Low-Rise Flats: Up In The Air Without Sky-High HOA Dues

Avanti: 4122 Avondale

[Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com. His opinions are his own.]

I recently suggested that builders lay off the endless blocks of cookie-cutter townhouses with their all-too-familiar floor plans. I see them as an inefficient use of space that invariably cost homebuyers more for the same amount of usable space. They’re the real estate equivalent of the adage, “an elephant is a mouse designed by a committee.”  The answer is single-story “flats” condos.

However, for all their efficient use of space, high-rises often come with HOA dues that put them (monetarily and philosophically) out of reach of most — not to mention some folks being height averse. Enter the low-rise flat. In the early 20th century, many cities built a network of duplex flats, some even triplex flats. In Dallas, these buildings can be seen in many older neighborhoods in East Dallas, Oak Lawn, and Oak Cliff. They offered a way for an owner to have a rental property to ease mortgage payments.

Pre-Recession, Dallas was building a few low-rise flats condo buildings with all the joy of single-story living and reasonable HOAs. Some baulk at any HOA dues, but things like uniform exterior maintenance and landscaping matter – and it’s better to have something in the bank when problems arise versus hastily passing the hat.

Anyway, let’s peek at three low-rise flats in Oak Lawn built pre-Recession.

4122 Avondale

Unit 201

This is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo with 1,305 square feet listed by Sanders Avrea of Allie Beth Allman for $315,000. The HOA dues are $370 per month and include the kind of exterior and interior maintenance you’d rather not be bothered by. Before you ask, yes, this is an elevator building.

You enter the unit between the kitchen and dining room with views all the way to the living room windows. There are a few of you that will scoff at this being similar to a townhouse’s main “second” floor. True. But where are the stairs? And you can just make out doors on either side of the far window — those are the split double-master bedrooms.  Try that with a townhouse.

The kitchen is adequately sized, especially for younger buyers who are less Culinary Institute of America and more Eatzi’s 9 p.m. red sticker habitué. For those aching for a white kitchen, here’s the thing: That trend is about over. We’re already seeing designers mixing it up to bring color back to the kitchen (and I don’t mean spills). Wait five minutes and wood will be back – consider yourself pre-trendy.

Like I said, this condo has two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms. This one has two sinks and a separate shower (behind the bathtub in this picture). Lots and lots of storage and high-ceilings, and a jetted tub no one uses. The second bath is slightly more compact without a separate shower and second sink.

Not a bad closet for a 1,305-square-foot, two-bedroom unit, right?  And since it’s attached to the bathroom, you can clean up and dress without waking your sleeping significant other (like non-early-bird me).

Unit 107

If you snoozed, you lost, because unit 107 is currently under contract. But, I thought a couple of pics were in order to see the layout. This is a smaller two-bedroom, two-bath unit with 1,040 square feet – but again, both bedrooms have en suite bathrooms. It is/was listed with Ebby’s Beth Leath for $250,000. Similar to unit 201, this unit enters into the kitchen with the first bedroom’s entry visible on the right.

Beyond the kitchen is the open-concept living and dining room. In back of the photographer is a fireplace and entry into the master bedroom. Also visible is the patio , which is screened to keep the bugs off your burgers.

But like I said, it’s under contract.

4111 Gilbert Avenue

Unit 108

Around the corner from 4122 Avondale is unit 108 at 4111 Gilbert Ave., a one-bedroom with study that’s 887 square feet and listed for $224,900 by Yamil Hernandez of Yamil Hernandez Realtors. The HOA dues are a manageable $240 per month.

Similar to the Avondale units, you enter into the kitchen area — this one a lighter palette than the others. If you’re wondering why the kitchens are near the entry, it’s because you want windows in the living area rather than the kitchen. Layout-wise, the bedroom and study area are to the right of this picture. The living and dining room are in the distance.

The living room has great light, with sliding doors for plenty of fresh air (you’d be surprised how many days my windows are open). You can just make out the bedroom door on the right.

The surprise of this unit is the study/home office area that’s off the kitchen with a door to the bathroom visible on the left. As more of us work from home, this is pretty nifty in a one-bedroom property.

And I’d agree, an 887 square foot one-bedroom isn’t really a townhouse replacement, but certainly, a 1,305-square-foot flat is comparable to a 1,800- to 2,000-square-foot townhouse. “Comparable to 2,000?!” you say.  Yes, parking is not part of the unit footprint and there aren’t three staircases taking up at least 100 square feet each.

It’s time to take a hard look at the efficiency of the space you’re looking for. A staircase doesn’t equal a home. A mortgage does. Ha!


Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.