Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

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Lynx310650
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Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Lynx310650 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:29 pm

We had dinner with the in-laws last night. They said they are planning on moving, and wanted to seek our opinion. I don't know their finances in details, but the broad strokes are that they are retired in their late 50s, high 5 figure (I think around 80k) annual COLA pension, healthcare provided by said pension, and around $1 million in other retirement accounts/taxable.

They own a house free and clear in Santa Clara, CA that they can sell for around $1.5 million based on comparable sales. They've always wanted to/dreamed of living in San Francisco, so they are contemplating selling their home and using the proceeds to purchase a 1-br condo in a newer high rise building, near ATT Ball Park for those familiar with that area. Probably would cost right around $1 million.

Outside of their general desire to live in the city, some of the other factors they mentioned are : (1) safety, they live in a nice area right now but some homes in their neighborhood have been broken into over the years and they figure living in a high rise with 24/7 security would be pretty safe; (2) overall desire to downsize and not have to maintain a yard and such; and (3) being able to walk/bike/take public transit to more things.

Their longer term plan is to live in this condo for another 20 years or so and then plan on moving to assisted living. Right now they are researching if financially this would be an ok move for them, and some of the pros/cons associated with not just living in a condo, but specifically a high rise type place.

denovo
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by denovo » Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:42 pm

Not sure if they'd see it as a pro or con, but they don't need a car anymore.

ResearchMed
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by ResearchMed » Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:44 pm

Lynx310650 wrote:
Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:29 pm
We had dinner with the in-laws last night. They said they are planning on moving, and wanted to seek our opinion. I don't know their finances in details, but the broad strokes are that they are retired in their late 50s, high 5 figure (I think around 80k) annual COLA pension, healthcare provided by said pension, and around $1 million in other retirement accounts/taxable.

They own a house free and clear in Santa Clara, CA that they can sell for around $1.5 million based on comparable sales. They've always wanted to/dreamed of living in San Francisco, so they are contemplating selling their home and using the proceeds to purchase a 1-br condo in a newer high rise building, near ATT Ball Park for those familiar with that area. Probably would cost right around $1 million.

Outside of their general desire to live in the city, some of the other factors they mentioned are : (1) safety, they live in a nice area right now but some homes in their neighborhood have been broken into over the years and they figure living in a high rise with 24/7 security would be pretty safe; (2) overall desire to downsize and not have to maintain a yard and such; and (3) being able to walk/bike/take public transit to more things.

Their longer term plan is to live in this condo for another 20 years or so and then plan on moving to assisted living. Right now they are researching if financially this would be an ok move for them, and some of the pros/cons associated with not just living in a condo, but specifically a high rise type place.
Have they spent significant time in a much smaller place together?
It might be worth renting first, to make sure that they are "right sizing" for starters.

RM
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by cadreamer2015 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:59 pm

The idea of renting for a year is a good one, not only to see if the size fits them, but also to see if they really like living in the "City," as it is called in the Bay Area. They will have a much better idea from personal perspective on the character of different neighborhoods. When we moved for retirement we rented for a year before purchasing our home. We like where we moved to, but living here for a year gave us a much better perspective on the area and increased our confidence that we were doing the right thing. Real estate transactions costs are very large, and you don't want to buy and sell more often than you really need to.
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adamthesmythe
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by adamthesmythe » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:05 pm

1 br is very small and may be hard to adapt to if accustomed to a house.

> The idea of renting for a year is a good one,

Yeah, I guess everybody should do this. i didn't, and it worked out OK.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by APB » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:08 pm

I'm quite familiar with the area. Based on their strong financial position and limited space needs they can afford to live anywhere in the world. Their desired location is a nice one, as are many neighborhoods in San Francisco (if you can afford it).

I'd echo the suggestion to rent for a year if they are not yet sure about location, or want to validate.
My posts represent my own opinion and do not constitute financial advice. I am simply a hobbyist. :)

donall
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by donall » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:23 pm

Renting is a good idea. SF and SC have different weather, which may also be important to try out.

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:32 pm

I’m renting a high rise condo in Hawaii, fear of height is a problem. We are both nervous of getting closer to the balcony. I wouldn’t want to do it if I were thinking of a permanent space. Cons is no car is needed. We walk or take bus everywhere.
Last edited by DrGoogle2017 on Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by midareff » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:34 pm

I've lived in houses, town-houses, rental apartments and condos. First, I would advise (strongly) against a one bedroom unless there are no grand-kids, never will be any, and no relative or anyone else in the world will ever be welcome to stay a night.

