Many comforts, few headaches

07/22/2010 12:00 AM |

Sandra Leary can see Long Island Sound from her balcony at the Maidstone Landing condo community in Jamesport, a view most people don

Condo living, anyone?

Courtesy of the construction boom over the decade or so, prospective purchasers have a lot of choice on the North Fork. Prices run the gamut, too, and a luxury condo on the bay or the Sound can cost close to $1 million. But there are also options for the budget-conscious, like the Cliffside complex in Greenport, which was purposely designed to close down from Jan. 15 to March 15.

“The upside is you get a Soundfront two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit for a very reasonable price,” said Joanna Lane of Property Angels, which manages five of the units on behalf of their owners. “It’s a very affordable way to spend time in the area.”

When Dr. Sandra Leary decided to buy not one but two condominiums, she says it was because of where she was in life. “My husband had died and I had a large house in Manhasset that was really too big for me,” she said. “Plus, I wanted to spend the winters somewhere warm.”

For her winter months, Dr. Leary purchased a condo in Vero Beach, Fla. She chose to summer at Maidstone Landing, an 82-unit Soundfront complex in Jamesport.

“Maidstone Landing was set up pretty well and I love not having to do any maintenance outside,” she said.”

Dr. Leary observed that many Maidstone Landing residents had never lived in a condo before and had to get used to living in a cooperative way with one another. Even so, she said, “Most of the kinks in the condo’s regulations had been worked out by the time I moved in.”

Fellow Maidstone Landing resident George McGrath agrees. “We can see the evolution of the place,” he said.

They’re referring to the big condominium tradeoff: In return for having much of your maintenance taken care of by the homeowners association, condo living requires adherence to community rules.

“Yes, it is a tradeoff,” said Mr. McGrath. “But not much of one if you want turn-key living. Plus, if you get into a new condominium, you can be there when the rules are being made.”

“There have to be rules and that’s one of the reasons condo living isn’t for everyone,” said Jim Tonsmeire, who lives with wife, Eileen, at Cleaves Point condominiums in East Marion.

“Someone might want to plant a different kind of tree and come up against the homeowners association,” he said. “It’s majority rule in a condo.”

But the pluses definitely outweigh the minuses, say the Tonsmeires.

They originally bought a condo unit in 1996 as a second home. But they liked their life in East Marion so much, they moved there full-time in 2001.

“With a condo you can live like a rich person but for a very reasonable price,” observed Mr. Tonsmeire. That rich living includes stunning water views, a pool and a tennis court.

“There’s a full-time manager available at Cleaves Point. That’s nice!” said Ms. Tonsmeire, who also likes the social activities on offer in a condominium complex.

“Last week we had a wine tasting. A condo is good for a single person. They’ll find it easier to make friends,” she said.

For Catherine and Anthony Tumminello, the friends they’ve made at Willow Ponds in Riverhead may be the best part of condo living.

“We have a great bunch of friends here because we all came at the same time,” said Ms. Tumminello. “And when my husband was very ill, we had so much support.”

Like Dr. Leary, the Tumminellos downsized from a big house.

“It had four bedrooms,” Ms. Tumminello said. “The children had left home. The taxes were high and it was a lot of work.”

After reading an article about the complex, she said, “We came straight out to look at it.”

The result was that the Tumminellos fell immediately in love with their two-bedroom town home, one of 222 at WIllow Ponds.

“It’s not a private home but it’s quite secluded,” said Ms. Tumminello. “We have a wooded area behind us and our own ramp to the beach. We really couldn’t be happier.”

Mr. McGrath is likewise delighted with condo life and sums it up thus: “Having a place where all you have to do is turn the key in the door is great. You don’t have to worry about the day-to-day stuff. The landscaping is done. If you want friends, this is a great place. And if you like a small-town feeling, this might be for you.”