Homeownership without the Hassles

Tired of mowing your lawn, landscaping your yard and shoveling snow … yet you like owning your home? Check out the possibilities at this year's Parade of Condominiums

Odds are it’s one of the main reasons potential buyers will attend this year’s Parade of Condominiums—they’ve had enough of high-maintenance yards. More and more, though, another reason is popping up: the ability to stand out from their neighbors.

As recent condo buyers are realizing, purchasing a condominium no longer strictly means living in a tower of identical units stacked atop or next to one another. Instead, they’re demanding more options. Builders and developers are responding by allowing buyers to customize their condos in ways that weren’t widely available even a few years ago. In other words, the days of the market offering only cookie-cutter condo projects have come to an end.

Take Josh Kosnick, a young professional who recently purchased a three-story condominium at Capitol West in Downtown Madison. Not a fan of high-rise condos, the twenty-seven-year-old financial representative picked Capitol West because of its three varying building styles. Plus, by purchasing his three-story unit before it was completed, he was able to make some adjustments. Kosnick is having a wall beneath a stairwell knocked out and a wet bar and wine fridge installed in its place. Instead of two bathrooms with a tub and shower, he opted to skip the tub in one bathroom and instead install a therapeutic shower. A designer associated with the complex’s design center, owned by The Alexander Company, helped Kosnick refine his adjustments.

“Having the ability to design it myself, I really feel like it is mine,” Kosnick says. “It’s all done in my style.”

While Kosnick didn’t do the work himself, others, like newlyweds Carly and Josh Anderson, do. In May, the couple closed on a two-bedroom “white box” at SouthPointe Condominiums in Oregon. White boxes are another option buyers like, because the incomplete, white interior allows them to customize and complete the condo to their liking. This allowed the Andersons to install carpet in some rooms and laminate flooring in others. They removed the track lighting in the dining room, installed a surround sound system, and upgraded some faucets to brushed nickel. Finally, they splashed color throughout the condo by painting over the white walls.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter complex,” says Brandon Buell, a listing agent with Stark, in reference to SouthPointe. “We’re trying to step out of the norm and buyers are responding, realizing they can buy low, put in their own sweat equity and resell it at a higher price.”

In some cases, buyers are given so much leeway to customize and build their condos that there’s little difference between the condo and a nearby single-family home. Case in point: Harlan Hills Condominiums off South Seminole Highway in Madison. This high-end condo project, conceived by local developer Phil Sveum, completely separates each condo from the next. The only difference from a single-family home is that residents don’t own their lawns. Steve and Wendy Hansen’s recently completed Harlan Hills condo-house is part of the Parade of Condominiums.

“We liked the idea of being able to build it from the dirt up,” Wendy Hansen says. “Nobody believes they’re condominiums because they’re free-standing, yet the grass is watered for you—the developer says everyone will have sprinklers in their yards.”

Thomas Zimmer Builders, one of the project’s builders, says he’s betting the farm on the popularity of this new kind of condo living. “It’s the wave of the future,” Zimmer says. “At the end of the day, it won’t even look like a condominium project.”

And that’s exactly the way buyers like the Hansens want it.

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