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Purchases of condos continue

Mary Kate Malone and Maddie Hanna | Friday, October 19, 2007

Prompted by rising hotel prices that were costing them $6,000 each year, Notre Dame parents Rick and Terri Martini decided to purchase a condo at New London Lake near Bulla Road two years ago.

The decision proved to be a profitable one. Rick, who lives in Pittsburgh, bought the property just as the off-campus housing market in South Bend was heating up – and his condo has appreciated by 20 percent in 24 months.

Condominiums, townhouses and hotel-condos have been sprouting up around Notre Dame, collectively feeding an investment of more than $200 million to the South Bend community, according to the South Bend Tribune. But a dismal football season and a stagnant housing market have caused some developers to scale back their plans around Notre Dame.

Waterford Estates Lodge opened in fall 2005, after the Brenan Hospitality Management Group purchased the Ramada Inn in South Bend. Mike Brenan, Waterford’s general manager and developer, converted the hotel to a condo-hotel – meaning he upgraded the hotel rooms, which people now purchase instead of rent.

In the past two years, Brenan has sold 120 of the 200 units for $100,000 to $140,000 apiece.

But that pace has slowed.

“When we beat Penn State [in September of 2006], the very next day we sold 11 units,” Brenan said. “The following week in ’06 was the Michigan game, we lost it. The following Sunday we had 10 appointments … and not one of them showed up.

“To say that our ownership base is fickle would be an understatement.”

While Brenan is honest about his sales rate – “To be candid, we had forecasted we’d sell 40-50 units this football season, and we’ve lowered that to 25-30,” he said – he’s not worried about the future.

Neither is Fred Cooreman of Cooreman Real Estate Group and RE/MAX Irish. Cooreman is the director of sales for Irish Crossing, a still-under-construction townhouse development east of campus. Irish Crossing is 150 yards from campus, Cooreman said, and will have 79 units when it is complete. Seventeen have been sold so far, and 10 of those are occupied.

The average sale price, he said, is $340,000.

Cooreman said it’s too soon to tell how the football season is affecting interest in Irish Crossing, which, he said, is marketed to parents who have students at Notre Dame and who want a place to stay on football weekends.

But he suspects a losing football team could cause interested buyers to think twice.

“I think it has an indirect connection,” he said. “I would like it if Notre Dame won for more than one reason.”

The Martini’s daughter, Jill, does not live at the London Lake unit, but Martini hosts her friends after football games. Martini said he’s even thinking about hosting a Thanksgiving meal for her friends who can’t go home for the holiday.

Senior Mike Cimino lives at Oak Hill, where his parents purchased a condo three years ago. The Ciminos, from Omaha, are a Notre Dame family: Cimino’s father and grandfather graduated from the University, along with his two older sisters.

Cimino is the third of five children, and he has a sister who’s a sophomore in Farley Hall. His younger brother is a senior in high school who just applied to Notre Dame.

Buying the condo was “a sound investment,” Cimino said.

His two older sisters have both lived in Oak Hill – one for a couple years, the other for a summer. Two years from now, Cimino said, his younger sister will probably live there, too.

His family comes to South Bend “four or five times a year,” and while his parents and relatives will get hotel rooms when they visit this fall, “next year … they’ll all just stay in the condo,” Cimino said.

Laurie Fitzgerald, another parent, recently bought a townhome in Dublin Village for her daughter, Emily, a junior at Saint Mary’s.

“The market for these places is definitely on the upswing,” said Fitzgerald, who is from the Chicago area. “From what we’re told, people who have resold units in Dublin Village have already made a profit owning them less than one year.

“I don’t anticipate losing money on this.”

Fitzgerald said the property is useful for her daughter, who is doing student teaching off campus and needs easy access to her car.

“[In the past,] there hasn’t been a lot of places worth buying in South Bend,” she said, “and now it appears that it’s taking off.”