January 18, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Renovating Condos: The Challenges & Rewards:

By G. Bruce Smith

If you are considering renovating your condo – and there seems to be an increasing trend for such owners to do so – be prepared.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot more restrictions and regulations involved than with a single-family home renovation.

That’s because condo owners own what’s within the structural walls of the unit. But the rest of the condo – including roof, plumbing, building exterior, and common areas – are owned collectively by all of the residents within the complex.

And homeowners associations have covenants, conditions and restrictions (commonly referred to CC&Rs) on what is and isn’t permitted.

For this reason, many builders don’t even do condo renovations. But for those who do, there are rewards, along with the challenges.

“So many condo owners need to bring their units into the 21st century,” says Los Angeles contractor Gary Drake of Gary Drake Construction (garydrakeconstruction.com), who is currently working on three condos, including one in Santa Monica.

“Many were built 20 years ago or more, sometimes not with the highest quality. It’s very rewarding to turn an outdated condo into a beautiful, modern unit.”

In fact, Drake appreciates his condo work so much – even though he is best known for renovating contemporary and classic luxury homes designed by such renowned architects as Paul Williams – that he threw a party for Le Parc condo owners at Spago Beverly Hills several years ago.

Renovating more than 25 units in the Century City complex worth more than $20 million, Drake wanted to thank his clients.

“Gary did an incredible job,” says Jacqueline Berz, whose Le Parc condo was completely renovated about three years ago. “Gary is extremely capable of creating a beautiful space and making it a home.”

Berz, who recently sold her unit and moved with her husband Barry Panter to Santa Fe, N.M., had her 2,600-square-foot, 2-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath home completely gutted.

Among other things, Drake raised the ceilings, constructed a reconfigured master bath that allowed for the addition of a huge walk-in closet, replaced carpeting with hardwood floors, and added “magnificent materials” throughout.

Drake is currently renovating three luxury condominiums – one a penthouse on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, one in Westwood (built as a raw space), and one in Le Parc complex.

His past work has included luxury single-family home remodels for clients that include Madonna, Sting, and former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Although Drake appreciates the rewards of condo work, he acknowledges “a whole laundry list” of restrictions.

Hours of work are usually confined to 8 am to 4:30 pm, with noisy construction not allowed before 10 am; crews often have to be shuttled in, usually because of a lack of on-site parking; water shut-off hours are restricted to certain times; moving plumbing fixtures is sometimes prohibited; and soundproofing floors and walls is often difficult.

In addition, he said, getting large pieces of materials is often difficult because of the absence of freight elevators.

At Le Parc, he sometimes had to deal with the added challenge of moving materials up a spiral staircase.

Although the main burden of these restrictions falls on the contractor, Drake advises condo owners to take several steps before the remodeling.

He says the owners should thoroughly review the condo association’s rules and regulations; ask questions if clarification is needed; get written permission from the association; inform condo staff such as concierge service and security personnel about aspects of the project; and notify neighbors and thank them for their patience.

“Working closely with condo owners, we can make the project as smooth as possible,” Drake says. “I rise to the challenge.”

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