Christmas comes early for condo buyers

Chicago-area condominium buyers will find their holiday stockings stuffed with developer incentives ranging from real estate tax and assessment breaks and cash discounts to free parking spaces and gift certificates to buy furniture, real estate experts say.

“Although the city’s new-construction and adaptive-reuse condominium and townhome market soared, with 2,113 sales during the third quarter of 2004 – its highest level since 1997 – a buyers’ market in downtown condominiums continues to offer good deals,” said Gail Lissner, vice president of Appraisal Research Counselors, Ltd.

“While condo inventory has been greatly reduced, there still is a large selection of new-construction condominiums on the market, so builders are hoping to spark sales between now and the end of the year by offering attractive incentives,” agreed Charles Huzenis, president of the Jameson Realty Group.

“The bottom line is developers are willing to do whatever it takes to entice a serious buyer to sign a contract,” said Lissner. “Free parking continues to be the most sought after concession by buyers who realize that free upgrades typically never amount to $25,000 or $35,000,” Lissner said.

Currently, there is an over supply of downtown new-construction condominiums, townhomes and lofts that have been completed and are ready for delivery, Lissner said. As the demand catches up with the supply, developers likely will begin to pull back on the special offers, experts say.

Some current incentives are outlined below:

· A $10,000 cash discount is offered to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who buy a loft condominium at Paramount Lofts, 130 W. Ashland; Van Buren Lofts, 1224 W. Van Buren; and Skytech Lofts, 6 S. Laflin, according to co-developer Ted Mazola of New West Realty.

In addition, New West Realty also is offering a 5 percent “developer discount” for a limited time to all loft buyers at Paramount Lofts, where prices start in the $200s, and at Van Buren Lofts, priced in the $230s.

· At Skytech Lofts, which is near a sales close out, co-developer James Engel of West Madison Developers, LLC, said buyers could move in immediately and pay no real estate taxes or condo assessments for one year. Skytech’s prices start in the $280s. Penthouses are available starting at $489,900.

· At 740 Fulton, a 14-story new-construction condominium being developed by the Thrush Companies in the West Loop, the cash discount ranges from $15,000 to $30,000, including parking.

“This incentive is limited to the sale of four or five more units,” said developer David Chase. “Once we hit the sales plateau required to start construction, the deal will end.” Prices at 740 Fulton begin in the $250s for a one-bedroom residence with one bath and range upwards to $849,900 for a three-bedroom, 2.5-bath penthouse, which comes with two free indoor parking spaces.

· At University Station, a loft conversion on the Near West Side by New West Realty, the incentive to buy is an eight-year real estate tax freeze created from the historic landmark status of the building at 1550 S. Blue Island Ave.

“Annual real estate taxes on a typical condo at University Station will run about $300 because of the tax freeze,” said Mazola. Condo prices average less than $250,000 in the building.

· At State Place, a 253-unit mixed-use retail and residential development at 11th and State, in the South Loop, developers are offering free parking plus a $5,000 gift certificate to the furniture story of your choice at closing.

Co-developer Michael Tobin, of State Street Associates, also is including stainless steel appliances, granite countertops in the kitchen and a washer and dryer.

Tower and mid-rise residences feature one to three bedrooms, one or two baths and base prices ranging from $281,800 to $570,800. Penthouses with two or three bedrooms, two to 3.5 baths and 1,874 to 2,511 square feet are priced from $845,800 to $1.145 million.

Many other projects are offering free parking spots, worth an average of about $30,000, including: Jefferson Tower, 1111 S. Wabash, 950 W. Monroe, Westhaven Park, St. Lawrence on the Park, Balmoral Gardens and No. Ten Lofts.

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