Sunridge offer raises skepticism

Condos are going up faster than they can be filled in Tampa. SunRidge Condominiums on 50th Street between Fletcher and Fowler still has fifteen units left to sell. So to help sell off those units in what can be described as a housing slump, SunRidge’s developer Arco Construction, is offering “one free semester of tuition” to USF students if they purchase a condo there. Whether this “free tuition” offer will add up to real savings and be enough to sell those 15 condos has some Sunridge residents skeptical.

The exact amount offered to potential buyers is $1,340. The check does not technically have to be spent on tuition, explained Director of Sales at SunRidge Dave Swanson.

“We allow it to be spent as they want,” Swanson said. “It can be spent on items such as books, tuition, etc. It can be used however they want.”

The deal is also in effect at another Arco property, Lake Azzure Waterside Condominiums at Himes and Waters avenues.

Associate Professor of Marketing in USF’s College of Business Barbara Lafferty applauds the ingenuity of appealing to students in such a personal way.

“It’s a clever promotion. It makes sense, it would attract students’ attention,” Lafferty said. “When times are tough, developers will try to sweeten the pie. They want to entice you.”

Swanson said if a student purchases a unit and closes on it, at closing Sunridge will issue a check for $1,340, which represents 12 credit hours of tuition for Florida residents.

“Seventy percent of residents at SunRidge are USF students, we had a lot of parents that bought for their sons and daughters, the majority of which are undergraduates,” Swanson said.

Lake Azzure has fewer USF students – approximately six live there. The deal at SunRidge will last until all 15 units are sold, which Swanson said might take four to six weeks. He advises potential buyers to “avoid interest rates going up and cash in on this deal.”

“Employing sales promotions to boost slow real estate sales and grab attention from would-be buyers certainly makes great marketing sense for SunRidge,” USF Lakeland Marketing Professor Carol Osborne said.

Osborne isn’t sure if SunRidge is offering enough, though.

“In Tampa’s congested, competitive real estate, it might have to be stronger than a semester’s tuition,” she said. “USF students should proceed carefully before jumping at the deal. With USF undergrad tuition at roughly $1,500 per semester and the starting price for SunRidge units at $150,000, one percent off the selling price is just another way of saying “first month free” if a student calculates the mortgage payment versus renting.”

Osborne warned that what might seem like a potentially good deal on the surface might only be the tip of the iceberg.

“Students (or their parents) have to account for closing costs, title insurance, homeowner’s insurance, taxes, maintenance fees, the real estate agent’s cut and a host of other costs,” she said.

USF student and SunRidge resident Jennifer Avery shares that skepticism. Avery moved into SunRidge on June 1, 2006, and received a much higher incentive than what the property is currently offering.

“That is a pretty lame offer,” said Avery. “As was the flat panel TV they offered some of the early buyers.”

Avery and her husband were wooed with higher incentives.

“We bought before the official grand opening, and spent about ten grand less than the “final” cost,” she said. “Plus, we went with their lender to avoid closing costs. Those amounted to substantial savings.”

Avery’s skepticism reveals the doubt faced when large apartment and condominium developers around campus provide seemingly attractive bargains.

“I think those little offers are not much incentive if you are making a purchase of a couple hundred thousand dollars. What’s that, about half a percent back? Sorry…big deal,” Avery said.