Morse Code “Good Morning”

A few weeks ago I wrote about the pitiful communication skills many HOAs and management companies use when communicating with residents.  Who knew I would get a second example so soon?

Imagine your Saturday tranquility shattered by jackhammers ripping through concrete minutes after sunrise at 7 a.m. Turns out that a building with ground-floor commercial space chose Saturday morning to allow a renovation to begin after the space recently changed hands.

Needless to say, residents were unhappy and loudly voiced their unhappiness over the din of the demolition.

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Grapevines are an effective, but famously inaccurate. form of communication

We’ve all heard (and likely employed) the old saying, “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  The inference is that while you were going to do something anyway, once it’s done, the resulting hassles are less than having to deal with the before-during-after trio of carping.  But that strategy doesn’t play well in multi-family dwellings that often operate as a Peyton Place of wagging tongues.

Of course the other issue here is that resident-representatives on HOA boards are generally untrained in the ways of communication. Management companies can be equally untrained. All seemingly unable to operate on even the most basic “what would I like” litmus test.

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Single Senior Men: You May Never be Lonely or Hungry Again

Single Senior Men: You May Never be Lonely or Hungry Again

In last week’s second of three articles on high-rise demographics, I wrote about Dallas’ youngest high-rise populations. I noted that in those younger buildings, there were usually high rates of non-homestead owners – some as high as 75 percent. I think non-homestead ownership is worth noting because, in addition to owner age and worth, it gives an idea about how these owners react to changes.

Owners claiming a home as a second shelter (subtle, eh?) may be more likely to support (or at least not block) building improvements because they’re less likely to be constrained by wealth (or a lack of it). This may differ from investment/rental property owners who are managing a spreadsheet and are more likely to have a cautious mindset (while still acting to protect their investment).

In Dallas’ oldest high-rise populations, non-homestead ownership is much lower – 13 to 29 percent to be exact. The other difference is building age. The “oldest” of the young buildings were built in the 1990s whereas the “youngest” old buildings was 1984’s Claridge with the overwhelming majority built in the 1950-60s.

In fact, the only buildings from the 1950s-1960s first high-rises not included in the oldest category are those that support a much higher average for non-homestead, rental units. This means the true age makeup of ownership for Preston Tower, “21,” and Turtle Creek North is obscured. I say that these buildings have a high percentage of rentals (versus second home owners) because they have smaller, cheaper units that are easier for smaller investors to purchase.

As of this writing, four of six MLS listings at Preston Tower are rentals. This equates to 67 percent of listings – and that’s just the MLS, other rentals are surely available via other avenues. At “21” the rental listings equal 50 percent.

So where should whist-playing buyers go? How about frisky widowers desiring the pick-of-the-litter of older paramours tussling over who delivers the first “welcome” casserole with a breakfast chaser?

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SoCo Urban Lofts at 1122 Jackson St. has one of the highest ratios of young residents.

SOCO Urban Lofts at 1122 Jackson St. tends to attract a younger crowd compared to Wyndmere.

In the first part of this series I wrote about how unit prices, resident age and income are data points for high-rise buyers to consider before purchasing their castle in the sky. The reason for these calculations is to better understand if a building matches a buyer’s philosophy. Of course this information doesn’t produce a complete picture. It’s also incumbent on any buyer to meet with the building manager of any high-rise under consideration to understand the personality and finances of the building. But much like employment references where many are non-committal rather than honest, it may require astute reading between the lines.

Younger buyers may be more open to change, maintenance, and improvements. But they may also have economic constraints the further away they are from peak-earning years. Meaning that buildings with high proportions of owners in their 20s and 30s may suffer from the same economic paralysis as buildings with majorities in their 70s and 80s. The difference being the younger building will WANT to do new things but can’t.

So, how do you find a building with a sweet spot age range? Jump for more.

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Census Age Distribution Dallas

This is the first of a three-part series on high-rise demographics. In this first part, I’ll cover how resident age, personal finances, and cognitive decline form an intersection that should help buyers better understand a high-rise. These factors are certainly in play in all neighborhoods, but the communality of high-rises makes them more acute. After all, when talking about single-family homes, a neighbor’s leaking roof has no impact on your home a block away.

According to the US Census, the age distribution in Dallas is such that 62 percent of residents are in their home-buying years. The remaining 38 percent are under 24 years old and, aside from trust fund babies, unlikely to be buying real estate.

In Dallas, 9 percent of the population is over 65 years old, empty (or never) nesters with many looking to downsize from suburban family factories to a smaller, more urban, lower-maintenance existence. It’s the “oh crap, the kids are gone – I need SOMETHING to do besides Applebee’s and a movie” syndrome. Otherwise known less charitably as, “the skid mark to Sparkman.”

And then there’s the largest demographic with ages ranging from 25 to 64. This is a big bucket ranging from “starter home” to “forever home” to “next forever home” to empty nest downsizers. Being the largest and most mobile, it’s also the most active in terms of buying and selling.

Since leaving college 30 years ago, I’ve lived in nine homes in five states, (ten/six, counting my second home). All except Dallas were forced career moves. That kind of movement places me clearly above the average (but you suspected that all along, right? 🙂 ).

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1550 N State

Chicago’s 1550 N. State Parkway; $12,000 and a time machine.

I recently returned from a trip to Chicago where I walked around burning off calories and looking at the high-rises of my childhood dreams. Chicago had a golden age of residential high- and mid-rise construction from the 1880s to the crash of 1929. Some were co-ops but most were apartments billed as mansions in the air. Units were enormous— 5,000-plus square feet was not unusual, many were multi-floor, and most had tremendous views of Lake Michigan. Their exteriors are an array of styles from Tudor to Beaux Arts to Deco.

Unfortunately, the interiors are generally not conducive to today’s living. Servants’ quarters, miniscule bathrooms and closets, and kitchens at opposite ends from the living area do not fit today’s lifestyles or open-plan living – and reconfiguring is difficult. My fantasy building is at 1550 N. State Parkway built in 1911. Each of its 11 8,000-square-foot floors was a single apartment. The living area is 100 linear feet with fireplaces at each end. It’s the Nebraska Furniture Mart of apartments and had a rent in the 1920s of $12,000 a year – four times the salary of the average citizen.

But enough Chicago trivia, let’s move forward a century to Dallas of the 1980s, the era of round edges and inappropriate use of mirrors.   Inexplicably, of the nine residential high-rises built during the decade, the only building name that didn’t begin with “The” was Park Plaza. You may be thinking I’m forgetting Latour, but “La tour” is French for “The Tower.” Ha!

I have no idea why residential high-rise construction was on hiatus for almost a decade and a half – I didn’t live here then, so it’s not my fault!  But come back it did, and when it did, it seemed a touch cautionary. Of the nine, three had under 50 units and only four had more than 100 units – just one with over 150.

Also noticeably missing from this era are the centralized utilities found in Dallas’ older high-rises. Billing was now based solely on individual unit usage with system maintenance also transferred from building to unit owner. HOA dues per square foot can be lower in these buildings, but not seemingly enough to make up for the utility shift.

Fear not, acres of popcorn ceilings remain!

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