The condo revolution

At first, I thought it was just me. But then, after a few weeks of casual observation, I realized I was onto something. A formerly empty lot there, a dilapidated motel there. But when I saw the monstrosity on the hill, I knew there was no denying it. Durango was in the throes of full-on Condo Mania.

As much as I would like to take credit for coming up with that catchy term – which was soon to become the next “metrosexual,” I was sure – I was dismayed to discover that I could not take full credit. Seems there are other great minds out there, and the term “Condo Mania” was already sweeping the nation. C’est la vie.

Apparently, the phenomenon has been taking place for a few years now, from Tacoma to Tallahassee. (If you don’t believe me, try a Google search, just be careful to put a space between “condo” and “mania” or you may end up with some unsavory results or on a government watch list somewhere.) Anyway, it’s just that Durango, as it’s wont to do, was a little late coming to the compact, upscale housing party. Not ones to be party poopers, however, we soon rushed to join the building bandwagon and make up for lost time. I’m no authority, but at last look, pretty much everybody with a semi-level parcel of land and a wheelbarrow was getting in on the action. At last count, there were enough condos going up in downtown Durango for every card-carrying baby boomer in the Lower 48, including Florida. Apparently, low-maintenance living is in. Who needs dirt when you’ve got the rest of eternity to spend in it? Condo living is where it’s at – just think, you’ll never have to shovel snow or water the lawn again. And, if that’s not enough, I’ve got two words for you: heated parking.

Anyway, don’t feel bad if, like me, you were still caught in the era of McMansions or, heaven forbid, prefab. There’s now more to shopping for that perfect new home than just bricks and sticks. In fact, there’s a whole array of condos out there, to fill every taste and tax-break bracket, from “Nuevo Puebloan” to “French Riviera;” “Ikea” to “Super Pimp.” And therein lies the problem – how to navigate those treacherous waters choked with real estate lingo. So, before you make another misstep and, say, get locked into a 30-year fixed-rate on a 35-acre ranchette while all your friends are playing shuffle board on their granite-tiled Lido decks, do your homework. For starters, here is a quick list of some of those new-fangled condo catchwords, complete with Durango translation:

• Townhome: Often used interchangeably with “condo.” However, buyer beware, as some may include stairs or even unmaintained lawns. Furthermore, the nearest latte may be more than a short elevator ride away. His and hers Hummers may not fit in the compact garage.

• Low-rise: The ultimate in convenient, walk-in/walk-out living, the condo equivalent of the ranch style home. Has no relation to popular pants style, unless you’re referring to the cracks in the sidewalk out front – which, of course, the HOA should fix.

• High-rise: Also known as the “fourth floor” by Durango standards. Includes sweeping views of surrounding environs as well as high rise across the street and down valley. Flatlanders may need extended period of acclimation before inhabiting. Again, name has nothing to do with level of waistband of occupants, which is purely coincidental.

• Premium: Most every effort was made to insulate walls to as not to be woken at 2 a.m. by your neighbor’s impromptu “after-bars” or chain-saw-carving side business. Windows to the outdoors available but will cost you. Coin-operated laundry facilities in the basement. Perfect for one very small person who has relinquished all worldly goods or circus performer capable of contorting for extended periods of time. Likely within most working class Durangoan’s financial reach – that is if you pick up a third job.

• Luxury: The towel racks actually match the sink fixtures. Most of the trim has been finished and the walls are painted in a soothing shade of “cappuccino mist.” Refrigerator probably has filtered water dispenser and automatic ice-cube maker. May or may not come with golf membership. Down payment may require selling of a kidney – or two.

• Exclusive: Kitchen not only has a regular sink but one of those extra, little sinks. However, it is seldom used since meals are eaten out so as to avoid smudging the stainless appliances. Amenities may include Yellowstone lodge fireplace, bombproof numeric-code entry gate, Buckingham-style tower replicas and moats with live gators. Purchase may require hefty withdrawal from Swiss bank account or sale of private Leer jet.

And, last but not least, we have:

• Affordable: See “Bayfield.”

– Missy Votel



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