Luxury condos in Guilford go on the block Nov. 1


Baltimore's troubled residential condominium market will take another hit on Nov. 1 when 28 luxury condos at The St. James in Guilford go on the auction block.

The tower features a fitness center with sauna, outdoor pool and marbled entry foyers. But most of the units did not sell quickly enough through conventional sales techniques, local realty executives say. Now they're going to be auctioned at minimum bids of 60 percent of the asking price as of last April.

"It seems as if all condo high-rise developments in Baltimore have to go through this phase. It has to do, honestly, with the fact that too many upper-end condos came on the market at the same time," said Arthur Davis, president of Chase Fitzgerald, the Roland Park-based real estate firm.

The owner of the property, John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co., chose an auction over conventional selling techniques because of the speed with which its units could be unloaded, said Cristine Demetros, a senior vice president with Kennedy-Wilson Inc., the Los Angeles-based auctioneer hired by the owner.

"Everybody realizes this is a slowed market. The auction allows the seller to sell in one day what would normally take six months to a year -- and sometimes 18 months -- depending on the product or market," Ms. Demetros said.

The St. James is hardly the first residential condominium complex in the Baltimore area to go on the auction block. Among the Baltimore condos already sold at auction were 45 luxury units at the 11-story Colonnade on University Parkway, which went on the block in June.

Mr. Davis said neither The Colonnade nor The St. James have fared particularly well in the recent real estate market, largely because the "empty nesters" counted on to move into the properties had other options.

"The slowdown in sales of these condos was really exacerbated by their buyers being in Guilford-type homes which they didn't have to sell and were hesitant to sell in the slow market," Mr. Davis said.

NB Some empty nesters have also opted to move directly from their

homes to retirement communities rather than moving first to a conventional condominium unit, he said.

The St. James is located at 3704 N. Charles St., at the site of the old Buckingham Arms apartment building, which was damaged by fire in 1983 and razed to make way for the new project in 1984.

Minimum selling prices at the Nov. 1 auction will start at $95,000. Some units have been drastically marked down from the prices at which they were offered in April. For example, the minimum price of unit No. 1103, which had been listed for $325,000, will be $125,000.

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