thumbnail photograph: courtesy of whirlpool

Q: I wanted to ask you a question before buying my first condo on Chicago’s Near North Side.

One of my biggest criteria is to have an in-unit laundry, but a lot of the older, reasonably priced buildings don’t have this feature. How likely is it that I could add a washer and dryer to a condo? I’d prefer a traditional laundry hook-up, but I’m open to a ventless unit, too. How can I check whether the condo association allows this before I close on the property? —Caitlin in the western suburbs

A: My simplest answer is that if you require a laundry hook-up and you’re looking at condos that don’t have one, I’d skip to a property that does have one. Unless you’re buying at the very low end where people are scraping to pay for their condos, the condo association has most likely already dealt with this issue and either determined that it’s too unwieldy to retrofit for laundry, or had some other reason for not doing it. In some cases, that last linked article suggests, an association in a building with a common laundry room wouldn’t want to lose the income from the laundry machines.

I’m not saying a retrofit can’t be done, but that in most cases if it can be done it probably has been done, or at least considered.

In other words, I’d say it’s not very likely that you can get a change like this made. You also asked how you can find out if the condo association allows laundry hook-ups: you or your agent should be able to find that out from the selling agent in a snap. If the listing agent doesn’t know, she or he can ask the condo board. Some listings will specify that laundry hook-up is allowed, anticipating somebody like you coming along. (But you can’t always tell from the listing whether a unit even has laundry, let alone would allow installation later, because the MRED multiple listing service has several different places where an agent might—or might not—indicate that.)

But if they aren’t installed, it’s usually because they haven’t been allowed. They might even be allowed on some floors but not others To get them allowed, you’d be wrangling with a condo board to get a change made, and as you may know, that’s fraught with peril. Depending on the makeup of the board, you could end up with a drawn-out series of meetings, and with some very angry neighbors whichever way the ultimate decision goes.

On top of that, the time it takes to get the board to decide might be time when you could have bought and moved into a condo that already had laundry hookup.

The ventless option is worth a try, but here again, you’ll be wrangling with a condo board. Some people may simply put their feet down based on misconceptions about safety or the need for expensive new water lines. They might be wrong, but as existing residents in the building, they get to air their complaints.

You could also end up in a situation where after spending a lot of time trying to get the condo on board, you then had to spend more money than you expected for the installation. (This could be a result of dealing with the board; they could require you to upgrade the water lines in your section of the building, or something like that.)

Unless you’re finding that a large number of the most desirable condos don’t have laundry hook-ups, I’d stick with looking at condos that do. You’ll save headaches and time.


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