How to stalk the right in-town condo

May 23, 2009

Are you interested in buying a condo-apartment in a popular city neighborhood just a short walk from cultural lures, gourmet restaurants, high-quality mass transit and possibly even your workplace? Also, are you convinced that now could be a good time to acquire a dream condo at a bargain price?

If so, you're hardly alone, according to Abraham Tieh, a real estate broker and former president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents ( He reports burgeoning interest in city living among young professionals as well as empty nesters.

No matter how low the price, Tieh contends it could be a "roll of the dice" to choose a building with a lot of unsold units.

Here are a few pointers for would-be condo purchasers:

o Take full advantage of the buyer's market when making your choice.

When Nash recently shopped for an urban condo, he had an array of buildings from which to choose. To make sure he selected well, he did a thorough comparison of his options before committing to buy a unit.


Nash encourages condo buyers to avoid any complex with more than 500 units, though.

After several weeks of condo-hunting, Nash picked a building with just 44 units, the "perfect size" for him.

o Look for proximity to amenities.

One of the pleasures of city living, especially in a revitalized urban community, is that you could find yourself within walking distance of many desirable neighborhood attractions.

Folks approaching retirement or older are often drawn to the theater and music venues found in lively cities, while young professionals like the city's entertainment options, including clubs and restaurants, Tieh says.

But in choosing a city condo, don't overlook such basic amenities as close access to shopping, especially to a supermarket, along with a good drugstore.

And because no one knows for sure how soon the real estate rebound will occur, Nash says you should expect to hold the condo you buy in 2009 for at least three to five years.

o Shop for a building of the right age.

Granted, some older city buildings that were converted from rental units to condos can be elegant. However, as Tieh says, structures more than 15 years old are prone to developing major capital needs; younger structures are more likely to have the kind of soundproofing that comes with contemporary construction standards, a definite plus for apartment dwellers' quality of life.

However, Tieh says that buying a unit in a building less than five years old could be a mistake.

"I would be particularly wary of a nearly new complex where few units have sold or where many are already owned by investors who are renting them out," he says. "Investors have less at stake than owner-occupants. If the condo project doesn't do well, they might just walk away from their ownership there."

o Don't overlook parking.

People drawn to urban living imagine a lifestyle more reliant on public transportation than on cars - the way many Europeans live. But even in the most dynamic city centers in the U.S., most residents like to have access to their own cars.

Nash says it's unwise to purchase a unit in any building that doesn't allow you at least one parking space for each driver in your household. Ideally, the complex should also provide parking for your guests or have arrangements in place for valet parking.

Copyright 2009 Ellen James Martin

The Herald-Mail Articles