If you thought you saw something moving inside the (former) condominium complex (formerly) known as Saigon Villas, you’d be right. And don’t worry, it’s just people checking out the place in its newest incarnation.
For years, that behemoth of a building on the side street next to Phước Lộc Thọ – or Asian Village Mall – has been a strange sight. It’s sitting there near empty, like an abandoned building, but is still well maintained, well lit, with the landscaping still fresh.
It’s just strangely quiet. Not eerily quiet – you can’t be eery when you’re well kept and shining brightly – just oddly lacking activities, standing still especially when compared to all the hustling and bustling that’s going on around it.
That’s because the huge edifice, built with 144 condo units in it, has sold only 8 when it was thrown into receivership in February. The receiver was appointed by the Orange County Superior Court in the lawsuit filed by the lender HSBC against the developer, Moran Properties Limited Partnership – an entity in which the owner of Asian Village Mall holds a significant interest.
The receiver apparently couldn’t sell either, even after a zoning change that lifted the “55 or older” requirement. So, as of last week he tried something new: He changed the development’s name to Jasmine Place, and is now renting out the units as apartments instead.
So far, it seems to be working. On Monday when Nguoi Viet’s reporter Hà Giang came by the rental office, one person was dropping off the deposit check, and two couples were seriously interested in the units.
The onsite agent bragged that even before the grand opening, the company successfully rented out 10 units. That’s more than what they sold for all the years before that.
The clincher seems to be price. Since rental cost has not dropped with real estate prices, the selling prices asked by the former Saigon Villas were too high. And they couldn’t be lowered because they had to make enough to repay construction lenders – plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The rental prices, currently ranging from $1510 for a small 1 bed 1 bath, to $2400 for a unit more than twice that size with 2 beds 2 baths with den, are only a bit higher than comparable rentals, and the premium is justified by location.
After all, the complex is next to Phước Lộc Thọ. It deserves to have life breathed back into it.