Friday, August 10, 2012

What to expect with condo living

I've never lived anywhere longer than 3 years. It's amazing considering I lived my whole life in the same town until going away to college. I've mostly lived in houses, but for the last 2 years it was condos. After living in both I'd thought I'd share my experience for those who may be considering moving to a more urban environment.

First, I lived in a 50's building in a third floor walk-up one block away from a busy street in an urban area in a major US city. The bedroom was on the street side - not the best floorplan. You could hear a woman in high heels coming from a block away. Granted, it was the thin windows that caused so much noise to get through, but I was surprised at how much. The good news, though, is that it had to be fairly close to the building to hear it. A one block radius was all you could really hear, and that goes for fire trucks, too.

But the noise was worth it to be able to walk to the myriad of restaurants, shops, and grocers that were within 3 blocks of where I lived. There was only parking for one car, so the other had to fight for space on the street. Yet it was worth it to be in that part of town.

In real estate, I've learned that there are 3 things that most people want. In reality, you can really only have 2 at a time. Typically one of them will have to be sacrificed. They are:
- Price
- Location
- Quality
If you want the convenience of living close to town, you have to pay the price. If you can't pay the price then you lose quality to be in a good location. If you want quality combined with the location, you'll have to pay the price.

The next condo I lived in was in a high rise building in the heart of downtown Raleigh. After being so close to the street, I thought for sure that being so high would stop all the noise. Not so. Being higher was even louder. How? You could hear noises for more than a block away. Try at least 10 blocks! There is nothing to block the sound waves. No other building in the way. Noise bounces of walls of buildings and climbs high. I'm sure an engineer could explain it better, but I lived it, so I don't need to get technical. It happens.

But that was the only negative to the high rise. The views were outstanding. The people who lived there were friendly and outgoing. The security was top notch. Location could not be beat.

Then I moved again. During the transition I ended up staying with a friend in a new, low-rise, condo building only two blocks from where I had lived in the high rise. The building combined the low-rise of the 3rd floor I had previously lived in with the new construction amenities of the high-rise to form the ultimate in urban living. It was quiet, yet in the same part of town as the high-rise. I could only hear things a block away, but even that was muffled because of the newer construction. I could hear neighbors, but not nearly as much as before.

Where is this building I speak of that blends the best of both worlds? It's Palladium Plaza. I think it's one of the best buildings in Downtown Raleigh. I spent a week there with my friend and am convinced of its value even more. For me, well, I'm a hippie at heart and really need a yard, so I'm back to a house that's 2 blocks from everything I need. But I'm so glad that I was able to experience condo life, even if just for a few years.

For both buildings, a few things were true:
- Neighbors - You're going to hear your immediate neighbors come home. You will hear the door shut. You may hear the elevator. You will hear talking in the hallway as people walk past your door. In newer construction buildings, it should end there. I never heard my neighbors watching TV, talking etc. Most buildings are not loud - it's usually bad neighbors that are problems.
- Parking - Parking decks are common in almost all condo buildings. You will probably not be able to park at your front door.
- Electrical components - Almost all condos have some type of security device or other electronics, even elevators, that may break from time to time. This is part of condo life.

So that's it.  What did I miss?  Share your story in the comments below.