Second.. (Pros) . we are retired and travel. We traveled both out of country and in the US 6 times last year with no trip under 10 days and most in the 14 - 28 day range. The Concierge of a high-rise will handle the mailman and keep you mail on premise while you are gone and any of the local dog walkers will water plants for a few bucks a visit to water and check for any problems. The on-site manager and asst. manager keep an extra eye out besides the security cameras and I have not one thought about my premises while we are gone.

Cons.. How old is the building and does the BOD (Board of Directors) have reserves set aside for things like the roof, elevators, repainting, re-certifying an older building (if it is) and so forth? What are the pet regulations? Will or can your apartment be next to an apartment with a large barking dog? What are the rental regulations... AIR BnB daily or weekly allowed, minimum one year lease?

After 13 years here it was a good choice. Very nice gym in the building, 24 hour security, 24 hour concierge, available dock (if I had a boat), Tiki huts with BBQ grills, rec rooms, social rooms and so forth to include holiday parties and such. When you cut those costs up by a couple of hundred resident apartments its a big steal if you use any of the facilities as most don't. You make out almost from the git-go by the cost of insurance for a building divided by unit vs. your own for a house.

They need to read the condo docs and ask questions.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by texasdiver » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:39 pm

My inlaws have lived in a high rise urban condo for years. Lots of pluses if you aren't into home maintenance and property maintenance stuff. But it is also where they lived most of their lives so their entire family and social network is nearby. They have on-site parking which makes a big difference for them to be able to easily escape. I would seriously investigate the urban geography, especially groceries. How easy will it be to access all the needed services.

The biggest pro is the ability to easily travel. My in-laws are constantly traveling around the world and they can leave at a moment's notice without worry about mail or maintenance or bills or anything like that. Can't do that so easily if you are tied to a house.

They do have a weekend beach house that the use to escape to nearly every weekend. I think they might go stir-crazy being hemmed into the apartment all weekend long when the city slows down.

I would also recommend against a 1-bedroom. Turn the second bedroom into an office/guestroom or something. Friends and family will always want to visit and the extra space is nice, even if it means a slightly less choice location or building.

Afty
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Afty » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:47 pm

One thing I would look out for is traffic and rowdy crowds from baseball games at AT&T Park. Would they be close enough for that to be a concern?

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Taylor Larimore
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Taylor Larimore » Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:01 pm

Lynx:

You have received good advice. I have lived in the same near-downtown 2-bedroom high-rise condominium for about 25 years and am personally very satisfied. I'll add two things a new owner should consider:

1, Miami has an ordinance that every condo must pass a county inspection every 40 years. In preparation for the inspection we have had two substantial assessments and nearly 2 years of bothersome construction going on around us. I feel sorry for any new owner who was unaware of our inadequate capital reserves and the 40-year law.

2. Our condo is 1 bedroom and an office. When we have relatives or visitors we want to visit, which is seldom, we pay to have them stay at a nearby hotel. Works well for everybody.

Best wishes.
Taylor
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by itstoomuch » Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:47 pm

We too are downsizing to a condo,2+2, single floor, but to much more "expensive" location. It will be close wash because we will be within walking distance of everything we need, and can rid ourselves of 1 car that drinks gas because of the short trips I make. It's amazing how seniors can use public transit for $1 to spend hours going to nowhere and back.
A Marroitt Residential Inn is 4 blocks away. Which I plan to use as a private club.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Steelersfan » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:36 pm

I'm retired and live alone in a condo. I live in a 2 bedroom unit and have 1250 square feet of space. I would not feel comfortable with much less space. I agree a one bedroom for two people is too small, especially if the square footage is small too.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by delamer » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:20 pm

Are your in-laws planning on purchasing one of the high floor units?

I’d be concerned about getting things like groceries and other necessities up to a high floor place on a regular basis. I always avoided the high rise buildings for that reason when I was an apartment dweller. It just seems like a hassle.

There can be issues with noise seepage between units in any multiple unit building. Others’ noise bothers some people more than others; I have a very low tolerance.

Obviously, high and/or uncontolled increases in condo fees could be a problem.

