The new wave of condos on the drawing boards for Miami are as varied as the tiny studios at MyBrickell downtown and the palatial 7,000-square-foot penthouses at The Grove at Grand Bay. But most of them share a common financing strategy.
Its called OPM other peoples money.
After Floridas worst real-estate collapse, banks are mostly still balking at lending for condominium construction, though much of the glut from the last debacle has been absorbed sooner than predicted.
So developers eager to strike quickly in the face of fresh demand are persuading cash-rich buyers, mostly foreigners, to plunk down big deposits on pre-construction deals for cutting-edge towers that are touted as nothing less than transformational for Miami.
New projects boast come-ons such as automated parking; rooftop pools with private cabanas; maid, butler and chef services in smart, green buildings, designed to make the existing new towers look so last week.
As long as you offer value versus the perceived value of the units, youre going to get buyers willing to finance the construction and wait to get the property, said Carlos Rosso, condo division president at The Related Group, which has led the charge on such buyer-financed projects. I think this is a lot healthier market. Buyers are going to be a lot more wary about what they are buying and who theyre giving their money to.
Under the new model, condo buyers are agreeing to put up as much as 80 percent in a series of down payments during construction. Ten percent of each deposit is kept safe in an account the developer doesnt touch, as required by state law. The rest is available for construction.
That shift of risk to the buyer is a stark change from the past, when buyers typically put up 20 percent for pre-construction projects in Miami, with 10 percent set aside in escrow and 10 percent at risk for construction. The balance was due at closing when they got the keys.
Now, it is the buyers, not the banks, who are in danger of big losses if a project goes south. And when it comes to recovering their lost money, buyers are behind most other creditors.
This is a handshake. If you have a reputable developer who lives up to his obligation, you wont have to talk to me or anyone else, said Thomas Lehman, a bankruptcy attorney with Levine Kellogg Lehman Schneider + Grossman in Miami. Youre putting a lot of money at risk with a developer on a promise to complete the project. Youre not getting a mortgage Youre not getting collateral. Youre getting a promise.
Still, there are a fair number of takers for the new cash-heavy deals, which are similar to the financing model in South America.
At least nine projects are already in the works in Miami using the new financing model, according to data from Miami-based Condo Vultures LLC, a real estate consultancy that closely monitors the South Florida market. Latin Americans, Europeans and Canadians, in particular, have been ready to ante up cash and wait for a unit to materialize in a couple of years.
Its a really new model we havent seen before in South Florida, said Peter Zalewski, a principal at Condo Vultures, which has assembled a list of more than 50 potential projects in some stage of planning in South Florida though many may never materialize.