Thursday, July 26, 2007

Trend: Phoenix Condos= Backing out. In Arlington Va

A ton of people have been emailing me about the New Phoenix Condos in Arlington Virginia (which just started closings) after reading my blogs about: IO PIAZZA. Possible Class Action? Default? Deposits + Interest and Zoso Officially Drops out of the Arlington Condo Market

So I thought I'd write about The Phoenix in Clarendon Virginia specifically.

Ok, so here is the scoop... oh wait, before that, how about a nonobligatory donation of $500 to the St. Bernard Pr0ject (Katrina relief)? All I'm saying, is if this blog saves you at least $10,000 in one form or another, will you give a donation to them? Yes, great, No? Shame on you!

First off, a little "Wow! How did you know!?" mind reading...

So you are in a contract to buy a Phoenix condominium and you thought... "Why don't I call and pretend to be a prospective buyer and see what the units are going for!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Low and behold... they are selling for MORE than your contract price! You are rich!

Yet you wonder why they aren't advertising, and how are they able to sell units for a premium in this marketplace. Well, I'll tell you why... Probably 90% of their calls today are people FAKING as prospective buyers. They sniff you out like a 10 year old sniffs Elmer's.

If you were trying to sell a ton of units to people under contract for 2 years, wouldn't you artificially keep your prices HIGH until they all closed?... and then after they close, start advertising your blue light specials!

Yes, my prediction is that after the current contracts close, the prices will fall and get more in line with other available units on the market, like at Clarendon 1021 Arlington Condo.

So you think you have two options...
1) Close on your unit at the current price and hope that you don't go bankrupt like 5 people over at 1021. Or hope that you can sell in 2 years and break even. Maybe. But a very possible, maybe not! (especially after those damn Realtor fees, check out Go FSBO! Save $20,000!)

2) You walk away from your $25,000 deposit.

I say you have a few options, but it will cost you a few bucks (but nothing compared to your options above)!

  1. Get a good lawyer. I don't care if you are a lawyer and you have read the contract and there is no way out, get a lawyer that knows specifically about new constructions.

  2. Get your own independent appraisal! What you are gonna use the condo recommended lender, who will use a lender recommended appraisal? If you already got one, look at it. I won't say they are fraudulent, but how about "highly suspect"

  3. Renegotiate. Oh, you tried? Of course they will say no. Even if you pant and yell and scream. For this, please see #1 above.
And for all of you that bought these places without a Realtor, can you at least stop and recognize that we are not as worthless as you initially thought? The cost is the same to you, yet you figure, "I'll just walk in and sign the papers, I don't need no stinking Realtor."

Best of luck, if you need the name of a lawyer or appraiser (no I don't get kickbacks, but I can guilt you into giving a donation as I mentioned above) please send me an email and post a comment about your situation (don't put your email in that comment).

Also I encourage comment postings so that others can be kept in the loop. My other Io Piazza blog had many conflicting comments, so lets get a good discussion going here.

- Written by Frank Borges LL0SA- Broker/ Realtor

(please email me typos, I don't like looking dumb, oh and sign up for new blogs via my main blog
Keywords: 1020 N. Highland North Clarendon 1021 Zoso Mcwilliams Ballard ed peete The Phoenix at Clarendon Metro 22201

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

IO PIAZZA. Possible Class Action? Default? Deposits + Interest

Apparently IO PIAZZA, a new construction Arlington Condo in Shirlington, is claiming to not be under contract for sale of the entire building (initial reports said they were, but that deal, if any, might have fallen through like other nearby deals). Here is the May 2006 blog about Io Piazza rumored to be under contact.

Meanwhile, they refuse to close on units that are under contract (probably since they are still trying to sell the building) and they are refusing to consider themselves in "default" which would trigger a 2% penalty on the deposit. The total amount might only be a couple of thousands of dollars, and I guess they figure it isn't worth hiring a lawyer for such a small amount.

But if we get 5-25 people together, the legal fees will be very small and everyone might be entitled to get their deposit plus interest.

Please contact me if you have a contract at Io Piazza (and other new construction condos like Eclipse, Phoenix, Zoso)

Written by Frank LL0SA- Broker

Sunday, May 6, 2007

IO PIAZZA Shirlington Now Under Contract. Closing Next 45-60 Days

July 2007: Update Possible Class action vs Io Piazza .

May 2007: Just a quick follow up to my Next up: Io Piazza will Convert to Apt (don't miss the comments) blog. My sources tell me that Io Piazza is now under contract.

I already know people with contracts there are putting neighboring houses under contract. If you already plan to buy (I'm not telling you to buy) you might consider doing it before all the other people figure this out!

Remember, supply and demand.

Here is a link to the 30 active properties (from $300k to $700k) in the 1/2 mile radius as of 5-5-07 . I put the newest listings first. 30 properties near Io Piazza

Let me know if you want to see one.

