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Slide Show | October 2012

What $250K Buys You in Today's Condo Market

Condo owners were hit hard when the housing bubble burst in 2006 (property values decreased an average of 41%). Now the housing market is starting to rebound, especially the condo market (see our story: The Condo Market Makes a Comeback).

In the second quarter of 2012, the national median existing condo price was $178,000, according to the National Association of Realtors. That's a 7.5% increase compared to the same time last year. Median condo prices in some cities, including New York ($635,000) and Pittsburgh ($138,400), are even exceeding their previous median highs.

We found nine properties across the country to show how far your condo dollar will stretch these days. You'll trade square footage and amenities for a central location in cities such as Honolulu and Boston, while in smaller areas, such as Madison, Wis., and Lakewood, Colo., you can find properties twice or triple the size.

Here's a look at how much $250,000 will buy you in the condo market today.


What $250K Buys You in Today's Condo Market

Boston

Square footage: 556

Bedrooms: 1

Bathrooms: 1

Listed for: $214,000

Monthly condo fee: $353.99

It's more affordable to buy than rent in Beantown, where apartment rental rates average nearly $1,800 for a one-bedroom. In this quaint space, there are oak hardwood floors and built-in shelving and storage units in the living room and bedroom. A small den is adjacent to the living room with French doors. The kitchen has been updated with stainless-steel appliances. In the bathroom, there's Italian marble tile, a pedestal sink and a jet tub.

The monthly condo fee includes heating, elevator, sewage services, master insurance, exterior building maintenance and snow removal.

Boston

Madison, Wis.

Square footage: 1,177

Bedrooms: 2

Bathrooms: 2

Listed for: $219,900

Monthly condo fee: $226

Condos have traditionally attracted first-time buyers who are ready to own but don't want the upkeep a single-family home requires. Young adults will find more than just affordable condos in Madison, which ranked number one on our recent list of the Best Cities for Young Adults. The city lures and retains educated and tech-savvy residents thanks to a fertile field of start-up ventures such as PerBlue, Optimal Media Group and Alice.com, all started by local college grads.

This property is at Nichols Station Condominiums, a small community with only 45 units that's situated on the Lake Mendota waterfront. It comes with a wood-burning fireplace, hardwood floors and a breakfast bar in the kitchen area. There's underground parking, and the building is dog-friendly. The monthly condo fee includes parking, sewage services, management, trash removal, snow removal, and common area maintenance and insurance.

Madison, Wis.

Houston

Square footage: 1,442

Bedrooms: 2

Bathrooms: 2

Listed for: $205,500

Monthly condo fee: $418

Condos tend to be popular with the 65-and-over set because condo owners don't have to worry about the maintenance (such as seasonal yard work and shoveling snow) that comes with owning a single-family home.

The Lone Star State is a tax-friendly option for retirees. There's no state income tax, which means residents who retire here will not have their Social Security benefits or any other form of retirement income taxed.

Built in 2006, this two-bedroom unit has stainless-steel appliances, maple wood cabinets and an oversize garden tub with a separate shower in the bathroom. It's located in Bellaire, a Mediterranean-style three-floor condominium property with 27 units.

There's controlled building access and assigned parking for each home, and residents have access to two landscaped courtyards. The monthly condo fee includes cable TV, gas, insurance for common areas, building and grounds maintenance, trash pick-up and sewage services.

Houston

Bridgeport, Conn.

Square footage: 1,570

Bedrooms: 3

Bathrooms: 1

Listed for: $210,000

Monthly condo fee: $250

Brigdeport's close proximity to New York City (it's about an hour's drive) makes it a prime location for professionals who work in the Big Apple but don't want to pay Manhattan real estate prices. Empty-nesters and retirees may want to look elsewhere for the condo of their dreams, however. That's because Connecticut ranks as Kiplinger's least-tax-friendly state for retirees. Seniors who move to this area are subject to taxes on their out-of-state and civil-service retirement pensions.

This property has an open floor plan with hardwood floors in the living and dining rooms, stainless-steel appliances and a Jacuzzi tub. It's located in The Lofts at Lafayette, a gated community with nearby shopping and nightlife.

