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chelleyfl

Anyone live in one of these shiny new buildings?

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The enthusiasm I sense on this board for downtown Jax is pretty amazing so I have to ask:

Does anyone on here live in a downtown high rise - or plan to?

I know a lot of these properties are bought for investment, not primary residences - but if I were to buy a downtown condo it would be my home. So, considering that most of the 'affordable' units are sold out before the building is even complete, I've thought about buying preconstruction, but I know this carries risks too. For instance I read about a fab condo in DT Orlando that just finished being converted. From the description - hard wood floors, lake views/city views, etc I knew I'd love it. A unit had just gone up for sale and I went thinking I'd be the new buyer. When I saw it in person I was extremely disappointed. Those hard wood floors are not real and the city view is actually of a parking garage. I can imagine a lot of the people who bought it at preconstruction prices migth be disappointed with the way it turned out. So for any real estate people out there - What do you do if you buy a fabulous preconstruction property, it gets completed and you hate it? Is there any clause to get you out of it or are you stuck? I don't really feel this will be a problem with the new condos/lofts in Jax because they all seem top of the line - but then again most of them aren't built yet.

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If you bought something at Pre-construction and didn't want to go forward with it, once completed, I believe you'll just lose your reservation deposit, which will probably be around $5k - $10k. You would probably be better off attempting to sell your unit for a profit. If you're going to buy something to live in, at pre-construction prices, its best that you get down and at least see the site, its surroundings and building before signing or paying anything to make sure you're confident about your decision.

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If you bought something at Pre-construction and didn't want to go forward with it, once completed, I believe you'll just lose your reservation deposit, which will probably be around $5k - $10k. You would probably be better off attempting to sell your unit for a profit. If you're going to buy something to live in, at pre-construction prices, its best that you get down and at least see the site, its surroundings and building before signing or paying anything to make sure you're confident about your decision.

I think this is not correct. I had to put 10% down at signing and another 10% down at pouring of the foundation, so if I were to walk away, I would loose 20% of purchase price. So depending upon purchase price, this could be quite substantial, least it is in my case. I have approx. $100K into it. So, I guess if I don't like it, then I would try to dump it at what I paid or close to it as possible. :)

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^Thanks, that is pretty steep. Up till now, I always thought you would end up just losing your initial deposit. So it looks like its best just to put it up for sale, if you don't like how the project comes out, in the end.

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When I saw it in person I was extremely disappointed. Those hard wood floors are not real and the city view is actually of a parking garage.

Sounds a little like the Carling. Has Vestcor made its way to Orlando?

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Sounds a little like the Carling. Has Vestcor made its way to Orlando?

What's wrong with the Carling, Rav4? I have only been in the lobby, but it seems quite nice to me. I have been in apartments in 11E and they seem to be much better than your average suburban apartment complex and have great views. I would imagine the Carling is the same.

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What's wrong with the Carling, Rav4? I have only been in the lobby, but it seems quite nice to me. I have been in apartments in 11E and they seem to be much better than your average suburban apartment complex and have great views. I would imagine the Carling is the same.

No disagreements there, RG. Vestcor put a LOT of money into the common areas, and they look amazing! This is because when the building goes condo, the lobby won't be changing much. But the individual apartments are a different story. They will have to endure abuse from 5-10 years of rental occupancy and still be picturesque enough to sell as condominiums. Therefore, they have been outfitted cheaply, with cabinetry, countertops and laminate wood flooring (FAKE WOOD) that can easily be ripped out and replaced with quality later. And yes, your commanding "luxury" view is of the Modis Building and its PARKING GARAGE.

11E apartments are of a slightly higher quality, but still suffer from particleboard cabinetry and budget quality countertops. These apartments were Vestcor's first foray into urban renewal and had to impress the city enough to allow them more opportunity (read: financial incentives) downtown. They do command great views and are a higher quality than your average apartment complex in the 'burbs, but that has more to do with the age of the building and the pride with which it was originally built (in the 20's, buildings were a matter of civic pride and not just a solution to house a corporation).

This hopefully explains my comment. It is unfortunate to me that these properties are only being used to reap the benefits of historical grant money and further line the pockets of an already wealthy company, at the expense of a great deal of waste and short-sightedness. But thus is the state of America and really, who has the time for that can of worms?

