There’s so much to recommend about condominium living in the Carolinas. In addition to the usual reasons for living here – mild weather, low tax base, four seasons, mountains and ocean – condominiums mean convenience and freedom.
When you talk with those who’ve made this choice – at least those who used to live in houses – you can hear the relief in their voices. No more yard work. No more arranging for yard work. No more gutter-cleaning; no more roof repair. No more of the responsibilities that home ownership requires. For people who have other things they’d rather do, condominium living is more than practical. It’s perfect.
“I’ve lived in houses and condominiums, and condominiums are a whole lot easier,” affirms William Wood, an interior designer in Asheville who has lived in Manhattan, West Palm Beach and Washington, D.C. “They’re low-maintenance and there’s none of the structure maintenance required in a house.”
Maybe best of all, the ease of condominium living frees him for favorite pursuits: his design work and shopping for antiques. “Any time I don’t spend slaving away on my house, I can spend on my shopping.”
Sheri Singleton understands what it’s like to have low-maintenance living. For her, being in the middle of downtown Asheville is simply icing on the cake. “We moved here from St. Petersburg, Florida, almost three years ago,” she explained from her home at Twenty-one Battery Park. She and her husband, James Galuszka, bought a car dealership in Black Mountain and were happy to make the move. “We wanted to get out of Florida and move to a good-sized town that was culturally rich, enjoyed a diverse population and had four seasons.”
They found all that and more in Asheville. They already knew they wanted a downtown condominium for the lifestyle, as well as garage parking and amenities. She enjoys the fitness center on the top floor. “Sometimes I never even start my car for a day or more,” she laughed. “We walk out of our front door and down the street to all kinds of restaurants and entertainment.” As for Florida, her friends visit, and probably half of the people in her building are from her former home state. Some residents use it as a getaway and others live there year-round. “It’s perfect for us,” she says.
“It’s just a simpler way of life,” Mrs. Mock says. “I’ve been really involved with the schools. Living here gives me the time to do the things that are important to me.”
What about Charlie? Doesn’t a growing boy need a yard? Mrs. Mock says he has one, describing the grounds at Savannah Shores as “pristine.” Living in a gated community means they feel safe, and Charlie can ride his bike to the pool, putting green and tennis courts, when he’s not participating in the many activities that engage American children these days. When Grace gets older, she can enjoy the small children’s playground.
In the meantime, Mrs. Mock appreciates their “unbeatable” location. Savannah Shores is close to all of the activities that make Myrtle Beach a popular visitor destination – shopping malls and outlets, entertainment, golf courses, restaurants and of course, the beach.
“It’s quiet and private but you can go minutes away and do whatever you want to do,” she says. “I can be at the grocery store in three minutes; I can be at a Wal-Mart in three or four minutes.”
The Mocks and Mr. Wood know how popular you can be when you live in a visitor destination town. Neither have condominiums big enough for houseguests; in fact, the Mocks converted a glassed-in porch for Grace’s nursery, giving their two-bedroom condominium an extra room. They all like the idea of entertaining at the community’s clubhouses instead of in their homes.
Mr. Wood notes that buying a condominium – especially in an attractive area – makes good financial sense. Condominiums are a great investment, he believes, and he frequently owns two: one for him to live in and the other for him to rent out. “In a town that’s visitor-oriented, you have people moving here and plenty of people looking for a second home, and they, too, are looking for easy maintenance.”
Today’s condominiums can be every bit as luxurious as the grandest of single-family homes. Mrs. Mock describes the cathedral ceilings, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances that appoint her family’s new home. What they don’t have is a garage. Not that Savannah Shores doesn’t have them, they just didn’t have enough for all the residents. Mr. Wood ran into the same situation at Seasons at Biltmore Lake. They agree a garage is the one thing they miss about having a house. Sheri Singleton is happy that her home had one available.
Still, the benefits outweigh the occasional disadvantage. As Bill Hrisko puts it, “purchasing a condominium is purchasing a lifestyle.”
Mr. Hrisko, president of Leonard Call at Kingston, Inc., a North Myrtle Beach condominium community, says it’s a concept that works for a lot of people, and at various points in life. Divorced with a grown son, Mr. Hrisko says condominium living allows him to take off for as long as he wants without worrying about an unkempt yard. Kingston’s many amenities – 14 swimming pools, nine tennis courts, fitness center, lazy river, meandering sidewalks – keep him healthy and happy.
Mrs. Mock said she drove back through their old neighborhood, and when she saw their former home she didn’t miss it a bit. Nor does she miss the lawn equipment that was sold, too. Mr. Wood remembers how much he hated to mow the lawn during his childhood in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “I would say, ‘When I grow up I’m going to live somewhere where there’s no lawn.’ ”
He who laughs last, laughs best.
IT'S A SMART BUY
Thinking about buying a condominium in the Carolinas even though you’re perfectly happy where you are? “Good thinking,” says Joe Walker, vice president of development with Estates, Inc., which develops and manages real estate in the Carolinas and Georgia. “A condominium at the right place at the right price is often the right thing for today’s babyboomer, who can now afford a second home.”
“A second home used to be a half-million dollar house on the beach,” he points out. “Those places are $2 to $4 million and higher now. Now they can have the convenience of condominium living at the price range they can afford.”
“While condominiums are popular all over the country, the Sun Belt is particularly desirable,” he adds. Estates, Inc., hasn’t had trouble selling units at their upscale properties in Charleston. The market is “wide-open” and the industry’s future looks good. “There’s only so much land,” Mr. Walker says. “As the population grows and as the dollars increase, condominium living allows more people to participate.”
INSIDE TIPS: BUYING A CONDOMINIUM
1. Check out the Association Rules. Make sure that condominium owners participate in meetings and activities. It is shared space, and there will be shared challenges and opportunities.
2. Determine if there is professional management. It will be more expensive, but is almost always worth the expense. Make sure the association is solvent.
3. Meet the people who will be your new neighbors, sharing a common wall, or the entry.
4. Obtain information on rentals, versus owner-occupied, unless, of course the condominium is in a resort area and is being purchased to rent.
5. Ask about noise control. Make sure the condominium was tested for noise transmission. Ask about bylaws dealing with noise complaints.
6. Visit at different times of the day and night.
7. Carefully review covenants and restrictions to make sure they are consistent with your lifestyle needs and wants.
8. Is there a plan for financing future repair and replacement of common elements?
9. Have the condominium unit inspected by an independent home inspector.
10. Is there adequate parking –enough for your guests?