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Originally published September 19, 2010 at 8:02 PM | Page modified September 20, 2010 at 6:27 AM

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Bidders snag big deals at Olive 8 condo auction

More than 200 bidders crowded into a third-floor ballroom Sunday at the Olive 8 building in downtown Seattle, hoping to snag a condominium...

Seattle Times business reporter

More than 200 bidders crowded into a third-floor ballroom Sunday at the Olive 8 building in downtown Seattle, hoping to snag a condominium atop the new Hyatt hotel at a deep discount.

Among them were Alaska businessman Trevor Sande, who walked away with a 689-square-foot, one-bedroom unit for $328,000, about $122,000 less than what the developer had been asking.

"We live in Alaska and spend a lot of time visiting Seattle, so this will give us an excuse to come here more often," Sande said. "Mostly, my wife comes here to shop at Nordstrom."

The developer of the 39-story, bluish glass building at Olive Way and Eighth Avenue put 32 condo units up for auction after failing to sell them for the past year and a half.

Winning bidders took the one- and two-bedroom units at an average $455 a square foot, a 30 percent discount from their previous asking prices, said David Thyer, president of developer R.C. Hedreen.

All winning bids were subject to an undisclosed reserve, meaning they could be rejected if they did not meet or exceed a minimum price set by the developer. Thyer said all but four winning bids had been accepted late Sunday.

Olive 8, which began construction in 2006 and finished in mid-2009, is not the first downtown condo building to auction off units in the economic downturn. Since fall 2008, at least eight others in and around downtown Seattle have held auctions to spur sales, said Dean Jones, principal of Realogics Sotheby's International Realty.

But unlike Olive 8, none of those other projects was part of a deluxe new hotel, making Sunday's auction a bit of a local first.

"I'm still shaking. We're really, really happy," said Efren Gorospe, whose bid of $297,000 for a 650-square-foot, one-bedroom unit previously listed at $395,000 went through. He and his wife, Terry, live in Lynnwood and work downtown. "We might stay there when we're working late," he said.

Dina Carkonen and her fiancé, Chris Saites, bought a 1,092-square-foot, one-bedroom unit previously listed at $595,000 for $416,000. They rent a home in Seattle's Madison Park neighborhood and look forward to living within walking distance of their downtown jobs when they move to Olive 8.

"We really liked the building, and it just works out for our lifestyle," Carkonen said. "We don't have kids, so we could certainly go without a yard."

While condo auctions have become yet another sign of tough economic times, some see the strong turnout Sunday as proof that things are picking up.

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"Where developers are able to meet the market, homes sell," said Jones, whose brokerage represents the developers of six Seattle condo projects, though not Olive 8.

"Compare that to some other markets, where no matter what you do, homes don't sell."

Before Sunday, Olive 8 closed deals for 74 of its 227 units, mostly on the building's lower portion between floors 18 and 26.

The 32 units auctioned off Sunday represent nearly all of the unsold inventory on that lower portion, so "we'll no longer have prospective buyers going through those floors," Thyer said last week.

Olive 8 still has a little more than 100 unsold units on the top floors, with price tags from $500,000 to $6.9 million.

If nothing else, the auction has been a way for Olive 8 to introduce itself to possible buyers.

"We've had more than 1,500 people through the building in the past few weeks," Thyer said. "That's an awful lot of eyes looking at the property and that will serve us well going forward."

Thyer called the auction a success.

"We moved a chunk of inventory, and now we'll be a little more patient," he said.

"Hopefully, we'll see some improvement in the overall marketplace over the next few months."

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

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