MIAMI, FL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- July 13, 2006 -- If home ownership was once the tangible evidence of success in America, today a vacation home is the quintessential symbol of truly having arrived. But with limited time to spend using and maintaining a vacation home, the perfect solution has been elusive.
Along comes the condo hotel, a new twist on the family beach house. These hassle-free, amenity-rich properties could be the ultimate second home for today's well-to-do. "Condo hotels are designer-furnished condominium suites located in luxury hotels," explained Joel Greene, president of Condo Hotel Center, a national real estate firm that specializes in the sale of condo hotels.
"Owners have access to all the wonderful amenities of the hotel like a pool, restaurant and spa. They also get all the hotel services like daily housekeeping, valet parking and a helpful on-site concierge, everything you could want when on vacation."
Owners of condo hotel units can use their vacation home when they'd like. When they're not there, an on-site hotel management company takes care of all operational issues, including finding hotel guests to rent the condos. Owners receive a share of the proceeds, usually about 50%.
"I hesitated to buy a second home in the past because I knew we'd only use it a few weeks each year," explained Mindy Sullivan, who recently purchased a condo hotel unit in Palazzo del Lago in Orlando. "A condo hotel is ideal because when we're not there, the condo will be rented out. The income it produces will help cover its costs."
Prices for condo hotel units range from $200,000 to upwards of $2,000,000. They usually include all furnishings and fully equipped kitchens.
Condo hotels are popping up in destinations like Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach and the Caribbean. Most are operated by highly reputable hotel franchises like Hyatt, Hilton, Trump, Starwood and Ritz-Carlton that know how to cater to buyers with discerning tastes and demanding requirements.
"When I go on vacation, I want to relax and be pampered," explained Cherise Fuller who recently decided to purchase a unit at the W Las Vegas condo hotel. "A condo hotel is perfect. The kids can head to the pool. I'll go to the spa and fitness center. And my husband can hang out in the casino. There's something for everyone."
While having a home-away-from-home is the primary reason for purchasing condo hotels, some buyers say they like them for appreciation potential. When they sell their vacation homes, they're hoping to make a significant profit.
John Williams, who owns a condo hotel unit in Trump Fort Lauderdale, said, "A condo hotel gives you all the perks of ownership -- a beautiful place to vacation, rent revenue, and appreciation -- without any of the problems."
Another source for preconstruction investing can be found in the PreconstructionCondos.com directory. Our new website is growing slowly but surely to eventually have listings in the entire US for condos and resorts. For those interested in Myrtle Beach condo rentals, check out MyrtleBeachRestaurants.net.
Greenville They were supposed to be temporary measures, limited in size and duration on the beach, to buy time for development of more permanent solutions to protect imminently threatened oceanfront property.
But somewhere along the line, and sometimes aided by sympathetic officials, sandbags have morphed into de facto permanent structures - a supposed no-no in North Carolina where hardened erosion-control measures on beaches are illegal.
Case in point is The Riggings condominium complex in Kure Beach, where sandbags have helped hold back the Atlantic since the first Reagan administration.
Frustrated by the proliferation of the fabric walls along North Carolina's beaches that can affect public access, wash away beaches and simply move erosion farther up the shoreline, the state agency that regulates the coast is now getting tough on sandbags.
Earlier this year, the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission rejected an application by Ocean Isle Beach to "supersize" the sandbags protecting homes and infrastructure along the Brunswick County island's badly eroded east end.
The decision, which is being appealed by the town, came even though the commission previously had given Figure Eight Island and Bald Head Island permission to exceed the 6-foot-tall, 20-foot-wide limit for their sandbag walls.
Thursday, officials discussed the difficulties of enforcing existing rules on sandbags.Jim Gregson, head of the N.C. Division of Coastal Management's Wilmington office, said regulators are "struggling" with what to do about sandbag walls that are taller than their permitted maximum and perpendicular instead of parallel to the shoreline.
The 6-foot-height limit is supposed to be from the beach. But as the bags settle and sink into the sand, more sandbags are often added by worried property owners - causing enforcement problems if erosion exposes the sunken bags.
Coastal officials earlier this year toured some areas along the Outer Banks where sandbag walls were 14 feet high.Spencer Rogers, a coastal engineering expert with N.C. Sea Grant, recommended that sandbag walls be limited to 6 feet, even if they sink.
"The key to limiting the impact is size limits," he said, noting that the 6-foot limit without exceptions was what the commission's Science Panel had recommended years ago.
Commission member Melvin Shepard added his support for reining in sandbags, noting that they weren't designed to be a final solution.
"They were never intended to stop erosion, but just to buy some time until the property could be moved or nourishment could take place," said the Sneads Ferry resident.
Courtney Hackney, chairman of the CRC and a biologist at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, also noted the environmental problems caused by torn or damaged sandbags.
