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June/July 2005

What's In a Name?
Define Your Digs, Find Your Niche
by Lisa Strickland

Cluster homes are one of many housing options in Atlanta.
If you've decided to take the plunge and invest in real estate, you may find yourself a little confused by all of the advertisements touting the various types of homes available in Atlanta. Sure, a house is a house. Unless it's a cluster home. Or a townhome. With Atlanta's booming real estate market, developers have striven to carve out niches for themselves to meet the individual home ownership needs of the city's diverse population. There's a perfect type of home for you here-but first you have to figure out what it's called.

For those who don't want the hassle of a yard or home maintenance, a floodgate of condominium developments and options fill the needs of everyone from singles to empty nesters. Contrary to popular belief, a condo is a type of ownership, not a form of real estate. In a condominium development, a condo is usually a single apartment-style unit within a building containing many other units. A condo owner owns everything within the walls of his unit (sometimes referred to as "airspace"), but common areas such as stairs, hallways, amenities and land are "shared" by each unit owner in the building. Most condo developments charge owners monthly homeowners' association (HOA) fees to cover the exterior and structural maintenance of the building, as well as the upkeep of the amenities and landscaping.

A high-rise is a multi-level building (usually at least 10 stories) containing condominium units. In some of the more luxurious high-rises around town, you'll find the experi ence much like living in a fine hotel. Typically, high-rise dwellers come home to valet parking, a 24-hour doorman and concierge services, in addition to traditional amenities such as a pool, tennis courts and gardens. All of these little extras do come with a price, however-high-rise HOA fees are often higher than traditional garden-style or low-rise condos.

Live, Work, Play Communities
The phrase, "live, work, play," often associated with loft or condo developments, captures the concept behind mixed-use projects. In a typical development, retail and commercial units are located on the street level, while office and residential units are located on the floors above. Also, the development is located usually within walking distance of other city amenities and entertainment venues. The types of residential units offered in mixed-use developments vary, but usually include lofts or apartments (including condos).

This loft at 850 Peachtree features high ceilings and exposed duct work.
Long associated with ultra-hip SoHo and Tribeca neighborhoods in New York City, loft living has moved south in recent years, and Atlantans have fallen in love with lofts for their sophisticated, artsy appeal and stark contrast to "cookie-cutter" apartments. A variety of lofts exist in Atlanta, some of which have been carved out of existing buildings or warehouses, while others are built new from the ground up. Traditionally, lofts are associated with exposed brick walls (usually found in a historic rehabilitation project), high ceilings, open-air floor plans and often a staircase leading to an "upstairs" sleeping area (the loft), although these features will vary from building to building.

Cluster Homes
If you want a detached home with some yard, but without the yard upkeep, this is the home for you. Cluster homes combine concepts of both the traditional, single-family home and condominiums. Usually built subdivision-style, cluster homes occupy small lots, making your home literally steps away from your neighbors on all sides. While you own your own yard, it will not require much of your time to maintain it. In some developments, neighborhood association fees cover the lawn maintenance (if applicable), while in others lawn care responsibility falls upon the owner. Unique floor plans are often found in these homes, as they are designed to best utilize the size of the individual lots.

Townhomes are several stories tall and are attached by a common wall to at least one other unit.

Townhomes have gained popularity with Atlantans looking for roomier alternatives to apartment-style condos, but lack the yard-maintenance hassle of a detached home. Sometimes called "row houses," townhomes generally are two to three stories tall and attached by a common wall to at least one other unit. Many townhomes also feature garages beneath the living area, and some have yards as well. Some townhome communities do not have HOA fees, although this varies depending on the development and amenities offered.

Specialized Communities
Specialized communities target a specific lifestyle by including particular amenities conveniently within the neighborhood. For example, horse lovers might prefer an equestrian community that offers stables and riding trails. Golf course communities enjoy the greens right outside the front door, and swim/tennis communities include a swimming pool and tennis courts on the premises.

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