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Miami Condo Crash and the BS Watch

Just how dismal is the city’s condo market? Well, if last week’s Platinum Condo auction was any indication, a bloodbath is in the making. The auction, which was held in a ballroom at the Biscayne Marriott, drew a few hundred people, mostly curious people who wanted to see how low the no-reserve condos would sell for.

The answer: $160,000 for a one-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath. Let’s put that into perspective: Two similar units in the same building sold a few months ago for about $260,000. Another two-bed, two-bath was auctioned for $295,000; a similar unit sold earlier this year for as much as $500,000. Ouch.

Wrote Lucas Lechuga, a local real estate broker who pens the Miami Condo Investments blog: “If tonight was any indication of what lies ahead, then the Miami condo market is in forbs.jpg a rude awakening. Miami condo developers are in for a sleepless night if word about tonight’s auction reaches them before bedtime.”

But the best part of the auction wasn’t the prices. It was sitting next to Joey Skaggs, a heavily bearded, long-haired guy dressed entirely in denim and cowboy boots. He was from Hawaii, and was there only to accompany friends, not to buy a condo. I asked him what he did for a living. “I’m an artist and prankster,” he replied. “I’ve been called the godfather of the media prank.”

Turns out that since the mid-Sixties, Skaggs has duped the media into believing his phenomenal (and hilarious) pranks. In 2000 he “announced” the creation of “The Final Curtain,” a Disney-like memorial theme park and cemetery. In 1992 he “leaked” a (fake) letter from then-New York City Mayor David Dinkins, saying Dinkins was selling the Brooklyn Bridge via a lottery. Skaggs has also sold a bit of real estate himself: He created Fish Condos, which are elaborately designed aquariums for “upwardly mobile guppies.”

Skaggs leaned over and held out his wrist to show me his latest creative endeavor: the Universal Bullshit Detector. It looks like a watch, with a little cartoon bull on the face and a pile of crap where the number six should be. “It flashes, moos, and shits,” whispered Skaggs. He was nearly drowned out by the auctioneer, who was desperately trying to get folks to start the bidding at $300,000 for a one-bedroom condo.

He pressed a button on the side of the watch. It flashed a red light and made a loud mooooo. “Everyone should have a bullshit detector,” Skaggs said, grinning.

I giggled in agreement. Especially, I thought, in this city. Tamara Lush

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