"That's the No. 1 debris in the salt marshes," he said. "It's not Coke bottles or other trash. It's pieces of these bags."But Harry Simmons, mayor of Caswell Beach and executive director of the N.C. Shore, Beach and Waterway Commission, cautioned officials against thinking all sandbag applications are bad. He noted most of the problems with the bags occur around inlets, which are erosion hot spots.
In Southeastern North Carolina, substantial sandbag walls several hundred feet long can be found near inlets in Ocean Isle Beach, Figure Eight Island and North Topsail Beach.
Bald Head Island had its long sandbag wall buried after the Brunswick County island's South Beach was nourished as part of the Wilmington Harbor deepening project.To help stabilize and rebuild the beach further, the island also has rebuilt its groin system.
The network of large perpendicular sand tubes, spaced several hundred feet apart, that extend into the ocean is the only one of its kind in the state.
It's allowed only because it pre-dates the state's ban on hardened beachfront structures.
A bill in the General Assembly would allow North Topsail Beach to build another groin system, although the legislation doesn't appear to have a lot of political support. But officials admit a bigger sandbag problem could be on the horizon.
May 2008 is the deadline for exposed sandbags installed prior to 2000 to come out.
According to state law, only sandbags that are buried and have vegetation on them can stay in the ground.
This is an old article from the Union Tribune that I just ran across, but it was so funny I wanted to share, and it didn't appear to be in the search engines.
I went to Florida recently and visited all the main beaches from Boca Raton on up, back to Jacksonville...trying to decide if I'd like to live there. One of the odd things I noticed was the signage on their conversions and preconstruction condos.
All the condo-hotels in Daytona had these huge things like sheets...sort of like what you see at a rock concert when a group of groupies holds up a sheet that says "WE LOVE YOU DAVY JONES!" or similar. These "sheets" were really really big...stretched across 5 or 10 balconies, and they all said CONDOS FOR SALE!
So this city, wherever El Cajun is, (near San Diego?) has LIVE signs for selling condos. I just think it's a hoot....
EL CAJON – City leaders have rolled out the welcome mat for condominium converters, but they draw the line at plunking a person on the sidewalk with a giant arrow to advertise the properties. Sign spinners, logo flags, banners and similar attention-grabbing tactics fall into the category of temporary signs. They're illegal here, outlawed decades ago along with inflatable objects, streamers and bunting as a way to control the myriad signs cluttering up the city.
El Cajon's condominium conversion task force, made up almost entirely of people connected to the business, is asking the City Council to ease the restrictions. There's a glut of conversions on the market and converters say they need sign spinners, or “human directionals” as they like to call them, to help draw potential buyers.
The spinners wouldn't be so popular among converters and other businesses if they weren't effective, said Greg Neville, president of Pacific Land Group and a member of the task force. Rules under review El Cajon bans the use of temporary signs with some exceptions.
Condominium converters are asking the city to change the rules to allow for sign spinners, logo flags and other advertising methods. The City Council will discuss the issue April 25. The council meets at 3 p.m. at City Hall, 200 E. Main St. Neville's company is involved in three conversion projects in El Cajon as well as others around the county. He said potential buyers often say the sign spinners lured them in.
Spinners like those who work for San Diego-based Aarrow Advertising wear uniforms and are encouraged to smile and make eye contact with passersby, said Max Durovic, who started the sign-spinning company in 2002.
“Our goal is to really work with towns and cities to make sure this doesn't become a visual nuisance,” Durovic said.
His company pays sign spinners $8 to $20 an hour to work tricks they've learned from “spinstructors.” Despite El Cajon's ban on spinners, Durovic's people still hold practice sessions in the city, perfecting moves like the “helicopter spin” or the “Bruce Lee spin.”
Durovic said El Cajon's limits are hurting his business.
The council will discuss the issue April 25. But there's wariness among some city officials who remember the contentious debate surrounding the city's overhaul of its sign ordinance in the late 1970s.
“What most people don't understand is if you change the sign ordinance you can't restrict (the changes) to one group,” Councilman Dick Ramos said.
Before the sign ordinance was changed, there were no limits on temporary or permanent signs in El Cajon. Businesses were required to get permits for permanent signs, but there were no rules about the size, height or number of signs allowed. There were neon signs, rooftop signs and rotating signs, some trimmed with flashing lights.
“It was terrible, absolutely terrible,” Ramos said.
Limits were proposed by the local chamber of commerce and city officials because the city “was starting to look like Las Vegas,” said Community Development Director Jim Griffin. The issue was contentious among business owners, who didn't like the new restrictions. As a compromise, businesses with the most expensive signs were given more than a decade to comply, Griffin said. But temporary signs were no longer allowed.
There are some exceptions. Newly opened businesses can display temporary signs for up to 30 days. And within the past eight years, the city has allowed temporary signs for about two weeks around certain holidays. Businesses can also get permission to display them for two weeks twice a year for a sale or other event, Griffin said.
