Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Vegas Condos Go Cold

Vegas Condos Go Cold
Developers are suddenly scaling back their bets on the town's once sizzling luxury real estate marketBy
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006Now that several high rollers in the Las Vegas condo-hotel game, including luxury properties linked to Michael Jordan and Ivana Trump, are either folding or selling their holdings, a growing number of players are losing their taste for big bets on high-rise, residential real estate development.
Over the past two years, as high-rise fever spread across town, prices for the luxury apartments ballooned, fetching as much as $500 - $1,000 a square foot— or up to $1.5 million for a one-bedroom— at the peak. Buyers, mostly interested in flipping them for quick profits, eagerly anted up five-figure down payments, while developers planned more than 70 luxury towers holding a total of about 43,000 units on or near the Strip and downtown. But the intense competition for the city's limited supply of contractors sent construction costs skyrocketing 30% last year, just as lending policies tightened, interest rates climbed and sales started to slow.
Currently, just 18 projects are underway, and nervous developers have called off three high-profile projects over the past seven months. A number of others, including one backed by a group including George Clooney, either are being revised or postponed. Experts now forecast that only a quarter to a half of the seven dozen originally proposed projects will ever be built. Brian Gordon, a principal at Applied Analysis, a real estate research firm, says the developers with experience building luxury high rises, whose properties are located on or near the Strip and which carry a strong and recognizable brand name— such as Donald Trump, Hard Rock and MGM Grand— are the ones playing winning hands in Vegas now.
Back east, the luxury condo markets that have had similarly explosive growth in Miami and New York, where high-end apartments can command from $2,000 to $4,000 a square foot, haven’t slumped yet. Still, experts say the abrupt reversal of fortune in the desert, where the mainstream residential real estate and hotel markets are still quite healthy, shows just how quickly the odds can change in even the most affluent markets if runaway speculation and overzealous development take hold. “It’s another case of irrational exuberance,” says John Restrepo, head of a Las Vegas real estate and economic consulting firm. “There is a market for high-rise condo hotels here; but it’s not as deep as people thought it was. The days of the two guys from the East Coast or Canada coming into town and promoting a condo development with a website and a dream are over.”

Monday, January 23, 2006

Las Vegas Relocation

Better known through out time as "Sin City", Las Vegas is much more then that. With approximately *7800 residents a month moving here per month (*Source Nevada DMV) Las Vegas is a growing city with a thriving industry, tax breaks, schools, and hospitals sprouting up to support our increasing communities.
Relocating to Las Vegas can be frustrating and stressful especially if you don't know anyone and have never been here except to vacation. If you are thinking of relocating to our wonderful city, and are looking to purchase a home, please feel free to contact me, Steven Harless at (702) 217-1680 and I will be glad to talk to you about your relocation plans.

Just before your scheduled upcoming move, click on the links below
to get a head start on organizing your move and for helpful tips to relocate your family
to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Homes For Sale
Las Vegas Property Search
City Of Las Vegas - Relocate Your Family
Department of Motor Vehicles Nevada Power Company Southwest Gas Company Sprint Telephone Cox Communications Las Vegas Review-Journal

Our goal is always to exceed your expectations, and ensure a smooth process throughout your real estate transaction.

Steve Harless Realty Success Systems, Ltd.
"For Your Successful Real Estate Experience" Cell:702-217-1680
P.S. If you're not ready to meet in person, please tour through my website. I'm sure you'll find the resources here useful and helpful. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Spanish Palms reports high turnout at opening

Jan. 21, 2006
Spanish Palms reports high turnout at opening
The grand opening of the Spanish Palms condominium complex in the southwestern valley drew numerous visitors, according to project manager Brandon Schneider.
"We had more than 500 people come through the guard-gated entry last Sunday," Schneider said. "In fact, one guy lined up here at 2 a.m. so he could be the first buyer."