I’d agree with others that one bedroom for two people used to a largish house is a bad idea.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by bigred77 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:57 pm

A high rise condo is my retirement plan.

No outdoor maintenance. Lock and leave lifestyle. Walkable location. Onsite security and staff.

A 1 bedroom unit might be challenging size wise for some. Depends on how much space your used to. Personally I would make that compromise for budgetary constraints as long as I got a premier location.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by sbaywriter » Sat Jan 20, 2018 10:08 pm

Would they have any concerns about earthquakes? I went through 2 major earthquakes in LA area (1971 and 1994) - I would never want to be in a high rise in earthquake country. Especially if I were getting older and might have to travel down multiple flights of stairs to evacuate.

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MP123
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by MP123 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 10:55 pm

Maybe they can test out the idea by renting VRBO or airbnb or something like that.

One bedroom is going to be pretty small even in a great location. I'd focus more on square footage.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by gostars » Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:39 pm

I'd be concerned about living too far up in a high rise at an age when knees and hips might not be able to take walking down a dozen flights of stairs in the event the building is evacuated due to a fire. Less of a concern if they're planning to stick to a lower floors, of course.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by CurlyDave » Sun Jan 21, 2018 1:26 am

...(1) safety, they live in a nice area right now but some homes in their neighborhood have been broken into over the years and they figure living in a high rise with 24/7 security would be pretty safe...

(A) The second they step outside the building that 24/7 security does not apply.

(B) Even inside the building, I bet that 24/7 security is a porous as a sieve.

ausgenf
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by ausgenf » Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:32 am

I lived on the top floor of a newer high-rise building near AT&T Park for 5 years, so I am very familiar with the area.

I loved high-rise condo living. It was so convenient. No maintenance, no yard work. Full-time concierge to receive packages even when we were not home. Many services available in the building like dry cleaning, weekly food trucks, car cleaning, vet and dental services, charity pick-ups, etc...

Security: even in a high-end building which was advertised as secure (24/7 concierge, on-site security, cameras, fob required for access, etc...), we had repeated break-ins and even a stabbing which put the building on lock down. So security was not perfect, but it did feel pretty safe living there. The AT&T Park area is relatively safe but you have a lot of homeless people congregating near the Caltrain station and in the parks along the China Basin canal, which some people can find unnerving.

The neighborhood gets very busy around game time (lots of car/foot traffic), but the crowd is usually well behaved.

Living on higher floors: in the 5 years that I lived there I never had to take the stairs once. But in an emergency, you need to make sure that you can handle many flights of stairs to get to safety. In case of a prolonged power outage, you may also have to take the stairs up. Also, false fire alarms are a problem in some buildings more than others. The building next to ours used to have them at least once a month. You have to evacuate each time.

In our high-rise, windows got cleaned only once a year. So half the time we had to live with dirty windows - too bad because the view was fantastic.

We kept one car to go out of town on week-ends (although you could also look into Zip Cars for more occasional usage). Otherwise, we used public transportation to move around the city or the Bay Area. And the AT&T Park area has plenty of choices when it comes to public transportation. We walked a lot too. There are some good restaurants within walking distance in that neighborhood.

Without a car though, grocery shopping can be a sport. You may have to carry grocery bags for several blocks. I used to shop regularly at Whole Foods on 4th street and had to carry the bags for half a mile or more. If the bags were heavy, it did put some strain on my back. But with enough money, anything can be delivered to your door in SF.

I would go for a 2-bedroom apartment. For my wife and me, that second bedroom was much needed for some extra personal space. The units were pretty well insulated and we did not hear our neighbors much. That being said, odors from other units did invade our space sometimes, through the ventilation system. But AT&T Park is on the "warm" side of SF and we lived with opened windows almost year round, so the smells dissipated pretty quickly.

Finally, this is a noisy neighborhood, no doubt about it. It took a while to get used to the constant noise, day and night.
Last edited by ausgenf on Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:49 am, edited 2 times in total.

anoop
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by anoop » Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:46 am

These are some concerns I would have about living in a high rise.

How much are the HOA dues? Luxury condos can have HOA dues that rival and go up like rents for cheap apartments. This is perhaps my biggest concern.

