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RISMEDIA, August 25, 2008-(MCT)-When most Tulsa, Oklahomans want to own the place they call home, they go for a traditional house.

But Gary Laughinghouse is part of the minority who live in condos, ever since he purchased a unit at Shadow Mountain Condominiums six years ago.

“I went through a divorce back then, and as a middle-age single person, I decided to go for a condo because I was tired of yard work,” he said.

Laughinghouse is part of a subset of Tulsa housing that has remained small for years. But new construction and quick sales may indicate there’s growing interest in these communities of homes despite a nationwide housing slump.

Elanor Workman, a broker with RE/MAX Executives, said condos at Shadow Mountain have always sold quickly, even as more are entering the market.

“They’ve been selling really, really well,” she said. “For the last six months, there’s only been one or two for sale at a time. But now, there’s six.”

Though few overall statistics on area condos are available, property managers indicate that most of them may be actively used by their owners. Karen Merrell, property manager of Delaware Crossing, said all units are sold, and 70 percent of them are owner-occupied.

“I haven’t seen the housing slowdown affect us at all,” she said. “We don’t have much for rent, and any (units) for sale appear to be selling.”

Still, the number of condos sold is behind last year. Mike Cotrill, chief operating officer of Northeast Oklahoma Real Estate Services, a multiple listing service, said 201 condos were sold through July, compared with 241 during the first seven months of 2007.

He estimated the average Tulsa area condo now sells for $97,791. That compares with a median sales price of $135,000 for single-family homes during June.

Condos, or tight groups of buildings with tenant-owned interiors and manager-owned exteriors, have been a niche market in Tulsa. Officials at the Tulsa County Assessor’s Office estimated there are 6,823 condo units in the county.

John Reagan, a broker with McGraw Realtors, said there has been very little condo construction after a flurry of development in the 1980s, and that Tulsa seems to have a smaller ratio of condos than other metro areas.

“People who move here from other parts of the country expect them, since they’re more commonplace,” he said. “We’re just getting them, so we’re a little behind the times.”

Though a wide variety of people live in condos, Merrell said the two largest segments of buyers are younger professionals, who like that they’re less expensive than regular homes, and older people, who appreciate that their monthly homeowner’s fees pay for all the maintenance.

Shohreh Woessner, another broker with McGraw, said inflation and a tighter mortgage market are making less-expensive condos more attractive.

“They’re doing especially well now, since the housing market is making it harder to get a house,” she said.

And buyers have an increasing number of options. Grant Hinch of Property Company of America recently finished the six-unit Cherry Street Lofts at 1506 E. 14th St. and has already sold three of the 2,350-square-foot units for $339,000 to $369,000 each.

The company also is developing The Retreat at Brookside, a $10 million, 32-unit collection of condominiums in the 1300 block of East 41st Place. PCA plans to sell condos with floor plans ranging between 1,550 and 2,550 square feet for $300,000 to $400,000.

Hinch said he decided to build the condos because he felt the area was overdue for urban development.

“We’ve had quite a lot of interest,” he said. “Gas prices may be helping, since people want to stay closer to where they work and shop.”

Downtown, the $40 million renovation of the Mayo Hotel will include 72 living spaces for sale. Though several downtown living options have been planned or come to fruition, few have incorporated units that could be purchased rather than leased.

American Residential Group had planned to convert the Tribune Lofts at 20 E. Archer St. from leased to sold but put the effort on hold when prepurchases didn’t live up to expectations, Steve Ganzkow, vice president of the company, told the Tulsa World in June.

Copyright © 2008, Tulsa World, Okla.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.