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First five buyers at 550 Vanderbilt surface, including two from Shanghai and Forest City's Cotton

Well, the first five closings at the not-so-speedy-selling 550 Vanderbilt condominium--which has a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy but is not yet open--have finally surfaced in city records. So we have preliminary clues about the buyers.

Two of the five units were bought by residents of Shanghai, where Greenland Holdings--the parent of Greenland USA, which owns 70% of Greenland Forest City Partners--is based. Another was bought by a Brooklyn Heights resident. Another was bought by a couple from Fresh Meadows, Queens, with Chinese surnames. (The developer has marketed to Chinese buyers.)

And the largest of the units, a two-bedroom apartment listed for $1,925,000, sold to Ashley Cotton, Forest City Ratner's Executive VP for External Affairs, for $1,881,688. (Whether an investment or place to live, Cotton wisely chose a unit in the southeast corner of the building, away from future construction. Either way, it helped nudge sales figures ahead.)

Among the other units sold, three one-bedroom units and one studio, two sold for slightly less than the price listed in the offering plan, while two sold for slightly more. 

No mortgages for buyers were listed. The first rounds of condo buyers often have to pay cash; many buyers from China do that (though that's getting tougher).

As I wrote, radio station KPCC reported that Greenland, which has connections to potential buyers back home, might get 30% mainland Chinese buyers for its Metropolis condo project in Los Angeles. That's a preliminary, but not unreasonable, guess regarding 550 Vanderbilt. One obvious question: will overseas owners keep the units as pied a terres, or will they lease them out?

Overall, three of the first five sales are on floor 2, the first residential floor, one on floor 4, and the other on floor 6. The building's TCO as of January indicated the first six floors could be occupied. In February, the TCO extended through the eighth floor (of 17).

Sales slow

The 278-unit building was as of July 2016 said to be at least half sold, which, as I pointed out, didn't necessarily mean progress, given that it was said to be 30% sold nine months earlier. 

Last November, Forest City Realty Trust, the parent of Forest City Ratner, acknowledged that condo sales had slowed and said the overall project timetable was delayed.

That's a strong contrast from a quote in the July 2015 Real Deal from real estate marketer Jodi Ann Stasse, who claimed, that, as of 550 Vanderbilt's purported 2016 completion, “We anticipate being sold out by then, no problem."

Not quite.

Consider the chart at right, from a 9/21/16 amendment to the condo offering plan, which indicates that buyers had signed purchase agreements for at least 15% of the units (44), thus declaring the plan effective.

Though it's a small and perhaps selective sample, it's worth noting 21 purchases were logged from July to September 2015, 10 more in the next quarter, and six each in the next two quarters. 

They needed one more to make the plan effective, and it came in the third quarter of 2016, though surely more than one agreement was signed in that quarter.