How is the noise, both from neighbors and from traffic/ambulances? Many condos don't have adequate noise insulation. Remember the hotel stay when you got woken up by a noisy neighbor? Except this is not just for one night. :)

When you are leaving the building to go somewhere and realize you forgot something, it's 10+ min ordeal to go back and get what you forgot. I guess if they are retired, time should not be a concern.

In general, I think high-rise living is over-marketed. It may be good for a vacation home, but I wouldn't want it for everyday living.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by BogleFanGal » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:30 pm

My recommendation: never buy a 1 bedroom. Even if your parents don't need that 2nd room now, a 2-bedroom will likely be better for resale value.

But more importantly, if something happens to one of them health-wise, they may want the option of remaining in their home. If live-in help is ever wanted - even for a temporary period - the caregiver will require a private bedroom. Otherwise you have to hire 3 people rotating 8-hour shifts....far more expensive.

When my parents divorced, they sold their house and each bought a tiny 1 bedroom condo. Both ended up needing help and wanted to stay in their homes. My dad had long term insurance that actually covered it, but no spare room for the caregiver. He was too sick at that point and I was too exhausted to even consider selling his condo and finding another. We had far fewer options because of this.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by yukonjack » Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:32 pm

Great conversation. I am also looking at this option down the road. Two things come to mind that were relayed to us by friends. One couple ended up moving from their urban one bedroom condo because of the lack of personal space. There were times when they wanted a bit of separation and just couldn’t get it in a 1 br unit. The other is pretty specific but often overlooked. Another couple lived on the 9th floor of a 40 story building and it happened to be where the building became much wider. Unfortunately for them they were in direct line of anything dropped from above. And they said that it was very common for people to throw stuff off the building onto their deck. Again not a likely scenario but you do want to consider your location within the building.

2015
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by 2015 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:33 pm

Have they factored in HOA dues? HOA dues in a high-rise can be quite high. Have they factored in the loss of privacy as a result of going from a SFH to a multi-unit building? Have they factored in unwanted noise? High-rise buildings have concrete floors/ceilings, but side to side it's possible you will hear everything. Have they considered the increase in the magnitude of neighbor proximity? Have they considered they will have no control over the types of people residing in close proximity to them?

I lived in an expensive "upscale!" "gorgeous!" high-rise with spectacular downtown "jet-liner views!" (LA real estate agent speak) a couple decades ago. I also had the pleasure of hearing a couple of my nouveau riche neighbors (who were related) yelling from the balcony of one unit down to another, of hearing other neighbors' arguments coming through the bedroom walls, as well as their bathroom discussions on the other side of my own bathroom wall. I also heard music so loud it came through the concrete ceiling from the unit of the person living above. Then there were the wealthy refugees on the floor who had moved from some other part of the world who kept their kitchen door open while cooking something which smelled strangely like some unidentifiable form of excrement. Just before I had enough and moved a neighbor moved in next door who wore high heels 24/7, which sounded like a machine gun as the sound traveled through her marble floor laid over concrete.

All of these people had money, mind you, lots of it. They just didn't have good sense (or something). I would not necessarily conflate high-rise living with peace, quiet, and serenity, although those in other parts of the country may have had much better luck than I did (this is LA, after all).

I will personally never live in anything but detached living arrangements again.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Doctor Rhythm » Mon Jan 22, 2018 5:25 am

Their reasons #2 (downsizing) and #3 (proximity to activity/transit) seem like reasonable advantages to urban high-rise living in San Francisco. Reason #1 (safety) is very dubious. They are moving from a safe, fairly affluent suburb (Santa Clara) to the heart of the City, so their total exposure to crime will increase. And not just by a little, but by approximately 6-fold. Here's the data: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Californi ... crime_rate

Violent Crimes per 1000 population:
Santa Clara 1.34
San Francisco 7.95

Property crime rate in SF is only twice as high as in Santa Clara, but (and I admit it's only anecdote) a lot of minor property crime goes unreported in the City because people just kind of expect it to happen. FWIW, the third time my car was broken into in San Francisco, not only did I fail to report the crime, I actually blamed myself for leaving a nice coat in plain view and took solace in the thought that some homeless person would stay warm. Yeah, I've been in the City too long.

