Richard Meier Beach House: 3rd time the charm?

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Prodigy Network sent me an email recently, announcing “exciting news” about the “progress” of the Beach House Designed by Richard Meier in Surfside. My new concerns stem from the fact that during the last two years or so, this project has switched developers twice. In April of 2006 the original developer, Lynx Strategic Development, announced a new partner, Turnberry Developers, a well-known and well-respected residential and commercial developer. Fast forward to my email of last week, yet another TOTALLY different development team, Wavestone & Development Services Solutions is in place and “ready to bring to life the design of one of the masters of modern architecture”. So for me, this email did not offer “exciting news”. Quite the contrary; this email reinforced concerns I already HAD regarding this project, and raised some new ones on top of that.

1. Who are the new developers? What is their track record?

2. What happened to Turnberry? With all the resources available to Turnberry, did they not feel this project was worthwhile, and if so…WHY?

3. Why has it taken three developers to bring this project to where it is today? (two years behind schedule)

4. If pre-sales were so strong, why would it take so many development teams to get this project built?

Regarding #4 above, attached to the email was an inventory list of available units. What surprised me was the low number of units available, as I know this project well and remember in April, 2005 (coincidentally the pinnacle of the recent real estate boom in Miami) bringing clients to the project when it was first announced. Even back at the beginning, this project was, in my opinion, both chaotic and disorganized. So much so that my clients and I put The Beach House on the back burner. We just didn’t get a good feeling and decided not continuing to pursue purchasing at the Beach House. Sometimes you have to go with your gut, even when you can’t put your finger on the concern in a factual way.

I’m not saying that this is a bad or undesirable project, what I am saying is that the history of this project gives me cause for concern. In fact, I hope that “The Third Time’s A Charm”, and the Wavestone Group can deliver the unique design of Meier’s vision. But this situation with The Beach House, highlights the risks of preconstruction development I have addressed in the past. Even with a strong developer involved like Turnberry, markets change, construction costs vary, and projects may never be built. In Florida, it is likely that only the first 10% of the monies paid to the builder are placed in a protected escrow account. Any additional deposits, or pre-payments of upgrades, may be used by the developer for construction costs. If the developer shuts down, some portion of the buyer’s money could be at risk.

That said, even with all the uncertainty of the market and the development teams, Richard Meier’s name and design, combined with a prime oceanfront location, has created a lot of interest among the international elite. I wish them well and will take a fresh look at the project as it moves forward. Everyone is best served when a new construction project finds its way to a satisfactory resolution. I always hope for the best, as a bad market is bad for everyone. But this project will have to prove itself to me, and I will have ten times the questions I might normally have, given its history, before I could comfortably recommend it to my clients.

Buyers Beware: Buying ‘sight unseen’ has it’s downside!

Stopped over at Apogee South Beach the other day to see how the building was coming along.  I overheard a buyer compaining to their agent that they didn’t like their unit, and wished they had picked a corner unit. Uh…DUH!  Of course the corner unit is better than the flow-through unit.

Flow through units have been “all the rage” in Miami Beach condo floor plans in the last four or five years.  I would describe these units as typically having exposure on the ‘prime’ side of the building and exposure on the street-side as well.  When a building goes up for sale in the pre-construction phase, these are usually the best selling units in the building for a couple of reasons:

1.  they are less expensive $ psf than compared to units which enjoy more exposure on the “prime” side of the building

2.  the developer “highlights” the fact that you have “both views”, thus making you feel like these units are steals compared to the corner units.

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APOGEE SOUTH BEACH FLOOR PLATE

The problem with flow-through units is that they look great on paper, but in reality they are not.  Though they do have two exposures, the units tend to be narrow and dark.  Whenever one of my clients thinks something looks really great…on paper..I try to take them to a similar unit in an existing building.  This way they get a chance to see what I already know:  some things look a whole lot better on paper than they do when they are completed.

