April 23, 2020| Lester Yat
There was a time when images of neatly-painted tennis courts, shimmering swimming pools and swaths of carefully-manicured lawns lured potential home buyers longing for a care-free condominium lifestyle.
But times — and tastes — change. Summer days at the pool are still an enticement for many, but condo buyers and owners today often tend to be more interested in enjoying a brisk walk along a well-groomed trail than a fast-paced round of tennis. Changing demographics and shifting trends are leading developers of new homes and the boards of existing communities to offer a variety of different outdoor amenities.
Just as demand for increasingly sophisticated indoor fitness centers has grown, participation in physical activity has blossomed outdoors, too. Walking and biking trails beckon buyers and homeowners interested in enjoying their surroundings, and condo communities have looked for ways to create a wider range of exercise options for residents.
Similarly, pet-friendly communities are doing more than welcoming Fido these days; they’re providing dog parks that allow man’s best friend to romp freely, too. More than simple fenced-in plots, community dog parks or dog runs often incorporate shady spots for the pups to relax in, benches for owners to sit on, and even fountains to cool the canines on a hot summer day.
And when it comes to playing, children are also reaping the benefit of changing trends in outdoor amenities. The metal swing-set, slide and see-saw that graced playgrounds years ago are giving way to innovative play structures that encourage youngsters to climb and explore. A couple of decades ago, pressure-treated wood was all the rage, and structures that mimicked castles or pirate ships were familiar sights at larger communities, but today’s lower-maintenance play equipment offers even smaller condos the ability to provide exercise and imagination opportunities for the kids. Safety concerns have moved to the forefront, too, and softer, more kid-friendly ground-cover materials provide now easy landings for youngsters.
Despite the waxing and waning trends in exterior amenities, swimming pools continue to be an important attraction for home buyers and owners. The pool is a luxury that most owners of single-family homes don’t enjoy. By pooling their resources, condo owners have the opportunity to get great exercise or simply relax on a hot summer day, while the association’s staff handles all the maintenance chores that accompany this still-popular feature.
While the basic concept of the pool — a large hole in the ground filled with clean water — never changes, pool technology has evolved over the years. Today’s pool pumps, lights and related equipment are more energy-efficient, and new sanitizing systems often use salt compounds rather than chlorine to keep the water sparkling and safe.
Making the Most of Leisure Time
But sometimes, residents just want to relax — and again, the face of leisure-time exterior amenities is changing. Have you heard about hardscaping? Builders and landscapers today are using all kinds of materials to create inviting oases for homeowners to enjoy. From small “secret gardens” to eye-popping outdoor kitchens, these amenities are putting a new spin on the concept of care-free living.
Not all condo communities, of course, have room for sweeping expanses of emerald lawns and luxurious flower beds. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have beautiful and interesting outdoor spaces. Rock walls, brick patios, statuary, fountains and waterfalls can provide calming get-away spots for residents of both urban and suburban communities… and they don’t require constant mowing, raking, weeding and watering to maintain a great look. Of course, no amenity is totally maintenance-free, but hardscaped areas can be less labor-intensive on an on-going basis than traditional planted landscapes.
And, of course, condo owners love their private outdoor spaces. Decks, porches and balconies run the gamut, from simple spots to set up a lounge chair to sophisticated get-aways sporting planters and high-end furnishings. The extent of their personalization will often depend on the association’s condo documents, so owners need to keep those rules in mind — but having that private piece of the great outdoors is a benefit that can’t be overlooked.
Inside and Out
Family-friendly kitchens, luxurious baths, stunning staircases and other interior elements that suit a buyer’s taste will always be essential to happy home-ownership. But whether you’re considering an urban high-rise or a suburban townhouse, the outdoor amenities offered may well hold the keys to finding, and enjoying, the perfect home.