BTW, did they consider moving to San Jose instead of SF? Cheaper real estate, half the crime rate, and restaurants that are nearly as good.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by SrGrumpy » Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:37 am

To echo one or two others, noisy neighbors would drive me nuts. Footsteps above, doors banging, bedroom noises, dogs, conversations in the hallway. Are the floors carpeted at least? Also traffic noise can be quite noticeable higher up, esp. in hot weather for some physics reason.

Are there plenty of fast elevators. I am staying in a 30-floor condo now with just 2 elevators: tedious.

Late-fifties, aren't they a bit young to be condo shopping?

PS. SanFran is nasty.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by dlw322 » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:01 am

Make sure they don't buy in this leaning building

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millenniu ... Francisco)

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Cycle » Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:14 am

delamer wrote:
Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:20 pm
Are your in-laws planning on purchasing one of the high floor units?

I’d be concerned about getting things like groceries and other necessities up to a high floor place on a regular basis. I always avoided the high rise buildings for that reason when I was an apartment dweller. It just seems like a hassle.
My wife and I are shopping for a condo downtown, to shorten our commutes and have daycare within a block. We have a strong preference for first 3 floors over views. Being able to take the stairs is a big plus, as elevators can be a hassle as you may have to stop 5 times on your way out

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Shallowpockets » Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:27 am

Why not a low rise. Max 5 floors?
I do not even like to stay in a high rise, not even 3 floors, on vacation. You get down and out and, oops, forgot something. Ther you go back up to get it.
Elevator or not, you have to haul your groceries up. How many bags you think that might be?

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by THY4373 » Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:38 am

Shallowpockets wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:27 am
Why not a low rise. Max 5 floors?
I do not even like to stay in a high rise, not even 3 floors, on vacation. You get down and out and, oops, forgot something. Ther you go back up to get it.
Elevator or not, you have to haul your groceries up. How many bags you think that might be?
The one problem with this is at least in some states (Virginia is one) low rise condos/apartments can be built to a lower standard. In particular up to 4 or 5 stories they can be wood framed like your typical house. This leads to a lot more noise transmission between floors. I lived in a low rise wood framed condo and would not do it again. While I didn't hear much from folks on either side of me I heard *a lot* from my neighbor above.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by LSLover » Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:54 am

Has anyone lived in a condo with valet as the only parking option? How did you like it?

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Cycle » Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:54 am

THY4373 wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:38 am
Shallowpockets wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:27 am
Why not a low rise. Max 5 floors?
I do not even like to stay in a high rise, not even 3 floors, on vacation. You get down and out and, oops, forgot something. Ther you go back up to get it.
Elevator or not, you have to haul your groceries up. How many bags you think that might be?
The one problem with this is at least in some states (Virginia is one) low rise condos/apartments can be built to a lower standard. In particular up to 4 or 5 stories they can be wood framed like your typical house. This leads to a lot more noise transmission between floors. I lived in a low rise wood framed condo and would not do it again. While I didn't hear much from folks on either side of me I heard *a lot* from my neighbor above.
You can check in the association docs weather it is a concrete slab or if it's wood framing. Also, you can request a field test of sound transmission as part of your contingency if not concrete. At one condo we were looking at, sound transmission field tests are actually paid by the association if the test passes and by occupant if it fails (obviously they had problems with people installing noisy floors).

FWIW, I wouldn't purchase if floors weren't concrete. In our duplex I installed sound proofing between the two floors when we put in new ceilings and you can't hear any voices but footsteps and creaky floors are very audible. We live on the top floor though, and it's quiet as a mouse in our unit.

delamer
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by delamer » Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:47 am

THY4373 wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:38 am
Shallowpockets wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:27 am
Why not a low rise. Max 5 floors?
I do not even like to stay in a high rise, not even 3 floors, on vacation. You get down and out and, oops, forgot something. Ther you go back up to get it.
Elevator or not, you have to haul your groceries up. How many bags you think that might be?
The one problem with this is at least in some states (Virginia is one) low rise condos/apartments can be built to a lower standard. In particular up to 4 or 5 stories they can be wood framed like your typical house. This leads to a lot more noise transmission between floors. I lived in a low rise wood framed condo and would not do it again. While I didn't hear much from folks on either side of me I heard *a lot* from my neighbor above.

I once had a condo with lousy soundproofing where my bedroom abutted the nextdoor unit’s kitchen. That was fun...

And, of course, an adjoining apartment that once held a quiet neighbor can turnover to the neighbor from hell.

