Today’s topic is for condominium shoppers. Condo buyers are very well aware they are engaged in a battle of location over square footage. Location is what it is. But, on the issue of square feet, the condo buyer has many things to consider. As any design/philosophy student will tell you, all square feet are not created equal.
Have you seen the new VW “California” Camper? A marvel in engineering. So cool. As if every interior inch has a dual purpose. This is the mindset needed for Condo shopping. Why do I say this? Consider the entryway.
Condos’ have 2 basic design concepts. Units with an entryway and units where the entrance door opens into the main living unit. Nobody likes the “sit-com” style entry. Everyone loves an entrance. A formal entryway is so much more dramatic as it sets the visitor up with a slow “reveal” into the living space. All things being equal, buyers will most often choose the unit with an entry.
I once asked an agent, from a rather large entryway; “what do you do with this space”? She said something about an; “occasional table with perhaps a bowl for your keys”. Aside from wondering how odd the term, “occasional table” was, her response seemed sensible. But, in the war over square feet, it does feel strange. As a human, you are packing into 1,200 square feet of living space, while your keys are luxuriating in their own 150 square feet atop a dedicated table. Sure, a great deal for the keys, but it may demonstrate just how out of balance your living space may be.
If you have spent anytime condo shopping, you know home prices climb dramatically with more square footage. In Atlanta, it’s not unusual to see the difference between 1,300 square feet and 1,600 square feet equal to $100K or more in home value. So when the average foyer and hallway measures 130 square feet, it represents nearly 50% of the jump between 1,300 to 1,600 square feet. This tells us entryways are really, really expensive. But, as all condo owners know, it doesn’t end there. Because just like diamonds; entryways are forever.
All condo Home Owner Associations use square footage to assess monthly fees. “Why do I have to pay $45 dollars more a month versus my neighbor for almost the same unit?” Critical word there: “almost”. Clearly somebody has to pay for that killer entryway. Still, this wouldn’t be so bad if the entryway story ended there.
But, you know who else uses square footage to assess fees? The taxman. So you better really love your entryway. Because you literally will be paying hundreds of dollars more every year in taxes for owning it. Unbelievably, there are no tax deductions for either, “occasional table areas” or “key thrones”.
So, as buyers weigh one condo over another, they need to take care in analyzing their living space. Entryways, hallways and those “cool nooks” that make things interesting, all come with a cost. Dead space is better suited for the suburban tax code. That’s why most McMansion owners never step foot in 35% of their living space—they don’t have to.
But, city condominium living is very different. Condo buyers, I know you are going to love your entryway to start. But, I also know, 6 months in, you are going to wish you had more “actual” living space. Long story short, give those sit-com style condo units a second chance. Remember, 1,300 square feet with an entryway is much smaller than 1,300 square feet, sit-com style. Practical can be sexy too—can’t it?