Zack Preble, the Internet marketing specialist who created CondoFiasco.com, wants some help to pay for a condo unit in Miami that he says he never should have bought.
An online marketing specialist for Foreclosure.com, a site that offers information about foreclosure properties, Preble has conjured up a marketing campaign to call attention to his plight. “I’ve got to do what I know how to do,” he said.
His CondoFiasco.com Web site proposes, “Own a piece of Miami for $35.50. Believe it or not I am going to try to sell my condo one link at a time.” He is selling 8,029 “slices,” which are essentially tiny square ads — often called pixel ads — on a grid that are linked to a Web site selected by the purchaser.
Several blogs, including the Foreclosure.com blog, have made mention of Preble’s personal condo fiasco. Preble owns 1,971 of the 10,000 pixel ad units at the site. The pixel ad grid overlays an image of the condo development. The pixel space he maintains represents his $70,000 down payment on the $355,000 condo unit.
While Preble proposed to “buy the shares back when and if I sell the condo,” there are complications with U.S. securities law over the sale of shares, and he notes that “anyone who pays me the $35.50 … only gets the link and the receipt. I can’t promise you anything else. Does this mean you won’t get your $35.50 back? No. It only means I can’t promise you anything. It is a chance you are taking.”
The receipt is in the form of a colorful and official-looking certificate.
Preble said he paid a $70,000 down payment for the pre-construction condo unit in 2004, and in January 2008 “I will be stuck with a $285,000 mortgage I can’t afford.” The unit is in The Plaza on Brickell, a project that features 1,000 units in two condo towers.
“Prior to that my experience in real estate was always great,” Preble said. “I’m not a professional investor. This was my first investment property and probably my last. We sold our apartment, which we had in D.C., and we had some extra money. We decided to reinvest it into the real estate market, which at the time was really bustling.
“When I bought (the condo), it was a great deal. I think I got into it at the right time. I just didn’t leave on time.”
If he is not able to pay for the condo in January, Preble said he will likely just walk away from the property and forfeit his down payment.
Drawing inspiration from a venture that purports to sell lunar land, a guy who made a bunch of money by selling pixel ads at www.milliondollarhomepage.com, and a guy who traded up from one red paper clip to a house, Preble said he had initially intended to essentially subdivide his condo unit into thousands of shares, though he learned that there are legal complications and the registration process for securities can be a lengthy process.
“I need to file things with the Securities and Exchange Commission in order for that to work. That is a lengthy and costly process. I can’t make the claim that this is a share, per se, and promise people a return on their investment. In terms of creative solutions to this problem that everyone is facing — this is kind of a radical approach,” he said. “I really wish that it were a little easier and a little more viable to do exactly what I’m proposing.”
A countdown at the CondoFiasco site — at 105 days today — is ticking toward the date that Preble will either have to pay the remainder of the cost for the condo unit or back away.