Again, different people have different tolerances for noise but if your in-laws are used to a single family home that is quiet and private, due diligence is required. This isn’t a hotel where they’ll only be for two nights; it is an investment where they can take a big financial hit if they make the wrong choice.

Ron
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Ron » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:08 am

My wife/me rented a high rise condo in Maui (on the beach, of course) a few years ago.

While we were fortunate to be on the top floor without noisy neighbors, we found it was a PIA to wait for the elevator to go up/down and a hassle to move groceries up to the condo for the time we stayed there. Of course, I'm sure you could pay for grocery delivery but we were only going to be there a few weeks as it was.

We certainly spent a lot of time going/coming from our car that was kept in a tight parking area. We got to appreciate what we had at home, just walking two steps to our cars and going on our way easily/quickly.

While it was a consideration of ours for a retirement home, we ruled it out due to the inconvenience factor. Sure, the views were nice but the inconvenience of just getting in/out of the place was a pain.

We ruled out high-rise condo living for our future. As it is, being retired over a decade and looking at other living arrangements (e.g. 55+ communities), we still prefer our current home.

- Ron

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Pajamas » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:49 am

Lynx310650 wrote:
Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:29 pm
Right now they are researching if financially this would be an ok move for them, and some of the pros/cons associated with not just living in a condo, but specifically a high rise type place.
They may want to make sure that the building has emergency generators that will power the elevators in case of a power outage.

There have been a couple of power outages in the last twenty years in my area when power was out for several days (Northeast blackout in 2003 and after Hurricane Sandy) and some of the older people complained about having to use the stairs or not being able to do so to the point that they wanted a generator of some sort for the building to run elevators and hallway lights, despite the high initial and ongoing maintenance costs for something so rarely needed in the past and probably even less likely to be needed in the future due to infrastructure improvements after those incidents.

Otherwise, sounds like a good plan. There has been an increase in older people moving into cities from suburbs for retirement for very good reasons. There has been a corresponding increase in urban assisted living facilities and similar.

A lot of the negative comments in this thread about their plan don't seem to be based on actual experience or at the very least are a very personal opinion, similar to the common and irrelevant response of "hurr durr move to a cheap city in a cheap state in the South" in answer to a question about how to finance the purchase of a house in a high-cost area or whether to send children to public or private schools or similar.

For instance, some of the reasons crime rates are typically higher in urban centers are because of the huge daily influx of people into the area for work and shopping and tourism, while the crime rates are based on the number of people who actually live there. Another common reason is that many of the property crimes are shoplifting, which of course will not occur at the same rate in a purely or nearly-purely residential suburb.

My experience with noise is that it is actually much worse in the suburbs, with construction and landscaping work and booming audio systems in cars driving by, motorcycles, big dogs barking outside all day and into the night, etc. I don't know the standard in San Francisco but in NYC carpeting is generally required to cover 80% of the floor area in apartments. Sound transmission between apartments can still be a problem so they should ask about that and perhaps find an apartment that has been designed to minimize that and also look at the apartment during the evening, not just during the day when most neighbors will be away.

Something else to consider is direct sunlight coming into the apartment as opposed to a northern exposure.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Alex Frakt » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:00 pm

I've been living in a high-rise condo in Chicago since 2005. It is my first purchased home. I always rented before, including for 2 years in another high-rise. I obviously enjoy it, but from talking to people around our neighborhood, which is exclusively high-rise apartments and condos, your satisfaction will depend on the particulars of your building. If you chose a place based on just view and price, it's a crapshoot whether you will be happy.

For example, my building was built from the outset as condos (which generally means superior construction on the interior spaces) and has had a reasonably responsible board from the beginning. Our assessments are higher than the neighboring buildings, but the building has never had a special assessment and reserves are fully funded. Security is excellent, all entrances to the residential area of the building either require admission by the doormen or passing through 2 separate keyed doors which prevents people following someone in. The minimum lease is 6 months, so no AirBnb type rentals. We have enough elevators that waiting is not a problem: 6 passenger elevators, 3 of which serve the lower floors and 3 the uppers, and 2 freight elevators which are accessible from every floor. The freights are on the emergency generator if evacuation is required during a power outage. I never hear my neighbors as the walls between units are properly sound insulated and we have very strict requirements for flooring to ensure noise doesn't travel downwards. The net of this is that units in our building turn over at only a third the rate of our neighbors and most units never hit the MLS, they are internally advertised and sell to existing residents looking to move up to a 2 or 3 BR or down to 1BR or studio for a part-time residence or rental property.