The project offers three floor plans: the one-bedroom, one-bath Cabana model, which measures 765 square feet; the Islander, a 1,050-square-foot home with two bedrooms and two baths; and the three-bedroom, two-bath Mediterranean floor plan, which is 1,120 square feet.
All homes come with travertine tile around the fireplaces, entries, baths, kitchens and laundry rooms, as well as raised-oak cabinetry, stainless-steel kitchen appliances, granite counter tops, upgraded lighting throughout, fireplaces and direct-access garages. A patio or balcony is also included.
"Two features that really blew away visitors were the fireplace and direct-access garage," Schneider said.
Prices start from the $170,000s.
Common areas include mature landscaping, picnic areas, a playground, basketball and volleyball courts, visitor parking spaces, a clubhouse and swimming pool. The clubhouse includes a fitness center, kitchen, party area, and business center with free Internet access and a fax. The swimming pool area features a barbecue pit, chaises, and a waterfall feature.
"The fitness center will be open 24 hours a day and features a flat-screen TV to make exercising a bit more bearable," Schneider said.
To visit, take the Las Vegas Beltway to Rainbow Boulevard and go north, past Hacienda Avenue, to the entry just south of Tropicana Avenue.
The sales office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Looking For A Dependable Real Estate Agent?

Call Steve Harless of Realty Success Systems, Ltd. - (702)217-1680
W Sahara Ste #100las vegas, NV 89117 visit: This site is a Las Vegas Real Estate online portal assisting homebuyers and sellers with the best selection of homes, hi rise condos,realtors and is owned and maintained by Las Vegas Real Estate Agent Steve Harless, Tel. is easy to use and updated everyday releasing the most reliable information available on the current LasVegas real estate market. Featuring new homes and condos inHenderson, Summerlin, Peccole Ranch, Green Valley, Anthem, MountainsEdge, Seven Hills, and Southern Highlands. *Click hereto add this website to your favorites Choose Steve Harless today to be your internet-savvy agent! The exceptional services I provideguarantee you and your family will have a cutting edge advantage in Las Vegas's ever changing market.Contact Steve Harless at 702-217-1680 to obtain in-depth informationregarding Las Vegas real estate, featured properties, new propertylistings, vacation condominiums, raw land, lots, vacant land, andnew developments in Las Vegas.Real Estate Agent Steve Harless 100%Commitment To ServiceSelling Your HomeLas Vegas RelocationMarketing /PromotionAdvertising/MLS ListingCurb Appeal/Open HouseFree Home Warranty (at successful COE)Buying Resale Homes Or CondosComparable PricesHome WarrantyLeading Lenders/Escrow OfficerFree Inspection (at successful COE)*Our dependable Team will be with you step by step. We focusdirectly on returning your phone call(s).Excellent Service, Outstanding Results!The CMS TEAM is an experienced group of Las Vegas Realtors that areready to help you in your relocation to Las Vegas. Steve Harless isa member of an elite team of top realtors and can help you today.Let's get together and talk about your home buying or selling plans.Contact the CMS Team now at 702-217-1680 to schedule anappointment. email: steve@viewlasvegasrealestate.comWe'll set-up a time that is easy and convenient for you. Our goal isalways to exceed your expectations, and ensure a smooth processthroughout your real estate transaction.P.S If you're not ready to contact us now, feel free to tour throughour website. I'm sure you'll find the resources here useful andhelpful. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

10 real estate deal-wreckers

MSN Real Estate 1/13/06
10 real estate deal-wreckers
Looking to buy or sell in 2006? A property expert offers 10 pitfalls for the unwary.

