Buyer’s Notes: Deep vs. Shallow

Terraces are viewed as secondary to the unit interior. Buyers focus their attention on the bedrooms, master baths, kitchen, etc. Often times, when considering a unit’s value, the terrace is not even factored into the unit’s actual living area. The value potential of a terrace is often ignored. The problem is that many developments have shallow terraces. A shallow terrace is 5ft wide or less—more or less the width of a sidewalk. If you buy a unit, say on the 32nd floor of a high rise and your terrace is 5ft. wide, then there are limited things you can do with and on your terrace. You basically own a mid-air frighteningly narrow sidewalk on the side of the building. You might be able to place a measly couple of chairs; certainly not a table. Although many of your home’s guests won’t mind the shallow terrace, there will be many that will feel uncomfortable being out there, especially if you are high up. One doesn’t want to step out into the terrace and feel as if they’ll fall if they make a wrong move.

What people fail to recognize is that in a high rise a terrace can offer great potential to the unit owner if the terrace is deep. A deep terrace is 6ft in depth or more. Having a terrace on the 32nd floor that is 7ft in depth, for example, will allow the owner to place a small outdoor sofa or even a table. There are people who will place a jacuzzi in their deep terrace. When this is the case, the terrace is as much of a living area as the A/C cooled interior. It serves as a sort of spacious private observatory deck. Frankly, I like being as high up the tower as I can afford, but if I have to pick between a unit that is situated higher with a shallow terrace and a unit in another building that is lower but with a deep terrace, I might be compelled to pick the latter.

What if you want to do more than stand in your terrace? What if you want to walk around your outdoor chairs without squeezing against the railing? What if you want to sit down at a table and play dominoes while enjoying your beautiful view? If your terrace is shallow, then your ability to do any of these is hindered. There are hybrid terraces that are both deep and shallow. These are the best because they offer all the versatility of use that a deep terrace has and the roaming space that a long shallow terrace has. There aren’t many projects that have these types of terraces. They tend to be high end. Low rises often have poorly proportioned terraces. In this respect they are at a disadvantage to high rises.

Let us take a terrace from a unit at the Opera Tower and compare it to one from the a unit at Brickell’s Emerald Condo. The Opera Tower, which is significantly taller than the Emerald, features long but shallow terraces at 5ft in depth. They offer plenty of space to pace but not play. There isn’t sufficient room for a table and several chairs. Placing a table will block one’s access to the other side of the terrace not to mention make it look cluttered. The Emerald has deep terraces at 23ft. This allows ample space for outdoor furniture, plants, chairs, and damn it, even a jacuzzi if the condo docs permit it. Although the Opera Tower offers higher altitude units with more expansive views, the Emerald offers lower altitude units with more desirable and usable deep terraces.

Buying in a high rise is special because one has the opportunity to go vertical. In consideration of this, the terrace should be an important factor in the purchasing process. Deep terraces offer more uses and are more comfortable. Putting aside whether there are glass railings or steel, or if the terrace is wrap-around or straight, the depth of the terrace is the most crucial of the desirability factors. Having a deep terrace means having your own private and spacious observatory deck—a claim few can make in single family and low rise residences.

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2 Comments

Filed under BoB Articles, BoB Series: Buyer's Notes

2 responses to “Buyer’s Notes: Deep vs. Shallow

  1. One thing I find aesthetically displeasing is the “coldness’ of all the new buildings. People never keep plants. I wonder why? It seems so common in places like Spain, for example.

  2. The problem is that some condo rules don’t allow much on the terrace. This is typical for condos with shallow terraces. The condos with deep terraces tend to have rules that favor placing furniture, plants, and other items on the terrace. In a practical sense, one can’t put too many items on a shallow terrace anyways. People have to know what the rules, by-laws, and condo declaration says prior to buying a condo because after purchasing the unit, they’re stuck.

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