Condo developer finds niche in local buyers – Sun

While foreign homebuyers helped revive South Florida’s condominium market, developer Lon Tabatchnick says he’s courting the local resident at two of his projects.

Many of the buyers at 200 East in Boca Raton and Positano Beach in Hollywood have given up single family homes in western neighborhoods for condos along the coast.

The condos start at $675,000 and head into the millions, so the buyers aren’t necessarily making the move to save money. Rather, they say they’re looking for a lifestyle change that puts them closer to dining and shopping in an urban setting.

Marsha Posner and her husband, Peter, moved to 200 East in January from a home in Weston.

Marsha said the best feature of the new digs is the proximity to downtown businesses and restaurants. The other day, she walked to her pedicure appointment.

“There’s so much going on here,” said the grandmother of two, who runs a fashion consulting firm. “Living west was wonderful, but it was the suburbs.”

Another 200 East resident, Mike Tator, moved in a month ago from a gated community west of Boca Raton. The bond trader works downtown and grew tired of the frequent stoplights that made his commute longer.

He also hated that visitors to his home had to check in at the guard gate, a process that could take 20 minutes or more on weekend nights.

“I think the country clubs are a dinosaur,” he said.

Units at 200 East and Positano Beach are larger than typical condos, which more easily accommodate buyers who had houses, Tabatchnick said.

“The buyer we’re going after needs size,” he said. “They can’t downsize from a 4,000-square-foot house to a 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom condo. They have too much stuff.”

Despite Tabatchnick’s local-buyer niche, the international market is too big to ignore, said Peter Zalewski, a principal at CondoVulures, a Bal Harbour-based consulting firm.

In the past year, Florida led all states with 26 percent of sales from foreign buyers, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors. Many domestic buyers remain hesitant despite an improving economy, Zalewski said.

Foreign investors, who have more buying power because of the weakness of the U.S. dollar, have bought thousands of vacant condos across South Florida during the past few years.

“Every developer who wants to move product will have to come to the realization that they have to deal with foreign buyers,” Zalewski said. “Otherwise, it’s going to take months or years to sell units.”

Positano is a 17-unit project that follows on the heels of the adjacent Villas of Positano.

Tabatchnick, who’s proposing a Jimmy Buffett-theme Margaritaville resort on Hollywood beach, started the 115-unit 200 East in the middle of the economic downturn. The nine-story building on Palmetto Park Road was complete in January 2009. Only 21 buyers showed up to close on their units.

“It was a tough time,” he said. “We kept marketing it and did what we had to do to make it work.”

[email protected], 561-243-6529 or Twitter @paulowers

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