Panama City Beach Condo Market Analysis After The Palazzo Auction

The Palazzo condo building had a successful auction Saturday, August 2, 2008, with around 50 units selling. Some have heralded the event as an indication that the bottom of the condo real estate market is finally here. However, a closer analysis may have a much more sinister conclusion.

Let’s analyze the current market value of the Palazzo 2BR/2Ba units the day before the auction. The current market value defined as the highest price that would attract a buyer, given a defined marketing period.

The 2BR/2Ba Palazzo units have 1,345 SF with beach-front master bedrooms. Similar, large 2BR/2Ba units with beach-front master bedrooms over at the Calypso and Splash buildings have had recent re-sales in the high $300,000s, say around $380,000 furnished. Calypso and Splash have overall superior buyer appeal because they are established and have superior amenities.

A Majestic Beach Towers II 2BR/2Ba 1,180 SF unit with beach-front master bedroom sold recently at $340,000 furnished.

Let’s look at an inferior development, the Emerald Isle building. Emerald Isle has overall inferior appeal. The 2BR/2Ba units are smaller at 1,146 SF and have somewhat inferior interior quality. These units have been selling around $300,000 furnished.

Ignoring typical appraisal style adjustments, it is reasonable to assume that a buyer of a superior Splash/Calypso unit would pay something less than $380,000 for a Palazzo unit. It is reasonable to assume that a buyer of an inferior Emerald Isle unit would pay more than $300,000 for a Palazzo unit. That leaves us with a roughly estimated current market value for a Palazzo 2BR/2Ba unit the day before the auction somewhere between $300,000 and $380,000, say $330,000 (just a rough estimate to establish the trend).

The Palazzo 2BR/2Ba units sold at auction for $295,000 (including the 10% auctioneer’s commission). That is fully 10% less than the current market value on the day before the auction. For those who say the bottom has been established, the current market value for every Panama City Beach condo just decreased by 10%. That is not an unreasonable conclusion. However, that was the bottom as of Saturday, August 2, 2008.

Is there are large, pent-up demand by buyers that are willing and financially able and just waiting to jump into the market? The Palazzo auction indicated that there were at least 50 buyers willing to buy at a 10% discount. However, there is no evidence that there are enough qualified buyers out there willing to buy to turn the market around.

As of July 29, 2008, Bay County public records indicated 1,203 unsold developer units at Aqua, Seahaven, Shores of Panama, Tidewater, Emerald Beach, Grand Panama, Sterling Breeze, and Ocean Reef. Add the 17 remaining developer units at Palazzo for a total of 1,220 unsold developer condo units along Thomas Drive and Front Beach Road. That is not counting the 2,000 or so unsold units at new, off-beach developments (Laketown Wharf, Marina Landing, etc.).

Some have said that the developers will just keep their remaining units until the market turns around. Let’s look at the Sterling Breeze building. Sterling Breeze has a total of 145 units of which 83 remain unsold (four closings since 6/1/2008). Sterling Breeze paid off half of their $55,000,000 construction loan and extended the remaining $27,000,000 until September 30, 2008. That’s somewhere around $325,000 per remaining unit. Interest only at 7% is around $1,900 per month per unit. HOA, taxes, insurance, and utilities add another $1,000 per month per unit. The total cost to hold is around $34,800 per year per unit. That is 10% of the value of each unit. In a declining market, the sale price may go down another 10% over the next year. If the developer holds his units hoping the market will turn around, he risks losing 20% of the current market value over the next year. That’s a lot of money. The pressure to sell sooner rather than later is enormous. And that does not count the pressure from the bank (see September 30th above).

The auction process appears to be a good way to sell unsold units if a developer and his bank are willing to sell at what ever the current market value is as of the day of the auction. However, it is reasonable to assume that the current market value established by an auction will be something less than the current market value established by the previous auction. That sounds good for potential buyers but would be disastrous for would-be sellers of existing condos. The auctions would suck up most of the financially able and willing buyers that may have purchased re-sale condos.