- Written by Frank Borges LL0SA- Broker
Don't miss the main blog over at

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Clarendon 1021 Arlington Virginia Condo. From a Realtor Resident's View

I'm a Realtor, and I live in Clarendon 1021 a condo in Arlington Virginia.

I put up this page to give those searching for information that you can't find on the MLS. Feel free top post specific questions.
If you want to see what is active, go to my site

While allowing for some bias, Clarendon 1021 is the single envy of all of Arlington.

Walking tour video of Clarendon 1021:

It has the absolute best location with a rare rooftop pool and 24 hour security/concierge. It is unmatched in all of Arlington

(even by The Odyssey since the Odyssey people will be cabbing it in from the Courthouse location to hang out in Clarendon) Clarendon 1021 is one of only 4 condos in the Clarendon area as of 5/08 (Station Square, Clarendon 1021, The Phoenix Condos, and the smaller Hartford . There were going to be a couple others, but they converted to apartments (Le Joule and Zoso).

The good:
  • The rooftop pool and hot tub is amazing in my opinion. Rooftop pools are VERY rare in Arlington, with maybe 10% of the condos being able to boast this. Ours also has an amazing Monument and Capitol view (click to see). However, you should know that the pool is a shallow 3.5 feet and is more for wading then doing laps. Pool hours are posted and currently not 24 hours. Pool parties (photo) on the roof are also a blast and a makes this building the envy of Arlington.

  • We have a great online message board for residents to talk about issues and get those issues immediately addressed. That board is private until you become an owner.
  • 24 concierge. I just found out that I rank #1 with online purchases in my building. I can't imagine not having somebody at the front desk to get a package. Would I have to go to another building? (View lobby)

    Upgraded interiors. Each unit comes with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops in the kitchen and baths. (photo of kitchen)

  • Location, Location, Location. I have friends that used to rent in Clarendon, but bought in Ballston and Courthouse. While they might have saved $30-$50k, they still hoof it to Clarendon for 80% of their nightlife. And guess what happens (regardless of the market going up or down) when you go and sell your place, it will STILL be worth $30k-$50k more then the same unit elsewhere.
The not great:
  • It was initially built as an apartment complex and then was sold off to a developer as condos. What that means is every unit's interior is nearly identical (a few floors have lighter cabinets).

  • It isn't soundproof. Buildings that are initial apartments won't be as quite since it costs more to soundproof. I'm talking about floor to floor foot traffic.

  • About 6 months ago there was a flooding problem that was pretty severe. I was told it was the worst rainfall in 50 years or something. The roof was since re-designed to drain the water faster. Management was quick to repair the common areas effected to prevent any molding. Experts and the county came out to verify that everything was done properly. Several buildings had this problem after this flood.

  • No rooftop entertainment room. The builder converted it to a condo at the last second. This kinda sucks, but the rooftop pool makes up for it. We do have a conference room and lounge with free wireless (thanks for a high tech friendly neighbor)
Differences in Units:

Email me for a full size building layout. Applicable for floors 2-8. It will give you an idea which unit # faces where and if it has a balcony and # of BDRs. (photo of 1 unit)
  • Units with Balconies will get anywhere from 20-$35k more than a same floor, same size unit with no balcony.
  • There are 4 directions your unit can face. Units facing the courtyard will be $10k-$20k higher than if you face the higher trafficked Washington Street or North Garfield Street.

  • Morning sun or afternoon sun. Courtyard units get sun in the morning.

  • Floor level can be about $4k to $8k per floor (not that some "1st floor" units are actually on the 2nd floor and above the B level

  • Some B level units have walk out access to a patio and courtyard. Easy access for dog owners too. B level units have been slower to sell.

  • Floorplan differences. The efficiencies start at 600sq ft. 1 BDR start at 700sq feet and go up to 850 with 1 BDR and dens at 900. With the 2 bdrs you have some with 1 and some with 2 full baths.
Watch out when buying:
  • Watch out for "1 bdrs and Dens" that are listed as 2 Bdrs.

  • Watch out for units near the entrance. Some were built after the building was completed.

  • Watch out for $100k overpriced units. This is NOT a "you get what you pay for" place. You can EASILY overpay if you don;'t know the ins and outs of the building. Recently one 2bdr was $100,000 overpriced. There is a long history of price fluctuations in this building. It skyrocketed upon the initial opening with some making $100,000 profits. Now some are trying to make that same $100k, while others are selling for a $30k loss (this is because of the market, not the building).

  • The address is NOT 1021 Clarendon Blvd. The building is called "Clarendon 1021" but the address is 1021 N Garfield St Arlington Va 22201

Again, if you want to see a list of the active units go to:

Let me know if you have any questions about Clarendon 1021 and I hope you will share your comments and observations.