by Steve McLinden

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, the old proverb goes, so as the real estate market marks time before firing up again in the spring, it's a good time to mull over some of the more common things "not-to-do" to clear a trail for a happy home sale or purchase.
Here are my picks for 10 mistakes to avoid in 2006:
Not understanding the length of the buying/selling process. You know what happens when you make decisions based on optimism, time-on-the-market averages and generous promises from agents -- ye old Murphy's law kicks in. The home-selling process is often more extensive than you think, from the early planning stages to protracted negotiations to oft-delayed closings. Sellers can take months before they formally accept a buyer's offer. Financing can get held up, buyers have tough time selling their old house, rough edges discovered in the final walk-through must be smoothed, etc. Give yourself a couple extra months to complete the deal.
Exposing your hand. Never let love for a house cloud your vision. Try to contain your enthusiasm. Otherwise, the sellers and (or) their agent will know they've hooked a live one and assume you may forgive certain flaws because you know the place is right for you. You can scream "yes!" when you get back out in your car.
Skipping the loan preapproval step. For buyers, getting preapproved for a mortgage gives you a clear idea of how much you can safely borrow, plus it addresses credit-rating issues and kick-starts other financial paperwork. What's more, it identifies you as a serious buyer. Sellers with a hot property should demand nothing less than proof of preapproval from the potential buyer's financial institution. No sense in wasting time on time-wasters.
Assuming the appraisal equals actual value. In theory, appraisals are objective estimates of value. But several different appraisals can yield several different numbers. For example, an appraisal that's been done for a possible refinance may have been slightly inflated to encourage that refinance. So sellers, before you put your home on the market, have an agent do a comparative market analysis to better indicate the home's worth. And buyers, get similar "comps" from your agent. But realize the true value of a house is what someone is willing to pay for it.
Timing the bubble ‘burst.’ Thousands of apprehensive sellers and buyers have been playing this game since the late 1990s, trying to time their sale to either beat the "pop" and gain optimal profits, or to swoop in and pluck up cheap property after a burst. In almost all sections of the country, the bubble remains "intact." For the most part, real estate bubbles don't pop, they just slowly deflate and the market levels off then surges again in the near future. Always take the approach that real estate is a long-term investment.
Hiring the wrong agent. Buyers and sellers should interview several agents, small and large. Get references and success stories. You may not benefit by opting for an agency's top-volume seller. That top-producing agent may have listed 40 homes last year and sold 30, but another agent may have listed 15 and sold 14. Opting for a friend or family member who is an agent doesn't assure you of results either. It could cause a rift. And choosing the agent who suggests the highest listing price is not a recipe for success either -- nor is opting for the agent who charges the lowest commission. Remember the SEED qualities in an agent: smart, empathic, experienced and dedicated will usually get the job done right.
Missing the big picture. Opting for a dream house that will otherwise create negative quality-of-life challenges such as longer commutes, distant schools, limited access to services, higher taxes, more stringent deed restrictions, stricter homeowner associations and other chronic headache-makers can cause buyers to question their decisions after a few months. Make sure your that dream house is grounded in reality.
Not knowing what you're signing. The sales contract is a legally binding document. Review it as if your legal well-being is at stake. It should address all your concerns and the concerns of the other party, such as who will pay what for closing costs and repairs expenses. A poorly written or incomplete contract can cost you lots of time, money and emotional energy and tie up your deal for weeks or months. If there have been any verbal commitments, they should be put in writing. If you're not using an attorney, make sure your agent is proactive in the construction and interpretation of the contract before you sign it or make concessions.
Poor timing. How many stories have you heard about people drowning under the weight of two mortgages because they committed to a new house before selling their old one? The most important transaction in the "buying-one-and-selling-one scenario" is the sale. Sometimes, you have little choice in the matter, but when you do, secure the sale of the old house before signing on the dotted line for the new one. Sure, you hate to miss out on that rare find and you might have to find an interim rental, but that's better than spending time in financial limbo and biting your fingernails to the quick.
Not completing your due diligence with a criminal search. In many states, agents are not obliged to tell you if there is a sex offender or other unsavory resident in a neighborhood you're eyeing unless you ask. Do so. They tell you to do your own research. Do so. Check with your area law-enforcement agency about how to access sex-offender lists and other criminal data bases for this crucial information.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Las Vegas real estate - homes and condos

Las Vegas real estate - homes and condos - The quintessential Las Vegas real estate website featuring new homes and condos in Henderson, Summerlin, Peccole Ranch, Green Valley, Anthem, Mountains Edge, Seven Hills, and Southern Highlands. Call 702-217-1680 for more information.
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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Housing appreciation to cool to sustainable level

Housing appreciation to cool to sustainable level
2006 expected to be second-best in history for residential sales By JAMES M. WOODARD
No bubble-bursting is in sight for real estate sales. The new year is expected to be the second-best year in history for residential property sales, according to analysts at the National Association of Realtors.
"Home sales are coming down from the mountain peak, but they will level out at a high plateau, a plateau that is higher than previous peaks in the housing cycle," said David Lereah, the association's chief economist. "This transition to a more normal and balanced market is a good thing."