But nothing is perfect. The biggest drawback to me is that, like all of the other older condo buildings in our neighborhood, our units are heated and cooled by PTACs (through the wall combination a/c and electric heaters), which means potentially large electric bills, fan noise and replacement or repair costs every couple of years. Another example of building-specific problems, we have a small group of residents that hate children and have made it very uncomfortable for families to use the sundeck in the summer.

I don't know how you will get enough info to make a truly informed decision. Renting is a good idea, but you aren't going to be privy to the financial status of the building unless you attend the financial committee and board meetings. For us, we liked the area, had plenty of time and there were only 4 condo buildings to chose from at the time. We knew people who lived in two of them and we used a real estate agent who specialized (and lived) in the neighborhood.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by caseynshan » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:05 pm

I"m a big fan of high rise.
My parents move into a high rise from large house.. biggest benefit is maintenance... no need to mow, deal w/ roof repairs, blow out sprinklers, shovel sidewalks, also forced them to downsize stuff, and maintenance of their 'stuff' was taking more time than they would admit.

Biggest benefit, was doing it before 1 got sick.. Now one in Assisted Living, and much easier on other, than if they had still been in a home.

Also, easy to downsize to 1 car, and not drive in bad weather etc.. w/ uber

Yes, HOA can be a pain, but they are handling a lot of the pain that you would be dealing w/ if in house.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by decapod10 » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:14 pm

Another issue related to California is property taxes due to Prop 13. If they have owned the house for a long time (and bought their current house at a much lower price), their property taxes may increase if they were to move. One possible way to get around this is to transfer your property taxes via Prop 60, however not all counties allow this (and they have to be older than 55 I think).

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by TonyDAntonio » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:52 pm

One other thing to consider: the homeless situation in SF is getting worse by the day. And I don't know what ramifications that will have but I don't think it will be good.

I love SF. I was born and raised there. My wife and I literally walk thousands of miles in SF, last year we walked 1800 miles there. I have a retirement job at AT&T park and walk down 2nd Street from Bart all during baseball season probably right by the property in question. Sometimes at night parts of 2nd look like a homeless encampment. Many, many other parts of SF look similarly. While my wife and I have not been harassed too much while walking we continue to see signs that it is getting worse. The subject appears to be a political hot potato with no one willing or able to provide a viable solution.
Bottom line, for an older couple I'm not sure it would be great to move there. If you already call SF home then you've dealt with these issues physically and mentally. Not such a big deal. But to move there...I don't know. And this pained me to write.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Cycle » Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:30 pm

Renting may be more cost effective. In the area we are considering, HOAs are 800-1200/mo, though a 2br/2ba economical condo costs just 208k. One might think that at that price buying makes the most sense, but it is debatable.

A high HOA means if you decide to move, even if the property is paid off you'll likely be losing money by renting it... meaning you have to sell the property and pay realty agents 6%. If the property is $1m, you've got 50k in lost passive-income plus 10-15k in taxes plus $12k in HOA. Would a $1m condo in SFO rent for $7000+ per month or could you find something similar to rent for $5k/month?

All expenses considered (including lost investment gains from a sitting asset), our current living situation in an owner occupied duplex costs us $27 a day. Renting out our unit then moving downtown will cost us $17/day more if we buy ($208k 2br/2ba w/ $800 hoa) or $11/day more to rent ($1800/mo 2br/2ba apartment w/ in unit laundry).

We end up having 1.5hrs per day of additional free time with the move, at a cost of $12/hr if we buy or $8/hr if we rent. The numbers say to rent, but we may end up buying if we find a unit we like.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Lynx310650 » Mon Jan 22, 2018 3:44 pm

Doctor Rhythm wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 5:25 am
BTW, did they consider moving to San Jose instead of SF? Cheaper real estate, half the crime rate, and restaurants that are nearly as good.
Actually yes! I believe there were 4 or so high rise condos built in the latter part of the last decade, and supposedly more are on their way? And with Google moving in, it seems like San Jose's downtown's future could be bright.

