July 1, 2008

Whether you are looking for a second home, downsizing, or just a first time home buyer, condominiums and lofts are a fantastic choice.  Obviously, there are many lifestyle choices when choosing a home, but condominium living has much to offer.  Here are six things to consider before you go condo:

1 •  Lifestyle / Location
No doubt lifestyle and location are the biggest factors in condo ownership.  Resort style living has some great perks.  Lately, hotel like services are becoming more typical and are designed to make an owner feel as though they are on permenant vacation.  Also, most of the urban choices offered are located in the heart of the city and are usually within walking distance to numerous restaurants, shops, light rail, business centers, and the airport.  That's a good thing since living in a condo offers the opportunity for an owner to "lock and leave" without the worry found with a single family residence.
Condo living also means you will be part of a community that is usually much more tightly knit than a suburban subdivision.  Neighbors to the left, right, above and below may take some getting used to, but for most, the sense of camaraderie is well worth it.

2 •  Amenities
They are getting more elaborate: Meeting rooms with video hook-ups and wi-fi, rooftop pools and spas, large patios, real work out rooms, club houses and lounge/party rooms, and concierge services that arrange for everything from dry cleaning to Jet-Ski rentals.  Hayden Ferry Lakeside is equiped with a 10 seat theater.  But some of these amenities come with a price.  "What amenities do you want?  What amenities can you live without? asked real estate broker Tom Tokoph.  He lives and works in the Lofts at Orchidhouse in downtown Tempe, which has no extras.  He doesn't mind paying for a gym membership instead of having a gym in his building.  Things like that keep his home owners association fees low.  A 1 bedroom condo at the Orchidhouse with no amenities has an HOA fee of $285 per month whereas a one bedroom at Hayden Ferry Lakeside can be $800 per month.  The buyer really has to consider what amenities they will use on a regular basis.

3 •  Space and Storage
Condos come in all sizes, but cost per square foot is higher than for single family homes, so you'll pay more to spread out.
You can't be a clutter collector, Tokoph said, and think twice if you need to store ATV's, personal watercraft, kayaks and so on.  Most condos will charge extra for storage- if they even offer it. Otherwise, nearby storage facilites start at around $35 per month.  A small price to pay to have access to your large "toys".
Then again, a well-designed space with built in wardrobe closets and desks can feel roomier. "Nine hundred square feet of space in one unit and 900 square feet in another unit can feel completely different" said David Wallach of W Development.  You really have to watch out for wasted space.

4 •  Parking
Typically a 1 bedroom condo will come with 1 parking space, a 2 bedroom with 2 parking spaces and so on.  But don't be surprised to pay $30,000 extra for a parking space if needed at a high-rise.  And if you like to host parties, inspect the amount of guest parking space provided.  You may want to switch to more intimate dinners.  Also, look for available nearby street side parking or public garages and find out the cost.

5 •  Noise
Living in a downtown unit will naturally be noisier than in a sleepy suburb, but it is not like apartment living.  Today's newly built high-rises tend to be sturdier and more soundproof, thanks to acoustical studies.
If noise is an issue for you, open the windows to get a sense of the outside world noise.  Then close them again and see if the noise level is livable.  Tokoph, for one, loves it, particularly when he can see and hear fireworks over Tempe Town Lake or listen to the music playing at the Tempe Arts Festivals.  "If you open the windows, it's like we have a band in our house", he said.  "For the times when you need absolute silence, or if you are more sensitive to it earplugs are always a good option."

6 •  Investment
In general, condos do not appreciate as fast as single family homes, according to research by Arizona State University.  There are exceptions, but make sure to look into the number of units available in a given building and the prices.  More units on the market can mean lower prices and not as fast an appreciation.  However, that can be the best time to buy, Tokoph said, if you're in it for the long term.

(Adapted from Arizona Republic's "Vertical Space" by Geri Koeppel)

Would you like to live or work in Downtown Tempe?  Call an Urban Real Estate Broker who actually lives & works in Downtown Tempe!

Created by city people for city people, Urban Realty is ready to show you that  "life in the heart of the city!"

Tom Tokoph
Urban Living Broker

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