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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real Estate Florida.)

WEST PALM BEACH, FL-In a distressed transaction that brokers say will set a trend in the Downtown area, iStar Financial Inc. has sold 141 condo units in the brand new Whitney building for less than half of the original retail price. Norway-based investment firm ABG Sundall Collier paid $24 million, or approximately $170,000 per unit, an extreme discount from what the 70 purchased units sold for–about $359,000 each, according to CB Richard Ellis, which marketed the property and brokered the deal.

New York City-based iStar Financial gained ownership of 141 units in the 210-unit building last month after Evernia Properties, an entity led by developer Enrique Dillon, gave the lender the deed in lieu of a foreclosure. “The developer was just a victim of the economy,” says Reichel Realty’s Peter Filomena, who was appointed receiver of the property. “There was a time when each unit was contracted out individually, but the developer couldn’t deliver them on a timely basis and the market turned,” he tells GlobeSt.com.

The newly completed Whitney, located at 410 Evernia St., features amenities such as a rooftop heated pool, clubroom, fitness center, sun deck, putting green and wireless internet access in the common areas. Filomena says when he became receiver of the property, the contractor was able to finish the “punch out” or small finishings for each of the unsold units. During his time at the building, he says the residents of the sold units were happy, and the association was functioning. “We made the best out of a bad situation,” he says. “Local experts assumed the property would only sell for $20 million, and we beat that.”

The transaction is indicative of an emerging trend indicating that bulk prices paid for condos could be half of what they sold for on a retail basis, says Brad Capas, senior director with Cushman & Wakefield, who was not connected to the deal. “In many cases this is the circumstance we’re dealing with, where in order for a buyer to buy condo units in bulk they have to get a sufficient discount to offset their carrying costs,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “We’ll see more of these deals because lenders are finally starting to take control of some of these condominiums, are becoming more realistic in their price expectations and motivated as sellers.”

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