Yesterday morning I was at a coffee shop reviewing new condo listings that just came on the market. I noticed that the lady next to me was looking at my laptop watching what I was doing. After not too long, she asked me if I was a real estate agent. I said that I was…and then she unloaded with a recent experience she had had in buying a condo. The woman, whom I will call Jan, told me she had such a frustrating experience with the agent she had used. To make matters even worse, this agent also happened to be an agent that was referred to her by a friend of hers. As I dug a little deeper to how this agent was referred, it turns out the friend referred her because she was a very nice person! Now I have been in this business for almost 15 years and the one thing I can say is there are MANY nice people in the business. But, I can also say that many of these same people are not agents that I would hire knowing what I know! Jan told me that it was very frustrating during the searching period because this agent knew very little about the condominium market. She said she spent so much time walking around buildings looking for lockboxes…and this was her first clue that she did not deal with condominiums very often. The second thing that she said was frustrating was that whenever she asked her about the pricing of a condo they looked at, the standard answer was “It seems fairly priced!”
This is a very typical situation that I see all of the time in the Pearl District, South Waterfront and Downtown. Many buyers may get referred to an agent that a friend suggest…maybe an agent they had used or heard about out in the suburbs. The condo market is very different than dealing with homes out in Lake Oswego or Tigard. I have often written on the importance of working with a specialist. If I were selling a home in Lake Oswego, you can bet that I would want to use an agent that sells there often and knows the pricing and other aspects of selling in that area or at the very least, someone that is VERY good with marketing! Same goes with condos and lofts. I have often said to sellers that a typical agent cannot just flip on a switch and be great at marketing to condo buyers when 99.5% of their time they are marketing to buyers of suburban homes…in several different areas!
One of the reasons you hire an agent is for their expertise and knowledge, or at least it should be! An agent can be nice, but they also need to know what they are doing. Being nice is fine but when it comes to negotiating, that agent needs to be tough and always put their clients best interest first and not “cave” with another agent that is tougher with negotiating! When the time comes for a person to sell their condo, a condo specialist is even more important! Having an agent that is constantly marketing to condo buyers is important. Hiring an agent that spends most of their time marketing to buyers looking in Tigard, Gresham or Wilsonville may not be the best way to go…even if that agent is a very nice person!
Jan said the last straw was when she got to closing she was surprised that she had to pay a Move-in/Move-Out fee that was close to $400 and also was shocked to find out she had to pay a 1 time capital contribution fee equal to 2 months HOA fees… 2 things her agent never mentioned because she did not know about. (this is disclosed in the HOA documents) I felt bad for Jan but it is something I see all of the time.
Every week as I look at new listings, as I was doing in the coffee shop, I am amazed at the number of new listings that come on the market that are listed by agents that don’t deal with condominiums. The one thing that always amazes me is I never get a postcard or an email about their condo listing! As a condo specialist, I make sure that every agent that deals with condos and lofts gets a video about my new condo listing. Why? Because I know that the other agents that deal with condos often have their pipelines filled with CONDO buyers!
I enjoyed my conversation with Jan and in the process met a new friend over a cup of coffee! In time, hopefully Jan will refer me to a friend. But hopefully, it will not be because I am nice. Hopefully it will be because I am nice…with knowledge!
Brad Golik is a condominium specialist with http://www.LuxuryCondosofPortland.com and Total Property Resources in the Pearl District. You can reach Brad at 503-896-8856
In all fairness…
I recently wrote in my blog about some issues at The Cosmopolitan in Portland. My comments were not warmly met by the folks at Hoyt Street Properties. In all fairness, I was only stating things that I have heard about going on at The Cosmo.
I do not want to come across as being totally negative on the project so in an act of diplomacy, I thought I would try an experiment. I do not want to just publish negative comments on this project so I am asking owners for some support. I would love to hear from new owners at The Cosmopolitan other than my current sources. I would love for you to send me an email ( firstname.lastname@example.org) and share your experience with the new building… good or bad! Please let me know your thoughts. If it has been a great experience so far, let me know. If it has not been a great experience, please let me know why.
Again, in an attempt to be fair in discussing condo issues in the city, I would love to get your feedback and in turn, I would love to share your responses.
Ok, maybe the title is a little dramatic, but it is close to Halloween and scary things do catch our attention this time of year. So, what is going on at The Cosmopolitan? Well, it is not anything as terrible and scary as what is going on at Millennium Tower in San Francisco ( has sunk 16 inches and tilted 6 inches at the penthouse). What is happening at The Cosmopolitan is very frustrating though for residents who just paid a major premium to be owners there! Lets start with space. Many residents, after moving in their furnishings are just know realizing the space issues we had talked about in a previous blog post I had written. Problems with walking room around beds in many of the units is something I have heard about many times now. Ok, this probably is not the worst thing in the world and people will learn to deal with it. ( who would have thought you would just have to “deal” with anything after you just paid $900 a square foot!)
