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Hot properties: high-tech condos
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Emilio Cardenal, president and broker in the Miami office of Interinvestments Realty, which has branches across Florida, says that these days, Cat-5 wiring for high-speed connectivity is a must, and new condo developments that have WiFi -- short for "wireless fidelity," a wireless network component -- in common areas or throughout the building are very popular.

"People are really starting to get educated about high-tech features," Cardenal says. "Most attractive to buyers are high-speed connectivity and Internet control panels -- after built-in cappuccino machines, of course."

For openers, he says, Internet control panels allow residents to program and control their thermostats, lighting, window shades and Jacuzzis. But there's more. They can, for example, be used to make reservations at local restaurants or clubs and present a direct connection to valet parking or in-house concierge services. The product is particularly popular among South Americans who visit their South Florida condos only sporadically, Cardenal says. They can, for example, use their laptops to turn on the air conditioning as their jets touch down at the airport.

"It's an attractive feature that makes it much easier to resell a unit," Cardenal says.

The average consumer, however, has not yet entirely embraced such technological features, says John Riordan, vice president of sales at Turnberry Towers, a luxury condo project under development by Turnberry Associates in Las Vegas.

He says the market for high-tech amenities is still emerging.

Turnberry Towers, where units sell for $500,000 to $1.4 million, offers Cat-5 wiring and a touch-screen concierge service with an optional upgrade that allows residents to install their own electronic circuitry. All units are wired for cable television as well as satellite-dish TV.

"This is still relatively unusual for a high-rise," Riordan says, "though single-family homes have had these amenities for a while.

"I'm not sure any of this is making our units sell any faster. But I think it's a wise decision on our part. Right now people don't have anything else to compare it with, but we think it's the kind of thing that, in time, will become pretty normal throughout the industry."

What to look for
Vamsi Sistla, director of broadband, digital home and digital media at ABI Research's New York branch, says the future value of condominiums "will be impacted dramatically by the kinds of technological amenities they come with. From a value standpoint, having them is a huge bonanza."

ABI Research provides market analyses for manufacturers and service providers of emerging technologies.

Among the services now considered essential, Sistla says, are broadband and cable TV service. Smart developers are forging deals with leading service providers to cut the initial costs associated with such infrastructure, knowing that they will get additional revenues because of what they can offer.

Sistla foresees a trend where residential condo associations partner with phone companies, such as Verizon or Vonage, that provide an Internet-based telephone service called VOIP, or voice over Internet protocol.

"That would be a very smart move for the provider," Sistla says, "because they could have a more centralized process in place. And the association could get a cut whenever someone opted for fiber optics."

Next: What about condo conversions?
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