|People are waking up to advantages
of city life
it's time to pack up and move not everyone heads for the 'burbs.
The reinvigoration of America's major cities is luring plenty of
people to the apartment/condo life.
There have, historically, been two groups of people
who opt to live in the city, according to John Griffin, president
of the New York-based Griffin Realty Group. Those groups include
singles or people just out of college and empty nesters -- people
who are in their last job or are at the top of their careers, their
kids are grown and they want to have a good time living in the city.
But a new group is being added to the mix -- families
with school-age children are now willing to pay a premium to live
"If you have two working parents, the commute is a
killer and they want to be close to their home -- 10 or 15 minutes
on the subway vs. an hour drive or better to the suburbs," says
Another advantage is the wealth of cultural assets
available in most cities.
"The suburbs are stifling," Griffin sniffs. "The trade-off
is kids aren't running out into the backyard; they have to go to
Central Park. Jackie O was the one who made it popular. She raised
her kids on Fifth Avenue, they played in Central Park."
for city living?
The price for this lifestyle can be steep, especially if parents
want to send their kids to private school. Private grammar schools
in Manhattan, for instance, can run $20,000 to $25,000 for one year.
Griffin says couples who want to go that route should have a dual
income of at least $300,000.
Obviously, not everyone who lives in a major city,
even New York, is making $300,000 or even six figures. But where
there's a will there's a way. The first thing prospective city-dwellers
need to consider is the type of housing that's available. In most
cities you'll find apartments, condominiums and, in some areas,
No. Upkeep is included in rent.
Purchase shares in a corporation that owns
Yes. The fee includes mortgage, real estate
taxes and operating costs.
A condo is essentially a single-family house. You
get the deed and own it outright. Griffin refers to condos as "80
or 90 single-family houses stacked on top of each other." They tend
to be smaller than co-ops and usually there's no board approval
for ownership. There may be a condo association, but its ability
to approve or disapprove an application is limited.
In a co-op you don't directly own the unit. You own
shares in the corporation that owns the building -- you cooperate
in ownership with the other shareholders. Co-ops can be very restrictive;
people need board approval to become residents. Co-ops can be arbitrary
in terms of who is approved but they can't discriminate based on
race, sex or religion. Co-ops often require that prospective residents
have a net worth that's five to 10 times the value of the apartment.
Things to consider
As with any property, location is the key. Make sure your prospective
home has access to public transportation, shopping and, of course,
is close to work. Another thing to check before buying or renting
is the soundproofing of the unit. Try visiting the unit at night
when neighbors are more likely to be home with TVs and stereos on.
"You don't want to hear everything that happens in
your neighbor's apartment," says Mary Lou Belmont, vice president
of national operations at GMAC in Liberty Corner, N.J. "Some newer
buildings aren't as soundproof as some older ones. Get references,
talk to the people who live there -- talk to people coming and going
from the building -- ask what they're happy about and what they
don't like. Ask how well the building is maintained and if something
goes wrong, how long does management take to fix it?"
If the management or association has an office on
the premises, visit them. Ask how many units are owner-occupied
units vs. leased to renters. Some mortgage companies may balk when
it comes to buildings that are predominately occupied by renters.
It's also a smart move to see if the co-op board,
condo association or management company is being sued -- or suing
As for which type of property is more valuable when
it comes time to sell, generally speaking, a condo will go for a
higher price than a co-op of similar size, location, etc. That's
simply because most owners don't want the hassle of getting board
approval for a potential buyer.
-- Posted: June 6, 2003
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