Or, you could just chalk the comment up to social parody. It's probably easier that way.

Josh (Former 11E Resident)

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Josh: Well, without Vestcor coming in and taking a chance, these buildings may still be vacant or torn down instead of adding residents to the downtown mix and being preserved for the future. And, as a profit seeking developer, you arent going to put condo quality appointments in a market rate apartment - this is just not economically feasible. I think looking at the big picture Vestcor did a very good thing. I dont blame them for trying to make money - that is why I go to work too. And, they cant help the view either. :)

By the way, you said you were a former 11E resident. Why did you move and where to? Just curious. And, no hard feelings - I guess I am sympathetic with Vestcor because I have a few rental properties.

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Thanks for the explanation Josh, and I agree. I understand the developer's and investor's viewpoint to a certain extent. If they're counting on getting a buyer/renter who just wants a certain location and doesn't care about the quality of where they live then sure, put as little money into it as possible. Personally I'm not impressed with that. I travel a lot and often end up looking for furnished downtown rentals (various cities) - and when I rent I know I have to accept the property as is. I won't be making any upgrades - so I'm especially critical of those. If they are 'cheapy' I don't even consider renting, no matter how good the location. Usually if I look around I can find good quality in my desired location, it just requires patience to keep setting the appointments to walk through every property (which gets very tiresome).

Now that I'm looking to buy a primary residence I have two choices - either buy something at a discount and fix it up myself. OR purchase at a premium and get top of the line floors, cabinets, fixtures, etc. My concern is that units are being advertised as top of the line but they are really only doing mediocre craftsmanship. So it's getting to be a tricky dance... Developers/investors are trying to have it both ways, put as little money in and rent/sell for the maximum. Well I for one am not in the market to pay the most money for the lowest quality... so this will be a careful property search.

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By the way, you said you were a former 11E resident. Why did you move and where to? Just curious. And, no hard feelings - I guess I am sympathetic with Vestcor because I have a few rental properties.

I moved into 11E shortly after it was completed and lived there for two years. I left the property for a number of reasons.

The main reason was the lack of infrastructure. In the three years since 11E opened, the only quality addition to the downtown retail/social scene had been The Burrito Gallery. Everything else has basically stayed the same (albiet with some hastily completed streetscaping). Just a lot of beautifully renovated, empty commercial spaces.

Vestcor also has a nasty habit of raising the rent and utility prices to offset the cost of not being able to rent out their ground floor commercial space (which, last time i checked, was between $25-$30/sq. ft. and required a 10 year commitment?!? [with no parking to boot]). The apartment I originally rented at $1150 a month was now valued by Vestcor at $1400.

Also, the office staff slowly lost their original "friendly, professional, we're-a-close-knit-community-with-charm" attitude and adopted a more "cold, suspicious, I-feel-like-I'm-living-in-a-dorm-room-at-UNF-now" demeanor.

Lastly, I was also contemplating a move to Springfield at the time, but have since been offered a job in Chicago. So it looks like I will be leaving Jacksonville altogether.

I have to say my time downtown was very enjoyable, but it will be QUITE a while before it can be considered a self-supporting neighborhood.

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Thanks for the explanation, Rav4. I agree downtown is a work in progress. I have no connection to Vestcor, by the way - I was just curious. I think their rental policies for the retail are crazy too. Well, sorry to see you go.

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I can't speak to the customer service or prices as I haven't rented in awhile, but I think part of the reason a lot of these places aren't upgrading the interiors at the beginning is that they have to have them as rental properties for a minumum of 5 years to get tax breaks and incentives. They have every intention of going condo but rather than have 5-7 years of wear and tear on A grade materials they wait and go through and redo everything when they convert to Condos. Berkman has done this as well as numerous other places around town and the final product looks great.

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I agree JaxVidMan, they are simply waiting for the condo conversions to put in "the good stuff."

Also, keep in mind that these buildings just don't make a profit right now - even at near full occupancy. The historic rehab and parking construction was just so darn expensive (thus impossible without city help). It's really amazing that these buildings are even habitable, nevermind the relative quality of the cabinetry!!