I was actually the one who casually brought up San Jose during dinner. I think they still prefer San Francisco, but I also mentioned if they live closer to Diridon Station they are just a train ride away from going up to the City. So yes, they are also considering San Jose.


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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by Epsilon Delta » Mon Jan 22, 2018 4:08 pm

If moving groceries are a problem get a cart. If that makes you self conscious get a large wheeled suitcase.

This is only a problem if you want it to be.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by mouses » Mon Jan 22, 2018 4:39 pm

I used to love San Francisco, but from what I hear now, it has changed a lot, due to being swamped by wealthy arrogant tech employees with different values who have driven out a lot of the former residents. I saw Palo Alto destroyed that way, so I moved away. I would never move back to that area.

I'm also concerned about the living in a high rise aspect. I could probably slowly climb down a lot of stairs, but there's no way I could climb up.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by fasteddie911 » Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:40 am

I've only lived in mid-rise complexes and have nothing to complain about. I'm not a fan of heights and I enjoyed how the complex was more spread out, there were more elevators and access points spread out as opposed to a concentrated location, parking was spread out and everything felt less crowded and busy. I do consider the merits of condo living in older age in regards to mobility issues, especially if the house has stairs. I had older family members that had issues with stairs. I also like the safety and communal aspects of a condo, particularly if a spouse is widowed.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by LeeMKE » Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:27 pm

We did what the OP's family are considering.

Last house was 3500+ sq ft in the burbs, with large lot. We moved downtown to 1650 sq ft and found it too large. Now we are in 1560 sq ft (23rd floor) and it's comfortable. We will probably go down to 1200 sq ft +/- on our next move.

Rent first, then consider buying later.

In our experience, we rented for 1 year, then bought. But the HOA was in bad shape, and the building was badly managed by amateurs. So we sold (and took a big loss) and will remain renters. The building maintenance in a rental is all handled by the staff, not so in a condo. When a HOA decides to cut services to save money, you lose that amenity. When a rental decides to cut services, tenants can vote with their feet and move out. When another condo owner does something stupid (like marble tile on a concrete floor without soundproofing, you must complain to the HOA and some volunteer tries to intervene, usually with limited success. When tenants do stupid things, like the guy who has parties with smokers in a smoke free building and my dryer vents the smoke into my apartment, management gives them a 30 day notice to shape up or leave. There is a lot to be said for having professional staff watching everything day to day.

We started with two cars. I tried out leaving mine in the garage one winter, using ZipCar and mass transit. By spring, I knew we didn't need two cars, so we sold mine. Once DH stops commuting, we'll go to no cars. Uber, Lyft, ZipCar, mass transit all serve us well for transportation, at about half the cost.

As for groceries, we take a collapsible cart when we expect to need more than a bag of groceries. It took awhile to get used to not keeping a fully stocked pantry and freezer. But in the city, you just don't need more than two shelves of foodstuffs. More is just a short walk away, and eating out is a part of our routine, along with delivered meal kits. My first few years downtown I kept shopping like a suburban, and the shelves groaned with all the stuff I carted home. I finally cleared out all the older stuff and stopped buying in quantity. Two shelves and a drawer of tea canisters is all we need for food in the kitchen. And I'm working on paring down my kitchen appliances.

One more thing. We loved the views when we found this place, but the carpet was a lesser quality than I am used to, and I wanted a number of other improvements to the place. Surprisingly, the building managers were cooperative and willing to negotiate. I brought in my own contractors to lay new wood flooring (with soundproofing underlay) carpet most rooms with very nice carpet, install cabinets in dining area and living room, change light fixtures, custom closet inserts and custom paint. I paid for it, they gave me a credit on the carpet they usually install, and I signed a lease that froze the rent for a few years to amortize my costs of the permanent improvements. I spent over $20k on this rental, but it is WAYYY cheaper to walk away from that than pay a real estate commission to sell a condo.

In our case, we will not buy again. Too much bother and too much risk. And we don't miss the Single Family Residence at all.
The mightiest Oak is just a nut who stayed the course.

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Re: Pros and Cons of High Rise Condos for retired couple

Post by itstoomuch » Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:43 pm

We will be moving from a home-orchard to a condo building with just 3 floors. We purchased. It will be nice to be able to walk a few blocks to grocery, library, athletic club, restaurants, and to the movies. I am going to miss being able to pick ripe fruit.
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