A condo under $120,000. Is this even possible here? There's been so much buzz about the numerous "luxury condos" popping up around town that some potential homebuyers might think they could never afford a condo.
But there's much to choose from at many price points. Affordable condos exist all over town and come with a wide variety of amenities and features. They are attractive places to live and a great way to break into the housing market. For $120,000 (and sometimes less) you can buy a little slice of Madison you will be proud to call your very own. Here's a sampling of what's available, but there are more of a similar nature on the market. This list will give prospective buyers an idea of the kinds of developments and conversions that exist in the Madison market, and features and upgrades that are available in this price range.
This west-side development was apartments until Bruner Realty converted the units into condos in June 2006. If you are an active person, it might be the place for you. The common areas feature tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool and a 24-hour fitness center. For the entertainers, there is a party room complete with a kitchen and fireplace to host your next get-together. If you have a car and hoard things, know that every unit is sold with an underground parking spot and storage space. The condos themselves have great features, too. New appliances (including a washer and dryer), new flooring, fresh paint, bathroom updates and a wood-burning fireplace are in all of these one- and two-bedroom units. Located just off Gammon Road, the condos are near shopping (West Towne, Woodman's) and offer quick access to the Beltline. Base price: $98,000; will increase based on the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and other upgrades.
Clear across town on the east side is Bruner Realty's other development, Stonebridge, where prices start around $82,900. These one- and two-bedroom condos are off of East Washington Avenue near East Towne Mall about seven miles from the Capitol Square. These were also apartments until mid-2004 and have been renovated similarly to Harbor House. One difference is that buyers here may have the option to choose their cabinets, countertops, flooring, and kitchen appliances before they move in. The selection isn't extensive, but you can put a personal touch on your new place. Parking is off-street, but a limited number of garages are available for purchase. Laundry machines are not included with the units; as a substitute, there are on-site laundry rooms. No need to sit in the laundry rooms and wait for your clothes to dry. Instead, you can relax by the outdoor pool, get a workout in at the fitness center, or rummage around in your basement storage space.
Lakewood Gardens and Sherman Terrace
Very near downtown sit two affordable condominium communities with prices from $100,000 to $120,000. Although they are not connected in any way other than location, both feature lovely settings. The Sherman Avenue location is next to Tenney Park, with its tennis courts, wooded paths, playground, skating rink and fishing spots. Across the street is a Lake Mendota beach featuring nightly sunsets, and the surrounding neighborhoods are picturesque for walking and biking. Add the nearby bus lines and proximity to downtown and it seems like a prime location.
Lakewood Gardens brings the leafy look of the area into its courtyards with nicely maintained landscaping and mature trees. These condos are townhouse-style units with individual entrances, two bedrooms on the second floor, the living area on the first floor, and a full basement. The basement can be finished off for additional space. Laundry is down there too, but it is in a separate area shared between two units. The condo units here have not been updated on a development-wide scale; each unit is different. So while you may or may not find new flooring or cabinets, you will find one and a half baths, central air, lots of kitchen storage, playground equipment and two outdoor parking spots.
Next door at Sherman Terrace, the handsome brick buildings are situated on wide, grassy courtyards. Here too, the condos have not been updated across the board, and updates vary greatly between units. Some upgrades may have you wishing there were stronger condo association standards. On the plus side, there are two bedrooms with spacious closets and a large eat-in kitchen, which can house a stacked washer and dryer. As former garden-style apartments, there are condos on the first, second and third floors; each building has one entrance. Outside parking is included, as well as a basement storage space.
Head to the north side and you will find East Bluff condominiums on the corner of Northport Drive and Sherman Avenue. These units have the advantage of three decent-sized (10 by 12 feet) upstairs bedrooms and a notable amount of closet space. Although each condo has its own entrance, the buildings are quite close together. This makes the modest fenced-in yards off the dining areas especially nice. With Warner Park across the street, you may even be able to watch fireworks from your yard or listen to the progress of the Mallards games. The units have not been uniformly updated, but all condos have a full basement with laundry hook-ups, an outside reserved parking space and central air. Prices are around $120,000.
These newly converted condos are ultra-affordable. Prices start in the high $80,000s and the site's real estate agents, Connie James and Stacy Borman with Coldwell Bankers, are working with the city to offer special assistance for eligible first-time homebuyers. "Home-Buy" will provide safe financing for a down payment and closing costs. (Find out more at www.cityofmadison. com/homeloans.) Fortunately, the condos are as appealing as their price. The former apartments were gutted down to the wall studs and have been filled back in with new floors, cabinets, kitchen appliances and bathrooms. Buyers will have a chance to choose some of the finishes like the color of the carpet, countertops and appliances. It will be easy for neighbors to meet since the basement laundry room is shared by each building. The buildings are arranged around a courtyard and are just off the Beltline near Monona Drive and even closer to Lake Monona and the bike path.
Here is Madison's own mini-Levittown - modest, nearly identical homes, shared yards and no garages. In fact, the dwellings were built after World War II to address the housing shortage. Now developer Tree Cover LLC is making them spiffy again by thoroughly rehabilitating each home as rental leases expire. Located off University Avenue on the near west side, these stand-alone condos have many new features and are priced around $115,000. Roofs, siding, windows, doors, appliances, flooring and cabinets have all recently been replaced. There are small private decks in the backyards, which look onto a shared greenspace. Creepy-crawly spaces are near zilch, as there are no basements. Laundry is located in a spacious utility room at
the back of the house, which doubles as storage space. First-come, first-served street parking is the name of the game here. Some of the units have buyer incentives, like one year of condo fees or home warranties, included.
Regardless of the property, purchasing real estate can be a head-spinning process. There are new terms, financing to consider, and the challenge of finding the home with the right "fit." Start by browsing any real estate broker's website, or FSBOmadison. com. But don't yearn for the impossible. "Talk to your lender to look at what you can afford, and only look at what you can afford," says Bill Santner, a local agent with First Weber who has much experience with condominiums. In the Madison market, you just might to be able to find something that will suit your finances and still have spare cash to decorate your new place.