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Originally published Thursday, February 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Olive 8 condos garnish sales pitch

In another sign the downtown Seattle condo market has slowed, the developer of the new Olive 8 hotel/condo project is offering prospective...

Seattle Times business reporter

In another sign the downtown Seattle condo market has slowed, the developer of the new Olive 8 hotel/condo project is offering prospective buyers a novel guarantee in a bid to boost sales.

It's a variation on the old retail slogan: "We won't be undersold!"

Here's how it works: If someone buys an Olive 8 condo now, and later someone else pays less for a unit in the building with the same floor plan, developer R.C. Hedreen will knock the first buyer's price down to the lower amount at closing.

"We're trying to get people to step up and buy some condos," David Thyer, Hedreen's president, said Wednesday.

"People worry that this isn't the best time to buy. We believe it is."

But Thyer also acknowledged the downtown condo market is "cool or somewhat stagnant."

Olive 8, under construction at Eighth Avenue and Olive Way, will feature 230 high-end condos on 22 floors atop a 17-story Hyatt hotel.

The hotel is to open in December, and condo owners are expected to start moving early next year.

A year ago, Hedreen had sold 175 of the 230 units. Since then, Thyer said, it has sold less than 10.

He attributed the drop-off to fears of recession and the national and regional real-estate downturn.

But he also warned that those waiting for downtown condo prices to drop may have a long wait.

Relatively few buildings are scheduled for completion over the next year, Thyer said.

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Prices for projects farther back in the pipeline are likely to rise as construction costs increase, he said, and not every announced project will be built.

Olive 8 is likely to raise prices rather than reduce them, Thyer said.

Remaining condos in the building start at $750,000. Most of the unsold inventory comprises pricier, two-bedroom units.

Jeff Sanford, an analyst at Gardner Johnson, a Seattle real-estate consulting firm, called Olive 8's guarantee a marketing move.

"They're trying to instill confidence in the people who have already bought and the people who are still looking," he said.

Jack Mitchell, of John Paul Mitchell Associates, who has sold downtown condos for more than 30 years, said some prospective buyers at new projects are holding back because they're not certain they could sell their current homes quickly.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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