Developers of waterfront housing in downtown Baltimore are making an effort to appeal to a wide range of possible buyers, from young professionals to "power couples" to empty-nesters whose grown children have moved out and left them with a big old house in the suburbs.
But one group is taking a somewhat different approach: the developers of the $17 million Belt's Landing complex in Fells Point are mounting an aggressive campaign to coax "high-income renters" to move out of their apartments and into that nearly finished development in the 900 block of Fell Street.
Fell Street Joint Venture, the developers, recently commissioned study that showed there are 8,000 renters in the Baltimore area who earn $75,000 a year or more and can easily afford to pay a mortgage for a condominium or town house at Belt's Landing.
Many of them, the developers say, already live in waterfront apartment buildings such as Tindeco Wharf, Thames Point and the Shipyard and would be logical candidates to buy at Belt's Landing; others live in Towson, Pikesville, Roland Park and other areas close to downtown.
As an incentive to get the renters to consider moving, the developers have established a "rent rebate program" in which they will pay the rent of any individuals or couples who buy a unit as Belt's Landing between now and next spring, when the residences will be ready for occupancy.
The developers, who have offered to pay up to $15,000 in rent, figure that the money rebated to the renters could be used by them toward down payment and closing costs at settlement, or to buy furniture or even a boat.
"Anyone who's paying $1,000 a month rent is definitely a candidate for this," said Carroll Jasculski, head of Baltimore-based Development Marketing Associates, the company marketing Belt's Landing. "All of the people living in downtown apartments that have come on line in the last few years are targets."
The rent rebate program is the latest of several incentive programs that local developers are starting to devise to attract -- buyers in a slow market. Developers of the Colonnade condominiums on University Parkway, for example, have created program in which they offer to set aside funds that prospective buyers could use to pay for a grandchild's college education, make a donation to charity, or put to other uses.
Mr. Jasculski said his research shows there is no shortage of area renters who can afford the monthly mortgage payments at Belt's Landing, but what they don't always have is enough money saved up for a down payment.
The average rent rebate at Belt's Landing could be $7,500 to $10,000 -- which would go a long way toward covering closing costs, he said. Another key difference between the rent rebate program and programs that essentially discount the sale price of a condominium, he said, is that the buyers at Belt's Landing will realize the full benefits of the program from the beginning rather than when they sell their unit.
RTC Mr. Jasculski said he doesn't know of any other project with a similar emphasis on attracting renters. He said he believes Belt's Landing is a particularly good place to try such a campaign because of its Fells Point location, near the restaurants and other centers of night life. Initial traffic reports at the sales center showed that renters are a large part of the market that already has expressed interest in the project.
Belt's Landing was designed by Browne, Worrall & Johnson Inc. to contain 102 residences, including 10 pier houses, 8 houses within the shell of a renovated warehouse on Fell Street, 85 condominiums in a seven-story building overlooking Fells Point, and 49 boat slips. Frank F. Favazza & Son is the builder. Prices range from $125,000 to $435,000, with most of the units under $200,000.