Condos Offer Affordability, Conveniences

Condos Offer Affordability, Conveniences

Maintenance and convenience attracted Reston resident Debra Lewin to her condominium 19 years ago and she's not planning on moving out.

"I like the convenience, all the services are provided by the condo association. I'm freed up from a lot of maintenance," Lewin said.

In 1985, Lewin bought her condominium in the Hunter Woods community in Reston for $60,000. Now it is assessed in the $180,000 range.

"They were built very solidly," Lewin said. "I'm not going anywhere."

If she did decide to move, selling it would be no problem according to Kim Hendon, owner of TWC Association Management in Reston. Like all Northern Virginia real estate in the last few years, condos are hot.

"They've been selling really quickly," Hendon said.

Condo buyers tend to be the younger, first-time homebuyers, or seniors who like the maintenance-free aspect.

"It's usually in their price range," Hendon said. "They don't really want to have a lot of maintenance."

ABOUT 10 YEARS AGO, buyers opted for townhouses in a similar price range. With housing prices going up, a condominium is still in the affordable range. Finding a townhouse for less than $250,000 is not as easy as finding a condominium in that range.

"Condominiums are the most affordable way to own a home," said Frank Rathbun of the Community Association Institute in Alexandria.

Hendon said that in Reston, condominiums are priced in the high $100's and up.

To Ava Sumner, real estate agent for Long & Foster, garden-style condominiums generally sell better than the high rises. When one comes on the market, five or six contracts on one condo is not surprising. Sumner lives in the Burke Cove condominiums in Burke Centre, which gives her a first-hand experience she shares with the customer. In Burke Cove, a building captain in each building monitors the condo rules and helps out when needed.

"They make sure the rules are obeyed," Sumner said.

A TWO-BEDROOM condominium in Burke Cove goes for $230,000 and higher. Sumner is seeing first-time homebuyers, seniors and investors buy in Burke Cove.

"They [seniors] like to not have to go up and down stairs constantly. Some of the buyers are using them as investor properties," Sumner said.

In Reston, Lewin likes the sense of community at the condominium. She attends the holiday and block parties that are open to the whole Hunter Woods Condominiums. Last summer, the community had an outdoor party with a Reggae band and food.

"Everybody knows about it," she said. "I always meet interesting people at these events."

Sumner has had similar experiences at Burke Cove. The community has pot-luck parties a few times a year. The homeowners association supplied the turkey and the residents brought the rest.

"We have Christmas parties and parties in the fall," Sumner said.

Rathbun said that in the area, with land prices at a premium, density and land use efficiency are a big part of condominium popularity. Sumner did experience one customer that didn't realize what the real difference between living in a condominium and apartment meant.

"When she found out she had to take her own trash out she was horrified," Sumner said.