Rumor Mill on the Streets of Manhattan

January 10, 2008 by Lucas Lechuga

I arrived at La Guardia Airport in New York City on Tuesday afternoon. The good news was that the weather was fantastic. It was in the high 60s, which was unprecedented in New York City for the month of January. The weather was just what I needed after arriving in Chicago last week on the coldest day of the Winter season (I think it was something like 15 degrees below zero with wind chill). Brrrrr!!! In fact, the first thing I did when arriving in Chicago was go to Target and buy some long underwear. It was that freakin’ cold! I used to live in downtown Chicago for 4 years so I should know cold, but that day was damn cold! Maybe living in Miami for so long has made my blood thin out a bit or something.

My arrival in New York City, however, soon turned sour after learning that my luggage was lost by American Airlines. Regardless, I checked into my hotel and tried to make the best of my trip. My luggage did finally arrive at 3am that night (the next morning).

Last week, I wrote a post mentioning that I would be in New York City from January 8-11 for the Real Estate Connect NYC 2008 Conference. I was contacted by one hedge fund analyst and two investment groups that wanted to meet me while I stayed in New York City. They each had an interest in the Miami condo market.

Today, I attended the first day of the Real Estate Connect Conference and listened to a few industry leaders speak about the market. I also picked up some great information in conversations with people in the hallways as well as the hedge fund analyst that I met with later in the evening.

Okay…enough with the boring stuff. Let’s get to the goods! The following is the rumor mill that was revealed to me throughout the day. This is just what I’ve heard. I am in no way saying that the rumors are true (although these rumors came from accredited sources).

  • WCI will declare bankruptcy within the next two weeks. Shares of WCI, the developer of One Bal Harbour, dropped 52.98% today on worries that WCI will declare bankruptcy. Standard & Poor affirmed WCI’s junk rating status and provided a negative outlook for the company. (Can you say “Pink Sheet”?) WCI was provided an extension until January 16, 2008. That’s a very short extension. My source disclosed to me tonight that the bank is probably finally realizing that it is in their best interest to pursue bankruptcy proceedings rather than delay the inevitable. The mathematics makes sense for the bank to do so. Most banks loaned about 65 percent of the total construction costs. As of right now, according to public records, WCI has closed 50.3 percent of the condo units at One Bal Harbour. If I were the bank holding onto the construction loan for One Bal Harbour, I would foreclose on this development immediately. The lender could at least offset their other losses with the gains they may realize with the sale of the defaulted units at One Bal Harbour. They know that it’s a strong development…I know that it’s a strong development. Until the investment funds step in, however, there’s still a lot of risk.
  • Marina Blue closings have been pushed back 2 months and possibly even longer. I heard this rumor when I was in Miami on Monday but I didn’t accept it until tonight. I’ve heard that Marina Blue has no clue when closings will begin. Somebody please tell me that I’m wrong! I’ve heard this one from multiple sources though.
  • Opera Tower is delaying closings another month. I’ve heard this one from multiple sources as well. What the hell is going on with this development? It keeps delaying its closings. Weren’t closings supposed to realistically begin around September? I was recently misquoted about Opera Tower in the papers. I was quoted as saying something along the lines that Opera Tower will have a 50 percent default rate. I actually said that Opera Tower will have at least a 50 percent default rate. Just my opinion though. Also, just my opinion is that this development is doomed. There’s a large lawsuit against the developer of Opera Tower. You may think I’m crazy but I think in six months my 50 percent default rate for Opera Tower will be considered an overzealous prediction.
  • Here’s the big one. Countrywide Financial Corporation is going to declare bankruptcy within the next three weeks. Countrywide has lost about 44 percent of its value within the past 5 days. Rumors around Wall Street are that this turkey is just about roasted and ready to be eaten. We should see this one fall soon…and it’ll make a huge thud on the Street when it does.
  • This one isn’t so much a rumor. Quantum on the Bay began closings and the development isn’t even close to being completed. (From what I’ve heard) TCO was granted in order to avoid a lawsuit pertaining to how long the development took to be completed. My guess (and only my guess) is that some money (maybe a lot) was transferred between the developer and city to get the TCO done to avoid lawsuits against the developer.

