Advice/things to know before buying & living in a high rise condo (first time home buyer)

Asked by Larry, Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL Thu Dec 27, 2012

Hello, I am a first time home buyer highly considering purchasing in 2020 N. Lincoln Park West. I have never lived in a high rise building.

Is anyone familiar with this building? Do you recommend this building? It seems like a great building to own in; great location and many of the units have had the same owner for decades. They do not prevent rentals - which is attractive to me - as I would eventually like to rent the unit out. However I am a bit concerned since it is already 38% renter occupied.

Also can anyone suggest any pointers or "heads up" on living in a high rise? I've never lived in a high rise so I am unfamiliar with the ins and outs.


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Sara Benson’s answer
Sara Benson, , Chicago, IL
Sat Jan 26, 2013
When purchasing a condo, the health of the overall association is critical. You're not just buying the air space within your unit, you are in business, so to speak, with your neighbors--even though it is a non-profit, you still need to make sure the association's bottom line is healthy in order to reduce your future financial risk.

Check the following:
* Building’s owner-occupancy ratio; (you've done this, but double check as numbers change frequently.)
* Percentage of units that are more than 30 days delinquent in condo fees.
* The percentage of ownership that transfers with the unit (and upon what basis that percentage is calculated.)
* Any lawsuits or liens filed by or against the condo association.
* Any municipal notices of code violations against the unit or the building.
* Verification of current assessments, including any special assessments levied, due date and total amount due for the special assessment.
* Name and contact information for the management company and/or association directors.

Also have your broker make the sales contract subject to an attorney’s review and the your approval of the following:

* An inspection of the unit by a State Licensed Inspector.
* The Reserve Fund Study, if any.
* The Property Report.
* Two years of operating budgets including current financial reserves.
* Balance Sheet (Make sure association is running in the black.)
* Twelve months of most recent board minutes. (Minutes are typically considered confidential documents and are not published. It is only in the minutes you will find out about special assessments that are being discussed, but have not yet been levied.)
* Condominium declaration, association by-laws and house rules.

As the old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Hope this helps.
0 votes
Ryan Rahim e…, Agent, Chicago, IL
Mon Jun 24, 2013
Understand the Rules and Regs, Bi-laws, and Minutes (Monthly Meetings) of that building. Call me for advise. Ryan Rahim 773-343-2160
0 votes
Bill Dwyer, Agent, Chicago, IL
Sat May 25, 2013
Hey Larry. I live down the street in a high rise. It's called the Parkview, at 1660 N LaSalle. Been here about 20 years. Here's my advice. Don't live on too high a floor, the elevator commute will get tiresome after a while. And get the best view for your money. A good view always commands a premium!
0 votes
Seth Captain, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Feb 5, 2013
TIps for living in a Chicago high-rise:

1. When passing a neighbor in the hallway, say nothing, and then open and immediately lock your door

2. Flick your lights on and off three times at 11pm nightly so authorities know you are safe.

3. Fill your garbage bags with loose rocks so that they will easily move down the trash chute.

4. Upon entering the elevator, if you see another resident coming, make sure to quickly push your floor and the 'door close' button

5. Attend monthly condo board meetings in your favorite fascist t-shirt and pretend what you say might make a difference. Be sure to inquire why there has to be a dog weight limit, why the management company is paid so much, why the special assessment cost so much, why you can't bring your bike in the elevator, why you have to pay the cable assessment when you don't use your tv, why the gym is locked after 10pm, why your neighbor is allowed to cook those things that smell like rotting mammal carcass, why were you fined for leaving moving boxes in your parking space, and why the condo board is allowed to make decisions for you.

6. Never forget the doorman's birthday
0 votes
Joanna Weiss, , Chicago, IL
Thu Jan 31, 2013
if the owner occupancy is higher than 30%, it may be difficult to obtain a mortgage with less than a 20% down payment. Lenders perfer that there are more owners than renters. If I can help, let me know. Joanna Weiss 773-372-3580
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Evelyn S. Fr…, Agent, Chicago, IL
Fri Dec 28, 2012
Hi Larry,

Good advise and comments here.

