Loft and Condo living often elicits images of carefree weekends sitting beside the pool rather than sweating as you push the lawn mower around yet again. However, as you consider purchasing a loft or condo, there are some pros and cons you should consider. Here are some thought on the subject:
1. The Lifestyle Itself: One of the biggest advantages of condo living can also become a disadvantage. The sense of community, amenities and other features that originally attracted you to a community may change as your needs and desires change. Make sure you select a condo that will meet your needs for a good period of time and one that truly reflects a lifestyle you will love. Although no one has a crystal ball, I can tell you that many of the lofts or condos I show to clients have a baby’s bassinette shoved into some corner. At that point you pretty much know why they are selling the unit. Many of Denver’s lofts and condos can be wonderful homes for children, as they are close to parks, do have a pool and the parents may have more time to spend with their children due to shorter commutes and less property maintenance. However if starting a family is on the potential horizon, we would suggest that a 2 bedroom with a bath tub would be a logical choice and you might want to evaluate the schools and daycare options in the area.
2. Shared Responsibility, Rules & Regulations: A condo association establishes many rules and regulations - typically by majority vote. Likewise, maintenance and repair costs are also shared by members. Things can get dicey when individual members are at odds with the majority. Examine your willingness to abide by rules, regulations and associated expenses to be adopted by the community. Further, make sure you review the condo declarations, covenants and restriction to make sure they are right for you. If you have pets or plan on having them, you will want to make sure they are allowed. Reviewing the meeting minutes is very important as you should be able to pick up on any issues in the community. We would also suggest you speak with a few of the residents to see what they say about the building/community. Finally, putting a call into the president of the association and having a conversation is highly recommended. In Denver as a general rule, pets in loft/condo projects are not a problem with most buildings allowing 2-3 pets per unit. Exclusions sometimes involve having pets such as snakes that might be able to make a run for it only to give a neighbor cardiac arrest. If you don’t do your due diligence you might also run into problems with even interior changes to the unit. Recently when reviewing the condo declarations for a client I discovered that he would not be able to put in the hardwood floors he had planned to install after closing. The building’s sound transference between floors had caused problems and in fact several hardwood floor installations had been removed at the owner’s expense due to this problem. Thus, avoid suprizes and really do your research on this front when buying a loft or condo in Denver.
3. Privacy and Autonomy: In some instances, condo living can offer less space and individual autonomy. To make the most of condo living it's essential for residents to remain involved in the decisions and activities of the community. Those with a need for privacy and autonomy may feel more comfortable with single-family homes or other housing alternatives. The flip side of this is that many people make friends and expand their social network through loft and condo living. You will find residents at the pool or in the courtyard who are grilling and are more than happy to have you share in the food and beverage. These relationships can result in a community that is safer and more enjoyable for everyone as your fellow loft/condo dwellers become valued neighbors. Every loft and condo complex has its own culture and building architecture has a lot to do with the amount of privacy or community that develops over time. Think “Melrose Place”, in that T.V. show the building had a shard open courtyard and a pool. This style of building will result in residents really getting to know each other and if you are looking to avoid the casual conversations with your neighbors as you come and go, this type of condo might not be for you. You see a lot of examples of these types of buildings as it was a common design in the 1960 in the central Denver neighborhoods. The luxury hi-rise loft building in Denver such as the Glass House, Spire, Beauvallon and Pinnacle all also promote community with their pools, 24 hour front desks, theater rooms, community grills, gyms and other common areas for residents to gather. The Glass House takes it a step further with a continental breakfast for residence served on Friday, Saturday’s and Sunday’s. These offer a great opportunity to get to know fellow residents.
4. Still a Need for Repairs: Many major repairs and maintenance items are taken care of by condo associations, but not all, so condo owners aren't completely off the hook. Condo owners should set aside a little time to take care of routine repairs and interior maintenance on their units. Further, when buying a loft or condo it is critical to evaluate the association’s reserves. The larger the complex, the more money you need to see on the balance sheet of the HOA for exterior maintenance such as painting, roof replacement, elevator repairs and such. If you don’t review this you may move in only to find that a “special assessment” is on the horizon as the funds to update common areas or replace a boiler are insufficient. Even if you are buying new construction there are risks. You might think that because it is a new loft/condo building that you are safe from unexpected expenses, however Denver has a history of several buildings having defects that caused owners hardship. For instance, the Beauvallon is one of the notable and notorious examples in Denver (Denver Post: “Suit Hurts Beavallon Condo Sales”). You can see it currently wrapped up like a giant Christmas gift as all the stucco exterior is replaced and balconies repaired. This project was a long time in the coming as the defects were discovered well after all the units had been sold and residents moved in. Litigation between the HOA and the developer took many years and this process drove up HOA fees and made it very difficult to the owners to sell their lofts/condos in the building. This is just one example and again points to the fact that due diligence is important when jumping into loft and condo market. We don’t want to discourage people from owning lofts and condos as risks such as these also exist in single family homes that can have structural problem over time and 100% of the costs associated with repairs fall on owner. Again this is a situation with loft and condo ownership that has its pros and cons.
Finally, each loft or condo building in the Denver area has a history. Picking an experienced Realtor that has knowledge of past or present problems and building reputations is important. Not only will a good Realtor know the history, but they will be able to tell you the right asking price and market value of the property. Good agents do more to protect a consumer from over paying than any appraisal ever will. Further, although a loft or condo may be right for you, an agent who specializes in the loft and condo market will help you understand future value for your investment. Factors such as the price per square foot in the building for different styles/floor plans, strength of the HOA, laundry in the unit, having a balcony, an elevator, reserved parking, area amenities and other factors will be very important in the potential appreciation of the unit. The pros and cons aside, a loft or condo can be a wonderful home! Many of Denver’s downtown dwellers would never trade their walk to work, morning stroll to the coffee shop, or their access to restaurants just outside their front door. I have many clients who don’t even own a car and are proud or their green lifestyle. The simplicity of the lifestyle has tremendous appeal and is envied by those who spend a good portion of their day sitting on I-25. We would love to help you determine if the lifestyle could be right for you and if so, help you find the perfect loft or condo to call home. Just shoot us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will set us a time to meet at our office in Lo-Hi. From there we will roll up our sleeves and get to work for you.
John Stegner & Brian Lehnerz
New Era Realty
“Your Denver Loft & Condo Experts”