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MBJ article: Entertaining space, concierge servies, open concepts top condo buyer requests

by Lee Nelson
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When someone looks into buying a condo, they want the convenience, amenities and comforts of a single family home.

“Designing a condo has a lot to do with geographic location when discussing the comparison to a single family home,” said John Sova, principal, RDG Planning & Design. “In the Omaha market specifically, many times the amenities and features included in a condo unit compete directly with the expectations of the single home. This is due to the market conditions and affordability of the area and that single home choice is competing with condo living.”

He said that you can still get more in the single home. But he is seeing kitchen, bathroom and living area amenities being very similar between a condo and single home.

“Many time, condo buyers are leaving a larger single home and are not ready to give up on the higher-end features of these spaces,” he said. “Privacy between units in multiple unit buildings is very important, and extra attention is paid to the design and sound proofing of walls and floors.”

Enclosed and secure parking is a preferred amenity. Depending on location and views, balconies and decks are desired for outdoor spaces. A trend is that condo associations are offering concierge services from a central location, Sova said.

“These services will make dinner reservations, buy tickets to activities, schedule repair and maintenance activities and offer laundry pickup/deliver to name a few,” he said. “Condo associations are also building small workout rooms, meeting spaces and movie lounges as added attractions to the facilities.”

Sue Henson, realtor at Deeb Realty, is seeing mostly empty nesters and young professionals looking for condominium living.

“Condos with updates and modern amenities and located in the active parts of town are very highly sought after. If they are within walking distance of restaurants, theaters, shopping and night life, they are extremely desirable,” she said. “Anyone who wants the security of owning their own home with the luxury of maintenance-free living is the typical condo buyer.”

Overall, she is seeing buyers who are looking for comfort and carefree living, together with security and indoor, heated parking. Pools, fitness centers and walking trails are also a “plus,” she said.

“In the fast-paced world where everyone wants the best of both worlds, condos are becoming a very highly sought after alternative to home ownership,” Henson said. “It is important for folks to reduce stress of home repair and maintenance, but also to keep monthly living expenses affordable to allow for traveling and entertainment.

Condo living means no more raking, mowing, shoveling or being tied to home maintenance, said Sandi Downing, owner and broker of Sandi Downing Real Estate.

“It allows for ample time to hit the golf course, tennis courts, book travel often and just walk to events,” she said. “Many people own condos as a second home, lock the door and travel.”

She said that most design their individual condo to suit their tastes whether that is historic or contemporary.

“Both will work in many of the downtown condos,” she said. “People enjoy a neighborhood where you can park your car, and everything is in walking distance.”

For years, the focus had shifted to the construction of new apartments, said Jon Crane, president of Boyd Jones Construction. The demand for condos is beginning to rise due to the lack of new inventory and healthy absorption of existing inventory. But when companies such as Boyd Jones build condos, they are paying attention to what buyers want.

“Condo buyers are looking for two bedrooms and spacious living areas for entertaining,” he said. “Open style concepts that integrate the kitchen, living and dining areas are very popular. Parking is also becoming increasingly important as buyers are requiring two parking spots for convenience.”