- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2010

Imagine room service, a state-of-the-art spa, valet parking and all the rest of the amenities found in a luxury hotel — but in your own home.

It doesn’t have to be a fantasy; that kind of lifestyle is one of the benefits of taking up long-term or permanent residence in a hotel-condominium development.

Many people like to stay in hotels because they enjoy the convenience and the idea of being spoiled while getting away from the daily grind. Some developers have capitalized on that idea and offer permanent homes within hotel buildings.

These upscale units are found in hotels across the country, from Los Angeles to Boston, with several in the Washington area. Unlike time-share properties, these are condominiums that are rented or purchased for the exclusive use of the owner.

They often have a private, separate entrance from those used by hotel guests and enjoy exclusive resident-only lounges. Amenities such as world-class restaurants, concierge service and even housekeeping services are all at the owner’s disposal.

“These condominiums come with all that the hotel has to offer; they are a step up from regular luxury condominiums,” says Norm Odanel, Realtor with Keller-Williams in Arlington, Va. “It’s a completely pampered type of lifestyle.”

Mr. Odanel says the Waterview residences at the base of Key Bridge in Rosslyn, Va., consists of luxury condominiums on the top half of the Hotel Palomar. The residents access the building through an elegant boutique-hotel-like owners-only entrance.

In addition to a great view, the homeowners benefit from such amenities as catering, pet services, and manicures and pedicures, all of which can be performed in their own homes.

A rooftop observation deck, direct access to the hotel and its meeting or function space and fine dining in the hotel’s restaurant are additional selling points to the hotel-condo lifestyle at the Waterview. Residents also can take part in wine-tasting classes.

“It’s an easy lifestyle, if you can afford it,” Mr. Odanel says.

The two-bedroom units start at close to $700,000, and Mr. Odanel says he has seen a three-bedroom penthouse on the market for as much as $2.5 million. Nevertheless, buyers are there — of the 133 residential units in the Waterview, just two are left for sale.

This unique type of housing hasn’t necessarily caught on in large numbers. Lydia Westbrook, research director at the American Hotel and Lodging Association, says the association doesn’t track individual properties with ties to residences.

She notes, however, that the Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons chains offer residential housing combined with hotels in locations outside the Washington region. and the Residences at the Ritz Carlton offer permanent housing in the District.

The Georgetown-area Residences at the Ritz Carlton opened about 10 years ago, and all of the homes have been sold. They are luxury condominiums with hotel-quality amenities such as housekeeping and valet services.

The Jamieson in Old Town Alexandria, Va., comprises 79 condominium units ranging from studios to three-bedroom homes above the Westin hotel. This development opened in 2008; 19 homes are available for purchase.

Residents can opt to have catering and maid service in their homes to help with everyday chores, and, as in most hotel-condo combinations, out-of-town visitors can stay in a hotel guest suite just a few floors down. Prices start in the upper $200,000s.

Steve Melman, director of economic services at the National Association of Home Builders, says the association doesn’t have data on hotel-condominium combinations. However, he says, the historic Watergate Hotel originally offered both residences and a hotel.

Real estate experts say typical buyers of condo-hotel properties usually are well-off financially.

“They cater to the jet-set crowd, and this is sometimes their secondary home,” Mr. Odanel says.

He adds that the owners generally don’t rent out their hotel-condo because they don’t make the purchase for extra income but for convenience.

“There are a lot of luxury condominiums in the area, and you can’t go wrong with buying one anywhere in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor right now, especially with the low interest rates,” he says.

Other types of properties with the hotel-condo feel include luxury extended-stay developments such as the AKA White House. This building, located blocks away from the White House, combines the comfort of a fully furnished condominium with hotel hospitality.

The units come with spacious living rooms and full-size kitchens. Whether staying at the property for a month or a year, says Trevor Boerger, general manager of AKA White House, guests enjoy the fact that the residences combine the best of both worlds, enabling them to feel at home while still enjoying hotel amenities.

“The smallest suites are 858 square feet and come with one bedroom and 1½ baths,” he says. The largest is a 1,175-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath suite.

“If they need things like groceries delivered and put away in the fridge, we can do that,” Mr. Boerger says, adding that residents also enjoy an attentive concierge service.

While the average stay is around 42 nights, Mr. Boerger says some residents enjoy the carefree lifestyle so much that they choose to stay a lot longer. Many of the guests are recent transplants and professionals working on projects in the area.

Until recently, there was a guest who had been at the property for 4½ years. Mr. Boerger says the guest is a businessman from Houston who frequently traveled to the District.

“People like to come and stay and not have to worry about anything,” Mr. Boerger says.

The building includes a fitness room, business center and parking, and guests can take advantage of a unique “Live It” program in which they learn new skills and talents such as cooking or dancing. AKA also has locations in Arlington, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles and London.

“The key to all AKA’s locations is that we have great addresses,” Mr. Boerger says.

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