Chicago — If you happen to have the dollars for it, going condo is getting easier al the time. Now you may not only live in condominium but have your office in one. You can keep your horse in a condo stall and your airplane in a condo hanger. And for vacations there is always that stateroom for one or two weeks a year on your condo yacht or, if roughing it is your preference, you can pitch your tent at your condo campground.
"I think we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg on this whole concept of condominiums," says Herbert Strickstein, a Los Angeles attorney whose practice caters to condo transactions. "The idea is a protection against inflation that can apply to anything that sells. Why pay the middle man or landlord a profit when you can own it yourself?"
Many buyers were duly cautious when residential condos first began to mushroom in the 1960s. Prices of the apartments in many cases were not that different from those for houses. Many buyers wanted to wait for resales to see how good an investment condos really were. "It was almost a Catch-22' situation -- sales were slow because people wanted to wait," recalls Mr. Strickstein.
But as inflation continued, condo values continued to spiral and much of the early caution gave way to eagerness. Now, however, developers are seeing dollar signs in other types of condominium applications. Witness these developments:
* In Huntley, Ill., four years ago the first of an estimated two dozen condominium airports was launched, offering pilot-buyers steel hangers able to withstand 135 mile-an- hour winds and community access to paved ramps, taxiways, a gas pump, and a lighted runway for a price, as real estate ads are wont to say , "in the mid 30s." In addition to being able to deduct mortgage interest from income taxes, the buyer, says Gary Kovaks, president of barKo Development Corporation, is protected from soaring rental rates, frequent airport closings, and crowding since commercial aviation and student pilots are not allowed.
"It's a self-policing operation -- everybody knows each other and helps take care of things," Mr. Kovaks insists.
* Of you happen to live in Oregon, have a horse, and $6,000 to $8,000 to spare, you may invest in a stall near Eugene for your pet. The stall includes access to a large indoor riding arena, automated horse walker and waterer, and a year-round feeding and grooming staff.
"The cost, including the monthly maintenance fee, is about $65 a month or the same you'd spend to rent a stall," says Don Lowery, owner of the realty company handling the sales. "We've had a lot of people decide it's a good investment."
* More than two-thirds of the available slots for an annual week's stay on the cruise ship Romance have already been sold, according to Sam Carino of Carino & Phillips, which handles the advertising for Little Cruise Ship Ltd. The company plans in time to extend the idea to its other cruise ships.
For less than one-third the price of a regular cruise, Mr. Carino says, buyers of stateroom time get full crew services, limitless food and drink, and 24-hour access to the captain's table for as long as the former Canadian Navy lighthouse ship stays afloat. The vessel is off to Hawaii soon, but the onwners association will decide where it sails next.
* There are now an estimated 200 condo campgrounds around the country. The most common way in is a club membership purchase which allows free access to a wide range of sites including recreational facilities and 24-hour security.
* Some real estate experts predict, too, that the number of office and warehouse condominiums will increase steadily over the next decade. Although the tax advantages to purchasers who could claim rental payments as a business expense are less sharp than for many other condo purchases (and some predictions are for only modest growth in this area until legal barriers are reduced), continued inflation is seen as a constant prod to sales.
The growing appeal of the condominium -- derived from two Latin words meaning joint ownership - is its twin offer of a tax shelter and a hedge against rising rental rates. As long as inflation continues and no new laws block the spread, there appear to be few bars on its pot ential growth.