These days a number of converters and other businesses want a little leeway. They complain that several businesses break the rules, often planting sign spinners on busy streets, and that the city selectively enforces the law.
Griffin said the city has received several complaints about spinners. It has been difficult for the city to crack down on them because the spinners work weekends, when there's no code enforcement officer on duty. A part-time person is expected to start patrolling on weekends this month, he said.
Converters say they want the city to immediately suspend the rules about temporary signs for at least six months and then consider a permanent change, specifically for real estate signs. The changes are especially needed now, they say, as sales of condo conversions have slowed throughout San Diego County.
“Six months ago to a year ago all you had to do was put a sign up on a project and (condos) would sell,” said Ron Pennock, chairman of the East County Construction Council and head of the task force.
But now there's a larger inventory of conversions and the market is flattening, Pennock said, “so we need to focus our attention on putting buyers into these units.” Elected leaders here have encouraged converters to bring their projects to El Cajon, approving more than 2,946 units as of April 1. Council members say they help boost property tax revenue and will eventually help change the demographics here, where apartments outnumber houses.
The officials say they have some concerns about changing the sign ordinance, but they want to be business-friendly.
“We have a mutual interest in bringing homeowners to the valley,” Mayor Mark Lewis said, adding that he would support a pilot program to monitor the use of temporary signs and whether they make a difference in sales.
“We need to do what we can to work with them to help them succeed,” Councilwoman Jillian Hanson-Cox said.
But she and others are concerned about sign spinners distracting drivers, dropping signs or blocking the path of pedestrians. If the ordinance changes, they acknowledge, the city won't be able to limit which companies spin here or which businesses are allowed to employ them.
“In my opinion, once you open the door it's going to be very difficult to return to where we are today,” Griffin said.
Sunday, July 02, 2006 The Alabama Press-Register By KATHY JUMPER Real Estate Editor
The buyers of the 251 condominium units at The Lighthouse in Gulf Shores started closing on their units two weeks ago, and everybody's watching.
In today's sluggish condo market, how many will buy and how many will bail?
The project presold within 24 hours in August 2003 at prices from $215,000 to $485,000. Some units flipped, or were sold several times at ever-increasing prices, with totals reaching the high $600,000s and into $700,000s, according to agents.
So far, 50 units have closed, according to Rick Phillips, one of the developers of The Lighthouse.
"We're overwhelmed with our buyers trying to come to close," he said, noting that scheduling the 251 closings is difficult since so many owners want to use their units this summer.
"We have not had a single person say they are not going to close," Phillips said. "We've had a couple of buyers say they would not like to close, but they plan to close unless they find a buyer." Phillips said he gets calls from investors looking for a good deal on a unit, and puts them on a list. So far, he added, he hasn't had to use it.
Watching the Lighthouse and other preconstruction projects close "gives me a whole lot of optimism that everything will close," said Paul Wesch of The Mitchell Company. "Most of the people are buying the unit, will furnish it and not flip it."
"The flippers have gone away," said Frank Malone of ERA Class.com in Gulf Shores. "It was a fun game, though. But we have to remember that flipping is not real estate, that's securities. We're in the real estate business."
Real estate sales at the Gulf have been sluggish since Hurricane Katrina hit last August, though this summer is finally seeing more tourists at the beach, according to agents.
Realtors are hoping buyers will follow and knock out some of the inventory. There were 3,488 condo units listed for sale in Baldwin County as of June 1, according to the Baldwin County Association of Realtors. The average sales prices was $453,312.
"It's difficult selling existing inventory when there are good deals on preconstruction projects that are closing out," said Patrick Daily of REMAX of Orange Beach. "There are seven or more projects closing out their units, and investors are getting some awesome deals. They are picking units up at prices of two to three years ago. You can't build condos at those prices."
A two-bedroom, two-bath unit directly on the Gulf that is in good condition used to sell for $650,000 to $750,000, he said. Today, it's $550,000 to $625,000, according to agents.
Other condo projects scheduled to close this summer or by the end of the year include Caribe Resort's phase 3 in Orange Beach, 200 units; Bella Luna, 132 units on Old River in Perdido Key; and Crystal Tower, 170 units, and San Carlos, 150 units, both in Gulf Shores.
"The people that had been priced out of the market are now coming back," said Chuck Norwood of REMAX of Gulf Shores. "They see it as a buyer's market."
Sales have picked up a bit, Norwood said. "But most of the people want to see us go through a season without a big hurricane."
"I can remember 10 or 11 years ago you would put something on the market and it would take eight or 10 months to sell," Norwood said. "In the last three years we've gotten very spoiled. The time on the market was short and it was a huge seller's market."
This market always creates its own opportunities, Daily said. "Now it's picking up a deal because of excess inventory."
At least half of the current inventory is overpriced, according to Phillips.
"There are sellers that have their units priced at what was going on a year ago," he said. "We aren't there. It's giving a distorted view of what's truly available for sale. Those that want to sell are meeting the prices that buyers want." ###