West Side Story…

I remember the first time I saw the classic movie West Side Story.

I just kept watching these two gang-members, one from the Jets and one from the Sharks, attempt to fight eachother, but they stopped every five seconds to snap their fingers and then breakout in a choreographed dance routine.

My west side story, or story about my experience at West Side Lofts is just as entertaining, but it will not win ten Oscars…

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Today was a rather disappointing day. 

Although I was just as passionate about my investment at West Side Lofts as Tony was passionate for Maria in West Side Story, I guess I should be thankful that my story does not end with heartbreak, betrayal, and an untimely death.

I finally went down to the sales centre on Queen Street West across from The Drake Hotel to speak with a sales rep about the project, and how royally eff’d up it is.

I have been touting pre-construction condominiums as a way to make money, and an excellent return on your investment.

The formula is simple.  With a 10% downpayment, spread out over an entire year, you can turn a profit on your condo once you take possession in about three years’ time.  The incredible return with pre-construction arrives due to the fact that you only put down 10%.

Buying a condo for $250,000, and selling it for $300,000 nets you a $50,000 profit, or 20%.

But with pre-construction, where you only put down 10% (in this case $25,000), that same $50,000 profit is 200%.

You can see why I’m so quick to not only recommend buying pre-construction condominiums, but also to do so myself.

But West Side Lofts, which first took my deposit in November of 2005, has been troubled from the get-go.

They were due to complete construction in Summer of 2008, with initial possession in August/September 2008.  I was all set to yell “Cha-CHING” from the rooftop patio.

Yet, here we are in January 2008, and they have yet to break ground.  Although they say they are breaking ground this month, and they advertise to this fact, I would bet my used DVD copy of West Side Story that they won’t have a shovel in the ground until March, possibly April.

The trouble started in late 2006 when I started to receive notices from West Side about “extending economic viability dates” and other jargon that is trying to disguise the fact that the builders have deviated from the original plan.  This is not abnormal with pre-construction, as there is never a firm road-map for any project, but after receiving 3-4 more notices, I realized the project was having issues.

I got a call from a sales rep at West Side in early 2007 about the “changes” to my unit.  She informed me that all the units on the first four floors would be going from a 10-foot ceiling down to an 8-foot ceiling.

(GASP!)

I responded by saying that this was no longer a “Loft.”  She gave me a canned sales-speak response (ironic that I’m saying this, since I’m also in sales, also in real estate, but I don’t think I B.S. like most) about how the units still had all the traditional features of a loft, such as the concrete ceilings and exposed ductwork, but I wasn’t hearing it.  Eight foot ceilings are standard in condos, and ten-foot ceilings make a loft unique.

I told her I’d be bailing on the project, and low-and-behold, when I went back to sign my mutual release, she miraculously got me up to the 5th floor in the same unit (she actually convinced the buyer of the 5th floor unit to take a different unit altogether on the 11th floor).

So the problems are over, right?  Ummm…..NO!

When they launched the second phase of West Side, called Curve, the unit I had purchased at West Side for $248,000 was being sold for $298,000 (cha-ching!).  But now they had decided to build BOTH project simultaneously!  This means a longer delay in construction, and I knew they wouldn’t start until all the units at the second building were sold.

This only caused longer delays, and by the Fall of 2007, I was hearing rumblings that the project was going to die altogether.

Eventually, the good people at West Side called me to setup an appointment with me to “discuss the exciting new changes at the wonderful West Side.”  Ugh.  Leave the sales-speak at the door, please!  But when I called the lovely salespeople, I was informed that they couldn’t find my file!  They called me back on December 1st, 2007, which was the day before I was scheduled to leave for Eastern Europe for a month.  They left me a message saying there was a “drop-dead date” of December 23rd when I had to make a decision.

While in Serbia in December, I called West Side every single day, for five days straight, and every day there was no answer.  So I left a message each of these days for somebody named “Kathleen,” who had initially contacted me.

I never heard back from them.

WHAT A GREAT OPERATION YOU PEOPLE ARE RUNNING THERE!

So today I went down in person, and found out what I already knew: the project is a mess.

They have abandoned the initial project, and “re-vamped it.”  Basically, the only way they could get the zoning was to sell the first four floors to a company that will provide subsidized housing to starving artists.  Then, they re-designed every single floor plan in the buildings, including the one I had chosen and subsequently customized according to my specifications.

They offered me a “new” floor plan, that was absolute garbage in my eyes.  My old floor plan was a 2-bedroom unit of 675 sqft that I converted into a 1-bedroom with a massive open-concept living space.  This new floor plan had a long hallway (I HATE hallways, they are a waste of space) that lead into an odd-shaped living room, and two tiny bedrooms that I couldn’t reconfigure.

And the part that got me the most was that they based pricing on the “cost per square foot” of the old units!  I paid $15,000 extra for my East-view, but they just answered “that was the old project,” and charged me the same cost per square foot for west-facing units.  My genius sales rep also calculated a cost per square foot based on 650 square feet, although my old deal was for a 675 square foot unit.  That’s okay, right….his inability to read numbers as well as my five year old cousin would have only cost me $12,600.

(pulling out my hair….)

If it’s not one thing, it’s another.  And if it’s not this messed up project that keeps changing over and over, it’s the lackadaisical sales reps that can barely dress themselves and speak without drooling.  Seriously, where did they find these people?

So….how does my story conclude?

I told this sales rep to give me “somebody else’s unit.”  I told him that surely there were people sitting on the fence, and if their commitment dates had passed by, he could give me their unit.  At first, he refused.  But as I started to pull at his file drawer, he relinquished, and made some phone calls.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.  I’m not going to walk in there, keep quiet, and sign on whatever line they tell me.

The ball is now in my court.  The question is: Do I hit it back over the net at the West Side Lofts?

Maybe I’ll just spend the money on shoes…

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  1. […] I wrote a blog post about my experiences with the project up until that point.  It can be read here.  But to be honest, that’s the last time I really gave the project any thought.  Oh sure – […]

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