RALEIGH — When The Residences at Quorum Center announced last month that it would auction off its remaining 14 condominiums, it was hardly a surprise.
Built in downtown Raleigh at a time when demand for condos was strong, the project sold 22 units in 2007 before the market evaporated. It has sold one since.
The 150 people who attended the Quorum's auction Sunday came looking for deals, and a handful found them.
The question now is how many of the winning bids will be accepted. The auction was a reserve auction, meaning the seller has five days to accept or decline any bids.
Ted Reynolds, who developed the 15-story Quorum Center along with his son David, said Sunday that he would take the next several days to decide. He declined to comment further.
Quorum is the second downtown Raleigh condo project to auction units in the past five months. The auctions are a response to a downtown marketplace where a handful of condo projects are going after a shrinking number of prospective buyers.
For projects with debt, the auction offers a way to quickly reduce inventory and generate cash to satisfy lenders. But they hurt the resale value for buyers who bought earlier.
Quorum auctioned 10 of a possible 14 units, an indication that the bidding may not have met expectations.
The winning bids ranged from $190,050 to $724,500, and total sales amounted to a little over $3.7 million. But the last three units sold for considerably less per square foot.
Bidders are browsing
The outlook of many of the auction attendees was similar to what anyone trying to sell their house now faces. The bidders were particular about what they wanted and willing to be patient if they didn't get it.
Richard Adelman, 61, and Jane Pinsky, 61, were looking for a two-bedroom unit at a price of about $200 a square foot. Their oldest child is about to graduate from high school, and they are hoping to move from the North Ridge neighborhood in North Raleigh to a downtown condo big enough to allow them to entertain.
The cheapest two-bedroom Quorum units went for about $219 a square foot Sunday.
"We're in no rush," Adelman said. "We have a house in North Ridge. If we spend a few years looking, it's no big deal."
The scientist's choice
Meg Lowman secured a two-bedroom unit with a winning bid of $409,500. Lowman is the director of the new Nature Research Center under construction a few blocks from the Quorum. She also writes a column for the Monday Science & Technology section of The News & Observer.
Lowman, who has been renting a unit at Quorum Center since moving to town from Florida, was told by her two sons to attend the auction.
"It'll make my carbon footprint small because I'll be able to walk to work," she said.
Hosting an auction is expensive, and the costs play a factor in deciding whether to accept certain bids. So do the opinions of the banks that made loans on the project.
The Reynoldses borrowed $32 million from Regions Bank in 2005, according to Wake County property records. They paid off that loan shortly after borrowing $7.45 million from Southern Community Bank and Trust in April 2008.
david.bracken@newsobser ver.com or 919-829-4548