One Who’s Out and Wants In
A man walks into the lobby of a downtown sales office on Sixth Avenue and G Street on a Sunday morning, wheeling his young son in a stroller in front of him.
The glass and marble lobby has flat-screen televisions showing downtown views and condominium interiors and wall-sized photographs of construction sites. But the centerpiece is an architectural scale model of a building beneath a glass shell. The model is three by five by four feet high, detailed out to its balconies, with Matchbox cars and model people in the street.
The boy in the stroller points at the model building, wide-eyed, and says, “Whoa!!”
“Do you want to live in there?” the man asks his son, but the little boy’s face scrunches into a frown, and he says nothing. “Do you want to live in that building?” the boy’s father asks him again. Still no answer from the young skeptic.
The sales manager for the building, Donna Lutz, emerges from a nearby glass-enclosed office and laughs. “That’s not the real building,” she says to the little boy. “You don’t have to live in that. That’s a model. The real building will be a lot bigger.”
In fact, the real building for Vantage Pointe condominiums, when it reaches completion in late spring of next year, will be the largest residential development in downtown San Diego, with 679 condos and 25,000 feet of commercial space. The 40-story project, which encompasses the entire block between A and B streets and Ninth and Tenth avenues, entailed what real-estate analysts say is the largest private construction loan in San Diego County history: $210 million.
The man who’s visiting the sales center today is Scott Spick, and his two-year-old son’s name is Ian. Spick was one of the first people to put a deposit down at Vantage Pointe, back in 2004. His condo will be a two-bedroom, two-bath “K plan,” with north-facing views of Balboa Park from the 17th floor.
He’s visiting today because he has concerns and questions for Lutz.
“Any update on estimated status for completion on our unit?” Spick asks.
“We hope to start moving in our first buyers in April,” Lutz says. “Starting next month, we’ll be giving the construction company a punch list of things that need to be corrected, and then we’ll start walk-throughs after the first of the year.”
“I was reading about all this,” Spick begins, “and I’m wondering.…” His voice trails off. Spick is 33, a musician — “I’d like to say I’m a full-time musician” — but also works as a project manager at Nokia to help make ends meet. His wife Ana used to work for Qualcomm, but now she’s in interior design. Ian is their first child. Spick says now to Lutz, “I’m X amount of dollars into this for the down payment, and I’m wondering, is it better for me to move forward with this investment or to step back and take my money and try to invest it somewhere else? I personally think it’s still a great investment, but I’d like to know my options. Reading through the contracts, I see that there’s a clause that says that after 42 months from my signing on, if I don’t close escrow, then I can get out.”
Lutz says, “If your home is not deliverable by 42 months after signing, then, yes, you’re able to get out of it. But, I tell you, all hands are on deck to make that date.”
“And that is May 2009?”
“Yes, that’s May.”
Spick locked into his unit at a price of $419,000. He put five percent down on the property. “I wonder what it would appraise for right now,” he says.
“Oh,” says Lutz, “at that floor level, at that size — you’ve got 950 square feet — you’d be really hard-pressed to beat $419,000, even in today’s market. I know that because I’m buying a property here, too. I’m in the same boat that you are. And as long as you’re on the upper levels, you’re still very positive. That same home today, list price, would be about $600,000.”
Spick’s face brightens. “Is that at this stage right now?”
“That’s why I want to try so hard to qualify for this,” Spick says. “And get as creative as possible. With my parents being real-estate agents, they’re saying, hey, you know, do what it takes. We’ll help you if need be.”
Spick explains that he used to live in Golden Hill. Then, in 2003, he and his wife started looking for an investment. They purchased a four-bedroom, 1700-square-foot home in Scripps Ranch. “We should have sold at the peak,” he says. “We have neighbors who sold really well, when we, like most people, were thinking, ‘Let’s wait a little bit and see if we can get a little more out of it.’ So I guess we got greedy and didn’t get out in time, and now we’re stuck there.”
“It’s nice that you got to keep it, at least.” Lutz is alluding to the hundreds of thousands of people in Spick’s situation who’ve been foreclosed on, or short-sold.
“I think, in the long run, if we can hold on to it, that’s the best decision,” Spick says.
“Well, for Vantage Pointe,” says Lutz, “we are allowing co-buyers. So if you do need to add your parents on, the builder is allowing you to do that. Your name still has to remain on the title at closing, but you can add a co-buyer for qualifying or down payment. And we’re going to have some seminars with Wells Fargo, and if you come to those — we’ll let you know when those are — you’ll learn that you can use gift money for a higher down payment.”
“And what about FHA? Does Vantage Pointe qualify?”
“We’re working on that. Right now, FHA has been changing their guidelines. And we wouldn’t qualify today. But we’ll know by the end of November, with the new guideline changes, whether we can proceed with the application.”