Oak Hill Condos – South Bend’s Housing Bubble?

by Nick Molnar on March 27, 2007

Oak Hill List Price by YearHomes around South Bend aren’t normally subject to dramatic market swings. Media stories that report a drop in our median home price reflect a change in the type of house being sold and not a drop in the value of individual homes. Well-maintained homes in desirable areas appreciate slowly and steadily. However, even in this stable setting, I’ve found a niche market that may qualify as our own bubble – the Oak Hill Condos.

Oak Hill is a development of 102 condos built in 1988 that is occupied by a mix of students, professionals and Notre Dame football fans who hold them for use on game weekends. They are largely unremarkable but well-managed and near Notre Dame. Realtors who have been in the business since Oak Hill was built tell me that you couldn’t give the condos away when they were new. Recently though, interest in Oak Hill has shot up and sale prices have spiked along with it.

Currently there are three condos for sale – one listed with a Realtor for 190k, and two being sold by unrepresented sellers asking 170k and 210k. These prices are testing the limits for Oak Hill. There was recently a sale at $184,900 for a well staged unit that raised expectations to the unprecented level now evident. One of them is quite attractive, one has some questionable “bedrooms,” and at least one has a tax deadfall awaiting an uniformed buyer.

Oak Hill has benefited by the fact that it is already built while many Notre Dame condos are still under construction, and historically has been moderately priced. Several times a buyer with more cash than time to learn the market has purchased a unit for a greater price than the market would suggest. These buyers chose Oak Hill because it was their only option – a fact which is rapidly changing. Buyers flush with cash will soon switch to one of the ultra-luxury options like Stadium Village or the Colfax Place. Those looking for a nice condo at a moderate price will likely settle at the North Douglas condos which are new construction and larger than Oak Hill and priced in the $130s. Oak Hill sellers hoping to fleece a buyer will end up sitting on their condos while the buyers head to one of the new developments, and the price will float back to the market.

Despite all this, the Oak Hill condos are a better than good housing option if you make an informed purchase. I have a client who will be listing her 2 bedroom, 2 bath unit there soon. She has lived in it for two years, is making significant upgrades to prepare it for sale, and will price it 10-20k below the other Oak Hill condos with signs on their balconies. The buyer will get a great condo at a stable price and she will take a reasonable profit after a quick sale.

If you are looking to buy a Notre Dame condo, know your options. Start by browsing my South Bend Condo Guide, and call or e-mail me when you are ready to discuss your specific situation.

Nick Molnar
Home Gallery
nick@realst8.com
574-309-3758


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

surfshopgal April 4, 2007 at 9:53 pm

I’ve lived in Oakhill condos for the past 4 years and have nothing but positive things to say about the property. The property Manager, (Sherry) and the Board members truly care about the well being of the owners and they bend over backwards to make sure Oakhill keeps the high reputation it has earned over the past few years. The maintenance man (Gil)is extremely knowledgeable and he’s always quick to lend a helping hand while also keeping the common property grounds looking pristine. The pool is an added bonus during warm weather and the patrolled parking lot during football home games keeps those Saturdays completely hassle free. Enough about the frills…the bottom line is – LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! You just can’t get this kind of space any closer to ND campus than Edison & Rt 23. To be fair, some units are much larger than others and the really great units have outdoor decks.

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NDtom April 8, 2007 at 10:17 pm

I lived in Oak Hill for a number or years before selling out of that place. The condos are O.K. but had to upgrade the finishes and the cabinets since they were cheap cheap cheap. The location is very good BUT parking is TERRIBLE. There are only around 30 garages for the 102 units and around 140 open parking spots in the lot. If you don’t have a garage you might be screwed since there are NOT even two parking spaces per unit…that can be a NIGHTMARE. As far as maintenance is concerned, New London Lake is pristine….Oak Hill is worse than most apartment complexes in the area…and the management is …well… I certainly wouldn’t say very good. Landscaping is mediocre but some areas need a LOT of updating especially the rusting and corroding outdoor stairwells. The siding needed painting too. Moreover, the monthly DUES are HIGH for what you get. There are few unit break-ins but with the liquor store down the street and some of the housing south of Oak Hill, there are a number of car break-ins when the weather is nice…I had stuff stolen from my car and so have probably a dozen others. The North Douglas Condos that I saw (just framed in and under roof) are far far far superior to Oak HIll but not as good of location for football weekends. Currently, I am looking at the new developments near campus including Irish Crossings, The Wexford Place, and possibly Stadium Village…all of which are a much better location but more $. Oak Hill is essentially a mediocre apartment complex where you own the unit…and have to put up with student nonsense and noise at times. A few years back a few student idiots turned off the heat in their units before leaving for Christmas Break to save some $……resulting in $250,000 in water damages and making the place almost uninsurable…… Fast forward a few years and students did the same thing at College Park. My advise, look before you leap into Oak Hill….it’s nice but in no way great…esp. being almost 20 years old.

