The Real Deal Miami

Condo.com launches division to service struggling lenders

By Jennifer LeClaire | May 23, 2008 06:47PM

With South Florida’s condominium market in sharp decline, the local
industry is looking for a new angle on sales. Condo.com, a condominium
marketplace with inventory listings valued at more than $150 billion,
is stepping up with a new scheme it hopes will spark new deals in this
ailing market.

Condo.com has formed a financial institutional brokerage and marketing
division to assist struggling lenders with asset management and
dispositions. The new division promises institutional lenders a range
of services, including asset preservation, pre-foreclosure
evaluations, project repositioning, asset and property management and
financial restructuring services.

The timing seems viable from both sides of the table. According to a
report by BauerFinancial Inc., a Coral Gables-based bank rating firm,
more than a quarter of the 36 banks based in Palm Beach and Broward
counties had substantial increases in overdue loans from 2006 to 2007.

At the same time, a year-to-year comparison for condos shows 3,207
units sold statewide in March 2008 compared to 4,163 in March 2007,
according to the Florida Association of Realtors. That’s a 23 percent
decline. The statewide existing-condo median sales price in March,
meanwhile, was $176,300. It was $220,700 a year ago, a 20 percent
decrease. The National Association of Realtors reported the national
median existing condo price was $211,700 in February 2008.

Jim Fried, president of Sandstone Realty Advisors, is taking on the
director role for Condo.com’s new division. He’ll lend his experience
in the institutional lender arena to expand Condo.com’s global
platform in the online multi-family marketing space.

“Fried’s experience in the last significant market correction, as a
principle with Condovest, makes him an ideal partner to champion this
new division,” says Richard Swerdlow, CEO of Condo.com. From 1991 to
1993, Condovest bought, managed and brokered portfolios of condos from
the RTC, FDIC and solvent financial institutions. Swerdlow says Fried
is well-versed in all phases of the special situations that occur as a
property begins to fail and is eventually taken over by the lenders.

“With so much negativity in the industry it’s refreshing to work with
a company that takes a positive approach to the market and is designed
to help the industry address the complex problems it is facing,” Fried
says. “Condo.com is committed to providing lenders with a solution
that allows property sellers to make the best out of their situation.
Our goal is to provide services to the many financial institutions
that we work with on a daily basis and that, quite frankly, need our
help.”