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I do find it amusing that people want to have granite countertops and real wood cabinets, but only want to pay average rates for these apartments. This is just a matter of economics 101. If you spend too much on the building as a landlord and dont charge enough rent, you go out of business. Why is this so hard to grasp?

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If you spend too much on the building as a landlord and dont charge enough rent, you go out of business. Why is this so hard to grasp?

I think lots of people fall for the "luxury" gimmick - and forget that it's often nothing more than a marketing term. Also, you tend to get a lot of housing for the money in Jax. So I think we might be a bit spoiled in that regard. :)

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I find it difficult to believe that Vestcor isn't making money, probably good money on 11 E. First, it got millions in incentives, which should offset the losses on rehab work. Plus they received hefty tax credits for doing a rehab. Add to that the luxury rents and near full occupancy. If they were truly losing money on the building, I think they would be more reasonable on the retail rent. The people that expect huge above- market premiums usually don't need the money.

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You don't have to believe it. No skin off my back. :) But all the millions incentives did not fully offset the rehab costs. It's just insanely expensive to do historic rehabs.

Vestcor can get away with it, because - like many developers - their subsidiaries are also contractors and property managers. So they generate profits for certain divisions that way. Plus, they expect to make a big profit during the eventual condo conversion. But so far, 11E as an individual property has been in the red.

Don't get me wrong ... these guys know what they are doing ... they'll make a big profit on it eventually.

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I'm glad I got some feedback on this topic, it's been very helpful. I want to reiterate that my main gripe came from one particular building, a recent conversion in Orlando. Captain Obvious is right about the "luxury gimmick". For instance, the unit I saw was advertised as having wood floors. When the realtor let me in I literally was able to take two steps on the wood floors, the rest was carpet. It was about 3 feet worth, not even enough to call it a foyer. That really surprised me, in a bad way. And the "city view" of the parking garage was not a selling point. The realtor walked me through another unit which had about twice as much wood flooring, and was overall better, but still not a value for the money in my opinion. So I guess the lesson learned is know how to sniff out marketing hype. Since I was considering buying pre-construction, this is what made me nervous. What if it the finished product doesn't match the description you thought you were buying. I really do feel the owner of the unit I saw might have had this problem, the price had been dropped twice by the time I saw it and even for that 'low' price I wasn't impressed.

I am the type who would rather pay more for quality, so my new tactic is to ask a lot of questions and do a lot of research about the builder if I'm getting into pre-construction. Or wait until it's completed and be satisfied that I like it, and expect to pay 15-30% or more to the person who bought it pre-construction.

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chelley: I always prefer to buy undervalued places in need of renovation. That way I can upgrade myself in a way that I like rather than just inheriting someone else's choices. I love the fixer-uppers. :)

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I'm glad I got some feedback on this topic, it's been very helpful. I want to reiterate that my main gripe came from one particular building, a recent conversion in Orlando. Captain Obvious is right about the "luxury gimmick". For instance, the unit I saw was advertised as having wood floors. When the realtor let me in I literally was able to take two steps on the wood floors, the rest was carpet. It was about 3 feet worth, not even enough to call it a foyer. That really surprised me, in a bad way. And the "city view" of the parking garage was not a selling point. The realtor walked me through another unit which had about twice as much wood flooring, and was overall better, but still not a value for the money in my opinion. So I guess the lesson learned is know how to sniff out marketing hype. Since I was considering buying pre-construction, this is what made me nervous. What if it the finished product doesn't match the description you thought you were buying. I really do feel the owner of the unit I saw might have had this problem, the price had been dropped twice by the time I saw it and even for that 'low' price I wasn't impressed.

I am the type who would rather pay more for quality, so my new tactic is to ask a lot of questions and do a lot of research about the builder if I'm getting into pre-construction. Or wait until it's completed and be satisfied that I like it, and expect to pay 15-30% or more to the person who bought it pre-construction.

Excellent advise, but even at pre-construction, the developer should be able to provide a sample of the floor coverings, cabinets, countertops, and a floor plan that shows what the floor coverings are in each room. If the finished product differs in materials or design significantly, you should be able to seek a remedy through legal means.

Of course, the QUALITY of cionstruction, can't be "sampled".

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