An individual condo owner who needs to sell would be well advised to sell sooner rather than later. The caveat is that if there is a stampede to sell it will tend to accelerate the rate of price decline.

The Panama City Beach condo market will not hit bottom until most if not all of the unsold developer units are transferred to private ownership. The condo market will not hit bottom until most of the condo units whose owners are significantly upside down, with high “loan-to-purchase price” mortgages and who do not have the financial horsepower to hang on are sold at current market values.

There is no logical scenario that will stop this runaway train in the near term. That is the bad news. The good news is that most of South Florida is in worse shape than Panama City Beach.

Sam Portman

40 thoughts on “Panama City Beach Condo Market Analysis After The Palazzo Auction

  1. I’m not sure I would refer to Emerald Isle as “inferior”, and yes, I am an owner there. I wouldn’t change the balconies for any of the properties you listed above. It’s like having an additional 200 sq ft of living space. I understand the point you were trying to make, but inferior seems a bit strong. Still love the web site anyway, keep up the good work : )


  2. Sam, you did not list the 100+ developer units at Tropic Winds. Having spoken with a couple of realtors, I can state that they are not fans of this auction process. Hope we can hear from a Palazzo buyer to get their input.


  3. Sam thanks for your take on what you see as happening. You named some really great Condo developments and had some great points but I wanted to add my two cents about Emerald Isle. I agree with the Emerald Isle owner about the balconies. The balconies are some of the nicest biggest balconies out there. Thanks again, I love getting the insigts of Jason and all those great people out there.
    Have a lovely day and enjoy this fabulous beach.


  4. Sam,
    Thanks for the awesome work you do. I’m glad we don’t have to depend on the group with an agenda. The ones that were telling everyone 2 – 3 years ago to buy at $450 a foot because it’s only going to go up. I’m not sure I trust my investment future to people that don’t know if they’re “relators” or “realtors”, or that think the words “sale” and “sell” are interchangeable.
    I listened to a “wise” investor, also a realtor, telling her audience recently to buy now, the prices were right and in 2 years you’ll make a killing. Let’s see mortgage (if you can get one), taxes, insurance and in most cases association fees for 2 years. Yep, no agenda there.
    I wonder what will happen when the developers just walk away rather than continue to sink money into the project. If the security bonds have been satisfied and released then I would see no reason why they wouldn’t cut and run. Now, instead of 100% of the units sharing the costs, it falls on 40% or so.
    I have friends and associates that collectively own about 80 units on the beach. They range from the latest and greatest units to 10 year old condos. They’re not experiencing the rental successes so many are touting. Sure, if they’re willing to reduce to rediculously low rates, before fees, then it has interest.


  5. Sam, nice post. You are close, but your numbers are a little off. There are comps that make your point even stronger. I wasn’t going to say anything about Palazzo until 45 days after the auction. The developer spent a lot of money and did a good job with pricing during the auction to move a lot of condos and make people think they got the deal of a lifetime. He deserves to have them close and reduce his inventory. That doesn’t change the fact that everyone paid retail or above retail for those units with the exception of the end units.


  6. Sam,

    I’m afraid you’re likely to be right in your overall estimation of a bottom in the condo market. The prices per square foot of the Palazzo units do reflect pre-bubble pricing. I would make a minor point but one that needs to be duly noted. The % of commission, whether an auction or a regular brokerage sale, is always part of the overall market value. The for sale buy owners “FSBO’s” are the ones likely to take a 6-10% hit on price below whatever the prevailing value is at any given time due to the fact that 80% of all real estate transactions are brokered rather than FSBO’ed. The FSBO seller thinks they save the 5-10% on commissions but the FSBO buyer proves to be much more stingy and the FSBO seller gets less price than the on market products. We have one other pretty big problem out there. There are a goodly number of short sales (pre-foreclosures). The owner is payments behind and sure to face foreclosure but is trying to market and sell the property in order to get out from under it BUT the market value is less than what they owe. The lender in that situation is in a lose-lose circumstance. If they foreclose they lose , if they short sell they lose. The question they attempt to answer is “which way will we lose less?” One really foolish thing, in my estimation , that many lenders are doing in this circumstance is that they are tying the hands of the appraisers and only allowing them to use comparable sales that have sold that are not foreclosure or short sales and probably not auctioned properties (I’m honestly not sure about the auctioned ones). In other words, to get a short sale approved the comparables must be non- distressed sales only. There are very few non-distressed sales selling these days. In my humble opinion, lenders need to get off their high horse and allow the market value to be the market value. Whatever has sold and whatever the prevailing value is based on those sales is the market value not hand selected sales. The lenders, instead of unloading these short sales at market value, are spending even more money foreclosing them and then placing them on the market as foreclosures months down the road for less than they could have shorted them for months prior. This is further exacerbating the problem ,not resolving it. There are a lot of short sale condo’s on the market at present .


