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High-rise living

It’s a question that comes up for anyone who’s looking to buy a house, should I buy a condo instead? Condo living has become increasingly popular in the last few years, and with all the high-rises going up in Houston it’s not hard to see why. They offer an exciting lifestyle, including luxury amenities not available in most single-family homes. Many condos offer gated or locked entries, doormen, concierge or even security professionals for residents. If you live alone, or security is a concern for you, this can be a major perk especially if you travel often. Condominiums also eliminate the maintenance you might not have the time, desire or ability to tackle. Here are a few pros and cons to consider when deciding if living in a high-rise is right for you! For a personal consultation please contact me and I will be happy to discuss this with you based on your personal situation.

Amenities:  One of the great benefits of high-rise living is use of the buildings common amenities.  These can range from typical pool and workout room to 24-hour valet, wine cellars and roof-top club rooms.  Of course the more extravagant amenities typically come with higher HOA dues.  Tell your agent up front what’s important to you so that you can concentrate on relevant buildings where you’ll have exactly what’s right for you.

Parking:  Most condos will come with assigned parking in a common garage.  How many spaces are included depends on how many the original (or subsequent) owner purchased with the unit. The number of spaces has a great impact on the value of the condo. If you need additional parking you may purchase or lease as they come available so be sure to let your agent know as she can check on this for you! Also be sure the building has adequate visitor parking for your needs.  If your friends have to hunt for a spot and feed a meter they may not want to visit as often.

Renovations:  Are you hoping to find a condo that needs a renovation?  Are you a “do-it-yourselfer?”  If so you could save time, money and heartache by sitting down the building’s manager for a frank discussion about your intentions.  Some buildings only allow repairs by licensed contractors (remember this is a community and your poor repairs could affect other people).  Most buildings restrict the hours allowed for repairs to weekdays only, with no work allowed in the evenings or on weekends.  So if you work normal hours when would you do the renovations?

HOA Dues:  The dues are paid monthly to the association to cover the upkeep, staff payroll, insurance, reserves and repairs for the building.  These fees will vary greatly depending on factors such as the age of the building, the number of residents to share the costs, what’s included in the charge (some buildings include electricity or water), and the luxury amenities offered.  Before you let HOA dues keep you from buying a high-rise, do an “apples to apples” comparison with your current expenses.  For instance, if you’re in a home now and considering a high-rise, calculate what you spend each month on insurance, maintenance, repairs, lawn care, pool care, trash pickup, utilities (if included), gym membership, etc.  That should give you a better understanding of how HOA dues may replace, and not add to, your current expenses.

Pets:  Many buildings allow common domestic pets with some size restrictions, but nothing exotic (you don’t really want a python loose in a 50-story tower). If you have a dog, be sure that the building has adequate green space nearby. You may want to inquire if they have a dark park for larger dogs to rome freely.  It may seem like three or four blocks to the nearest lawn isn’t far right now but may seem like miles on a cold, rainy January morning.  Also depending on the allotted time you have to take your dog outside this could play a crucial part in your decision.

Storage:  Are you a packrat?  Is your garage filled with items that you just can’t part with?  Keep in mind that space is at a premium in high-rise condos.  In fact your monthly HOA dues will most likely be based on the square footage of your condo, so do you really want to be paying a monthly fee for space that’s just collecting junk?  There is a freedom that comes with simplifying and getting rid of baggage, and nothing will expedite that process like moving into a high-rise condo!  Most buildings have some sort of extra storage available for a price, or there may be one already paid for and included with some units.  Be sure to ask about this when looking.

Lease Units:  If you decide to buy a condo as an investment or if you are looking to move and keep the property there are more restrictions around leasing out your unit in a high-rise than there are with a typical home.  Some buildings forbid lease units, some limit them, and others may require that a potential tenant be approved by the condo board.  Be sure you know the building’s policies before you move in and find out that you’re not able to lease your condo out should you need to.

Reserve Funds:  It’s important to find out what’s going on with the building association.  Are the owners selling because they know of an impending special assessment?  Is the association’s reserve fund adequate?  Each building holds regular board meetings in which financial, maintenance and legal issues are discussed and acted upon.  Review the minutes from the meetings over the past year to see if there have been any recurring issues that don’t seem to be cured (such as security breaches, leak roofs, plumbing issues, etc.).