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Tyvris April 11, 2007 at 11:45 am

I currently live in Oak Hill and couldn’t disagree with NDtom more. The managment is wonderful, the dues are not high, there are only about 15 units rented – and not necessarily to ND students, the grounds are pristine, and there have not been any residential break-ins in the last 3 years that I’ve been aware of. Cars are sometimes broken into, but the board is in the process of installing video surveillance cameras (besides cars are broken into all over South Bend without discrimination). Usually the break in was due to someone leaving their lab top or ipod in the front seat.

Furthermore, all of the stairwells were replaced with durable wooden structures, and the units are scheduled to be repainted this year and next. The grounds manager is a wonderful man who is more than willing to help with any issues you might have with maintenance.

I’ve also had no issues with parking. There hasn’t been one day in the last three years that I couldn’t park in a spot in front of my condo (including home game weekends).

The condos can use some updating, which isn’t necessarily difficult, and really just a preference of the owner – it’s not exactly the end of the world is it?

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NDtom April 11, 2007 at 7:21 pm

Well…..My comments are probably more objective then the two bloggers who still own units in Oak Hill. I sold mine so my comments aren’t geared toward keeping the “Oak Hill Bubble” alive.

First, there is a parking problem. Do the math: 102 units, 170 parking spaces (inlcuding the 30 garages) means less than 1.7 parking spaces per unit. Soooo, unless there are a lot of single people, living alone, with few guests, there are parking problems. There are towing signs everywhere…you wouldn’t need towing signs if there wasn’t a problem. Also, Oak HIll issues parking stickers because there is a problem. Oak HIll has to hire 24 hour parking security for home football weekends along with special football parking passes because parking is a problem. You also don’t need video cameras unless there is a break-in problem too. I lost count over how many cars had been broken into.

I drove through Oak Hill and sure looks to me like there is a lot of deferred painting maintenance. Maybe that will finally be done this year, who knows. The stairwells were replaced with treated wood but haven’t been painted.

The last I knew, Oak Hill had almost ZERO reserves. A condo is supposed to collect reserve funds for large projects so that there are funds available without the need for special assessments. The monthly dues are already in the $195-$215 range and there still is not adequate reserves….Hmmm, glad I sold. More special assessments are on the way I bet.

Regarding management, I know of several unit owners who will absolutely disagree about the management. I will not make a specific comment about that lady, to be nice, other than to say I have heard several unit owners use swear words and her name in the same sentence.

Go look at what you get for the money at North Douglas Condos…very very nice. Just not within walking distance to ND…but more than close enough if you drive 99% of the time.

The objective bottom line regarding Oak Hill is: the asking prices are too high, the dues are too high, the reserves are inadequate, the parking is very limited, maintenance is deferred, and the complex is around 20 years old. The “Oak Hill Bubble” will burst soon. Out of town potential buyers will wise up instead of being fleeced. Glad to be out of there…….

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Tyvris April 14, 2007 at 2:27 pm

I understand that I do obviously have a bias, living in Oak Hill, but I’m standing by my complete satisfaction with my decision to live here.

Still, just to present the facts. Oak Hill’s reserves are at about $90,000 – not zero, call the manager and she’ll happily give you an exact amount. They currently have enough reserves to cover the operating costs of about 1.5 years. The dues were raise about 4 or 5 years ago to address the insurance rates due to the incident you had referred to previously and to fill the reserves again (the insurance premium is back to it before-accident rate and it is now the policy of Oak Hill to require every owner to have homeowners insurance which will cover such events as your pipes freezing and destroying neighboring condos).

Furthermore, the car break ins are occurring at the same rate in many apartment/condo complexes – feel free to call the local police and check, because I did, and that’s what they told me. The new security system will hopefully lower our rates against South Bend in general.

And if you drove through today, you would see the building East of the club house being repainted. Like I said, at least half of the buildings are scheduled to be painted this year.

And just one last time, we all know the math does not work out with 2 parking spots per unit, with 170 spaces and 102 units… but, it is not a problem. For three years, it has not one day been a problem for me or my roommate to part our cars in front of our building. One third of the units are football weekend homes, thereby leaving a lot of extra space almost the entire year… and during football weekends, it’s full, but park-able — if you have a pass you can come in and park, it’s that simple… why make an issue about something that just isn’t an issue.

