David Tufts

Tuesday, 27 April 2004 14:34

The condominium market is hot

As stocks continue the rise and fall trends of recent years, real estate remains a strong, viable investment. Many industry analysts are projecting 2004 to be an even better year to buy than 2003, which saw housing sales increase 9.5 percent over the previous year. Interest rates are low, buyers are more educated and developers are rising to the demand.

Developers know their audiences and what sells, and what's selling today includes convenient locations, fashionable in-town lifestyles and, of course, competitive price points. The popularity of buying and living in a condominium is growing among all generations, from baby boomers to second homeowners and entry-level buyers.

So what do you need to know when considering a condominium purchase?

Benefits of a shared-living environment

When you live in a single-family home, the interior and exterior maintenance of your property is completely your responsibility. Whether it is mowing the lawn or repairing the roof, you, as the homeowner, need to either do it yourself or pay an outside contractor.

This is not necessarily so in condominium living. You usually pay a monthly fee to your condominium association or property management company. It is their responsibility to maintain common areas (typically defined as "anything on the outside of the walls of a homeowner's unit"). The association will handle regular upkeep such as landscaping, exterior painting, and maintenance of lobbies, hallways and any recreational facilities. The fee often covers trash collection, as well.

Your responsibility will always be the interior of your individual unit -- whether it is a high-rise, townhome or loft. Every association offers slightly different amenities and services, so carefully read the condominium documents that pertain to your project.

The right condominium for your lifestyle

There all kinds of condominiums, from luxury high-rise buildings offering exemplary service to townhome or cluster homes that feel almost like a single-family home. It is important to talk to your real estate professional about choosing what fits your needs.

For example, if you are trying to keep the monthly fee to a minimum, look for a project with few recreational amenities and simple common areas. But if you enjoy tennis or swimming, easy access to those facilities may be important to you. Keep in mind that elevators, elegant lobbies, doormen, swimming pools and exercise rooms with high-quality equipment usually come with a maintenance cost.

Ask the right questions

It is important to review the condominium rules prior to making your purchase. Your real estate sales associate should obtain a copy of the condo association bylaws so you know and understand the rules and guidelines. For example, some associations do not allow pets over a certain size or have regulations about what can be placed on exterior walls or on the lawn.

In addition, obtain a copy of the certificate of insurance that summarizes the association's policy. Review it with your insurance agent or attorney so you know exactly what is covered. Don't forget that you will need to insure your personal items with a homeowner's policy.

What's hot

Many developers are building loft and condo properties in some of the key areas in Atlanta -- downtown, midtown, Buckhead and Virginia-Highland. The competition within the market means that developers are offering more for less.

What used to be considered an upgrade -- granite countertops, hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances -- now comes standard in many loft and condo homes. Buyers have the opportunity to purchase quality homes with extra features at reasonable prices.

The bottom line is that condos offer simplicity. In a competitive market like Atlanta, they come in all shapes and sizes, with varying amenities, upgrades and services. Industry analysts project interest rates will remain low and sales will remain high in 2004. These projections - combined with products that are better-suited to today's consumer and developers that offer more standard features than ever - indicate 2004 is shaping up to be a great time to buy a condominium.

David Tufts is executive vice president of Coldwell Banker The Condo Store, a division of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. He and his team provide turnkey on-site sales and marketing from concept to closing. The two resale offices feature sales associates trained in the nuances of condominium sales. The company has successfully marketed hundreds of new construction and conversion developments ranging from luxury high-rise to garden style communities. With more than 50 percent of the Atlanta condo market share, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage has expanded its operations for The Condo Store throughout Florida and to Boston. For more information, call (404) 705-1570 or visit condostore.com or ColdwellBankerAtlanta.com