LENOX -- When the clock struck midnight to ring in the New Year, residents of the 108-unit Lennox Heights Cooperative apartments on Pittsfield Road officially became condominium owners in a transition designed to benefit them economically.

The changeover of the property, originally built in 1968 as the Wellington Arms rental apartments, makes it easier for apartment owners to sell their units, explained Wendy Hart Greiner of Elite Property Management, which oversees the site.

Legally, the conversion means that the apartment owners will have deeds to their units, instead of shares in the cooperative’s stock, she said. Lennox Heights was the only remaining cooperative apartment property in Berkshire County, Hart Greiner noted.

Another economic incentive for the changeover, she explained, was that "co-op prices are the first to drop and the last to rebound. So, the conversion made sense."

Only one bank in the county -- Lenox National -- currently finances co-op sales, while condos can be financed at any bank that has a mortgage department, said Don Raiche of Dayspring Realty in Pittsfield, who has assisted with the transition. Raiche also handled the conversion of the building into a co-op property in late 1979.

"It’s a win-win situation for everyone," said Raiche, noting that some apartment owners have been trying to sell their units for two or three years without success. Now, sales will be easier since banks require a much lower down payment and favorable financing terms for condo properties.

"This puts us on a level playing field with Morgan Manor, Rolling Hills" and other condominium properties in the area, Raiche added.

The changeover was approved last Sept. 16 by a vote of 87 to 18, with three apartment owners abstaining, said Hart Greiner. Legal and financial details of the conversion have been handled by Jack H, Boyajian, president and CEO of the Hutton Group real estate firm in Allendale, N.J., which specializes in cooperative to condominium conversions.

After 12 years as a rental building, Wellington Arms was converted into the Lennox Heights Housing Cooperative on Jan. 1, 1980.

It was named using the old English spelling in honor of Charles Lennox, the 3rd Duke of Lenox and Richmond in the mid-18th century while Massachusetts was under British colonial rule, said Linda Messana, co-manager at the Elite Property firm, which also handles Coldbrooke South condos on Blantyre Road.

Beginning in mid-2014, the Lennox Heights condo owners will be responsible for paying real estate taxes on their units. Until now, the taxes have been built into the monthly maintenance fees, which will be reduced accordingly. The Lennox Heights Housing Cooperative will continue paying property taxes through June 30, the end of the fiscal year for the town.

Units at the property, which includes a swimming pool and tennis court, are owned by a mix of full-time residents, second-home owners, and investors.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto

By the numbers. . .

Some details about the Lennox Heights apartments at 260 Pittsfield Road (Routes 7 & 20), Lenox:

n New property owner: Lennox Heights Condominium Trust (as of Jan. 1, 2014).

n Previous property owner: Lennox Heights Housing Cooperative.

n Apartment units: one-bedroom special (750 square feet); one-bedroom (850 sq. ft.); two bedroom (950 sq. ft.)

n Condo sales prices: Vary according to unit; require 5 to 10 percent down payment and allow financing up to 30 years.

n Co-op maintenance fees: $353 (1 BR special); $450 (1 BR); $525 (2 BR)

n Condo maintenance fees (as of July 1, 2014): $255 (1 BR special); $319 (1 BR); $374 (2 BR).

Note: Co-op maintenance fees include heat, hot water, cable TV and real-estate taxes. Condo maintenance fees include heat, hot water, cable; property owners pay their own real estate taxes as of July 1. Lennox Heights Cooperative Housing will pay real-estate taxes to Lenox through the end of the town’s fiscal year, June 30, 2014.