them buyers.

I asked Abbott what he thought of the project. Here’s his take:

I think if you looked at what the bottom end of the market is selling for vis a vis all the REO activity that Vantage Pointe is pretty close on its pricing, and that part of the market is trending up in value. If you factor in newness, and the interim occupancy benefits, I’d take my buyers in that price range to Vantage Pointe first before I recommended they be 1 of 25 offers on a bank-owned property with no seller around to be responsible before or after the sale. There’s a lot to be said for being able to walk into a complex, pick out a unit, and know with certainty that you can buy it.

One big question I still have is how the homeowners association will work for this project.

HOA dues for buyers in these units will likely range from $490 to $600. The developer will pay the dues for the unsold units in the CityVibe and SeaScape projects for a year, West said.

What if you buy and not all of the units sell within that year? Will buyers have to pay more dues? Or will their HOA just be underfunded for a while? The details are still being worked out for how the HOA for the other, unreleased towers, will be covered, West said.

KELLY BENNETT

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