Is a High Rise Condo Right For You?

How-Tos and Advice

High-rise condominiums offer an exciting lifestyle and luxury amenities that aren’t available in most single-family homes. At the same time, a high-rise condo doesn’t require many of the typical maintenance and chores that come with standard homes. Sounds like a win-win, right? It certainly is, but the question is whether or not a high rise is the right fit for your lifestyle.

If you contact an agent in your city, they’d be happy to help discuss your individual situation. In the meantime, here are a few pros and cons to consider when deciding if living in a high-rise is right for you.

Storage: Are you a packrat? Is your garage filled with items from the 70’s that you just can’t part with? Space is a premium in high-rise condos. In fact, your monthly HOA dues will most likely be based on the square footage of your condo. Do you really want to be paying a monthly fee for space that’s just housing junk? However, this is actually a positive element of high-rise living for some. There is a certain freedom that comes with simplifying and getting rid of baggage, and nothing will expedite that process like moving into a high-rise condo. If you do have a lot of stuff, most buildings offer additional storage for a fee. Other listings might come with storage included. It’s a good idea to ask about storage options when perusing high-rise units.

Pets: Many buildings allow common domestic pets with some size restrictions, but nothing exotic — no one wants a python loose somewhere in a 50-story tower. If you’re pet-averse, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a building that is pet-free or, at the very least, large-dog-free. If you have a dog, you’ll probably want to be sure that the building has adequate green space nearby. It might seem like a three- or four-block walk to a park isn’t far right now, but the same distance can seem like miles on a cold January morning.

Noise: Because a condo tower is a community, there are often rules designed to keep everyone happy and one of the strictest is typically noise control. Most condo buildings have a “quiet period” from mid-evening to early morning during which residents have to keep noise down. Consider your personal schedule. Do you work late and then like to listen to music to unwind? Do you sleep days and work nights? This could be a problem as most construction takes place during weekdays and sometimes can be heard throughout the building. Home theaters are very popular now too, so if you just spend $30,000 on the latest and greatest, you might want to buy headphones.

HOA Dues: Dues are a common point of contention for high-rise buyers. Dues are paid monthly to the association to cover everything from the building’s upkeep to paying its staff. The fees vary greatly depending on factors like the age of the building, the number of residents who share the costs, what’s included in the fee (some buildings include electricity payments in HOA fees), 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 moving to a high-rise, calculate what you spend each month on insurance, maintenance, repairs, lawn care, pool care, trash pickup, utilities, gym memberships, and the like. That should give you a better understanding of how HOA dues might actually replace rather than add to your current expenses.

Leasing: There are typically more restrictions around leasing out your unit in a high-rise building than there are when you own a traditional home. Some buildings forbid residents from leasing their units, some limit the number of units that can be leased at any given time, and others may require that a potential tenant be approved by the condo board. Be sure you know the building’s policies beforehand instead of moving in and finding out after the fact that you’re not able to lease your unit like you wanted to.

Amenities: One of the great benefits of high-rise living access to the building’s amenities. These can range from the typical pool and workout room set up to 24-hour valet, wine cellars, and roof-top club rooms. Of course, more extravagant amenities typically mean higher HOA dues. When looking, tell your agent up front what’s important to you so that you can concentrate on relevant buildings that have everything you need, and nothing you don’t.

Parking: Most condos will come with assigned parking in a shared garage. The number of spaces included with your unit depends on how many the original (or subsequent) owner purchased with the unit. The number of parking spaces included has a major impact on the value of a condo unit. For instance, a one-bedroom condo with two parking spaces in a busy district would be a great find. Some buildings allow you to purchase or lease additional spaces, just ask the building’s manager for more information. Also, be sure that your potential building has adequate visitor parking for your needs. If your friends have to hunt for a spot or feed a meter they may not want to visit as often — which could be a pro or a con!

Renovations: Are you hoping to find a condo that you can renovate? If so, you could save time, money, and heartache by sitting down with the building’s manager for a frank discussion about your intentions. Some buildings only allow repairs by licensed contractors since one unit’s poor repairs can affect other people. Most buildings restrict repairs to weekdays only, so if you work traditional hours when would you do the renovations?

Reserve Funds: It’s important to find out what’s going on with the building association when it comes to a sale. Are the owners selling because they know of an impending special assessment? Is the association’s reserve fund inadequate? Each building holds regular board meetings in which financial, maintenance, and legal issues are discussed, so you can review minutes from past meetings to look for recurring issues.

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