  7. Hey Scott,

    All of the sales used in the analysis were Realtor brokered deals and include sales commission.

    As an appraiser, I always include foreclosure sales if they are effecting the market. In addition, regular arms-length sales are included in the appraisal to satisfy the definiiton of market value. I seldom see short sales that actually close. I seldom use FSBO sales because of the difficulty in confirming that the sale was actually an arms-length transaction.



  8. I feel Palazzo was a huge success and the inventory did sell below current retail. I feel this because we sold 50 units in 3 hours at the auction and receive multiple calls everyday from buyers and agents who want to purchase the remaining units at the auction prices. The few remaining units we have left are no longer being offered at the auction prices. When we tell the interested buyers/agents this, they seem upset because they missed out on the opportunity. This leads me to believe that we sold our units close to the bottom of the market. Palazzo is a high end development, is in a great location, and is built to last.

    Nathan Abbott
    Palazzo Sales Team


  9. To add to the discussion, I think if you’re a Canadian, as I am, the recent drop in the Canadian dollar and potential future drops may offset trying to wait for the bottom of the market.

    To illustrate, a condo worth $335,000 today if the dollar is at par, would cost about $500,000 if bought when the Cdn dollar was around 67 cents US, as was the case a couple of years ago.

    Recently the dollar has dropped from par to around 93 cents over the course of a month.


  10. To sum up everything….If every buyer waits around to purchase a property, we would just prolong the situation. What ever property you purchase today, just be sure to own it at least 6-8 years. Yes, everything you do investment wise is a gamble. (who would have thought it) No one can promise you anything. Just be sure to purchase a property you truly can enjoy. Buyers these days are wanting a promise, that they can take to the bank. That’s hard to do when your not psichic. Most buyers these days wouldn’t know a good buy if it was thrown in their face. Seen it happen! In reality, Buyers are still trying to buy properties and flip them. They just can’t get their out of their head. A lot of dreamers out there. My suggestion….Buy properties that stand out among the rest. You can’t hold much value or make fast appreciation buying a cookie cutter property. Too many to of these compete against each other.. The properties that mostly are hurting are below $300,000. The majority of Sellers of higher end properties can actually afford them and want give them away. So decide what is important to you and your needs. Whether it is a permanent residence or vacation home or condo.Find one you like, make an offer and go from there.Just be satisfied in the purchase that you make..Life goes on…….


  11. Watching and listening to the pundits discuss the local real estate market reminds me of the talking heads on the afternoon “money” shows. Taking a positon makes you right, and you’re doing everyone a favor by letting them in on your perception. While in truth, there are few facts and lots of opinions, and someone will be right (or at least close), and we just have to wait and see while we try to serve our customers to the best of our ability, recognizing the current market and forseeable future.


  12. I am a preconstruction owner at Palazzo. Understandably, I am frustrated with the auction and the immediate depreciation of my unit. I was shocked at the basement prices, especially after the Marina Landing auction. Because of the vast contrast between these two properties, I would have thought Palazzo would have sold much higher. The upside, of course, is that the units DID sell, we no longer have only 50% of the building occupied, as owners, we can be better assured that the quality of the building will be maintained. What is the current “non-auction” listing price for the remaining East end units?


