Developer sells 80 condos in one hour using discounts, PDAs and Greek meal

Don DeBat

City Homes

Launching a development in today’s slower real estate market requires some creativity. To kick off sales at 200 North Dearborn Private Residences, condo converter Nicholas S. Gouletas held a one-night-only sales event with the feel of a Greek wedding – at which he sold $25 million worth of units in one hour.

“We are going to make history today,” said Gouletas, CEO and president of American Invsco. Then, he sat back and watched as 80 condominiums sold – including 55 units during the first minute of action – at his “One Night, Best Price” event for the 47-story high-rise conversion in Chicago’s Loop.

Gouletas donned a tuxedo and met more than 200 prospective condo buyers at Century Tower, 182 N. Lake St., on a red carpet with Hollywood-style spotlights flashing into the sky.

The crowd included business types in dark suits, young women fresh from Loop jobs, casually dressed empty-nesters from the suburbs and real estate investors and professionals, including condominium appraiser Gail Lissner, vice president of Appraisal Research Counselors.

While Ramsey Lewis jazz oozed from the bandstand and waiters offered hors d’oeuvres and soft drinks, two-dozen American Invsco sales agents gave prospective buyers Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). Buyers used the handheld devices to select condominiums by unit number, according to Arnold Schepel, vice president of marketing and advertising for American Invsco.

Digital “count-down” clocks ticked away the seconds until the official 7:30 p.m. start. Once the event began, computerized boards listing unit numbers flashed yellow lights for each condo sold.

By 8:30 p.m. the selling was over. Gouletas offered a champagne toast to the buyers, along with dancing and a buffet catered by Greek Islands restaurant.

“Sales included studios, convertibles, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, including some coveted corner layouts and premium top-floor condominiums,” said Stefanie Neuman, sales manager for 200 North Dearborn, who noted that 35 units had been pre-sold to residents and international investors.

“With 115 of 309 units under contract, nearly 40 percent of the building was sold within a few days,” Neuman said.

“Today’s world is fast-paced and technologically driven,” Gouletas said. “We wanted to find a way to make the home selection and buying process quick, easy and exciting for buyers all over the world. With this user-friendly PDA, we’ve managed to do all three.”

A major draw from the buyers’ standpoint was the one-night-only reduced prices, starting in the low $200s. The event marked the second time in American Invsco’s 37-year history that the company offered the general public its resident pricing and programs, Gouletas said. Since 1969 American Invsco has developed, marketed and managed more than 40,000 condominiums nationwide valued at more than $4 billion.

“By eliminating two years of developer interest, carry costs, marketing and other expenses, we deducted these costs from our pricing, and passed the savings on to a serious group of pre-qualified buyers,” Gouletas said.

A sales center recently opened on the 35th floor of 200 North Dearborn, located at the corner of Dearborn and Lake, and 10 professionally furnished and decorated model units are on display. Upgrade packages range from $12,000 to $50,000 per residence, according to Neuman.

After the event, prices increased about 10 percent. Prices now range from the $210s to the $530s, according to Neumann.

All units except four have private balconies that face the lake to the east and downtown to the west.

The building includes 24-hour door staff, a fitness center, a heated indoor swimming pool, a sundeck, a party room, laundry facilities and a White Hen convenience store. The building also has same-day maintenance service and dry-cleaning and valet services.

Five floors of indoor parking are available with a total of 103 spaces.

Real estate columnist and media consultant Don DeBat has written about Chicago-area housing and mortgage markets since 1968. He is chief executive officer of DeBat Media, Inc., www.DonDebat.net.

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