Most recently, especially after the “Big” storm, many residents complained about the loud whistling and howling noises. Very fitting around the Halloween season! What is going on with that? Anderson Construction has determined ( and we will find out if it is correct or not) that the loud noises are being caused by the backdraft dampers. From previous complaints, they were already adding gasketing material to the fresh air intakes and they will now be doing the same to the backdraft dampers. This repair will take an elaborate 2 point suspension scaffold on the exterior of the building. The scaffolding will initially be set up on the “16” stack of the building. Only time will tell if the issue is in fact what Anderson believes it to be. Either way, a huge disappointment for owners who just paid the highest price per foot ever for new construction in Portland.
Another problem… loud footsteps from above! Really? Several sources have said that footstep noise from above their units is excessive and surprising for a brand new and expensive building. One source said that the sales team had told them they would never hear footsteps with the modern construction techniques and gave assurances to that fact. My take… this is not a low rent apartment building! This is a building with MANY units selling for $1,000,000 or more and buyers paid huge premiums to the average market price to live here. To have such problems so early on is concerning.
Now the problem with space is one thing. It did not help that in the developers( Hoyt Properties) floor plans there are some pretty scaled down furnishings. ( I just double checked. I am curious… who can fit in the chair in the den that measure 1’ 6” wide? )
The other problems (noise issues) are a little more concerning. Hopefully Anderson is correct with the gasket fix and that problem will get solved in a timely matter. And from what I hear from residents, the repair issues are backed up and things are not happening as fast as they would like! As for the “Scary” footsteps from above… I just don’t know what to say!
Brad Golik is a condominium specialist with LuxuryCondosofPortland.com at Pearl District Properties. If you would like to tour any urban condos, just give Brad a call at 503-896-8856.
As The Cosmopolitan nears completion, the feedback is…?
As the Cosmopolitan nears completion, it reminds me of the night when the developer invited many top agents to get their input on what their condo buyer’s wanted in a new “Luxury” condo development. Here were some of the suggestions from agents that night: Bigger decks, high end finishes, spacious master suites, spacious feeling units, fireplaces, and my input…a small artificial grass “potty” area for pets on the mezzanine level so that owners did not have to go down to street level late at night. Now, lets take a look at how they did in these areas: High end finishes. Well this was a given considering the prices charged. But is everyone happy? The truth is, Pedini cabinets are very nice, but they are a little over contemporary for some. All in all, a decent job here! Bigger decks? Well, apparently after the meeting, the developers ran to the architects…and told them to do the total opposite! The deck space on a majority of these units is terrible! Add the exterior door swing and they become even smaller!
Spacious master suites. A majority of the master suites remind me of Waterfront Pearl. (and this is not a compliment!) Most masters at The Cosmopolitan have a width of 10 feet (and only one place the bed can go) So with a King bed and headboard/footboard you are looking at about 2.6 feet or less of space to walk around your bed! And remember people, as an example, the SW corner units (E4 Plans) are $1,000,000+ condos! Fireplaces…we are good here! Pet area on the Mezzanine level…not happening! And not saying it was a great idea just because it was my idea…but? And finally…and I want to spend some time here, spacious units. This is where I think there will be the biggest amount of disappointment amongst buyers when they move into their new units. (and from people I have spoken with that have seen the units, it seems to be pretty accurate.) The problem in a number of floor plans is the actual usable living space. In a number of units there is an excessive amount of hall space. To use an example, let’s go back to the E4 plan in the SW corner…or the 14 stack (1314,1214,etc..) This unit is a 2 bedroom unit with 1,592 square feet. If you calculate in the amount of hallway space in this unit, it equals about 225 sq. feet or approx. 14% of the total square footage… this is a lot! ( if you take away that amount it makes the actual living areas closer to 1,367 sq. ft.) At 14% it comes in a close second to the worst unit which is the 2 bedroom units on the NE corner (the D6 Plans or the 17 stack…1817,1717 etc.) these have approx. 14.5% of the square footage in hallways. Others in the building are the 15 stack in the SE corner below the 14th floor at 13.5%, the 12 Stack in the NW corner at 12%, and the best in terms of actual usable space is the 15 stack in the SE corner above the 13th floor as the number there represents only 7.3% (and remember, these are approximate numbers, not exact!) For a little perspective here, let’s look at the D6 plan (NE corner below 19th floor) At 1,350 square feet, if you loose about 200 square feet that puts you at 1,150 square feet. In the world a spaciousness in condos, 200 square feet of space is a lot of space.
So are there other buildings in town with hallways taking up livable space? Of course (but none that you ever paid $600 to $1200 a square foot for!) The point I am trying to make here is that if you walk into your new unit at The Cosmopolitan, and it feels a lot smaller than you were thinking it was going to be… depending on which floor plan you bought, this could be part of the reason.
Some of the other feedback that I have heard has to do with customer service, or from what I have heard on a number of occasions, the lack of. Have spoken with several that have not gotten great service in working on the design aspects of their purchase…even one who paid over several million! Hopefully there will be more people with positive comments than negative ones as we move closer to closings!