Even though mortgage rates have edged downward in recent weeks, they will generally trend upward during the year to about 6.6 percent for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, the association predicts.
Existing-home sales, expected to reach about 7.1 million units in 2005 when final figures are available, will probably decline this year, perhaps by about 3.7 percent to a volume of 6.84 million units.
New-home sales will be about 1.29 million units in 2005 and will probably drop by 4.8 percent to 1.23 million units this year. That would make it the second best on record.
"The housing market still is fundamentally healthy," said Dave Wilson, president of the National Association of Home Builders. "Many builders sense some tapering off of buyer demand because of resistance to high prices and rising interest rates, and many companies have begun offering certain incentives in order to maintain their sales and production."
Confidence of home builders during December slid from its summer peak, yet remained well within the positive range, according to NAHB.
"Housing has always been the soundest investment for most families. As the old saying goes, homeownership beats the heck out of a drawer full of rent receipts," said Thomas Stevens, president of the Realtors association.
"The national median home price has never declined since good record-keeping began in 1968. There can always be a temporary decline in a given area if jobs are weak and there is an oversupply of homes on the market, but people who stay in their homes for a normal period of homeownership generally see healthy returns over time. There are no guarantees, but there are very good odds."
The national median existing-home price for all types of housing increased by about 12.7 percent last year. That median price is expected to rise another 6.1 percent in 2006.
The home value bubble is strong and healthy, showing no signs of collapsing.
Title companies face accusations
Q. Is the battle still ongoing between title insurance companies and regulatory agencies?
A. The title insurance industry did indeed have a tough year in 2005. They faced a rising tide of accusations of abuses in the sale of title policies: overpricing, illegal kickbacks, etc.
John Garamendi, California's insurance commissioner, issued a scathing report on the industry.
Lawrence Green, executive vice president of the California Land Title Association, made a harsh rebuttal to the report.
"Contrary to the ridiculous and self-serving results from the Garamendi study, a recent examination of closing costs and rate comparisons indicates California has highly competitive title insurance rates. Title insurance rates in this state are below the national average and are significantly lower than comparable title insurance rates in other large states," Green said.
Affordable homes are in Iowa
Q. Where are the most affordable homes located?
A. I was surprised to learn that my home state of Iowa now offers some of the most affordable homes in the nation, particularly in Cedar Rapids and my hometown of Des Moines.
The prices are not down to the level my wife and I paid for our first home in Des Moines, $10,700, but compared with other areas nationwide, its home prices today are bargains.
The best bargains in the country are found in College Station, Texas, home of the Texas A&M Aggies. Home prices there are 20 percent under what history suggests they should be, given family incomes, mortgage rates and other factors, according to a study by Global Insight and National City Bank.
Regionally, the most affordable homes are in the Southeast, South and Midwest. As for the West, "You'd be hard-pressed to find a bargain anywhere in California, which is probably the most overvalued state in the union. Utah comes out best in this region on the value monitor with Salt Lake City, Provo and Ogden all looking fairly valued or even undervalued at today's prices," the study report said.
A survey by The PNC Financial Services Group Inc. reveals 22 percent of responding wealthy Americans report that real estate is their principal source of wealth.
Send inquiries to James M. Woodard, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190. Questions may be used in future columns; personal responses should not be expected.

