Condos, townhouses are in demand

Home: A lifestyle without lawn care is attractive to empty-nesters and busy professionals.

October 21, 2001|By NANCY JONES-BONDREST | By NANCY JONES-BONDREST,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Carol Berkey's daughter moved away to college this fall, Berkey found that it was the perfect opportunity to downsize. So she moved herself and her 12-old-year chocolate Labrador retriever into a condominium at Scott's Crossing. a new development in Annapolis along Bestgate Road.

"I wanted to have less of a home to take care of, and I wanted to have more time to myself" Berkey said.

"Until just last year, 1 never thought a condo would be the perfect place for me," she said. "But I wanted to be able to pursue developing my personal interests. This is much less house to keep clean, and I don't have the yard work."

And she has plenty of company.

While Annapolis might be best known for high-end waterfront show houses, there's been a surge in condominium sales as well. Once a curiosity in a market that focused on single-family homes, condominiums are attracting buyers seeking more time for themselves and less time mowing the lawn.

"There is a demand for town-houses and condominiums. That's been our bread and butter for almost six or seven years now," said Michael DeStefano, president of Sturbridge Homes, which is developing the 140-unit Scott's Crossing community. "We've never seen any let-up in demand for that type of product in Annapolls. Condominiums have become much, much more popular than they used to be."

Jeb Bittner, president of the Maryland Division of Pulte Homes, sees condominiums as an attractive choice for buyers in the thriving Annapolls real estate market. His company developed the 300-unit Windgate condominium and townhouse community in Annapolis and plans to open next year a 64-unit luxury townhouse development called August Woods in Eastport.

"The condominium and townhouse markets in Annapolis tend to attract white-collar, single professionals, as well as a significant number of empty-nester buyers," said Bittner. "The draws are the lifestyle, proximity to the water and the amenities located in the historic town."

The condominium boom is evident in the average sales price. From January to August 2000, the average sales price for a condominium in the greater Annapoils area was $137,606, according to the Meyers Group, which tracks new home sales. For the same period this year, the price jumped to $147,952.

Real estate agents say the community is part of a sales trend evident throughout Anne Arundel County.

From January to July, for example, there were 530 sales of new condos countywide, setting a pace for more than 1,000 condominium sales this year.

Affordability issue

Condominiums can offer a rel atively economical alternative to single-family homes in the area, according to Connie Morrisette, president of the Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors and an agent with the O'Conor, Piper and Flynn ERA office in Annapolis.

"What's happening in the Annapolis area is the land is so expensive that in order to put anything on the property that can be reasonably priced, the builders have to go for density," said Morrtsette. "So many people are being priced out of the single-family home market that a lot of times the condominium and townhouse market is the way to go.

While a single-family home in greater Annapolis sells for about $200,000 and above, a new condominium can often be found in the low- to mid-$l00,000 range.

"Townhouses and condos have sprung up all over. I think it's an answer to an affordability issue," she said. "We have a market here that is so diverse we can usually meet any demand. It's just that, relatively speaking, everything is very expensive because we've had so much price appreciation."

The condominium trend in the area dates at least to 1989, when condominium developments started to dot the greater Annapolis landscape in greater number, according to the Meyers Group.

"In the last three years, there's been a lot of condo build-out," said Jae Lee, the regional manager of the Washington office of the Meyers Group. "During those years there was a consistently high number of condominiums, and the prices were rising. This is an indicator that there's a heavy demand and that they are running out of prime real estate."

Condominiums offer an attractive choice to a wide range of people, said Jean Andrews, an agent with Champion Realty in Severna Park.

"There's a good combination between first-time buyers and empty-nesters in the condo market," said Andrews, who is a former president of the Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors. "Part of what is driving the market is people are looking for a home with low maintenance."

When Andrews started selling real estate 14 years ago, the market was very different.

"Before, most people who bought condos were the people who simply couldn't afford anything else. ... We used to figure that selling a condo would take about three months longer than selling the traditional single-family home or townhouse," she said. "Now it's something people seek out. One of the biggest reasons is low maintenance. People just don't have the time anymore."

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