Last Amend­ment

You Vill Conform!

Slippery Sell

Kim Milligan was stoked when he saw the exact same car he had been looking for, a 1999 Mercedes C230 sedan, advertised on cars.com. It was the "DEAL OF THE MONTH!" at $7,997. Milligan had been shopping around, so he knew that this offer by Miramar Master Cars, doing business as Payless Car Sales, was $2,000 below the going rate.

Milligan says he called to see if the car was available before flying down from North Carolina the next day and was told it was. But when he got to Fort Lauderdale, he was informed the Mercedes had been sold the day before. He says that General Manager Greg Frye "started pitching me terrible cars: a Jaguar with cracked windows, an Audi with 100,000 miles on it." Milligan had already sprung for a hotel and a cab, which, along with a return flight, left him about $600 lighter.

Later that week, he says, he logged back on to cars.com and saw the Benz still being advertised. Using a pseudonym, he called. He says the salesman told him it was available: "When can you come in and look at it?"

This angered Milligan enough to file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office, which promised to look into the matter. But there's not much anyone can do, says Ann Nucatola at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Miramar Master Cars is licensed, she says, and there's only one other, unrelated complaint against it. Milligan paid no money to the dealer, so his only recourse, she says, would be to "get a lawyer and sue."

Master Cars' Frye says the car was available when Milligan called. But it sold online, and the buyer wired the money. Milligan "should have put a deposit down," Frey says.

When Milligan arrived, he stayed on the lot for five hours — and never found what he wanted: a luxury-brand car for under $10,000. "I said, 'You're just hard to please, man,' " Frye recalls. He adds that Milligan was equally picky about sleeping quarters — a salesman gave him a lift to find a hotel, and they went to three before finding one satisfactory to Milligan.

Frye says that his website gets updated when cars go in and out of stock, so he can't believe an employee would have told Milligan the car was available after it sold.

Really? So why is it still listed now — two weeks later?

"Oh," Frye explains. The buyer found a problem with a sensor, so Frye took the car back and refunded the buyer's money. So there is a car for sale after all, Frye says. "It's called 'Nightmare Car.' "

Tailpipe prefers "Wet Bar of Soap."

Slumporama

Life in a high-end condo on Hollywood Beach is supposed to be easy and breezy, sí, compadre? But Joe Cimino found himself lugging a window-unit air conditioner up to his pad in the Tides the other day. "The [central] A/C is costing $40,000 to repair," he cried. "It was supposedly brand-new."

That's not the only gripe that Cimino, board director of the condo association, has against MCZ Centrum, a joint venture between two companies that developed the Tides and sold off units during a condo conversion in 2004. The association is suing the developer because "they were supposed to do a lot of things." A beach club that was promised never materialized, he says, and problems have arisen with windows, a high-tech electronic key system, and the pool pumps. Insurance premiums have doubled, Cimino says, and taxes have risen since he moved in.

Although calls to MCZ Centrum were not returned by press time, part of the issue, it seems, is the slow real estate market, symbolized by the many empty nests in the Tides' two buildings. Of 722 units, at least 180 are for sale. A recent analysis of data by the Daily Business Review showed that the Tides is the second-most-foreclosed-upon condo in Florida. (The first is Jade at Brickell Bay in Miami.) Residents aren't paying maintenance fees when they can't even make the mortgage.

Wasn't it just a year or so ago that investors were buying up condos like hot popcorn at a matinee?

It's the latest. It's the newest. It's the condo slump blues.

Cimino says maintenance fees should be just a drop in the bucket for MCZ Centrum, which runs at least 23 residential properties, plus commercial buildings, in Florida, Missouri, and Chicago. The Tides' residents, he says, could take matters into their own hands and recoup some costs — if they had the rights to the roof and could rent out the space for a cell phone tower. But MCZ won't let them.

Cimino has no desire to move. Despite his quibbles, "It's a great property, right on the beach." Besides, he's into the place for a couple of hundred grand. He hopes to work something out when lawyers for the two sides meet later this month. A realtor himself, Cimino notes that what's bad for owners can be good for renters. "For $1,200 you can get a one-bedroom that includes electric, basic cable, and a parking space."

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