Loss of an Icon a threat to market

Ripple effect feared as Related pulls out of its condo project
By Jennifer Shubinski <>Las Vegas Sun
While the Related Cos.' vaunted Icon towers will never cast a shadow over the Las Vegas Strip - their demise is casting a shadow of a different kind.
Related's surprising withdrawal from the project is making buyers of Las Vegas high-rise condos skittish and is giving investors some pause. Related confirmed Friday that it was scuttling its plans for Icon even though buyers had signed contracts for most of the 514 units in the two buildings.
Related Las Vegas, a partnership between Related Cos. in New York and Related Group in Miami, has long been viewed as a serious contender in the Las Vegas high-rise residential scene, a solid company with a strong record--unlike the many unproven developers who jumped into the market with big splashes only to withdraw later.
The failure of Icon also left hundreds of buyers angry and suspicious. They will get back their deposits, which reached as high as $80,000.
But those trusting enough to look elsewhere for a condo locally face higher prices than the ones they had locked in over the last year. They also say they think Related's true motive might be to kill this project and start another on the same land in hopes of getting higher prices.
"I don't even know what to think, I am very upset," said buyer Eli Verdnikov of San Francisco. "They've played a very dirty game; I think they'll come back in a year and resell."
Industry experts said the cancellation by one of the nation's largest developers will cast a pall over the valley's nascent high-rise community.
"The headlines are going to be that the Vegas condo market is collapsing, that Related is backing out and they are going to say 'uh oh'," said Richard Lee, a local land and development expert. "It makes people have the perception that the Las Vegas market is not as strong as it was. It's going to be more difficult."
Besides making potential buyers wary of Las Vegas, Related's decision also seems certain to make lenders more cautious.
"The lender community is going to become very conservative. They already are, but even more so," Lee said. "They're the ones that get chicken first."
Marty Burger, president of Related Las Vegas, said it was a painful decision to terminate the project. The company ultimately had no choice because of rising construction costs, he said. Other developers who have backed out have cited the same reason.
Related cited delays it said stemmed from a lawsuit filed last year by Lorenzo Doumani, who planned a high-rise tower nearby. Doumani claimed that Related's towers would conflict with his tower. That lawsuit was dropped after six months, but by then, prices for materials and labor had jumped significantly, Burger said.
Related's construction company, MJ Dean Construction, quoted prices so high that the project no longer penciled out, Burger said. Related officials would not be more specific.
Doumani's project also has yet to be built, and he has cited construction costs as the reason.
Construction and labor cost increases have been the bane of developers not only in Las Vegas, but nationwide.
Pat Warren, a partner in Boreman Development and a former vice president for Martin Harris, one of the valley's largest general contractors, said material costs have gone up at least 14 percent, with some materials up as much as 30 percent after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Labor is another issue. Warren said union carpenters start at $28 an hour - and they are in short supply. To woo them away from a casino project, which generally provide years of employment, a condo developer will have to offer wages above the going rate, he said.
Burger said the higher costs wiped out Related's profit. The options were to break the contracts and resell all of the units or cancel it all together, he said.
"We've had an increase in costs in every market we're dealing with. It's exacerbated in the Las Vegas market," Burger said. "One, the casinos are a different animal that we don't have in Miami, New York or Chicago. The subcontractors would rather do casino work.
"It's not easy in Las Vegas. It's a smaller market with a set number of union members and subcontractors, which is a larger barrier to entry."
Marty said he doesn't know what the company will do with the 4-acre parcel, for which Related paid $15 million just over a year ago. David Atwell, a resort broker who sold the parcel to Related, said the land is now worth at least $25 million.
"We're not land flippers; any piece of land we buy we buy to develop on," Burger said.
This isn't the first Las Vegas project from which Related has withdrawn. The company and Las Vegas parted ways in October after 10 months of negotiations over developing the city's prized 61-acres downtown.
Related remains committed to the World Market Center, a multiphase tradeshow complex dedicated to the furniture and design industry, Burger said. The company also said it plans to go forward with Las Ramblas, a $3 billion hotel, casino and condo project with Las Vegas-based Centra Properties and actor George Clooney.
But David Ezra, broker/owner of Ezra International Realty, said he thinks Related is underestimating the ripple effect of its decision on Icon.
"In the same breath they said they were sorry to our clients that bought (in Icon) and they said they'd still like us to put our clients in Las Ramblas," Ezra said. "If you can't build Icon on Convention Center Drive, which was a home run, how can you build Las Ramblas?"
Burger said he hopes that Las Ramblas will stand on its own.
"It was the market conditions. They were out of our control," he said. "The market burned Related, and that's what happened."
But real estate agents said the people who were really burned were those who signed up for Icon condos.
Verdnikov and Gity Stone were planning on selling their Bay Area home and retiring to Las Vegas in the next two years, taking up residence at Icon.
Verdnikov and Stone bought a 1,500-square-foot unit in February for $738,000. They took out a loan for the initial payments, planning to pay it off after they sold their San Francisco house.
Now the couple doesn't know what to do. Units of similar size along and near Las Vegas Boulevard cost $850,000 or more, which is out of their price range.
"We are in our mid-60s. We love Vegas," Verdnikov said. "We were planning to move there and retire."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Leading Indicators Have Now Turned: PIMCO

