When Sharon and Neil Anderson moved from the Bay Area to Portland's South Waterfront in December 2007, they paid $1.4 million for a 12th-floor condominium with breathtaking views of the Willamette River.
Now that same 2,200-square-foot condo elsewhere in the Atwater Place condo building could go this weekend at auction for as little as $699,000—or about half what the Andersons paid less than two years ago.
"You could say that's disappointing," admits Neil Anderson, a semi-retired insurance salesman in his late 60s. "But there's no blame to be handed out. That's just the way it is."
Anderson has his reservations, however. He says the auction could attract "a different type of clientele" who might not have "the same level of respect" for the building—meaning it might attract young people with less money.
Before you switch into schadenfreude mode about people stuck with overpriced condos, know that the Atwater, which has 212 units, is the latest sign of the punctured condo bubble that Portland officials had counted on in part for growth.
The Atwater opened in 2007 at the height of the bubble. Gerding Edlen Development and Block 34 Investors LLC have sold only 62 of their project's 212 units. But this Sunday, Sept. 20, all unoccupied units in the building once billed as a bastion of luxury will be available at auction. Block 34 currently owns the building, and hopes to sell 40 units in that one day. Opening bids start at $169,000 for the building's smallest condos—935-square-foot, one-bedroom homes.
If the auction is successful, Mark Edlen will please his development partners. He'll also have many more neighbors; Edlen—who didn't immediately return WW's calls—bought a condo on the 22nd floor for $1.7 million in August 2008.
Lloyd Kendrick, a retired computer salesman, also lives in the Atwater. He recognizes his neighbors' concerns but has no regrets about buying his one-bedroom condo in January at $350,000. Those condos were originally priced at more than $500,000, and will now be auctioned off starting at $219,000.
"If you spent $20,000 on a Mercedes and someone else later got it for $5,000, you might be upset," he says. "But in the end, you do still get what you wanted."
The Atwater Place auction will begin at 4 pm on Sept. 20 at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront. More information is at auctionatwaterplace.com.