More condos selling in South Waterfront District
Brokers are optimistic about potential for the developing Portland neighborhood
POSTED: 04:00 AM PDT Friday, June 12, 2009
BY SAM BENNETT
Atwater Place in Portland’s South Waterfront neighborhood opened about a year ago, just as the economy was turning south and fewer people were buying condominiums.
The 214-unit, upscale waterfront condo tower fell victim to the effects of a credit crisis, rising unemployment and the bursting of the real estate bubble.
Atwater units are still not selling as fast as originally anticipated, but Todd Prendergast, a principal broker with Realty Trust, said he’s been encouraged by buyers’ interest in the tower and other South Waterfront buildings in the last two months.
“There is an impression that all condo sales have slowed down throughout the urban market, and the South Waterfront has been viewed as part of that,” said Prendergast. “The reality is we’ve seen a fairly significant uptick in overall traffic activity and interest, and an upswing in actual sales” in South Waterfront.
Eight Atwater units have sold in the last month, compared with a rate of about one or two per month over the winter. The building is about 30 percent sold.
“In the last two and a half months we’ve seen the market increase in activity,” said Prendergast. “We’re seeing sales concentrated in the $500,000-and-below point, and $800,000 and above.”
Prendergast acknowledged that some of the activity is normal for this season, as buyers start to emerge after winter. And some of the activity could also be attributed to historically low interest rates, which in April and May dipped to approximately 4.5 percent for a 30-year mortgage.
While rates have shot up about nearly 1 percent in the last few weeks to around 5.5 percent for a 30-year mortgage, Prendergast said 5.5 percent is “still extremely competitive.” The spike in interest rates could also be spurring people to make the decision to buy before rates go higher, he said.
Prendergast, whose company is responsible for selling all new units in three South Waterfront buildings – the Meriwether, the John Ross and Atwater Place – said there are several units available for sale in the Ross Tower and one in the Meriwether that are foreclosures. He said Realty Trust has sold all the new units in the Meriwether, 190 of about 300 in the John Ross and 60 of the 214 in Atwater Place.
He said another factor that could be spurring sales in South Waterfront is lower prices. He said that drops have been as much as 30 percent from the original asking prices – as much as $300,000 for some units.
Stacy Cooper, a broker with the Cooper Team, which specializes in condo and townhouse sales, said there are “some screaming good deals” in South Waterfront in brand new and re-sale units. “They have been making some pretty steep price reductions there,” she said.
Cooper said buyers who envisioned making quick profits by “flipping” South Waterfront condos – purchasing them before they were built and selling upon completion – probably added inventory to the South Waterfront condo market.
“The problem (in the South Waterfront) is that it is half-finished,” she said, referring to the long-term build-out of the neighborhood. “It doesn’t have a sense of people being vested in it as their community. There’s a lot of vacancies in those units.”
Yet she said “there’s a limited amount of waterfront in this city.” The area also has an active neighborhood association, waterfront trails and a handful of cafes and restaurants.
“People who bought there for the long term are going to be golden,” she said, “because it’s a great place to live.”
Richard Voss, a principal broker with Century 21, said South Waterfront is upscale like the Pearl District, but does not have the hustle and bustle at the street level. “It’s nice to be down there, where it’s kinda quiet,” he said. “It’s not so full of people on the streets.”
Prendergast said the neighborhood has about 1,000 residents, including apartment dwellers.
As more move there, the neighborhood will continue to forge its identity, he said. “The connection to nature is huge,” he said. “That connection is something that can’t be duplicated in town.”
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