- Written by Frank Borges LL0SA- Broker

Check out Odyssey vs Clarendon 1021 in 22201 Arlington VA

Also Clarendon 1021 Rooftop Pool Parties

Also here is a tour of all of Clarendon:

Friday, April 6, 2007

Next up: Io Piazza will Convert to Apt.

As you can see with my Zoso (Ed Peete) prediction (see next blog) the builder decided to stop trying to sell Zoso as condos, I now am fairly certain that Io Piazza in Shirlington (also Ed Peete) will no longer try to sell as condos.

If you would like the name of a lawyer that has been successful in getting dozens of people out of their contract WITH all their money, let me know. Sorry she done answering "quick questions" for free. Now it will cost you $500 just to talk to her and more to get your money back. Why? Because this blog overwhelmed her with people looking for free advice and that doesn't pay the bills. Don't be stupid and try and go it alone first, you'll actually just make things worse.

Update 5-5-07- My sources say that Io Piazza Condos in Shirlington, Arlington Virginia is Under Contract to be sold. Once the property closes, all contracts will be canceled and the deposits returned. If you want to live in this area, you might want to beat the rush of 100+ buyers. You are ahead of the game by reading this blog, but not by much! Email me.

Now the big question is the Phoenix!

Written by Frank LL0SA- Broker

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Zoso Officially Drops out of the Arlington Condo Market

As predicted in my blog: Arlington Condos: Joule Converts to Apts. Next up: Zoso & Phoenix? Zoso has officially stopped selling condo units

Here is the official word:
Hello Frank, At this time, the builder has indicated that current contract holders will be released. This action has not yet been initiated, although calls to purchasers have been made. There are no definitive plans at this time for the future of the building.
Tammy B.
(A Realtor working for the developer.)

Now the next one to go is Phoenix condos in Arlington Virginia. I give it a 65% chance of converting to rentals. Make sure to read the other blog on that warns you about other new construction pricing guarantees.
Written by Frank Borges LL0SA- Broker

Friday, March 23, 2007

"Lowest Price Guarantee?" Park At Courthouse in Virginia. Real or Fluff?

In 2003 and 2004, the demand for new construction condominiums was so high, builders didn’t offer any incentives (either price or upgrades) to the buyers. Now that the market has changed, we’re noticing the builders for these new construction condos are lowering prices, negotiating offers, and even offering “Lowest Price Guarantees.” One particular property, the Park at Courthouse, is offering this guarantee and I decided to investigate to write about it here. My questions were: 1) is the guarantee real? and 2) how can they offer such guarantee, considering the prices are probably lower than most nearby condos to begin with?

Since 2003, the prices of condominiums in Arlington (among many other places) sales prices soared, but only to come back down. Now we know the double digit increase is a thing of the past and the immediate future of condo or real estate market looks cloudy. Regardless ofwhat the experts say about the future of real estate, builders in Arlington have continued to move forward to construct new condominium buildings. One particular building I visited was the Park at Courthouse. Their advertising theme of "Turn back the clock to 2003 prices" seemed very appealing so I took a client there for a visit. As advertised on their website, the one bedroom condos at the Park really started at $328K WITH a parking space, which is generally much lower than existing nearby condos. If I were a buyer, at these prices, I would definitely choose a new construction over a unit that someone else has already christened, given all things equal. But all things aren’t equal for new constructions since there are higher risks with new condos: a) you’re buying at the same time and many others and therefore a larger % of these units are selling at the same time. Simple supply and demand says this should lower the prices considering the current market; which leads us to b) people can sometimes buy at a far lower price than others, which was catastrophic experience for Parkside Alexandria buyers. Not only that, the Park at Courthouse has an appealing "Guaranteed Lowest Price" program (which I'm sure the neighboring condo associations aren't happy with) that screams "I'm Perfect! Guaranteed!"So, I decided to do some research to see if you're truly getting a bargain with a built in insurance policy.

What I found is that the "Guaranteed Lowest Price Program" is a marketing ploy (albeit a good one). Heck Frank got them (the Park) into the Washington Post since he loved the initial marketing idea and thought all new condos would need to go in this direction to sell large quantities. The guarantee instead says the lowest price if the builders decide to lower their LIST prices overall. The key is the word “List” when it should be based on the NET price, including all incentives and upgrades. List is too easy to manipulate in order to look good.
For example:

-Customer A enters and buys a 1 BR unit at $350K and purchases upgrades for $6K to make the total; net sales price at $356K.
-Customer B is thinking of buying an identical unit at the list price of $350K but is unsure. The builder could then offer customer B the unit at the list price of $350K and offer the same upgrade as customer A for free, to make the total netprice at $350K and customer B “saved” $6K.

