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So Why Buy a Condo?

by Connie Yoshimura

 

Because you won’t need a lawn mower! Or a snow shovel! Exterior maintenance and lawn care are done for you by the Homeowner’s Association and property management company. Yes, there is a fee for all that worry free living, that ‘lock and leave’ mentality but it’s a small price to pay for your freedom from every day outdoor maintenance. I hear those comments more and more from boomers but also from many millennials who would prefer to climb flat top on a sunny afternoon than mow the lawn.   

And now is a good time to buy a condo. It is one area of the market that has held steady over the past two years for sales and average price.  One reason for that stability is because there have been very few new rental properties built since the last real estate recession of 2008. Plus, the majority of Anchorage’s apartments were built between 1970 and 1990 and unless you own hundreds of units like one or two investors do, most small investors who own a four-plex struggle to keep up with maintenance and repairs let alone cosmetic renovations. So, for buyers a brand new condo looks very attractive with white cabinets, wood laminate or vinyl plank flooring and painted white trim with lever door handles. Plus it’s more energy efficient with lower utility bills. Many older apartment owners require tenants to pay for their own gas and electric so the increasing costs for utilities adds to their average $1,250 per month rent for a two bedroom, one bath flat.  Might as well buy something brand new that will hopefully appreciate in value while creating a more attractive and carefree lifestyle.

The average sales price of a condo is $203,113 according to the June MLS statistics. That price is a 3.35% decline from last year’s $209,116, making it a good time to invest. So how much does it cost to buy one of these condos?  FHA offers a 3% down payment. On a $205,000 condo that’s $6, 150. And some builders, looking to get rid of their summer inventory before putting in fall foundations, are offering as much as $8,000 in closing costs.

Today’s 30 year fixed mortgage rate is as low as 3.50%, depending on your credit score. That makes a buyer’s payment your payment as low as $1,543, including principal, interest, taxes, insurance, and condo dues which will cover some of your utility costs. Hardly any more than what a renter pays for a a 30 year old apartment! And it’s fresh and modern! 

Entry level condos are a worthwhile investment at today’s value, whether as a first time buyer or as a modest investment. Inflation, tariffs are all going to pull up condo prices. Smart buyers buy at the bottom of the market. And you won’t have to buy a lawn mower!     

So Why Buy a Condo?

by Connie Yoshimura

Because you won’t need a lawn mower! Or a snow shovel! Exterior maintenance and lawn care are done for you by the Homeowner’s Association and property management company. Yes, there is a fee for all that worry free living, that ‘lock and leave’ mentality but it’s a small price to pay for your freedom from every day outdoor maintenance. I hear those comments more and more from boomers but also from many millennials who would prefer to climb flat top on a sunny afternoon than mow the lawn.   

And now is a good time to buy a condo. It is one area of the market that has held steady over the past two years for sales and average price.  One reason for that stability is because there have been very few new rental properties built since the last real estate recession of 2008. Plus, the majority of Anchorage’s apartments were built between 1970 and 1990 and unless you own hundreds of units like one or two investors do, most small investors who own a four-plex struggle to keep up with maintenance and repairs let alone cosmetic renovations. So, for buyers a brand new condo looks very attractive with white cabinets, wood laminate or vinyl plank flooring and painted white trim with lever door handles. Plus it’s more energy efficient with lower utility bills. Many older apartment owners require tenants to pay for their own gas and electric so the increasing costs for utilities adds to their average $1,250 per month rent for a two bedroom, one bath flat.  Might as well buy something brand new that will hopefully appreciate in value while creating a more attractive and carefree lifestyle.

The average sales price of a condo is $203,113 according to the June MLS statistics. That price is a 3.35% decline from last year’s $209,116, making it a good time to invest. So how much does it cost to buy one of these condos?  FHA offers a 3% down payment. On a $205,000 condo that’s $6, 150. And some builders, looking to get rid of their summer inventory before putting in fall foundations, are offering as much as $8,000 in closing costs.

Today’s 30 year fixed mortgage rate is as low as 3.50%, depending on your credit score. That makes a buyer’s payment your payment as low as $1,543, including principal, interest, taxes, insurance, and condo dues which will cover some of your utility costs. Hardly any more than what a renter pays for a a 30 year old apartment! And it’s fresh and modern! 

Entry level condos are a worthwhile investment at today’s value, whether as a first time buyer or as a modest investment. Inflation, tariffs are all going to pull up condo prices. Smart buyers buy at the bottom of the market. And you won’t have to buy a lawn mower!     

How 'Silly' is This?

by Connie Yoshimura

The photo below is an example of the current required driveway width in residential single family subdivisions.  According to Title 21: Land Use Planning, page 7-133, the “total width of driveway entrances to a residential lot from a street shall not exceed 40 percent of the frontage of the lot or 33 percent of the frontage if the platting authority or traffic engineer finds that conditions warrant it”.  

The intent of these limitations is to provide adequate space for snow storage within the right of way, to have space for on-street parking where appropriate, and to discourage the majority of the front area of a lot from being paved and/or used for vehicle parking.”

All this sounds reasonable until it’s put to an on the ground application. For example, under these regulations a fifty foot wide lot is allowed only a 20 foot wide driveway.        Most garages for new homes are a minimum of 22 feet wide which thus requires an indentation at the street curb and property line as seen in the photo in order to be compliant. Driveway width compliance on cul-de sac lots which are very popular with home buyers is even more challenging.  Many of these lots have only a 30 or 40 foot street frontage. Accordingly, the driveway at the mouth of the street can only be twelve or 16 feet wide.  

Although unattractive, builders have found a clever way around this requirement which allows them to widen driveways to the width of the garage.  But, unfortunately, the frustrated homeowner ends up with the problem. Some owners elect to pave the area after the certificate of occupancy has been issued; other fill in the space with gravel or lawn.  They cannot, however, add trees, shrubs or rocks because that prevents the snow plow from doing its job.  The final result of this requirement is an unattractive streetscape as well as traffic congestion in cul-de-sacs.     

Covenant, codes and restrictions for a subdivision can easily address the ‘parking lot’ appearance resulting from wide driveways used for car storage.  They can also address on-street parking restrictions.  This policy, although well-intended, is an overage of MOA requirements and has done the opposite of its intended purpose which was to create a more attractive street scape in new home communities.  

The idea of appealing to the platting board or the traffic engineer is not a reasonable alternative for a builder or individual homeowner as it creates time delays and extra costs in an economic environment that continues to face increasing material and labor costs for new homes.

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Dwell Realty
561 E. 36th Ave., Suite 200
Anchorage AK 99503
907-646-3600