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34 Comments on "Rumor Mill on the Streets of Manhattan"


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Anonymous
Julian
8 years 8 months ago
As I said on the 8th, before WCI crashed 50% “Let’s be honest though. If Mr Boyle’s statements were verifiable and true then the banks would be happy to negotiate the new loans because the cash to repay them would be in the bank. Instead they get week by week waivers. I.e. they are watching and waiting like we are. Further, if this is material non-public information that Mr Boyle is publishing (I think it is – it probably determines the future of WCI) then Mr Boyle should watch his door for an SEC notice and his managers at WCI… Read more »
Anonymous
english teacher
8 years 8 months ago

good post, thanks for the info.
FYI – it’s “wind chill” not “windshield”

Anonymous
8 years 8 months ago

The WCI bloomberg story can be read at

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=conewsstory&refer=conews&tkr=WCI:US&sid=ax9cJlmajdHA

It certainly looks like Mr. Boyle has some explaining to do!

Anonymous
8 years 8 months ago

English Teacher,

Thanks! I was going on very little sleep and it was a long day.

Anonymous
guillermo
8 years 8 months ago

Lucas,I heard that the developer on ONYX ON THE BAY may be declearing bankruptcy soon.
Any news that you can share with us on that issue??.

Anonymous
lara
8 years 8 months ago

Hi Lucas,
Did you find conference to be interesting?

Please update us on the news and some interesting topics and speakers. Thank you

Anonymous
8 years 8 months ago

Guillermo,

I do have news pertaining to Onyx on the Bay. At this time, however, I’m not going to disclose it. I’ll let everyone know likely within the next couple of weeks.

Anonymous
BFG
8 years 8 months ago
WCI and Countrywide going BK? I’m shocked!! Seriously though, I think mainstream financial news is now defunct. People can officially cancel their WSJ susbscriptions and stop watching CNBC–those guys are a bunch of hacks. All the “shocking” news they print has already been published in a blog somewhere on the internet about 6 months before the WSJ or CNBC gets it. I’ve gotten more accurate and prophetic information from blogs over the past 2 years than anywhere else. The housing bubble bursting was accurately called by bloggers in the summer of 2005, the mortgage meltdown was predicted long before the… Read more »
Anonymous
Omar
8 years 8 months ago

Countrwide shares up 65% today. Bank of America Corp. is in advanced talks to acquire.

Anonymous
Jorge
8 years 8 months ago

POP!

Anonymous
Perez
8 years 8 months ago

This might be relevant to Opera Tower

http://southflorida.bizjournals.com/southflorida/stories/2008/01/07/story5.html?b=1199682000^1572409

There is no Oversized, olympic-style pool. Evidently that was touted in promotional material, but not the condo docs. Sounds like a bait and switch.

And despite the name of the condo, there will be no nightly opera performances at the Opera Tower : (

Anonymous
8 years 8 months ago
The same thing happened to countrywide when it was at $15 a share and bank of America put in 2 Billion, it shot up to $23 then rode all the way down to $5.70 I believe now that theres talks about Bank of America it shut up aggain lets remember when it was at $20 there was WSJ article saying that WQarren Buffet might buy it becuase it was so cheap, lets see where they go but my bet is they are going under…. Just by talking to REO officers I have been getting the idea that we will see… Read more »
Anonymous
8 years 8 months ago
Lucas, I called down to Marina Blue today and was told first round of closings were scheduled for February. However they did not give me an exact date. It keeps on changing and I am again dissapointed. I have clients out of state, which I’m sure you and many other agents also do which want to get in before purchasing. In reference to Quantum, North tower looks like it is still a month and a half to 2 months away. South tower has begun closing and I hear all new resales in Sout Tower will have to close in the… Read more »
Anonymous
RA
8 years 8 months ago
I’m surprised Quantum got the TCO. Still looks to me like there’s alot of work to be done and they shouldnt be having residents moving in with all the construction. It’s not right or fair. I wouldn’t doubt it that there was some shaddy stuff behind the scenes to get that TCO approved. Unbelievable. Wonder if the ammenities will even be done. Wouldn’nt want to pay HOA fees if it’s not done. IF that’s the case developer should waive those HOA fees untill complete or atleast pro-rate. Agee on Opera Tower. That just has the smell of death when you… Read more »
Anonymous
8 years 8 months ago

