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Five-Star Living at Condo Hotels in Miami, Boston, San Francisco

(Reprinted From Investment Guide, May 2004)

How would you like to live in a condo where you never have to cook, clean or walk your own dog?

While it sounds like a dream, it’s a reality for the residents who call a five-star hotel–such as the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental–home.

The hotel apartment concept has been around since at least the 1950s at such old-style New York hotels as the Pierre, Waldorf-Astoria, Sherry-Netherland and Carlyle. But over the past five years, hotel-managed condominiums have sprung up in many other cities, including San Francisco, Boston, Miami and Washington, D.C.

These condo hotel properties are enticing because they provide residents with amenities seldom found at conventional condo buildings. Residents, for example, have the same access to hotel services as a nightly guest. The concierge can arrange anything from room service to valet parking, from a baby sitter to a dog walker.

Like hotel guests, condo hotel residents have signing privileges–charge to your account, just like a hotel guest–at the hotel’s restaurant, bar and retail shops, as well as with use of dry cleaning and laundry services, at the usual hotel rates. For a price, residents can use hotel staff for cleaning or to water plants when they are out of town. Just like in a hotel room, these hotel condos come with a house phone, so residents need only push a button to get room service or the concierge on the line.

Hotel condos are generally around 25% more expensive than comparable non-hotel units, despite the fact that their conveniences, like concierges, routine maintenance and access to the gym, also raise the monthly maintenance charges.

The Mandarin Oriental, situated above the just-opened Time Warner Center in New York, has 66 hotel condos selling for up to $3,000 per square foot, which comes to at least $12 million for a three-bedroom with a maid’s room and library. The typical buyer owns several other homes around the world. At 50 Central Park South, at the Ritz-Carlton New York, condos range in price from $12 million to $28 million.

But not all hotel condos are priced in the millions. At the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., condos start at $600,000, and at the Four Seasons Residences in San Francisco, units sell for $700,000 and up.

Many more luxury condo hotels are under construction. Starwood Hotels & Resorts plans to open its W Dallas Victory Residence in early 2007, with 71 residential units. Starwood’s 42-story St. Regis Residences, under construction in San Francisco, will have 102 apartments when it opens a year from now. In Las Vegas, a condominium-hotel development due to open in 2006 at the existing MGM Mirage’s MGM Grand Hotel & Casino will be the Las Vegas Strip’s first casino-based residential complex.