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Hot properties: high-tech condos
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VOIP, a rapidly growing alternative to traditional phone service, is considered, by some analysts, a harbinger of things to come.

"Vonage has a million customers today," says Lende. "AT&T already has a VOIP product, and BellSouth says they're going to have it. When the BellSouths of the world start getting into something like this, builders must respond."

Internet solutions to delivering voice, video and high-speed data services require the installation of optical fiber, Lender says, and that's something that can't be retrofitted to an individual unit once a structure is built, because a condo has solid floors and walls with no attic or crawl space.

"It's very important," Lender says, "to have a network in your unit with a smart-box interface so that you have data connections, cable connections and satellite connections at every outlet."

Ethernet is the most common such network, he says. Ethernet ports, used in many offices, can be used to connect one computer to another computer, a local network or an external DSL, digital subscriber line, or cable modem.

The best way to make sure you have the right backbone for emerging technologies, Lender says, is to hedge your bets by choosing a building that offers a hybrid solution -- Ethernet plus wireless.

"If condo builders don't come up with a wireless solution," he says, "people are going to buy their own routers. In a town house or high-rise, that's a formula for disaster. Since the units are close together, if everybody gets their own wireless solution, nobody's is going to work right."

A note of caution
When it comes to IPTV, or Internet-based video technologies such as the video-on-demand services offered in some larger condo projects, Lender says buyers should exercise caution.

"Basically, it's a new way to get programming to your TV -- like cable and satellite," he says. "I don't think anyone knows what consumers are going to make of it. Most people don't really care how their television programming gets to them."

The stumbling block with IPTV services right now, Lender says, is that unless you want to watch all your favorite television shows on your PC, you have to have a way to get the programming from the PC to a television set. There are scores of providers offering IPTV services, and each of them requires the use of a set-top box on each television -- cumbersome at best, and tricky, because you don't know which providers will last. While several companies are working on a more universal solution, he says, the technology just isn't here yet.

Though they usually have very attractive price tags, Lender says condo conversions -- former apartment buildings that are refurbished and put on the market as "new" condos -- are not generally a wise option for buyers interested in keeping abreast of technological developments.

"The chances are about 90 percent that you're not going to find the same level of services in those buildings as you will in new construction," he says. "You may get up-to-date technology in the kitchen, but most converters don't go the extra mile and update the wiring."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: Nov. 3, 2005
More stories by Marilyn Bowden
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