The ‘custom condo’: Grove developer lets buyers sign, then re-arrange

Most condo buyers want a shiny new home with the walls and flooring in place. But at the new Residences at Vizcaya, an 18-unit condo building off South Bayshore Drive in Coconut Grove, they are paying a lot of money for unfinished units.

That’s because developer Michael Garcia-Carrillo is bringing experience with luxury homes in Miami-Dade County to the condo model, allowing buyers to sign contracts for their property, and then make custom structural changes and renovations. Garcia-Carrillo gave The Real Deal a tour of the site Friday.

“The way we sell it is, we sell the package as almost like a vanilla shell,” says Garcia-Carrillo, whose firm purchased the former Chateau Elizabeth condo at the same 3535 Hiawatha Avenue address in 2006 for $16 million, which is now the site of the Residences.

“Then we load the building with all the drywall and the partitions, and do all the build-outs, but once we sell the unit, we sit down with the client and, depending on what the client wants to do, we start working the upgrades.”

That is to say, the company is building according to certain floor plans — but once the buyer signs a contract, the floor plan becomes a blank canvas. Completed construction on the project is expected by the middle of the summer.  

Garcia-Carillo said some clients have put in up to $500,000 in upgrades to customize their space, which might range from adding two bedrooms or installing white onyx flooring.

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“They’re basically doing things that otherwise couldn’t be done with a typical condo,” he said.

The project, which has significant financial backing from partner Roberto Servitje, has now sold 12 of its 18 units, with three more currently in negotiations. The units are far larger than a typical condo, starting at 3,000 square feet. Thirteen of the 18 units also have their own infinity pools, and range up to 10,000 square feet.

The individual properties have been selling at prices between $600 and $650 per square foot, although this does not include customized changes. A four-bedroom, five-bathroom unit with a total of 5,880 square feet is marketed for just under $3.4 million.

“There is a market for that kind of boutique, high-end condo building,” said Riley Smith, a realtor at EWM in Coconut Grove. “We don’t have much of that in Coconut Grove, except for a few buildings, so it sits in well where it’s situated.”

Smith said the scale of the project made it possible to customize.

“Usually, when you build a bigger [project], you don’t have the flexibility; because it’s smaller, you can’t do that. It helps and it hurts — some people don’t have the creativity to figure it out and see it, but other people have a better idea.”

About half of the sales have come through the company’s in-house sales team, and the other six through brokers.  Garcia-Carrillo said was a positive sign for Coconut Grove, which has been struggling with several large-scale foreclosures like the Wyndham Grand and CocoWalk.

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