Condo sales boom, rentals going fast as market heats up


The Bristol condo in West Palm Beach stands at 85 percent sold. A topping off ceremony is set for January.

The Moderne Boca townhouse community is 50 percent sold and will likely sell out this season.

Traffic is getting worse and the temperature has dipped below the 90-degree mark. That means the winter season nearly is upon us, and with it, the ramping up of seasonal real estate sales.

In Boca Raton, the Moderne Boca townhouse community already is seeing a boost in sales, with five contracts inked last weekend, said Robert Vail, president of Kolter Urban.

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Of 75 planned townhouses, half now are sold, Vail said. Prices range from the mid $500,000s for some two-bedroom units up to the $700,000 and $800,000 range for three-bedroom, three-story units with elevators. There also are some units priced at $1 million, with the best views of the nearby Pondhawk Natural Preserve. Moderne Boca is at the northeast corner of Military Trail and Spanish River Boulevard, next to the city’s library.

Other residential communities, both for sale and rental, say they’ve seen a steady pace of business throughout even the slow summer months.

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“I go to bed at night and I say, ‘Please don’t let this stop.’ For the rental business, this is the best of times,” Joel Altman, founder of Boca Raton-based Altman Development Corp., told Pace Advertising’s Real Estate Power Lunch, an assembly of industry leaders who gathered in Boca Raton on Oct. 19.

Altman’s newest project, the 400-unit Altis apartment complex at 5500 N. Military Trail, is 25 percent leased in just three months. Each month, another 25 apartments are leased, Altman said. Altis is north of Clint Moore Road next to the new Park Place shopping plaza.

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Rents range from $1,350 to more than $3,000, and the high-priced, larger units are the most popular units, Altman said in an interview. Residents range from young adults to older tenants who are “renters by choice,” Altman said.

Meanwhile, at The Bristol condominium in West Palm Beach, sales now stand at 85 percent, up from 80 percent a few months ago and 70 percent in April. The ultra-luxury condo is selling out so fast that prices have inched up.

Developer Al Adelson said the 25-story, 69-unit building at 1112 S. Flagler Drive will host a “topping off” ceremony for buyers in January, to celebrate when the last beam, or its equivalent, is placed atop the structure during its construction.

All three properties, Moderne, The Bristol and Altis, feature modern contemporary designs, a break from the Mediterranean-style look that has dominated Palm Beach County construction for more than a decade.

The Moderne originally was going to have a “Mediterranean-light” look, too, but Vail said Kolter dumped the design and opted for the clean, contemporary look that’s suddenly now in vogue.

So there’s no tumbled stone tiles at Moderne, but there are plenty of sleek glass tiles, stainless steel stairway railings and European cabinets. (No fussy granite patterns on the kitchen counter-tops, either. We’re talking pure white quartz here.) The contemporary look extends to the terraces, which feature gray horizontal railings and white floor tiles.

About half the buyers are locals. Although the community still is being built out, many residents already live there. Vail expects construction to be completed within nine months. A full sellout is expected within six months.

When completed, Kolter finally will be done with this troublesome six-acre infill site, a poster child of the real estate recession.

Kolter bought the land in 2005 and sketched plans to build 45 townhomes starting in the $800,000s and going up to $1 million. The plan was dashed by the real estate market crash.

So Kolter went back to city hall and won approval to change the zoning to retail. Shops, a pharmacy or a bank branch were contemplated. But that idea never took flight, either.

Kolter then had the land rezoned back to residential. Prices initially were slated to range from the mid-to-high $400,000s up to $500,000 for Moderne, but the limited supply of new homes helped push the townhouse’s prices back to 2005 levels.

The properties all are heavy on amenities and luxury touches. At Altis, there are pet grooming areas and dog-walking services, plus a cafe, club room and charging stations for electric cars. The Bristol has its own concierge, massage and yoga centers, plus private elevators for each unit. Moderne Boca features elevators in some units, plus built-in mini-refrigerators as an option in master bedrooms.

The Bristol is unique in a lot of ways, starting with the fact that it’s the most expensive condominium ever built in Palm Beach County. The average size of a unit at The Bristol is about 4,500 square feet and costs $10 million.

Thus far, only about 17 or 18 units remain available for sale, Adelson said. And those aren’t the priciest units. “Above $10 million we have very little left,” Adelson said.

In fact, salespeople are negotiating with a buyer to possibly purchase an entire floor. Adelson wouldn’t provide further details.

Adelson expects sales to wrap up fast, so he’s holding off on big advertisements until after Thanksgiving, when seasonal visitors return to the area. “We’re not in a rush,” he said. “We think we’ll sell out by the end of the season or before the next season. Either way, it’s plenty of time.”

The Bristol is set to complete construction in about 15 months. But first Adelson has to get through the next couple of months.

He said he’s been busy giving hard-hat tours of the property to seasonal residents returning to Florida who are curious about the construction progress of their Bristol condos. “Now we’re on the 20th floor. It’s breathtaking,” he said.

Alexandra Clough writes about real estate, law and the economy.

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