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NDtom April 14, 2007 at 11:30 pm

It is good to hear that things are improving, at least as stated by Tyvris, since the 20 year old condos were in need of some big buck improvements and maintanence. I will take exception to the statement that “the dues are not high” though. I’m unclear as to how long the poster has lived in Oak Hill, but prior to the huge insurance claims made in 2001, the Association insurance was UNDER $14K per year (post insurance claims it was like $96K!) and covered the units as built. I have NO doubt that the insurance rate is NOT anywhere near $14K today AND the coverage of the current policies do NOT cover many of the things that the old policy covered (such as carpeting, cabinets, finishes, etc.) sooo with the high dues (what are the dues now? over $200/month?) currently in place every owner now pays a lot more for insurance for their individual Unit Owner’s policies because the Association’s policy covers far less than it did. With 102 units, $90K in reserves (if that is actual or budgeted I don’t know) that isn’t a lot.

If I were buying in Oak Hill, I would get a copy of the Association’s financial statements and see what the reserves level is along with a complete reserve schedule with what large items are being covered. If rental units are down, that will certainly help the quality of life there (although I suspect the number is being under reported), but I found the walls to be thin (can hear the neighbors) and even smells made their way from one unit to another. I know of one owner who sold because the unit below smelled terribly and stunk up their unit.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Oak Hill, but found the constant flaws and aggrevations too much. I would not buy in Oak Hill at the currect prices…no way. I know several others that have bailed out of there and a few others that are exploring that as well (along with a few curse words about matters there).

I have no connection with North Douglas Condos, but will once again say that they are more than worth a look…great floorplans, new construction, etc. I recently got info on the Irish Crossings Townhomes too and was surprised to find out how spacious they will be and the two car attached garages are a big plus along with the lower county property taxes…but “enough about the frills…the bottom line is – LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!” and North Douglas Condos, Irish Crossings, and The Wexford Place are FANTASTIC without getting fleeced. Oak Hill has peaked in my opinion.

A buyer’s best bet is to do their research, compare them all, then decide… Hopefully Oak Hill can rise to the competition.

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Tyvris April 15, 2007 at 9:56 am

I agree that anyone interested should check all the issue NDtom has pointed out. I believe that they have certainly changed for the better since he’s bailed out. And I’m certain that the manager will be very helpful with these figures.

But I don’t like being accused of misleading people, so: I am not underreporting the number of units being rented – I did ask before posting. The reserves are at 90k, which I have in front of me. All unit owners are required to be insured against damaging other units, thereby circumventing future disasters.

Did we yet mention that every home game features an unbelievable brunch in the club house? You can stop by to tailgate, or on your way to tailgate. Which, the proximity to campus is golden – my friends and I tailgate near the baseball field (two blocks away!).

I thought the current Oakhill prices were in line with some of the new projects… isn’t everything over 111k? Don’t North Douglas start at 135k? The ‘luxury’ complexes are 190k up to 400k. Which it is important to note that some of the condo’s with asking and selling prices close to 200k, were well updated, and included all new furniture. Of course it would be ridiculous to spend anything close to that for a condo with 20 year old units. I would check the for sale units to find out first.

I believe the best thing while looking for a condo to live in is to 1) visit 2) inquire about the financial stability of the association 3) talk to the residents. Everyone will hopefully love where they’re living, but you’ll get different responses as to why. I wanted to be able to walk to my office, walk to all ND athletic games, and walk to the gym … hence Oakhill. By the way Oakhill and ND lovers go hand in hand. It’s one big family on football weekends.

Deciding which condo complex to live in is much like deciding what college to attend. Yale isn’t better than Harvard, nor vice versa, but if you were to visit each campus one will click more than the other. (Clearly ND is better than all of them though).

Oakhill may have had issues when NDtom was here, but I believe many have been addressed. The current board, owners, and management are serious about providing and maintaining what I feel is an excellent place residence. Good luck to anyone looking at condos!

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NDtom April 15, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Enough of the flowery “sales pitch” by people with a vested interest in Oak Hill. The fact is, unit owners were required to have the proper insurance before the disaster claim in 2001 and that didn’t stop the problem…and there is nothing really in place to really stop it from happening again. What is the Association insurance amount now and what are unit owners now required to cover on their own individual policies now? Regarding reserves, if painting is underway in full force, then $90K will be blown through in one summer. And the monthly dues are??? Regarding rental units, I seriously doubt they are all being accounted for.

I still keep in touch with several unit owners in Oak Hill and I can tell you it isn’t “one big family” … what a joke. It sounds like someone is trying to keep a management job or something.

