Auction of condos is a sign of times

Published 1:58 pm Friday, September 3, 2010

Staff Writer

The scheduled auction of condominiums at Washington’s upscale Moss Landing development is being interpreted by local observers as another sign of the stagnant real-estate market.
Nine Moss units, with two to be sold “absolute,” will be auctioned on Oct. 9, according to the United Country-The Redfield Group website.
Real-estate sources said in this case “absolute” likely refers to a process that could bring in lower offers than the sellers would like while preserving their right to refuse sales.
Those sources didn’t want to be named because they had no direct knowledge of the project. The condo developers either declined to comment when reached by phone or didn’t return calls Thursday.
The exact reason for the auction remained unclear, but all signs pointed to the economy as the ultimate culprit, sources said.
Records on file at the Beaufort County clerk of court’s office indicated the developers had no current judgments against them.
County tax documents showed the developers had no outstanding property-tax bills.
“I think the auction is just another format to generate sales,” said Washington Mayor Archie Jennings. “In this challenging real-estate market, people are marketing their properties in a different way.”
Voluntary auctions have been used to move properties in the western and coastal portions of North Carolina, Jennings related.
“I don’t see it as a move of desperation at all, just a strategic move on the part of (Progress Companies),” he said.
The condos were built on the former Moss Planing Mill property.
On orders from the Washington City Council, the City of Washington sold the land for $1.565 million with the stipulation that it be used for residential development.
The city entered into a sale agreement with Moss Property Partners — later renamed Progress Companies, LLC — on May 28, 2003.
Since then, 21 units have been built on the land, which is separated from city-owned created wetlands by a public boardwalk near the north bank of the Pamlico River.
Of the 21 units, 12 have been sold so far, according to Beaufort County tax records.
One remaining two-bedroom unit was priced at $369,900, said Maria Wilson, a real-estate broker who has been trying to sell the empty condos.
“It’s just a bad real-estate market,” Wilson said.
Washington Councilman Bobby Roberson hoped the condos would catch on as the market improves.
Like other municipal officials, Roberson agreed the condo development could have considerable property-tax value once construction is finished.
He said the developers have complied with all of the city’s requirements.
“I’m sorry they’re having to go through this process, and I’m sure in the end everything will turn out for the best,” Roberson concluded.
James Williamson is a principal in Progress Companies, which “is the developing and managing entity of Moss Landing and will oversee the project during construction and through to the transfer of management to the Moss Landing Property Owners Association,” the group’s website reads.
Williamson declined to comment Wednesday.
Other Progress Companies officials couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
Asked to share his point of view, Stan Deatherage, a Beaufort County commissioner and longtime real-estate broker, said it’s “a very poor time to be selling any property in bulk.”
“I wish the developers well and I hope they have a successful auction because that will reflect well upon our market and give hope to others who wish to sell,” Deatherage commented.
The auction isn’t likely to have an effect on The Marina at Moss Landing, a separate project that abuts the city-owned boardwalk. Though it’s been reported the marina is being built partly to accommodate boat-owning residents of Moss Landing, this project is overseen by a different organization than the one spearheaded by the condo developers.
The condo developers have asked the marina developers to consider offering some boat slips at discounted prices during the auction, and the marina group is considering that option, said Terry Smithwick, a managing partner in Moss Property Partners, which oversees the marina.
Currently, the marina is comprised of 32 slips, with 92 planned at completion, Smithwick said.