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Unique condominium communities have competitive advantage in the market

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Approximately 12,000 condominiums were sold in San Diego in the last four years, with most of those sales coming from apartments that were converted into condominiums.

Considering that a new detached home in San Diego is priced at an average of over $900,000, these new condos will likely remain popular.

With the abundance of condos on the market currently, buyers are able to be more discerning. Developers will benefit if they can offer more to buyers than just the traditional two-bedroom, two-bath standard model.

"Condo communities perform better if they offer more to homebuyers than just granite countertops and new kitchen appliances," said Angela DiDio, sales manager at Andalucia Townhomes, a condo community in Carmel Valley. "They need to create a community where people want to live, with unique amenities and a safe and secure atmosphere, all at an affordable price."

Andalucia Townhomes, which is nearly one-third sold out, has several unique advantages.

The Carmel Valley condominium community features a side-by-side, two-car, direct access, attached garage with each unit, a rare find in a condominium community.

"The garage makes me feel safer and it's safer for my children because we don't have to walk outside to a detached garage or carport every time we go out or come in," said Mary Ann Wood, a mother of two who purchased an Andalucia townhome.

Modeled after the coastal villages in the Andalucia region of Spain, the Spanish Mediterranean style community is clustered into 15 villages, each with its own arched entry leading into a courtyard.

"For many buyers, something unique and different is what will help them make their decision about which condo to purchase," DiDio said.

For Icon, a 327-unit, four-building, multi-story urban neighborhood in downtown's Ballpark District, unique amenities and cultural elements help differentiate the building in a crowded new construction condominium market downtown.

"Icon is full of energetic colors, unique cultural elements and exciting activities," said Diane Rogers, sales manager at Icon.

Vibrantly colored, Icon features unique art elements, including two Shoji screens created by renowned Japanese company Tategu no Endo, as well as two large-scale, wind-animated sculptures by renowned artist Ned Kahn.

The Shoji screens are the largest ever made by the company. Crafted without dowels or glue, the translucent screens are handmade from red cedar wood and covered with rice paper.

"The beautiful Shoji screens at Icon will provide relief and texture to the 10th Avenue lobby, complimenting the marble, aggregate, concrete and stone found throughout the community," said Richard Garcia, Icon LLC project developer.

Garcia and his team also plan to install two large-scale, wind-animated sculptures in the inner courtyard at Icon. "The two Kahn sculptures will move in the wind, capturing the look and sound of softly cascading water and will reflect the light and colors in the surrounding environment and the sky," Garcia said.

Another unique feature at Icon is the Icon Skybox, San Diego's first rooftop stadium and viewing terrace. Sitting atop a 24-story tower, the Icon Skybox offers residents direct views into Petco Park and breathtaking scenes of Coronado, Balboa Park, San Diego Harbor and downtown.

"I believe that quality design and unique attributes add to the quality of life of our residents," Garcia said. "Creating an active social lifestyle and connecting residents to each other and to the Ballpark District is an important goal to everyone involved in the planning and development of Icon," Garcia said.

Beyond the amenities and characteristics of the community, the quality of the home and its surrounding neighborhood are just as important when deciding upon a real estate purchase for many people, DiDio said, adding that for buyers with children, the quality of the local school district is especially important.

"The quality of the local school district greatly impacts home prices," DiDio said. "Homes located near top performing schools are often 10 [percent] to 15 percent more [expensive] than comparable homes located outside of the school district. Parents want to send their child to a good school and often they will pay more to do so. Even if they don't have children, buyers realize that their resale value will be strong if they buy within a good school district."

Andalucia Townhomes are located within the San Dieguito Unified School District, which includes such top ranking schools as Torrey Pines High School.

"Torrey Pines is ranked 10th of all high schools statewide. Because of that, homebuyers know that purchasing a property within the San Dieguito Unified School District can increase their property values, and their child will receive a great education," DiDio said.

DiDio reports that Andalucia Townhomes has several buyers who made their decision based partly upon the nearby school district.

As a mother of two children attending schools within the San Dieguito school district, finding a home that was within the school district's boundaries was a top priority for Wood.

"When we originally moved to the area, we selected it because of the great schools," said Wood. "So there was no way we were going to leave the area. That was key in looking for a new home."

Kovach is a senior account manager with Whitelaw Marketing.

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