Condo buyers get 5-year sales price guarantee


Condo buyers get 5-year sales price guarantee

Original Article Posted Here:

By Jenni Mintz
Ventura County Star
Posted June 24, 2008

Buying a home is a gamble in any market.

But a Ventura home builder is trying to protect sellers from future market risk by making a bet of its own — that the housing sector will recover.

To push buyers off the fence, Row Park Associates, a California limited partnership doing business as Pacific Pointe Condominiums, is offering to protect the resale value of its new downtown Ventura condominiums for five years as part of a new financing program.

“The value of the home would have to go down more than 15 percent from today’s values before our buyers would lose a dime,” said Dawn Dyer, president of Dyer Sheehan Group Inc., a real estate and brokerage firm representing Pacific Pointe.

Another 15 percent decline is unlikely, said Robert Kleinhenz, deputy chief economist with the California Association of Realtors. For example, the median price for an existing, single-family detached Ventura County home has tumbled 30 percent from when it peaked at $711,000 in August 2006, to $497,000 in April, according to CAR. Condominium prices are generally lower.

“I think we’re fairly close to the bottom,” Kleinhenz said, noting that the market should be stable in five years, with appreciating values.

Still, playing it safe was important to Lisa Norlander, 28, who recently moved to Ventura for a three-year residency in family medicine at Ventura County Medical Center. Wary of buying a home and having to sell in a couple of years, Norlander had planned to rent.

“I do a lot of traveling, and I like being mobile,” she said. “I did not think I was going to be buying.”

But she found the condos, which start at $379,000 for a one-bedroom and $449,000 for a two-bedroom, to be reasonably priced. The granite countertops, laminate flooring and maple cabinets were also major perks, although it was the buyer-protection program that sold her.

“That I can sell in the next five years and not lose any money is phenomenal,” she said.

In today’s gloomy housing market, that kind of security might matter more to buyers than location or amenities.

Still, the response has been lukewarm.

“It’s not what I expected,” said Harvey Champlin, general partner with Row Park Associates. “I expected a stronger positive response.”

Buyers have acknowledged that the incentive is a good thing, but it only has prompted one purchase, Champlin said, noting that the difficulty of securing financing seems to be an overriding factor.

Pacific Pointe has responded by offering two programs.

n Resale protection: The developer provides secondary financing for up to 15 percent of the purchase price for five years, with the first two years set at below-market interest rates — 3.7 percent in year one, 5 percent in year two and 6 percent for the duration of the loan. A buyer must come up with a 5 percent down payment and their own financing for the remaining amount.

A homeowner who wants out within five years after the purchase would have to make a good-faith effort to sell the property for at least what he purchased it for. If the best offer is $370,000 on an original $400,000 purchase, Pacific Pointe would reduce the amount owed on the secondary loan. In this scenario, $30,000 would be knocked off the remainder of the $60,000 owed to the developer and the homeowner could walk away without a loss. This program is available through July.

n Secondary financing: Same terms as the first program but without the resale protection. This program is available until the 12 condos left in the 32-unit complex at 285 N. Ventura Ave. are sold.

Because they are secondary financing programs, there aren’t any loan costs or an additional qualification process, Dyer said.

While the market may continue to soften, that will likely occur among foreclosed properties, not brand-new homes, Dyer said.

“Pacific Pointe is not anticipating losing money,” she added. “They wouldn’t be doing this if they expected the market to continue to go down. They’re willing to put their money where their mouth is.”

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