Second Thoughts on the Condo Market

Mega-builder Larry Murren, whose company (MGM Mirage) opened the "largest privately funded construction project in U.S. history" told WSJ (the Wall Street Journal Magazine) that if he had to do it all over again, he would reconsider the condo-residential component of the project. “We would have built about half of those units” at the new $8.5 billion "City Center" development.

The less than stellar performance condominium sales in the project was reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal, which indicated that only 78 of the project's approximately 675 condominium units have sold. MGM Mirage is not alone in this plight. The Review Journal further notes that Las Vegas has a reports a 250 month or nearly 21 year supply of unsold condominium units. This means that some of today's unsold units could still be on the market for parents in a suburban Las Vegas house to move to when their newborn heads off to college. These numbers qualify Las Vegas for finals of the Condo Bust World Cup, against other strong competitors Miami and Dubai.

Murren credits a mixed-use symposium as the inspiration for City Center. Murren would not be the first developer to have been smitten by over-promotion of condominium market prospects. However the balance of Center City (shopping, entertainment, hotels and casinos) appears to be doing far better than the condominium element.

Second thoughts have been occuring to a number of additional central city condominium developers around the nation as the central city condominium market continues its meltdown. The most recent evidence comes with condo auctions in the cores of Baltimore, St. Petersburg and Boston.

In Baltimore, Pier Homes at Harborview has scheduled an auction of new units with minimum bids discounted from 55% to 75% below list prices. This means that the minimum bid, the Baltimore Sun indicates that only half of the units (completed two years ago) have been sold.

In St. Petersburg, units in the 36-story Signature Place condominium tower were auctioned last month, with average bid prices 50% off the previous list prices. The Boston Globe indicates that "another" condo/loft auction is to occur in that city on June 26, with minimum bid prices up to 60% off list.

The extraordinary risk of the central city condominium market was summarized by Larry Murphy, a Las Vegas real estate analyst: "It takes two to three years to build a high-rise project, and it can't be done in phases like a new-home subdivision. All of the units have to be built at once." He further noted that "Most of the units are sold within the first three months of completion. After that, sales drop off dramatically." These inherent complexities of the condominium market will not be solved by mixed use seminars.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


What is good about this is that we do have affordable housing for those who cannot afford the suburbs - the hard way, but we've got it! We need to build suburban housing too, but we cannot allow them to exclude higher density entirely, because some people may prefer it and others would prefer to live that way now in order to save up their resources to get a better home later.