Miami Beach Penthouse Report, May 2007

Lots to report on Miami Beach real estate, so I will get right to it! Surprisingly, there has been an abundance of real estate activity in ultra-high-end Miami Beach condos and Fisher Island this year.

I was a bit surprised to see how many of the $5M+ condo sales this year were on Fisher Island. Five units went for more than $5M; that is one a month! And if you think that’s pricey, then consider the $250K equity membership you must purchase just to use any of the Fisher Island’s amenities!

The Setai came in with the highest $ psf for non-pre-construction at just over $2300.

And get this—W South Beach sold a 2,700 sq. ft., south-facing PH for a cool $7.3M. Impressive, considering W South Beach just commenced construction and isn’t slated for completion until mid-2009!

Fontainebleau II sold an incredible PH for $6.4M. The view from this 4,500 sq. ft. residence with rooftop Jacuzzi is amazing.

SPECTACULAR MIAMI BEACH REAL ESTATE:

NEW TO MARKET

MIAMI BEACH PENTHOUSES


Il Villaggio – Spectacular PH in one of Miami Beach’s finest and most desirable buildings, Il Villaggio. $17,500,000. This Penthouse is a stellar piece of real estate. The unit has A LOT of millwork, so you better like wood-EVERYTHING!


1.jpg1500 Ocean Drive– Largest condominium residence ever to hit the Miami Beach real estate market! 11,940 sq. ft. + 9,824 sq. ft. balcony/rooftop; 10 parking spaces (that’s right, 10!). Taxes: $107,246; monthly maintenance: $10,817. $18,500,000. 1500 Ocean Drive was built in 2000 and designed by architect Michael Graves.


2.jpgContinuum– Tri- level, 40th floor Penthouse in SoFi’s exclusive Continuum I. Breathtaking direct ocean, South Beach and Fisher Island views! 7,400 sq. ft. with 6,000 sq. ft. of terrace with pool. Oh yeah, a paltry $25,000,000 for this pied-a-terre.  [Update: off market]


3.jpgContinuum– While this is not a TRUE Penthouse, this one rates! This unit was in the BIG hit movie Miami Vice (joke). This condo is the epitome of over the top drama. It is basically a sexy bachelor pad. I love this unit– ALL FANTASY, NO REALITY! $18,000,000…chump change!  [Update: off market]


Setai-This isn’t the TRUE Penthouse in Setai, but it has received a lot of play by throwing that PH “thing” around. PH Villa B is a single-story unit in the uber-fab Setai, which basically is a deluxe hotel room which they “say” commands $25K per night. Madonna and Mariah have slept there; out of Britney’s and Lindsay’s league! I wonder if David Hasselhoff has dined on the master bathroom floor? Hmmmm….

The Soaked Streets of South Beach

I was saving today for taking the pictures for the brise-soleil article. Well, as you may or may not know, we got hit with a lot of rain. Since Miami Beach is below sea level, it doesn’t take much rain for us to flood. I’ll let the pictures do the talking on this one.

Einstein’s

This is where I start my day, EVERY DAY. If you can’t get a hold of me, come here between 9-11 AM and you will find me here. I was extra cranky today because I couldn’t have my plain double toasted bagel.

This is not my BEAMER

This is WHY I couldn’t have my bagel!

Great!

This is 14th & Alton, right near my gym. Couldn’t work out today.

Just a pleasant stroll!

Another leisurely stroll to the market.

Say Hi!

Just hangin’ out on a Sunday morning.

Oh, by the way, hurricane season is ten days away. Are you ready? Do you have a plan?

South Beach: So cool even the buildings need sunglasses?

my doctor’s office

Whenever I go to my doctor’s office, I sit in the exam room waiting for him. I always notice these funky metal shades that cover the windows and I decided to do some research and find out what these ‘things’ are called. I obviously knew that it was for some kind of sun protection but I wanted to know more. They are called brise-soleil. I see them mainly on late 50’s and early 60’s era buildings but lately I have seen on NEW buildings too. Lets take a tour!