The problem is that the total list price remained at $350K and the builder actually makes more money with this strategy then to lower the prices of all the units by $6K. I'm not saying that the builder at the Park are offering such deals to everyone, but a good Realtor can identify such situations and a) warn you about their trick or b) try to get you that $6K upgrade for a significant discount. The sales office's argument will be that the builder has already reduced prices twice already, but the average reduction is unknown. They won’t disclose it, I asked several times. How convenient. If I were a builder I would drop prices $1,000 two times, for the mere marketability to say “Oh don’t worry, we have already dropped prices two times, see it is real”, but their Achilles heal is when you say “show me exactly how much”. I think I would rather get the free $6K upgrade then to have the prices reduced by only a thousand dollars.

If you already bought a unit, ask your Realtor, and if you don’t have one, ask a lawyer if what they are doing is legal.

However, even if their “Lowest Price Guarantee” is not real their prices are still relatively low compared to the condos in the area. So, my question is how can they price it lower than their competitors? One of the reasons why the Park at Courthouse can keep the prices lower is by providing very basic features inside the claimed “luxury” condos and all the luxury features count as a paid upgrade. For example, the standard appliances are the typical white regenerators and microwave. To get the, sleek looking, black appliances, you have to upgrade for about $1,000 more (for 1BR unit). Stainless steel appliance upgrade package is $3,500 more (at Home Depot you can start with SS at $2500, but I doubt they will take off the value of the basic white $1,200 appliances and let you put in your own). The cabinets tell a similar story, where the basic cabinets are not as desirable as, nor are they as luxurious as the basic cabinets offered at other luxury condominiums. And, most of the units don’t even offer balconies, which many people feel it’s a must to have a “home” feel. Basically, the overall features offered at the Park are not as upscale as other new constructions, such as the Palestine or even existing newer condominiums. Further, the Park does not offer the same amenities as other condos. The Park does not have a pool, rooftop access, or 24-hr concierge (although they have a 9-5 hour concierge from their adjacent apartment building).
But even if you upgrade all the appliances to match with other luxury condominiums and account for the floor, VIEW, sq footage, the prices at the Park are still lower than other condos, such as the Palestine. My question is then, how can they sell their units for lower than everyone else AND have the lowest price guarantee? We go back to simple and demand. They have larger quantities available and limited number of buyers. This and the fact that guarantee is a weak one at best.

One other side note – the Park at the Courthouse has 92 or so units and they are really pushing for additional sales with this guarantee. As of March 10, 56 units were still available and this is a concern because, I think there’s a requirement on the % of units that must be sold in order for the builder to transition the ownership to condo association (maybe a lawyer can verify this for me). This could be the builder's final desperate attempt to try to sell the minimum required units for the condo conversion. If they fail, then it's possible they may convert to apartments as other builders have done. The Park at Courthouse already has a sister apartment building built and it would only take minimal work to manage another very similar (maybe identical) building.

Anytime you buy a property, or anything else for that matter, think: Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware. Before you decide to purchase, you must understand/know all the risks so that you can make the most informed decision. That's why Realtors are recommended and they are “free” and paid by the builder (most builders aren’t allowed to adjust their price for buyers without Realtors. Despite the myths FSBO people may think, Realtors are not here to get paid for the same work you can do on your own, nor are they here to get you a steal of a deal in the most desired neighborhood/condominiums. Rather, Realtors are here to help you find a property, identify the risks and benefits of different buildings, neighborhoods, and then develop a strategy to get you the home you desire for as little as possible. The biggest mistakes I hear people make are from those who have jumped into a decision without the inside scoop. A good Realtor can get you that inside scoop.

- Written by Ray Hwang- Realtor

Keywords: The Prime, Orange line metro, williamsburg condo, courthouse hill, Ballston, rosslyn, Clarendon, Virginia square, condo conversions, Turnberry Tower Virginia, abdo, Carlyle Place, 1800 wilson, Waterview, The Jamieson , Gatehouse condos, prescott, the grove at arlington shirlington village, Io Piazza, The reserve, Byron , East View/West View , Park at Courthouse, Park Crest, Renaissance 2230, The Palatine , Avera Station, The Exchange at Van Dorn , Monroe at Virginia Square Metro, Hawthorn, Ballston 880 Courthouse Heights , Pearson Square , The Odyssey , Residences at Lyon Hill, Ellipse McWilliams-Ballard , Halstead Towers Westlee, Preston at Potomac Yard, Savoy, Spectrum, Garfield, Bromptons at Cherrydale - Condominiums, Housing bubble? Arlington, Alexandria, mls, homes, Real estate, Virginia, 22203, 22201, 22314, Fairfax Va, DC Realty, Realtor

Sunday, March 11, 2007

New Sub-Blog

In an attempt to not clutter the main, I've created this new Sub-Blog that will be an area for Agents to discuss particular areas or buildings.