I have been trying to figure out why it would be beneficial for a developer to stall or delay the closings in any project as the more they wait the more they will have to compete with other inventory getting delivered and the only reasonable explanation would be becuase they have another credit line that they fear might get cut or not aproved if its public information the percentage of closings versus the percentage of units vacant and available for sale. Anyone here have any ideas why a developer would delay the closing?

Anonymous
Juan
8 years 8 months ago

Lucas,

Is it really that much of a surprise that Quantum is closing without being completely done? Look at TMP! No Gym, Pool’s not ready, No Spa, Lobby looks pretty bad, Hallways look horrible.

Anonymous
Raffi
8 years 8 months ago

BofA stole countrywide, $7 a share, that is going to pay off so huge for BofA in a few years. Bravo kenneth Lewis for buying on the cheap. anyways i think this condo fiasco is going to come to a crash by end of summer, investors get your money ready cause this 4q will be shopping season.

Anonymous
8 years 8 months ago

Just sharing some news in regards to Countrywide…

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22606833/

And Raffi, you are right…the shopping season will start and there will be great new merchandise to choose from…all sizes and shapes and a lot of unsold inventory…sounds like a Barneys NY waresouse sale…

Anonymous
8 years 8 months ago
Well, now we really know that some rumors are not worth following. Countrywide was actually purchased by BOA for $4B in stock. The deal to close later this year will put BOA at the forefront of the Mortgage business, probrably dwarfing Wells Fargo (now #2 after the acquisition) by about twice. That is good news for the industry to some degree, because a disintegration of that magnitude would have really applied added pressure on the markets. This announced purchase, coupled by Bernanke’s comments yesterday for a sure reduction in rates at the next Fed meeting should help ease buyer worries… Read more »
Anonymous
RA
8 years 8 months ago
I think it’s not always about delays or stalling. It has do also do with obtianing TCO Certificates from th ecity. these buildings have to pass numerous saftey tests fire etc…so sometimes that delays the process. In my opinion regarding Quatum appears that they made sure all the things that would make them passible to the city were done ASAP to get the TCO. So talk of money behind the table may not be the true reason and perhaps a rumor as one would prob believe when you see how incomplete cosmetically it may be but solid on the passing… Read more »
Anonymous
8 years 8 months ago
BFG, Fortunately, or unfortunately (however you want to look at it), within the next 2-3 years the big media companies will slowly begin to acquire prominent bloggers within each industry. I think the media giants were hoping that blogging was just a fad and that we’d eventually go away. That’s obviously not the case. Would you rather read an article written by a Realtor with an unbiased opinion about the real estate market or a journalist who needs to interview a Realtor in order to write a story? As long as the Realtor’s opinion is unbiased, then I think the… Read more »
Anonymous
Dave
8 years 8 months ago

Hey eyes and ears on Miami thanks for the info as I’m rarely in town. Of what is finished on Quantum how is the quality? Bought a North tower 1b/1b Jan 04 and per earlier comments sounds like a March 1 close based on progress to date? Also any photos make my day.

Anonymous
8 years 8 months ago

Dave,

They are still working on the common areas, the major things like paint and carpeting are done but they were in the process of assembling gym equipment etc when I did my walkthrough with clients that closed. They were also sealing the pool deck and were going to have the health inspector come out to test it so that it can start being used. This is going to be a great building and affordable compared to most other new construction.

Anonymous
perez
8 years 1 month ago

Lucas, your source’s rumor regarding WCI was off by a bit, but it’s official, WCI has filed for bankruptcy.