I suggest you sit down with a buyers agent, I'm available, and discuss the buying process. It will help you with expectations and make the transition smoother.

Also, once you start to visit some of these high rises while house hunting you'll begin to get a feel for it and then be better able to determine if it's for you or not.

Good luck!
0 votes
George Patri…, Agent, Raleigh, NC
Fri Dec 28, 2012
Hi Larry,

I've sold units in the building and have unit 2D for sale there now (which you should check out - great owner occupant or investment unit due to lower taxes/assessments than almost any 1 bed there). It's a great building and like some of the others have said one of the best buildings in the area.

Pros of high-rise: easy living - no roof/siding/lawn/basement/etc to deal with. It's full amenity with door staff, laundry, gym, pool, tennis courts.

cons: you have to pay for all that stuff! But you'd pay for it anyway - if you live in a house the entire building is your responsibility.

Good luck!

George Patrick
Koenig & Strey
0 votes
Philip Sencer, Agent, Chicago, IL
Fri Dec 28, 2012
2020 is one of the better buildings. Most units have views. The potential issues are that parking is on a wait list and public parkikng next door is about 250/mo or more. They also charge owners $500 each time they rent. That is on the high side and it is because they want to discourage rentals in an attempt to keep the % down. I think in the next few years the % of owner occupancy will start to go up as the market finally changes. 1960LPW is also nice although the units are somewhat smaller.
1850 Clark has become a bargain mostly because they have an ooutrageous special assessment of about 40K per 1 bedroom unit for some structionial work and other odds and ends. Prices are down as a result, but if you can get the seller to eeat the amount or adjust the price it might work. Views are great and parking is low and they allow rentals. The association is fighting the board for instituting the special because the board in very arrogant................another potential issue when living in a high rise.
0 votes
JIM Michaels, Agent, Chicago, IL
Thu Dec 27, 2012
The Pros of a full service condo: everything feels easy almost as if you are being pampered. If you get one with a pool and deck, fitness center, doorman, maintenance man, dry cleaner in the building you should have every amenity one should need besides a personal chef.
0 votes
Sohail Salah…, Agent, Chicago, IL
Thu Dec 27, 2012

I have sold at this building this year as the listing agent and buyers agent. I also have rented many units at this building. This is a great building, tons of reserves in the $millions, so many great amenities, great location, and so much more

Please contact me and I can guide you from A to Z

Sohail A. Salahuddin | Founder

Innovative Property Consultants Group | Sales and Leasing

Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty

425 W. North Ave. | Chicago, IL 60610 

O: 312.335.3230 | C: 312.437.7799 | F: 847.805.6030

"Extraordinary Service For Extraordinary Lives"
0 votes
Josh Weinberg…, Agent, Chicago, IL
Thu Dec 27, 2012
2020 LPW is in a great location! In general for high rises, some important questions to find out are percentage of owner occupancy, amount in reserves, and if there are any planned special assessments.

If you have any specific questions about the building or high rises, or any other questions, please feel free to email me.

Thank you and best of luck!

Josh Weinberg
0 votes
Jack Lewitz, Agent, Lincolnwood, IL
Thu Dec 27, 2012
How many elevators are there? Parking deeded or assigned? Assessments include what? If my memory serves me this is very close to Lincoln park zoo so watch out for animals. Lions, Tigers, and bears .... Oh. My!
0 votes
Bill J Delig…, Agent, Naperville, IL
Thu Dec 27, 2012
Keep in mind that when living in a condo you have to abide by the Rules and Regulations of the Association. You cannot do whatever you want since you are "living" with many others. Check the assessments and inquire as to if any special projects are being considered that might affect your assessments.
0 votes
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