  13. Good comments on the current market glut! But, don’t forget that a couple of the developments are full of unsold condos making the picture look worse than it is. Tidewater has closed a lot of units recently and not many remain unsold. On the other hand, Shores of Panama is in bankruptcy and has nearly four hundred available condos on the market and on hold. New developments have had trouble closing. If I were buying, I would look for a nearly sold out new development for an investment and be ready to hold the unit for at least 5 years. I think the market is near bottom and personally don’t fear buying a condo at a great price with interest rates at an all time low. Things could change dramatically after the election causing peril to not only housing but all of our investments not to mention interest rates. Investments are always uncertain.


  14. I was a preconstruction buyer in the Palazzo and closed on time according to contract. In the process, it appears I got screwed. It certainly doesn’t feel good to know that if I hadn’t purchased when I did, I could have purchased two units later for what I spent to purchase one.

    The auction was only “successful” for those who were able to buy units at a deeply discounted price. The building is among the best in PCB and I cannot believe the prices at which Ron Durham was willing to sell in order to unload inventory. I guess by keeping the 20% downpayment from previous contract owners, it made the prices more palatable to the developer…

    At least my unit is unique and renting well.

    Little Fish


  15. Impressive list of comments and insight. I just hope the bottom is near and things can begin to appreciate over time. I am more worried about our manufacturing base and national debt more than a housing crisis for speculators and developers trying to cash in overnight.


  16. Sam,

    Thanks for your follow up comments…

    Point of clarification:

    In your article you stated, “The Palazzo 2BR/2Ba units sold at auction for $295,000 (including the 10% auctioneer’s commission).”

    I agree and affirm that appraisals normally include the brokerage fees as part of value. Your parenthetical explanation could have been mistakenly interpreted to mean that one should see value as 295k minus the 10% or $29,500 as the real “market value”. My point was that real market value is normally brokerage fee inclusive. I don’t think we disagree and I commend your work as well.
    Sam, I am pleased to also hear that you include foreclosures in your appraisals and rarely use FSBO comps due to “arms length” requirements. Once again, let me clarify what I was seeking to get at, perhaps I did not include quite enough information in my earlier posting. As recently as last week I worked a short sale and the appraiser’s comps for the short did not include sold foreclosures or closed short sales as comparables for consideration of the subject property I was seeking to sell as a short sale. It was Bank of America that I dealt with and the loss mitigation negotiator invited me to submit comps that perhaps would document a lower value than what the appraisal had come in at. However, she forbade me, due to Fannie Mae guidelines, from using either short sale sold comps or REO sold comps. I was not in any way stating that appraisers generally do so but in the case of BOA loans that were Fannie Mae regulated neither the appraiser nor I could use the most recent or lowest sales (best in my opinion) because they all were REO’s and shorts and we were forced by the guidelines to use only non-distressed comps that were dated and higher. I’m reasonably sure my experience with this is not idiosyncratic .
    Since 1/1/07 with a quick search I was able to see 19 successfully closed Gulf front short sales ranging in value from 225-650k. There are many on the market currently active and some also being considered by the lender for a sale. I guess what I am saying is that a sale is a sale whether a short, an REO, or an owner sale with the caveat, of course, that it is arm’s length. My amazement is that the lenders will often tie the hands of appraisers in directing them towards only certain sales in order to determine whether or not that will allow a short.


  17. Hey Scott,

    When a borrower defaults on a loan, the bank gets to choose how much money they are going to loose. The bank has specific criteria as to what sale price they will accept on a short sale. The criteria may have little to do with the current market value of a particular property. And that criteria may change daily. If someone is telling you that the bank can’t accept a short sale because of some phantom FNMA appraisal guidelines, they are blowing smoke up your butt. Those that have the money make the rules. A bank can accept any price if they so choose. Realtors, sellers, appraisers, or any market participant have no standing in determining what price a bank should accept as payment of a loan that is in default. Chasing short sales is less rewarding than being a greeter at Walmart.