Mellon Bank building

This is the Mellon Bank building which is ‘kitty corner’ from my doctor’s office. In the older buildings brise-soleil, from what I have observed, were only put on the east, south and west exposures.

The Montclair Lofts

This is a photo of the Montclair Lofts. This building was built in 2005. This building is located at the corner of 17th & Meridian Avenue and is across the street from my doctor’s office. The brise-soleil on this building is used for privacy as well as an architectural element. As you can see the metal is not aging well. The building was designed by haute architect Chad Oppenheim , he has done a lot edgy stuff (condos & homes) here in the Miami area.

Gorlin at AQUA

This is the Gorlin building at AQUA Allison Island. This building was built in 2004 and has brise-soleil on the east, south and west sides of the building. Obviously, the building did not need sun-shading today!

Don’t want to close on your Miami pre-construction condo? Get good advice!

Miami Beach Pawn Ad

This is a REAL ad!

Developers are increasingly worried that buyers may be trying to cancel their contracts for either legitimate or frivolous reasons. Over the last four years or so, the Miami area has enjoyed a renaissance and real estate boom. During that time, reports claimed that 60,000 to 70,000 condos were planned or under construction. In spite of the recent “bust,” the reality today is that most of these projects have survived and will be delivered in the next 18 months. Many people are realizing, to their horror, that they can’t afford to close or don’t want to.

Under state law, a buyer can cancel a contract if a “material” amendment is made to the condominium documents that “adversely” affects the buyer.

The two most important words in the above sentence are, you guessed it, “material” and “adversely.” What may be “material” or “adverse” to you may not be so to a judge or jury.

The reason why this is Miami’s touchiest subject right now is because developers are concerned that buyers in general don’t want
to close because of the South Florida housing downturn. Since real estate is governed by the law of supply and demand, one can just look up at the Miami skyline and deduce that supply totally exceeds demand and that the majority of the buyers in these towers are speculators. “Oversupply” and the “new South Florida condo market” are the flies in the ointment here that no one counted on changing, and changing so rapidly.

I find that this is really about the speculators who don’t want to keep their units. When these buyers made their initial purchases, they were likely sold a pretty picture on how they wouldn’t have to close, and that the project was going to start a “re-sale” office to help speculators off-load their condos. The developer’s reps projected a enormous gains;basically, a scenario of all of the benefits with none of the risks!

I know a project that had material changes to their docs, which automatically gave buyers the chance to get their money back and rescind the contract. This development basically lost all of its buyers, and now the developer is looking at changing uses to either a rental tower or a hotel.

What should you do if you can’t or don’t want to close on your Miami pre-construction condo? Here is some advice:

  1. Check the last date signed on your contract with the developer. When did it become an executed agreement by all parties? By state law, the developer has to deliver the unit within a specified time from the date you signed the contract. If the developer doesn’t finish the project within the time allowed, and you haven’t signed any extensions or new contracts that “re-up,” (make it a new contract with a new date), you may be able to rescind on that fact alone.
  1. Call the developer. Tell him that you can’t possibly close on the unit and ask to be released from the agreement. I did this with one of my clients and since he bought a very desirable unit very early in the game, the developer was more than happy to take the condo back because he could make a few hundred thousand more dollars on it. This is a long shot, but worth a try. This developer was very well funded, met his pre-sale requirements, and the project was a huge success. If you feel that your project hasn’t been that successful, this approach is worth a try.
  1. Check for any last minute changes to the condo docs and/or operating budget. Right before closings begin, developers will file any last minute changes to the condo docs. There might be “material” change that is “adverse” to the buyer.
  1. Hire a good real estate lawyer. I am shocked beyond belief by how many people purchase these sometimes multi-million-dollar condos and never run the deal by their attorney. I make sure my clients read their contract with the developer and have their lawyer review it before they sign it. As I said in my last post, read your condo docs!

Getting out of your contract is NOT going to be easy, so at the end of the day be prepared to close or lose your deposit.