Leading Indicators Have Now Turned: PIMCO
Paul McCulley
at PIMCO had some thoughts on housing recently. "Q: PIMCO is following the U.S. housing market very closely, forming a research team and sending people around the country to observe regional markets for signs of a slowdown. What did the team have to say at the December Forum?""McCulley: Scott Simon, our mortgage guru, gave a special presentation..Their key conclusion is that the leading indicators of a slowdown in housing have clearly turned. Going back to September, the group identified the leading indicators but those indicators had not yet turned at that point. The leading indicators for the housing market have now turned and we anticipate that the market itself will be turning in the months immediately ahead.""One key indicator is that the inventory of unsold homes is rising, as former buyers are becoming sellers, trying to monetize their speculative gains. Price discounting in selective markets is a second leading indicator. And probably the most important indicator that we are seeing is a severe slowdown in the affordability associated with exotic mortgages. In fact, we’re now seeing layoffs by mortgage brokers who specialized in exotic mortgage creation.""A key characteristic of the property market is that it’s very momentum-driven. This is sometimes called a 'reflexive' market, meaning that people are more excited when prices go up even though there is less value, and less excited when prices go down even though there is more value.""Because of reflexivity, once momentum turns and home price appreciation slows, we should see a rather dramatic slowdown in volumes. Home prices don’t have to actually fall for you to have a sharp slowing in the volume of transactions. That is a key analytical aspect of our forecast that a slowdown in home price appreciation will have a bigger impact on the household’s ability to withdraw equity than the consensus probably thinks.""Q: In terms of specific sectors, has the latest cyclical outlook affected PIMCO’s positive view on mortgage-backed securities? McCulley: We are still very enthusiastic about the mortgage sector, which has cheapened up as the marketplace has responded to the flattening of the yield curve.""Q: Why did the European Central Bank (ECB) decide in December to raise interest rates for the first time in five years? McCulley:..essentially the ECB wants to rein in some of the froth that seems to be in the property market..The ECB doesn’t have the dual mandate of supporting growth and containing inflation that the Fed does, but rather only an inflation objective. And the ECB also is a bit more inclined to see and address bubbles in asset markets than the United States Federal Reserve is."

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year! Las Vegas Cruise Ship Style

Jan. 01, 2006
Welcome aboard, it's home
Las Vegas-based Orphalese Global Strategies dives into residence-at-sea business, plans cruise ship By NICK HALEY - REAL ESTATE WRITER
Don Allen found the best place to launch his new residential cruise ship company was in the Mojave Desert.
In addition to its more than 40 million visitors per year, Las Vegas hosts the largest proportion of second-home condominium owners in the nation -- the type of buyer who may be looking for the Next Biggest Thing in vacation homes: a condominium-like cabin aboard a self-contained luxury ocean liner that cruises continuously to interesting places and activities.