  18. Little Fish,

    Ditto! I agree with the assessment of the “successful” auction. Anyone can spin it anyway they want, but the botton line is, the initial investors got screwed. No doubt about it. Did I mention about the storage cage??? My real estate agent advised us to buy one – guess how much??? $37,000. “I think It’d be a really good investment” Guess how much they are going for now??? $5000.00. No, Folks, didn’t go for that! One consolation!


  19. Now that the building is full, better get to the rooftop pool early if you want a seat! That pool and it’s location are a big turnoff in that building.


  20. There are currently 39 Gulf Front condo units pending sale. The breakdown of ownership is as follows:
    22 owners
    7 developers,
    6 foreclosures- lender owned
    3 short sales –lender controlled
    1 estate sale.
    Between the foreclosures and short sales you have 23% of the sales pending. Since 23% of the current condo closings are foreclosure and short sales at least one of the 3-5 comparables used to determine market value ought to be a short sale or a foreclosure. This reality demonstrates the need for both auction sold properties and foreclosures or short sale properties to be considered in the determination of market value.

    Sam, your right about “chasing short sales”. I have landed a few but lost as many. It kinda reminds of a story a pit bull told his owner. I can whip a skunk any day of the week but I’m not sure its worth the fight:). If a lender wants to reject a short on whatever criterion it is indeed their perogative but in most cases it seems they cut off their nose despite their face and lose bigger later. It simply makes no sense.


  21. Tell comment 17 that I totally understood what comment 15 was trying to get across. However, comment 4 was someone just rambling cynical phrares, while thinking they were just so very clever, at what, I do not know.


  22. You are so right Jason, this thread is hilarious.

    Too many people too stressed over where the market is.

    We cant control where the market is and we can not control those &*^#@ buyers who prefer to buy at bargain basement auction prices instead of paying what we would like to get. (LOL, did someone seriously fault the buyers for prefering to buy at discount prices? LOL).

    We CERTAINLY can not blame ANY developer for selling inventory for what ever value he/she can get as they fight to survive this period. LOL, we think we are stressed and financially upside down? Multiply our dilema by hundreds. They have got to survive too. We made need them in the next market. LOL.

    And whoever is blaming the realtors who “talked us into” our million dollar purchases needs an award. Not a good award. The writer who so intellectually pointed out that “realtors had an agenda”…. sorry, guys, I cant stop laughing long enough to complete that sentence. OF COURSE REALTORS HAVE AN AGENDA! ITS HOW THEY PAY THEIR BILLS!

    So who do we blame? It cant be ourselves, just because I personally bought at the highest prices on record at the top of the bursting bubble? LOL, yep, I bought high and I will likely remain financially upside down for the forseeable future.

    So who do we blame for this mortgage and housing fiasco? I will get my satisfaction casting my votes in the upcoming election. Who was watching and regulating the housing and mortgate market which got us here? Everyone currently in office LOL. Vote ’em all out! (that is a joke as well, few of us will actually vote).

    I am not sweating it though, I prefer to look at my upside down condo finanical position in the context of my last divorce.

    My last ex wife left screaming in a very high pitched voice and she took half of everything I had worked for. Yep, it happened.

    I figure my condo sell/sale will be much like that, except thank god I will not have to listen to my condo do that high pitched screaming thing.

    Dont get me wrong, losing half of what I worked for on my condo sell will be no more palatable than my ex wife was as I wrote her that check to help her and her network of attorneys go away.

    But, as with life, my ex wife was fun for quite a while, then she took half of everything. This condo will be fun for quite a while, then it will take half of everything.

    What is a struggling want-to-be-retiree to do? Only one thing left to do. Open that cooler guys and hand me one more cool beverage while we wait for this market to shift!

    There are definitely many, many worse towns to be stuck in!

    Just pleeeeeeassse, do not make me listen to any more high pitched emotional conversations as we discuss this.


  23. I agree #25 was a great post. Basically at this point, it is what it is, and as long as you have the cash flow necessary to ride out this trough, things will eventually get better!


  24. The Palazzo end units are the nicest I have seen, granted I have not been in many condos. Love the West-end units with the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the gulf and sunsets. When the market comes back these units will be at the top of the market. Especially for people who want peace and quiet.

