Lock and load? Cliff Bowman sees that expression changing to “lock and leave” — especially for second-home buyers and developers.
Bowman, the Vancouver, Canada-based marketing expert who has turned pre-selling condominium buildings into an industry art form, has created Global Condo Center Corp., to help link developers and sellers with interested buyers. The Web site, Condocenter.com, contains information about urban and resort projects all over the globe.
“I’d see these terrific projects while traveling, but there was no way the developer would have the budget to promote out of area,” said Bowman. “I thought if there was a central place where developers could advertise their properties, they would get a lot more interest — especially from people in other countries.
“Global Condo Center is a one-stop global search tool designed to help you find the new condo, apartment, flat, villa or townhome in just seconds once you have entered your lifestyle location and financial criteria,” Bowman said. “Our global directory of new attached-home developments covers 2,200 cities and regions all over the world.”
Bowman has never been reluctant to tap into the power of the computer. He was one of the first promoters to utilize computer-aided design programs as a retail sales tool, which proved instrumental in selling out 235 Seattle waterfront condominiums more than a decade ago.
So what, exactly, is the lock-and-leave lifestyle? According to Global Condo Center, it is a “personal freedom” targeted at aging baby boomers who would be more than willing to give up the privilege of performing landscaping, maintenance, security and upkeep of a single-family home. In a capsule, the concept means you can leave your home for a week or a year and have a maintenance program continued by others.
Other lock-and-leave lifestyle options include timeshares, fractionals and destination clubs. In 2004, developers sold $1.1 billion in timeshares, fractionals and destination club memberships worldwide, up nearly 50 percent from 2003, according to NorthCourse Leisure Real Estate Solutions, aresearch firm. Analysts estimate the average vacation-home owner uses that property just three to four weeks a year. And, with 77 million baby boomers still in their prime earning years yet with an eye toward more leisure time, the pool for potential second-home owners is deep and wide.
Global Condo Center charges developers a $1,500 fee to “showcase” a project for 90 days. Developers enter the listings information themselves through a password-protected system and can update as amenities are opened or units are released. Properties can be entered by “lifestyle choice” — urban or resort/recreational — or by type of ownership, such as full ownership or fractional. The company recently merged its information with Boston-based Condo Domain LLC.
“There are some projects that are now just on the drawing board and nowhere near completion,” Bowman said. “Developers also can list these projects prior to construction, identified on the site as ‘coming soon’ properties. This also gives the public a chance at locking down a purchase price today rather than waiting until tomorrow when the property could be significantly more expensive.”
Bowman also is president of Builders International Real Estate Marketing Corp., a Vancouver-based company specializing in pre-marketing condo, office and mixed-use developments across the United States and Canada. The company has leaped at the possibilities offered by online presentations and continually refers a to National Association of Realtors report that 77 percent of buyers start their search for their next home on the Internet.
All of BIREM’s marketing materials and tools are Web-enabled, allowing all employees to conduct virtual tours of a project’s amenities and neighborhood from any computer terminal.
The most intriguing of the other “lifestyle options” is fractional ownership. While timeshares have shown little or no appreciation upon resale, owners still have hope that fractionals will show a greater rate of return than their one-week cousins. The American Resort Development Association defines a fractional ownership as the selling of resort real estate in intervals of more than one week and less than whole ownership.
Fractionals are usually larger homes in prime resort locations on the golf course, ski slope or ocean. They provide the amenities of a luxury home, such as granite kitchen countertops, whirlpool baths and roomy closets combined with the benefits of a first-class hotel, such as concierge, housekeeping and grocery shopping services. Most residences have three bedrooms and an equal number of baths, so there is plenty of room for family, friends or clients.
“The Condo Center was two years in the making,” Bowman said. “We are just getting started and are adding new areas all the time. I think the variety is going to be very useful and helpful to the general public.”
Tom Kelly’s new book, “Cashing In on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Rent and Profit from Property South of the Border,” was written with Mitch Creekmore, senior vice president of Houston-based Stewart International. The book is available in retail stores, on Amazon.com and on tomkelly.com. Tom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.