In July, more than 100 Austin condo buyers reserved units in projects such as the Austonian, the Four Seasons, and the W Hotel & Residences. All three of these projects have one thing in common: they are currently empty lots. Actually, in the case of the Four Seasons Residences, the building site is currently a very busy hotel parking lot.
In the current hot condo market, top projects will sell out before the first ceremonial shovel of dirt is removed from the lot. In these circumstances, buyers will be required to pay deposits years before they will be able to occupy their newly selected home. The deposit requirements vary widely among projects. Typically, buyers will be required to pay between 3% and 10% of the purchase price of the unit in order to execute a sales contract. The projects that are super-upscale or in high demand are the ones most likely to have high condo fees.
A typical payment scheme would be an initial payment of $5,000 or $10,000 to be paid at contract signing. This payment reserves the unit. The balance of the deposit would be paid over 90 or 120-days (or with some projects all money is due by ground-breaking). In addition, most buyers are required to pay 50-100% of upgrades such as wood floors, premium appliances, and sound system packages.
One comment we have heard from buyers is that it is currently a seller’s market: prices are non-negotiable, deposit requirements are steep, reservations require a sales contract, and there are very few good deals or incentives to be had. While the 360 supposedly provided a 3% down incentive for a limited time to move some remaining units, these sorts of incentives are hard to come by and almost never available on the prime units that tend to sell first.
While the current market for condos may be a sellers market, this won’t be true for every project that comes along over the next couple of years. The name brand projects such as the Four Seasons, the W Hotel & Residences will see high demand from people who value the brand. Other projects, like the tall and reasonably-priced 360, will also sell well. For the other downtown projects, competition for buyers will be fierce. It is inevitable that some buyers will be able to negotiate better deals, free upgrades, or reduced deposit requirements by shopping around and playing projects against each other.