Confessions of Dallas High Rise Living: The Good, the Bad, and the HOA

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Jon Anderson is a fan of high-rise living in Dallas who loves old buildings because of their price tag, great space and renovation potential.

In equal measure, he enjoys and is frustrated by the blood-sport and hilarity of HOAs rife with high-school antics, cronyism and good old-fashioned dumb.  By day, he works for a global technology firm in market research but loves spending his free time searching the world (sometimes, literally) for the right faucet.

Jon is exactly the kind of Type A house-obsessed personality we love reading CandysDirt.

So when he suggested that he blog for us about living the High life in Dallas, I was thrilled. I have only experienced single family home living in Dallas, except for my sleep-aways at The Residences at the Ritz Carlton, where Kyle Crews and his super selling team have sold all my favorite units. I don’t know about HOA meetings, but our neighborhood association meetings could make me go postal.

Jon is going to grace us with a series of posts, a lot of tell-all, and offer some insight into the nitty-gritty of high rise living — the good, the bad, and the HOAs, which we hear in some buildings are just plain out of control:

Jon Anderson

By Jon Anderson
Special Contributor

The Good: I love living off the ground.  Obviously, the views are great – I can see dozens of fireworks shows on July 4th from my patio.  And “naked with the drapes open” privacy (pre-drone) is awesome. There’s also something about the lock-and-go lifestyle that appeals to the traveler in me.  Finally, I hate fussing over mundane maintenance:  “Where’s the hot water?” and the “mow-and-hoe” of yard work.

High-rises are ranch homes in the sky, though there are a few multi-story high-rise units in this town.  Single-story living eliminates pesky stairs that ruin the flow and eat up valuable space.  Let’s face it, a 2,000 square foot 3-story townhome nets a solidly usable (albeit narrow) 1,400-ish of poky rooms.  But a more efficient single-level condo uses all 2,000 square feet (minus columns) and they’re generally more than 15’ wide. Remember the views?  I have 50’ of floor to ceiling windows versus your “Where’s Waldo” double-hungs.  High-rises also offer more than the tired garage/bedroom ground floor, living/dining/kitchen second floor, and bedroom/bedroom top floor layout of oh so many boring-ass townhouses.

Of course, there are a few low/mid-rises “flats” in Dallas, but townhouses are the most common newer low-rise construction.

Living Room

The Bad: The hurdle to becoming a high-riser heard most often are the HOA dues (which I’ll cover in detail in a future post).  But the short answer is that it costs money to defy gravity (ask NASA) and all dues are not the same.  Ground-dwellers (groundies) moan that they never spend $XXX dollars every month on maintaining their abode – and they’re sorta correct.  But they do spend in fits and starts on home maintenance when something goes wrong, often the result of water being somewhere it’s not supposed to be. Groundies also don’t have staff salaries, on site gyms and Dean-effing-Fearing delivering breakfast.  Pop Tarts and a dusty, clothes-strewn Nordic Track aren’t the same!

Kidding aside, HOA dues are a chunk of change and it’s up to buyers to understand each building’s HOA dues – what they pay for (be that Fearing’s ministrations, utilities, or a pool) and whether that’s of value.  Because let’s face it, many Realtor’s math skills end at calculating 3% of anything. Can you blame them? One of these days I may invent flash card drills for Realtor commission calculation . Here’s “$374,000?  …the commission is ummmm, $11,220.

The other hurdle to owning a condo can sometimes be overall cost. After all, we all want just a bit more than we can afford.  Older buildings are a bargain but often the décor should’ve been buried along with the previous owner. Factoring in renovations (that’s another future post, been there, done that) can be trickier and more costly in a high-rise.  The alternative is buying into a newer building, but the prices are exponentially higher.

For example, as of this writing, an 1,130 square foot, shop-worn 2 bed/2 bath unit on the 20th floor of Preston Tower with gorgeous views of north Dallas is listed at $177/sft.  Blocks away a renovated 1,379 square foot 2bed/2bath on the 9th floor of the Shelton with gorgeous Tollway views (and noise) is listed at $301/square foot.  A vastly different buyer is needed for $177/square foot needing renovation versus $301/square foot all ready to go.

A buyer with a desire for personalization, elbow grease and a smaller purse might throw $50,000 into Preston Tower and laugh all the way to the bank.  A hearing impaired buyer who valued a hassle-free move-in would opt for the Shelton.

BTW, the HOA dues are nearly identical with Preston Tower paying all utilities while the Shelton unit is 249 square feet larger.

The HOA: Even after deciding on high-rise living, it’s not just buy in the sky  and live happily ever after. There are neighbors and the HOA to consider.  High-rise Homeowners’ Associations have as many intractable fiefdoms as they do residents.  The truism that everyone has an opinion and an asshole must surely have been coined during an HOA meeting.

Like Harry Potter on his first Hogwarts train, it’s up to the new owner to decipher the Weasleys from the Malfoys.  Sometimes it’s the Malfoys who are in charge and who scorch the earth without the proper genuflection.  In my opinion and experience, disagreements can often be traced to age and intelligence.