Check out the article in the Herald.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking-news/story/628582.html

Will One Bal Harbour and Mosaic finally become Affordable Housing?

Anonymous
Lucas Lechuga Puts Nail In Coffin Of WCI Communities, Inc. Gets His Facts and Prediction Right
8 years 1 month ago
Way to go Lucas you really put the nail in WCI’s coffin on your blog, One Bal Harbour and Regent Hotel. Millions of investors around the world were alerted to WCI going bankrupt before they did, and the many valid issues about One Bal Harbour you pointed out. Glad to see you were able to steer investors and prospective buyers around the world on your high profile influencial investment blog, http://www.miamicondoinvestements.com away from a property and company with so many serious issues. I am sure Tim Hamilton wish he had not bought at One Bal Harbour. I might add that… Read more »
Anonymous
Carlos
7 years 5 months ago
Just thought I’d add that One Bal Harbour has proven to be a resounding success. WCI closed all the One Bal Habour units shortly after the bankruptcy filing, including a $10m penthouse. There was no fire sale, no give aways, and the property has seen considerable resale activity over the past 6 months. From what the people at the property are saying, most original investors sold for a profit, which was unheard of in this marketplace. There are presently units listed on MLS for double the price that people paid. They probably won’t get anywhere near their asking price, but… Read more »
Anonymous
Bobby J
7 years 5 months ago

I find your enthusiasm a bit suspect. What is your connection to the building? There are 43 of 185 units for sale there now, a high number. It is a lovely building but best in Florida??? Fess up.

Anonymous
Two Balls
7 years 1 month ago

Well the buyers were conned. The Regent has left. The hotel averaged 20 percent occpancy and they could not find another high end operator to take it’ place. The carrying charges are going to go through the roof. Revenue supporting the hotel will not materialize and it will fall on the shoulders of OBH condo owners. Rooms are still begging on the Internet for $249, down from $595. Prices will plung when homeowners see they have a monstrous assortment of problems.
Lucas you got this one right!

Anonymous
Lucas Lechuga Causes WCI Bankrupcy and Devalues One Bal Harbour Condos Through Influencial Blog
7 years 12 days ago

Way to go Lucas. You got this one right. You showed those sales people at One Bal Harbour a thing or two. Great influencial blog…………..There must have been dozens of cancelations by those buyers that read your blog.

Anonymous
One Bal Harbour Investor
6 years 11 months ago

Interesting comments on this website regarding lower property values at One Bal Harbour Resort. We are investigating a class action lawsuit comprised of former and current condo owners at One Bal Harbor.

Anonymous
Renter Tom
6 years 11 months ago
One Bal Harbour Investor – Ahhh, the joys of investing. Sometimes they go up, sometimes they go down. In the case of OBH, it is down…way down. That’s not good for anyone that owns. Sorry to hear about the troubles but this area is experiencing a real estate depression regarding asset prices. Will be hard for you to parse what caused what when the whole area has crashed. One thing I do know, your lawyers will be the only ones to make any money in the end. Sometimes ya just gotta look in the mirror, realize you were foolish, take… Read more »
Anonymous
Lucas Lechuga Sued Again?
6 years 11 months ago
One Bal harbour investor are you going to sue Lucas Lechuga for One Bal Harbour devaluation? Are you attempting to sue as part of the condo association? As Britany Spears would say, “Oops I did it again!”. Maybe you better confer with the magic city harvard litigation. Ask him or post on his blog. I realize there are a lot of pissed off One Bal Harbour residents at Lucas Lechuga’s blog. But you got to give a poor guy a chance. You stupid rich SOB’s should have seen it coming. Quite frankly I am glad Lucas helped investors around the… Read more »
Anonymous
Renter Tom
6 years 11 months ago

It isn’t clear who One Bal Harbour Investor is referring to with regard to a lawsuit. Perhaps he means suing the developer, hotel operator???? Who knows.

Anonymous
6 years 11 months ago

He’s definitely referring to me. He’s been harassing me for over a year. I have a good book that he should read: “It’s Not My Fault” by Dr. Henry Cloud.

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