used to be about the only reason anyone considered moving to a condo. It
was the option of choice for empty-nesters tired of cutting the grass,
raking the leaves and shoveling snow. Today the market is no longer
limited to retirees. Young couples, families and people of all shapes
and sizes are joining the condo craze. But is it right for you?
According to Mary
Beth Gaspar-Waite of Metro Condo Connections, today’s buyer,
"represents a buffet of different age ranges and geographic
origins. They are young people buying their first property, couples with
children who celebrate city life and all the culture that is just a
quick stroller walk away. There are corporate executives relocating to
Milwaukee and families with kids that have left for college. The beauty
of the condo market today is that we have diversity in the buying
Before moving into
her condo, Heidi Stoltenburg lived in a four-bedroom home in Oconomowoc.
Now in the Beerline area of the city, Stoltenburg says location has been
the biggest bonus of moving to her two-bedroom condo. "We have so
many places within walking distance and just love to get out, walk the
area and stop at all of the local businesses," she says.
Maureen Michaels owned a four-bedroom home in Delafield for 15 years.
Once the kids left home, the couple moved to a condo in the Third Ward.
Today they are on their third unit, a 3,500-square-foot condo with a
boat slip on the Milwaukee River. "The location is great but we
also enjoy the feeling of a close-knit community that can be possible
with condo associations. And we love the flexibility to just lock the
door behind us when we want to travel and not worry about cutting grass,
leaves, snow shoveling and other fun activities that come with
traditional home ownership."
One of the new
wave of condo buyers, Rachel and Jerome Vogedes moved from a
single-family house on Wind Lake to a condo in the Third Ward. "We
were finding ourselves driving everywhere and going out in the city
anyway. Why not live where we work and play?" Jerome Vogedes asks.
With a baby on the way and in need of more space, they are now living in
their second condo, this one a 1,865-square-foot unit on Milwaukee’s
Lower East Side. "It’s a great location and a relatively quiet
neighborhood, yet it’s still close to all the action. We can easily
walk to the lake, parks, grocery store, dry cleaners, restaurants, etc.
Plus, our building has a nice exercise room and community/party room so
there is no need for a gym membership," he says.
What are the
hot-ticket items these and other buyers are demanding? "Condo
buyers want their units to be in pristine condition so they can move
right in without having to do too many updates," says Lauren Siegel
of First Weber Group. "The buyers I work with want terraces,
windows that open, high-end appliances and heated underground
Before you sell
the lawn mower, there are some things you need to know. Unlike buying a
single-family home, condo buying comes with its own set of rules.
Richard Ruvin of Circle Realty says it is important that a potential
buyer find out if the building is well-managed and financially sound.
"Speak with current residents, review the financials, interview the
property manager and hire a competent Realtor familiar with
condos," he says. "It is important to find out if there are
there any deadbeat owners who are not paying their dues," adds
Nancy Meeks of Shorewest Realty.
recommends reviewing two years’ worth of association budgets, the
bylaws and the rules and regulations determining how a condo can be
used, and any limitations about pets and or renting. "Read the
association meeting minutes. Reviewing several months’ worth of
meetings will give you a sense of what they have been working on in the
building and what is planned for the future," she adds.
Unlike a private
home, condos come with fees. Typically, there are monthly dues, which
are charged either per unit or by the square footage of the
condo. In some cases there is also an annual insurance coverage
For this money the
owner should expect basic services like water and sewer, trash removal,
maintenance and repairs on the common areas, landscaping, snow removal
and the windows washed several times a year. Some fees include heat and
cable, and some luxury buildings may provide security
and even concierge services. A properly managed condo will also put
a portion of each monthly condo fee in a reserve fund for any future
major building improvements.
this is a good time to buy. "New condo construction was curtailed
after the economic compression and prices are rising rapidly downtown in
the best constructed buildings because we have limited supply. With
no new condo projects coming out of the gate anytime soon, we will see
continued escalation of prices."
agrees. "First and foremost, as in all real estate, we have no
crystal ball to determine the future market conditions. However, general
market conditions have improved over the last 18 months. Currently,
in the downtown condo market, there is a six-and-a-half month
supply versus a 12-month supply a year ago."
Meeks notes this
is the easiest time of year to sell condos. "When homeowners are
cleaning out their gardens, raking leaves, cleaning gutters and getting
the storm windows on, condo owners are biking through Door County. Not
to mention what happens when the snow flies," she says.