Having spent time in a fantastic condo in the caroilinas for a few years, I would never go back to a bad one again…just not worth it.

The ‘luxury’ condos and even the moderately priced ones coming on the market will blow Oak Hill away…and the prices back down down to what they should be for what is essentially an “apartment-condo”. If you can sell your’s for a high price to an out or towner who doesn’t know the local market, then good for you. But for now, seems like the few for sale have been on the market for awhile now.

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Tyvris April 17, 2007 at 2:18 pm

Oakhill Condo Fees: 180 per month
Reserves: 90k
Nearby: Sketchy Liquor Store, oh right – ND, St. Joe River trails, St. Mary’s trails, lots of safe communities and neighborhoods to run/walk in.

North Douglas Condo Fees: 150 per month
Reserves: Oh, right, doesn’t even exist yet… how does that work.
Nearby: Sketchy trailer home park, Sketchy Steak and Shake … well between the hours of 1am and 5am, and no sidewalks nearby… in fact no communities nearby, … hope no one there likes to run/walk outside.

Everything has it’s give and take.

Oh, and the luxury Condo Prices to Blow Oakhill away.. what like 300k? Yeah, cause then they’re in the same league.

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ND4life April 17, 2007 at 6:01 pm

NDtom is right. When people like myself fly and drive over 6 hours to enjoy a ND game, we want to feel as if we are on vacation. I do not want to feel like I am living in someone’s dorm room and hassle with parking. I have my sights set on Stadium Village because of the Vaness / Burdette location (I can walk 2 block and be on campus). I am flying in this weekend for the Blue and Gold game and to meet the SV developer at the site. Location and quality is what it is all about for me. GO ND!

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Tyvris April 18, 2007 at 4:33 pm

I would agree with ND4life … if I had 400-500k to spend, I would opt for the luxury condo option as well… or for the same amount you could potentially buy an entire Oakhill Building and redesign/redecorate the entire building into a condo-mansion hybrid. That’s also like 4 Northshore buldings or 3 New Londondale buildings.

This isn’t sarcastic, I am being serious, there are two units currently merged into one at Oakhill, so it is possible. Currently, not every alumni/student/townie has 300-400k, so unfortunately we’re all forced to live elsewhere.

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DRT June 14, 2007 at 11:41 pm

I am currently purchasing a unit at Oak Hill. I fly 6 hours to get to ND and it’s all about Location, Location Location. It just so happens that we got a unit at a good price. We feel Oak Hill is just starting to peak. With the other Condo units being built, Oak Hill will just go up in prices. We fly into town for a football weekend and leave the car parked. Oak Hill is centrally located and we can walk everwhere. Oak Hill was the ONLY Choice. The other are over priced and doesnt have LOCATION!
We are very excited to become a Oak Hill Family Member!

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NDtom June 25, 2007 at 2:29 pm

I have to disagree a bit with the last two posts. Since Oak Hill has configurations of 5 or 8 units per building, even 500k would not buy you an entire building….and the concept of a condo-mansion hybrid is silly…the cost to renovate would be enormous. The two units merged are Units N2 and N3 which were constructed that way from the start and went from a very small middle unit floorplan into a nice double unit which has to pay double dues. With regard to the last post, I agree that Oak Hill is a very convenient location, but there are newer developments that are being built with even better locations – Wexford Place, Irish Crossings – and yes, they are not cheap but you get what you pay for, they are luxurious. I am glad DRT bought at a good price since in my educated estimate the Oak Hill unit prices have peaked and will at most hold steady over the next five years. As more and varied inventory in the area comes online, there will be better choices than Oak Hill which was started nearly 20 years ago with basically apartment style floorplans and square footage. The proof is in the recent sales, or lack thereof, at the high price points. Some units have been available for over 6 months including those listed on mls and FSBO units. Oak Hill is decent but not that great…it is becoming a bit of a “has been” place to be. Interestingly, it looks like a bit of the “condo bubble” has crept into Woodbridge Condos pricing recently too.

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Johnny B. January 15, 2008 at 10:30 pm

Looks like Oak Hill was a bubble….some of the units listed haven’t sold for over ONE YEAR! Time to drop the price sellers…

Lot’s of OLD condos for sale….Oak Hill, Woodbridge, Stadium Club, … proximity to ND is good but you gotta have good units with reasonable prices. Just look at New London Lake, it is long in the tooth, but kept up nice and no bubble pricing (and no rentals!) so none for sale. The prices in Oak Hill are ridiculous. If they don’t sell in 2008, those sellers will be looking at a really long 2009+ when so much more new inventory will be coming into the market.

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