The monthly condo fee includes trash pickup, water, landscaping, snow removal, a security gate, common-area maintenance, state property taxes and other maintenance fees.

Bridgeport, Conn.

New Orleans

Square footage: 505

Bedrooms: 1

Bathrooms: 1

Listed for: $219,000

Monthly condo fee: $347

The "Big Easy" topped Kiplinger's recent list of the Best Cities for Retirees. The building boom of new and refurbished homes post-Katrina, affordable health care and a thriving arts scene are big draws.

This newly updated condo is a part of the Morro Castle condominium community in the lower French Quarter. Special touches include chandelier lighting fixtures, Venetian plastered walls, 12-foot ceilings and original hardwood flooring. It has a balcony that overlooks Burgundy Street and Cabrini Park, and residents have access to a private courtyard and pool area.

The monthly condo fee includes water, electricity, gas, common-area maintenance and exterior building insurance.

New Orleans

Lakewood, Colo.

Square footage: 1,370

Bedrooms: 2

Bathrooms: 2

Listed for: $250,000

Monthly condo fee: $290

This condo is about 15 minutes away from downtown Denver by car or transit. Home prices in the Denver metro area, which includes the Lakewood suburb, have increased 12% since September 2011, according to real estate data source Clear Capital. The Mile High City and its surrounding area ranked fifth on Kiplinger's recent list of the Best Cities for Young Adults.

This loft-style penthouse condo was built in 2007. The open floor plan and vaulted ceilings give the illusion of more space, while the large windows provide lots of natural light. It also comes with granite countertops, hardwood floors and three garage parking spaces.

The property is part of the Belmar Square community. In addition to condo homes and apartments, there are more than 80 on-site retail shops and restaurants, including Nordstrom Rack, Target and P.F. Chang's. The monthly condo fee includes water and electricity and can vary each month because the utility bill is split between all units. There's an optional $40 fee to access the adjacent apartment community's pool, and fitness and business centers.

Lakewood, Colo.

Baltimore

Square footage: 1,545

Bedrooms: 2

Bathrooms: 2

Listed for: $204,900

Monthly condo fee: $244

If you're single and looking for new digs, Charm City ranked fourth on our recent list of the 10 Best Cities for Singles -- reflecting both its dating prospects (more than half of the population is single) and its solid defense, finance, medical and information-technology job sectors.

This two-bedroom unit was built in 2005 and has crown molding throughout the entire space. There's a separate dining area, a fireplace and a den with French doors. The master bedroom has a sitting area with a window.

It's part of the Hopewell Pointe community, which has a mix of single-family and condo homes. The Middle River (which is popular with area boaters) is just steps away. All residents have access to an Olympic-size pool, an outdoor hot tub and a boat marina. The monthly condo fee includes water, grounds and common-area maintenance, building insurance and snow removal.

Baltimore

Honolulu

Square footage: 477

Bedrooms: 1

Bathrooms: 1

Listed for: $210,000

Monthly condo fee: $476

In Honolulu, picturesque views and a tropical climate come at a cost. It's the third-most-expensive city to live in in the U.S., thanks to high utility, transportation and health care costs.

Located in Waikiki, this condo was built in 1955 and is part of the Rosalei community. The smaller size might be ideal for empty-nesters or retirees in search of a vacation home in an exotic location. There's a balcony with mountain views, and the building allows pets -- but cats only.

The monthly condo fee includes cable TV, electricity, hot water, sewage services and other common expenses.

Honolulu

Kansas City, Mo.

Square footage: 994

Bedrooms: 2

Bathrooms: 1

Listed for: $210,000

Monthly condo fee: $630

Would-be buyers looking for a place to call home in the Paris of the Plains will be happy to know it's cheaper to buy than rent there, according to Trulia.com.

This two-bedroom condo has been remodeled and features travertine tile and cherry hardwood floors and a gourmet kitchen with an island and granite countertops. Built in 1960, it's part of the Regency House condominium community, which provides residents with an outdoor pool with a patio garden, a fitness center, a private theatre and a TV room with a pool table. There's also staff on-site 24 hours a day.

The monthly condo fee includes property insurance, access to the pool/sauna and party and exercise rooms, parking, recycling and trash pick-up, building maintenance, storage and snow removal.

Kansas City, Mo.

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