One of the questions new construction home buyers often ask is, "How do we know that the condo we are buying is going to be close to what is being promised, the perfectly lighted model unit, and dainty plastic diorama?"
The truth of the matter is that the display model, renderings, brochures and any advertising materials are tools for the developer to communicate a concept but they have (and will excercise) the right to make modifications during the actual construction. The best developers and marketers will not overpromise and stay very true to the spirit of the concept marketed. In terms of legal recourse, there’s a wide grey area between the developer making some tweaks and serious false advertising. This kind of risk only increases the value of buying from a developer and the project’s marketing firm which both have long, verifiable, and positive track records of promoting and delivering well-designed, quality product on spec, and on time.
So how good are developers at keeping their promises? When I started this blog almost two years ago, many new construction projects were already in the works. I thought it would be neat to take a look at a few examples: Mosler Lofts, Lumen and The Parc and compare their marketed concepts to the actual delivered product.
Mosler Lofts (Marketed by Williams Marketing, Developed by Schuster Group)
I have to say that among the three condos marketed a couple of years ago, Mosler Lofts’s exterior is extremely close to what was advertised — many people feel it looks even better than the pre-sales renderings. Its glass and brick combination has a very solid feel, almost a cross between Avenue One and Bellora condos. As for the interior, the finishes presented in the sales center are also very close. One nit: some pre-sales buyers were surprised by the large exposed metal ducts below the ceilings and unpainted concrete ceilings. (To be fair, these ducts appeared on the floor plan documentation but I’ve heard from a few buyers that it wasn’t obvious to them when they were at the sales center.)
Lastly, Mosler Lofts was projected for June 2007 occupancy and started the move-ins in November 2007. This was partly due to a 1 month concrete strike in August 2006 and partly a bad estimate.
Avenue One Bellora
The Parc (Marketed by Windermere Onsite and Realogics, Developed by part of Intracorp family of companies)
I was kind of surprised with the Parc when it was completed. The exterior looked kind of unfinished and had a different color than the artist’s rendition. The color is a bit more washed out and commercial than what many expected making it hard to compare favorably to its sister project, Avenue One (which has a more interesting combination of materials and darker, richer colors). The interior on the other hand, turned out extremely close to the model unit, which was really well-presented.
The Parc had an estimated move in date of April 2007 for the south tower and June 2007 for the north tower and started occupancy in Oct 2007 (Like Mosler, the delay was partly due to the 1 month concrete strike in August 2006 and partly a bad estimate).
Lumen (Marketed by Windermere Onsite and Realogics, Developed by Landstar Development)
Lumen’s exterior has an interesting shape but on the whole, it doesn’t seem to have the same feel as one got when looking at the diorama. The exterior feels a bit sterile – someone told me they thought it comes across like a medical or government building. I’m not sure I’d go that far but this is one of those things that you can’t predict since the overall design looks very close to the marketing materials. Ultimately, it might be like a sweater that looks great online but seems a bit off when you try it on at home when it was delivered. Since these cases are very possible, you really are betting that the architect, developer, and construction companies are making the right decisions before and during construction. The interior does live up to its marketing; one unique amenity that stands out is the central courtyard. The greenery in the center of building adds some color and was delivered as promised.
The estimated move in date for Lumen was February 2007 and they came pretty close with move-ins in April 2007.
Lumen or Mosler Lofts?
The Parc Update
Rent a condo or hotel?
Great post Wendy. It’s interesting to note that 2 years ago, lots of people were debating between Mosler and Lumen and there was an honest dilemna for buyers. Fast forward to 2008 and I think it’s pretty clear that Mosler is the place to be (except for the nasty heating tubes in the ceilings).
Great post. Wendy – what do you think of the exterior glass that is going up on the hotel floors at Olive8? It looks nothing like the renderings. I was initially excited by Olive8 because of its central location and high floor 1 bedrooms, but the white spraypaint-like grid on the lower floors looks like a bad rendition of Frank Gehry’s IAC building in New York. I read that the New York architect that the developer hired was inspired by the white terra cotta on the Smith Tower, but I wish they had just used white spandrel glass instead of trying to fade from clear to white.
Moved into Mosler a month ago. Love the building, location and the “nasty heating tubes”. The look appropriate with the overall design.
I agree the Olive 8 spray painting looks cheezy. Hopefully it will look better when it’s done.
Well, when they put in the blue-tinted glazing glass for the higher portion of the building, it may give it a good contrast.
I had a deposit on Olive8 – they advertized Wall to Wall glass. In a decorator meeting I noticed they revised the design which included a section of sheet rock where I previously imagined viewing a magnificent view waking up in the morning. I concelled my purchase and now that I see why they need the sheet rock. I think it looks strange and it makes no sense to have a glass facade if you are going to cover it with sheet rock. Big dissappointment to what would have been a great project. Mosler, 5th and Madison got it right.
I too was debating between Lumen and Mosler and I’m glad I went with Lumen. Lumen’s overall design is more unique and I love the clean lines. Also, it is so great to have a grocery store on the retail level, I cannot put a price on the time saved. When they finish the Bill and Melinda Gates Headquaters across the street, that too should add value to the area.
Greg – what exactly are you talking about?
“section of sheet rock” – where? what unit?
I feel the Glass on Olive 8 is the best the city has seen in a long time. Just as Wendy said we will have to wait and see how the blue glazing glass will contrast with the clear and white. Look around at the simple grey and beige buildings of Seattle, we should be happy with anything that is new and exciting. Just wait and see what the Huron Tower will bring. Then people will really start freaking out at something different.
Hey guys. Looks like Mosler is selling again. This weekend I spoke with someone who works for the developer. They had one unit left for $429K. I was going to see if I could swing a deal for less but they accepted an offer today. Looks like sellers are indeed able to sell and those Mosler listings are for real.
Sorry to hear about the views Mark W.
Re Olive 8 – Now that a lot of the upper glass has been installed, Olive 8 still doesn’t wow. The sun does seem to bring out the blue, but I mostly pass it on the east in the afternoon or evening. The shade – and overcast skies – make it look like a large, quite plain grey box.
Re design vs reality changes – Obviously the blue vs grey look isn’t a game-changer. But the substantial shrinking of some of the units at Moda sure would be. All the Moda examples I heard had buyers losing 10% or more of their square footage. Any idea where all that lost space went?
And more generally – How much change is acceptable before the buyer has a good case for backing out? And how often do the changes favor the buyers?
I wish that we had someone like Wendy in Vancouver B.C where I live! here,according to the newspapers and the realtors every new building is the best ever, even though we can see that the kitchen, bath and layout are clones of previous buildings..places that weren’t that great inside and out to start with. It looks like no-hold bared criticism of politicians and religion in the papers is fine but criticizing builders and designers is unpatriotic or something like that!! weird!! Wendy tells it like it is. Not just the beauty marks, as it were, but the warts as well and she does it in a convincing yet gentle way. Wendy, did you thought about designing places? or making a list of features that are a must have and those that shouldn’t be allowed? (for example I find totally open kitchens an eyesore and having the sink and stove across an aisle from one another–the #1 design here in BC-VERY IMPRACTICAL)