Although 240 miles by air from the nearest berth, the city also carries the international appeal that the Los Angeles-based Allen, chief executive officer of Orphalese Global Strategies, hopes will lead potential globe-trotters to his company's sales office, which is at a temporary location in the corporate offices of Avalar Real Estate, adjacent to Southern Highlands Hospital on Medical Center Street.
"Everyone wants a reason to come to Vegas," Allen said. "We could have opened it anywhere, so we put it where we knew people wanted to go anyway."
With the amenities and shopping of a world-class resort, gaming, permanent residences and cabins for rent -- not to mention an ambitious but untried business plan -- the 90,000-ton ocean liner that the new Nevada corporation plans to build (at a shipyard in Finland) fits the profile of many businesses that line the Strip. Only this one would take guests to events near the real Paris, Venice and Mandalay.
At a recent reception inside the Stirling Club at the Turnberry Place high-rise condominium complex, Allen and his executive team detailed the jet-setting lifestyle available to "residents" and guests aboard the proposed ship, the Orphalese, to an invitation-only audience.
The crux of the ship's lifestyle, as well as its main selling point, is its itinerary. Passengers, Allen said, can enjoy attending marquee events around the world such as the Cannes Film Festival, Irish Derby, Super Bowl, Daytona 500 or Dubai Gold Cup, without having to pack and re-pack or figure out their own travel plans. Heading to renowned events -- they plan to visit about two per week -- is the ship's raison d'etre.
Allen said the idea for the Orphalese came to him about five years ago, but was built upon years of reflection. Having taken many Caribbean cruises, he realized the enjoyment more often lay in the activities than the destinations.
"I love salsa dancing. I've gone on cruises where we did salsa dancing in every port and I can tell you: A palm tree in Bermuda looks just like a palm tree in Barbados," Allen said. "The Orphalese won't have the same port or the same activity. It's event-driven. We look at it this way: Where in the world is the most interesting place to be at the moment. We'll be in Cannes for the film festival. We'll be in Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls. We'll be in Rome for the opera, or in Japan for the Cherry Blossom Festival."
The main novelty, of course, are the "residences." Clients may one of 200 residential units, which feature separate amenities and access from the 265 traditional cabins. Floor plans range from 1,000 square feet with two bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths to a four-bedroom, 4 1/2-bath model measuring 3,900 square feet.
While not actually real estate -- units are considered personal property -- the ship's cabins are sold with the trappings of condominiums since potential customers best understand them in such terms. Allen contracted Las Vegas fine-homes realty agent Shirley Bailey to assemble a team to conduct sales through new realty office Avalar of the Seas.
As designed, the ship provides the amenities one would expect of a high-rise residential complex along the Strip, with a few extras. A private swimming pool, day spa, fitness facility and business center are planned for residents. The design also provides a practice green for golfers, an area for personal water craft, restaurants, two nightclubs, a movie theater, a performing arts theater and a casino. Most important, Allen emphasized, is a satellite connection.
"They're never cut off from the world," he said. "We're (going to be) in port most of the time anyway, but even at sea, with a satellite link there is 24-hour cell service with the same phone number, no matter where in the world they are.
"For people who work from home, this is no different from a house."
The Orphalese is not without a predecessor. Four years ago, Norwegian businessman Knut Kloster launched The World of ResidenSea, the first to offer cabins for sale aboard a cruise ship. While still operating, The World, whose captain resides in Henderson, encountered financial difficulties and requires residents to pay astronomical maintenance fees, more than $40,000 per month in some cases. From the outset, it was designed for the uber-rich.
Allen said the Orphalese has a different business plan and draws revenue from multiple sources, allowing it to charge residents considerably less. For the smallest unit, which costs about $1.8 million, the monthly fee is about $2,500, which includes meals and urgent medical care.
"For a lot of people, $2,500 a month is about what they spend anyway," Allen said. "When you think about your home expenses, association fees, eating out, travel ... you're pretty close to that figure already."
Operating expenses are supported through commercial ventures, such as an 80,000-square-foot mall managed by CB Richard Ellis. Merchants selling big-ticket items have access to markets where the ship docks. In addition, the scale of the ship -- it would have a displacement greater than some American aircraft carriers -- allows it to diffuse costs over more sources.
Unlike its predecessor, the Orphalese is less about travel than it is about being in the right place at the right time, according to Ron Estroff, itinerary director. Passengers may see the ports-of-call as they wish, however the schedule is set around premier events.
"Everything on board is event-driven. Basically, we're trying to be at an international event every four to five days," Estroff said. "Ship residents can take part or explore on their own. Businesses that are on the Orphalese would be available to sell at that particular port at that particular time."
Estroff plans to minimize down time by keeping residents excited about what comes next. Aside from the events themselves, he plans to bring experts aboard for discussions and demos pertinent to the next stop, or stars from the last one just to party.
"We could have one of the most fascinating accounts of sea battles and history of anyone. We could have the winners from awards presentations in Los Angeles on board for their post-show celebrations," Estroff said.
"Don (Allen) told me not to look for 'unique.' He wanted me to look for 'interesting.' The one thing we don't want to do is bore people, and we have plenty of options in case they don't have an interest in the main event."
Despite the nonstop travel, the Orphalese is akin to a vacation home, according to Bailey, who said she plans to promote the ship among yacht clubs as well.
"We've explored just about every type of land-based living environment. We've gone to the tops of mountains and into canyons in the desert. Where is there left for us to go?" Bailey said. "The Orphalese can be thought of as the ultimate second home: Any place in the world you would want to be, it would be there."
Target buyers are typically older, but are of any background. A unifying theme is a desire for travel.
"Travel is the biggest thing for retirees," she said.
If sales meet expectations, the Orphalese would begin its journey some time in 2008.
The seas may already be crowded by then. Rival companies are at work to build The Magellan, a vessel by an Arizona developer, and The Four Seasons, a ship named for the hotel chain that is behind it.