Some Dallas high-rises tend to be God’s Waiting Rooms for downsized suburbanites and Fox News fans.  While I’ve heard fairy tales of faraway high-rises harboring children and nannies, there are many more wheelchairs than skateboards in our high-rise.

Is that exclusive to Dallas? I think not. Younger owners think longer-term because, to be honest, they’ll still be alive to live with the consequences.  Getting things done right matters.  Owners living in their last house, driving their last car, using their last box of Poligrip, can have an “It’ll do” attitude that is stronger than their Poligrip.  They operate on short-term savings over long-term vision – which is fine inside their antimacassar festooned homes.

But it’s dangerous when applied to a structure.

And this is precisely the problem of living in a building of the Geritol set. Or shall I say, Metamucil.  In some pre-1980s high-rises, major systems are beginning to need costly repair and replacement.  Many older buildings in Dallas got trapped by short-term thinking and postponed routine maintenance for years, sometimes decades.  Recently several of these buildings have been forced to undertake costly (usually specially assessed) projects costing many times what the delayed maintenance would have cost had it been done correctly in the first place.

Younger owners are also more in tune with the outside world.  Older owners, sometimes retired for decades, can be selfish in their objection to change coupled with an aesthetic sense mired in decades past. Often it’s adrift old women (single or with diminished husbands) whose interests revolve around God and grandkids who have burst their shackles to call the shots for the first time EVER in their lives.  These unexplored lives lead to a lot of cra-cra.  Honestly, it’s arsenic and old lace.

Case in point: at a recent HOA meeting, our building insurance agent was repeatedly quizzed by our then-president on the critical need for terrorist insurance. I hope she slept through the earthquakes of a few weeks ago. When assessing the best locale for a terror attack, a high-rise in Dallas filled with 75-year-olds and their vast collections of Hummels, crocheted pastel toilet paper covers, and commemorative spoons would NOT top the list!

You can tell I have been to about 20 too many of these board meetings.

At this point., you’re thinking Monty Python’s King Arthur was right…”run away, run away!” and some should.  (Maybe I should!)

But high-rises are cool.  Your friends will be soooo JEL.  Quieter neighbors can’t be found outside a cemetery.  Jesting aside, many older neighbors in my buildings have been vibrant and full of life experiences that add depth and perspective to any social circle.

As for for the rest, keep a black outfit neatly pressed and nearby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Comment

  • I can’t wait to read more, it’s like an accessory you didn’t even know was missing, Dirt is getting Better every day!

  • Love the article Jon! Candy thanks for sharing. I live in a high-rise and love it. The HOA Board is my biggest pet peeve. I hope Jon’s article on the HOA talks about the Board members who believe no one can do as good as job as they can. Rather than giving someone else a chance to bring new blood to the Board, every time they are eligible for re-election they run again. Fortunately, we only have one of those at this time. She’s like the Energizer Bunny. She just keeps on running and running and running……!

  • Hilarious!
    I have heard of a Turtle Creek unit with one common electric bill so the owner uses the unit as his wine cellar with the temperature set at 57 degrees. He figured it was the most economical way to store and secure his collection as others tenants were subsidizing his electric costs

  • The story of a Turtle Creek condo being used as wine storage is probably apocryphal. While some high-rises include all utilities (the old ones), the ability to precisely control the temperature is hit-or-miss. For example, there’d be no way to hold 57 degrees in the summer. However I do know of a condo purchased to house a cat because the neighboring building (where they lived) didn’t allow pets. It was known as the “cat house” by neighbors.

  • Love this!
    Like a lot of baby boomers, I’ve downsized from a big Preston Hollow house. My ‘flat’ in Pagewood doesn’t have a view, but the maintenance-free aspect is fantastic. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of a forced HOA and the politics that come with it, I may take that next step and move on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky. Glad you’re educating the folks who don’t know the nuances of our various high rise buildings. Can’t wait to read your next piece.

  • i loved high-rise living and want to go back. I grew up with a ton of home and lawn maintenance and want nothing to do with it to this very day. Biggest pain of it, IMO, is having to take a dog outside at 2am. Minor detail but the Shelton’s higher price per square foot is also due to the fact it’s in Highland Park ISD.

  • Jon is not kidding!!! I know him quite well.

  • My dearest Candy,
    I have been reading your series about High-Rise living and it has some entertaining value, but not always so accurate on specifics.
    I am very curious as to who Jon Anderson is and what qualifies him in the realm of Dallas High Rises.
    I Googled him, but didn’t find anything pertaining to him and high rises.
    I have followed you and loved your site for many years and know that you know the “Who,s Who of everything Dallas Real Estate”.

    I have lived ad sold the high rise lifestyle in Dallas for over 25 years….it is my passion. Part of my success has been that “I live the lifestyle that I sell” and I understand the special vibe of each of these vertical neighborhoods..

    I have recently joined forces with the effervescent Tammy McLaine as we are both with Keller Williams URBAN office. Both being Broker Associates with a combined 50 years experience are making us a Force to be reckoned with.

    Maybe its time for you, Tammy, and I to meet for lunch and catch up
    Forever a fan
    Kristian Peterson