The owners of Prime Building Advantage are known for sales at Baltimore's condominium buildings: the Ritz-Carlton, Silo Point, the new towers at HarborView.
But even the experts, intimate with a real estate market worlds away from Baltimore's traditional blue-collar rowhouse trade, have been surprised by the appetite for units at their latest listing: private residences at the Four Seasons in Harbor East.
About a third of the 62 new condos — which are still under construction — are under contract, their marble counters and Inner Harbor views snapped up by wealthy buyers from the Baltimore region, said Shawn Evans, who owns Prime Building Advantage with partner Charlie Hatter.
"That happened quicker than we anticipated," he said. "We are exceeding expectations and reaching price points in the market that have never been seen before."
The sales are a welcome development for a project that stopped mid-construction amid the recession. The developer, an affiliate of Harbor East Management Group, revived the proposal in 2014, scaling back plans from the 150 units originally proposed.
Construction restarted on the condos at the end of that year, with Armada Hoffler building crews staging work from the partially completed floors on top of the Four Seasons Hotel. The first move-ins are expected by the end of the year, Hatter said.
"It's been exciting to see the level of interest, and not only the level of interest but the level of commitment," Evans said. "It's healthy for the city and healthy for the market."
The average price for the 20 units under contract is about $2.5 million, or $1,200 per square foot, Evans said. Prices range from just under $1 million to $12.5 million for the penthouse.
William Rich, director of the multifamily practice at the Delta Associates research firm, said it's rare to see a luxury property selling units at a faster pace than the market average.
The 200 International Drive building is one of the few condo projects under construction in the region, which may explain part of the demand, but even so, "it is remarkable given the pricing those units are going for," Rich said.
Evans said the sales signal that the region's high-end housing market is strengthening. Certainly more baby boomers are looking to downsize and escape the hassle of long commutes and home maintenance.
For empty-nesters Mark Sapperstein and his wife, relocating downtown "just made sense," given the amount of time they spend driving between the city and their four-bedroom home in Pikesville.
"We don't need as much space," said Sapperstein, 57, a developer who has made a deposit on a two-bedroom unit on the 26th floor. "It's kind of what everybody is doing."
Hatter said Prime Building Advantage, which is marketing the property for Harbor East, expects many of the other buyers to also come from the Baltimore market, drawn in part by the property's central location amid the shopping and restaurants of Harbor East.
Model units opened for public inspection last week, when Prime Building Advantage opened a sales office next to the hotel. Appointments aren't required, but they're recommended — especially in the first weeks, since the bay of private elevators that will access the units isn't yet in service.
Residences start above the hotel on the 19th floor. Buying a condo also provides access to a 28th-floor gym, pool, billiards lounge and small park.
Residents also can take advantage of the perks of living at a hotel such as room service, laundry, a spa and personal chef.
"The level of amenity and service is a little different" from other luxury buildings in Baltimore, Hatter said. "Why leave paradise when you can live in it full time?"