My wife and I grabbed dinner a few weeks back at Barrio in Bellevue. It sits at the base of Bellevue Towers next to Purple restaurant and bar. Dinner was great and it was a reminder of how much Bellevue has matured over the last 5-10 years. It has grown into a very sexy destination for entertainment, restaurants and overall urban living. To that end, what surprised me the most that evening was our drive home and seeing the few scattered lights on in the two monstrous condo towers. It brings up a very serious issue that many local developers are facing; no one wants to move into a empty building.
I’m not suggesting that this is just a Bellevue Towers problem. There are 4-5 other buildings between Bellevue and Seattle that are in this same predicament. Buyers have to stomach the idea of moving into a tower with less than 90% occupancy or in some cases even more. I spoke with a buyer the other day about how that problem leads to other questions that just don’t have a simple answer. For instance:
- Will the price of my unit go down after I move in?
- What happens to the amenities in the building? Are they maintained?
- If the project is exploring others options (leases, assisted living, foreclosure) how can this affect my purchase?
- When does the builder turn the project over to the association?
- When does the developer stop paying the HOA dues?
The questions this particular buyer was asking were very familiar to me. Many of you have those same questions and are not getting the answers. I mentioned it to 3 or 4 of the local site agents and thought it might behoove them to understand what the public is worried about. With the news about Escala and other local projects considering huge price reductions or internal changes to their sales teams I would expect that we will see much more transparency moving forward. As I suggested in my post last week, now is the time for local developers to face the music and make a change. Until then, we will all wonder what it feels like to be one of those 12-15 lights on at 9pm at night.