Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Vertical Living' Tips from Expert

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Vertical Living' Tips from Expert

Article excerpt

Born in Italy, Barbara Mei spent much of her life in New York City, working in real estate. She came to Sarasota to retire, failed at that, returned to her former career and has been a successful broker with Sotheby International Realty for the past three years. Her specialty is luxury condos in the 34236 zip code -- Lido and St. Armands and downtown Sarasota.

"Vertical living is what I'm familiar with," she says with a smile. "As a baby boomer, I like the lock-and-leave lifestyle it offers."

Correspondent Chris Angermann interviewed her at Beau Ciel, a condominium on Boulevard of the Arts, where she lives and has her office.

Q:How do you approach selling in your particular market niche?

A:Many people who come from a single-family home are not necessarily familiar with condominiums and what's important to know about them.

I start with lifestyle because that defines what kind of condo you'll look at -- whether you want to have your feet in the sand as you walk outside or be able to walk to shops and restaurants, or live in a golf course community. Once you establish that, that narrows down the neighborhoods.

Q:And then?

A:The financial aspects. Is the condo adequately funded? Some buildings do not have reserves. The owners opt out of putting money into an account and pay as special needs occur. Their reasoning is, if I'm not here in five years, why should the HOA have my money? Personally, I find that a little dangerous, and I tell people that a condo with a solid reserve fund is very important.

If you buy a unit, you become part-owner of the building. You have a title and deed, and you are partly responsible for what happens to it. By setting money aside, you cover your portion of capital improvements -- painting the building, fixing the roof, elevators, landscaping and anything else that may come up.

In most condominiums you pay quarterly fees, a portion of which goes into the reserve fund.

The rest is used as the operating budget that goes to lifestyle. It all depends on your level of comfort and what you're willing to pay for it.

If you're in a 24-hour concierge building like Beau Ciel, the HOA fees will be higher, but people feel very safe. …

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