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Investing in Condos

The market slowdown has meant that nothing in Dr. Syed Shirazi’s Chicago-area portfolio has been sold

Dr. Syed Shirazi in his Trump Tower condo, just one of the radiation oncologist’s real-estate investments.
Dr. Syed Shirazi in his Trump Tower condo, just one of the radiation oncologist’s real-estate investments.

 

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His stock portfolio was putting in a lackluster performance in the early 2000s, so Dr. Syed Shirazi, a radiation oncologist, shifted some of his funds to real estate. On the second day of sales at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, he put down a deposit on a $1.9-million unit on the 66th floor of the 92-story building. Later, in a partnership with his children, he put deposits on two hotel-condo units there as well. He also put down $270,000 on a unit at the Shangri-La Hotel in Waterview Tower, which was to be built at 111 East Wacker Drive, and $200,000 in deposits on two units at Parkview, which was going up at 505 North McClurg Court. He then invested in construction of a new $3-million single-family home and two townhouses (valued at about $1 million each) in Oak Brook, as well as three condos in Vancouver, Canada.

Shirazi’s total investment was $2.5 million in deposits and fees, for a portfolio of under-construction homes that he says was probably worth $10 million. “This was all bought when the market was at the top,” he says ruefully. The idea was to sell the properties either immediately before or shortly after taking possession, to get back the deposit or down payment plus any profit, and then roll that money into further investments. (He planned to keep the hotel-condo units as income producers.)

The market slowdown has meant that nothing in Shirazi’s Chicago-area portfolio has been sold—he sold two of the condos in Vancouver, “one at cost,” he says—and he now has possession of all of them except the Waterview unit. His deposit on that canceled project was refunded this spring, with interest.

Shirazi declined to estimate what it costs to carry all of those mortgages. “I can sit for two or three years without a problem,” he says. “I’m not too upset.”

Recently Shirazi showed me around his 66th-floor Trump unit, for which he is asking $3.1 million (down from an original $3.6 million). “I could drop the price and sell it for a $200,000 or $300,000 profit, easy,” he speculated—which would mean cutting about $900,000 from his asking price. Why not do it? “I think it’s going to come up in a few years,” he says. “I prefer to wait for that.”

 

Photograph by Bob Coscarelli; photo assistant: Kacper Skowron

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