    I have a hard time believing this is the bottom of the market too. I do think that the Palazzo auction buyers bought close enough to the bottom and they bought a high quality product. In my opinion, Palazzo surpasses Splash and the Majestic in quality, quietness and parking and is ideal as a personal residence.

    These days there is no safe place to put money. Put it the stock market–you lose, buy real estate–the market goes down further, buy CDs–inflations eats your money. My mutual funds are down 15-20% YTD. I bought funds less than two months ago that are down 20%.

    This is the nature of an investment. I do feel sorry for the preconstruction buyers though.


  25. It depends on how you define success as to the Palazzo auction being successful or not. Just a couple of months ago I had a well qualified investment group (cash investors) that ask me to call about a bulk purchase of the remaining units and I was told that the bottom dollar was $281.00 per square foot and if my group was not interested at $281 per suare foot then there was no need in presenting an offer.How many dollars were left on the table?


  26. I purchased one of the Palazzo units at auction. Here is why:
    God’s isn’t making any more beach front property
    The units sold at close to half the initial retails
    Excellent construction features

    Did I make a good deal???
    It will be fun to save the above posting and comments and review in 5 years when I plan to sell.


  27. Alex:

    Hell yes you got a good deal. Especially if you purchased an East or West end unit. Although, the interior units are not as attractive IMO as you can find the same footprint in nearly every condo in PCB.

    Little Fish


  28. Can we not find ANYTHING positive to say about our improvment in Real Estate sales this year compared to last year? We have the most AFFORDABLE and some of the most BEAUTIFUL beaches anywhere. Everyone agrees with that. If most continue to make negative comments about our market, then why would anyone want to invest here? Or for the locals, why buy when you can rent a new apartment? You can’t lump everyone’s Real Estate market nationwide and say that this is the way it is all over the country! That’s simply not true. There are several areas that have not felt any decline as others have. I also believe that many of the foreclosures across the country were unnecessary…property owners “found a way out” from their mortgages and jumped on the band wagon with all the overly extended investors who could no longer pay while waiting for their “flip” to happen. Everytime you turn on the news, local and national…all we ever hear is how bad things are…can we not simply start trying to end all comments with a positive note??? I love our beautiful beaches and love seeing the excitement on visitors faces, that includes prospective buyers as well!


  29. I am a buyer waiting until winter to purchase a 2/2 Condo Master and Living Room direct ocean front for what I believe will be reduced prices from summer prices. I can only afford $300,000 Tops. If you have a bargain and want to sell I will consider purchasing sooner. Not trying to be a vulture. Ive been having to wait for prices to get where I can afford them and would rather not carry it over the winter.


  30. Interesting how some buyers think they are getting the best deal if the listing is labeled “foreclosure, short sale, auction or distressed sale”. Chances are they could get just as good a deal by allowing their Realtor to negotiate for them. I had a call from a buyer only interested in distressed sales. I asked him if he would be interested in a property that was not “distressed” if the price was right. Nope, just distressed properties. Weird. That’s why foreclosure lists are so popular now. Perception of the words auction and foreclosure is “great deal”.


  31. I think Sam Portman needs to learn math. Palazzo selling at 295,000 shows base price. The 10% buyer’s fee should be incorporated, making the sale price $324,500 for a 2BR GF unit. That doesn’t look like a 10% drop in value to me. And ask anyone who owns a condo, they will say their location is the best. To each his own. No wonder people are having trouble getting accurate appraisals.


  32. Hey Karen,

    Because I don’t want you to embarrass yourself again, let me restate the facts. The 2 BR Palazzo units sold at auction for $270,000 plus the 10% auction fee for a total of $297,000. The 3BR interior units sold for a total of $324,500 which includes the auction fee. The public records are easily accessible for fact checking.



  33. Sam is right. Just look at the auction results or bay county records for the prices. It amazes me how Sam comes out with a great article with accurate information and people try to correct him with inaccurate information and new ways to come up with values. Why?


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