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  #1  
Old 09-24-2011, 08:59 PM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is offline
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How much are your condo fees, and what do they cover

A lot of condos I've looked at are 100k or less. With a 20% down payment on a 100k condo and a 30 year mortgage the monthly payments should be <$400 a month.

But the fees seem all over the board. I've heard of fees as low as $120, some $500 or more a month. And they cover different things. Some cover utilities like natural gas, trash, sewer, water, and some do not. Some (I think) cover interior maintenance and some do not. Some have gyms, pools, etc (which I wouldn't use anyway).

If the mortgage is $400 a month, then paying fees of $300+ a month would feel like a ripoff after a while unless that fee covered most of the utilities, a lot of repairs, etc.

What do other people pay, what was the value of the condo, and what do the fees cover? Can they vary wildly from complex to complex, even for fees that cover the same things or is there a general consensus that if the fees cover XYZ, they should cost ABC?
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  #2  
Old 09-24-2011, 10:16 PM
alice_in_wonderland alice_in_wonderland is offline
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I don't think there's a consensus because different buildings have different costs. A condo conversion, for instance, won't have a reasonable reserve fund set up based on the age of the building and the repairs that will be expected - for that reason the fees would tend to be higher. A building with no amenities you would expect them to be lower.

So, I have a newish condo and I pay $250/month which covers water, sewer, natural gas, snow removal, landscaping, interior common area cleaning, garbage service, building repairs, common area electricity, security, insurance (for the whole building - I have home owners insurance for my own unit), etc. etc. Personally, I feel like I get a lot of bang for my condo fee buck as similar units in my city tend to have higher fees because the majority of them are conversions and mine was a new build.
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Old 09-24-2011, 10:17 PM
wmulax93 wmulax93 is offline
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Mine are $195. There are 166 units in my complex. The monthly assessment covers general grounds maintenance, landscaping, pool cleaning and maintenance, water, trash and recycling, plus roof damage and other exterior issues.
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  #4  
Old 09-24-2011, 10:23 PM
Rand Rover Rand Rover is offline
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Another thing they can cover is a reserve for large repairs. And another consideration in addition to the amount of current fees is the amount (if any) of the reserve. And bigger isn't necessarily better--it means that fees may have been higher than necessary for a number of years (so that you as well are likely to pay more into the reserve than you will benefit from unless you plan to stay there forever). And (if I may be allowed another "and") another thing to think about connected with all this is the likelihood and magnitude of a special assessment.

Issues such as this are what drove me to decide to buy a piece of land with two structures on it (detached garage).

Also, although you said "condo," I'm not sure if you are aware of the differences between condos and co-ops. A co-op is typically much much cheaper to purchase and has much much higher assessments.

Last edited by Rand Rover; 09-24-2011 at 10:25 PM..
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  #5  
Old 09-24-2011, 11:09 PM
Ponch8 Ponch8 is offline
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I spend $404 per month, and I have no idea what any of it goes towards. There's no gym, swimming pool, doorman, or anything. It didn't cover the new windows we got a couple of years ago, because there was an additional special assessment for that.
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  #6  
Old 09-24-2011, 11:28 PM
Patty O'Furniture Patty O'Furniture is offline
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Originally Posted by Ponch8 View Post
I spend $404 per month, and I have no idea what any of it goes towards. There's no gym, swimming pool, doorman, or anything. It didn't cover the new windows we got a couple of years ago, because there was an additional special assessment for that.
Your bylaws call for at least one annual budget meeting where you should be able to review and comment on the finances. I'm a little shocked to hear anyone say they don't know what they are paying for, especially when it's almost $5,000 per year.
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  #7  
Old 09-24-2011, 11:46 PM
Tracyfish Tracyfish is offline
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My monthly fee is $240. It covers water, snow removal, landscaping, any maintenance to the outside of the building (like painting, repairs to the roof, redoing the asphalt on the driveways, etc.). It also covers the pool. There's gym equipment in the clubhouse, but it's pretty crappy. I'm probably missing something else that it covers.
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  #8  
Old 09-25-2011, 02:13 AM
Eva Luna Eva Luna is offline
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Ours is $150, and covers building insurance, water, electricity for common areas, and a reserve fund for maintenance and other random expenses to the common areas. It's a very small (4 units), non-fancy, relatively recent conversion, and most of our routine groundskeeping is DIY on a rotational basis - snow shoveling, lawn mowing, etc. We had to have a special assessment for a new roof last year because the reserves weren't enough to cover it, and because our upstairs neighbor was in bankruptcy proceedings and didn't cough up anything at all, including regular assessments, until one of my (lawyer) co-workers wrote him a nastygram explaining that he was still legally required to, but the roof needed fixing now, not several months later when he finally paid up.

Anyway, that was a sidetrack, but if you buy a condo, you should definitely look into the amount of reserves, and read the association minutes very carefully (there was a reference to possible upcoming roof work for ours, which led us to get the sellers to put money in escrow for it, which meant we got reimbursed the whole amount of our share, which was several thousand dollars).

Last edited by Eva Luna; 09-25-2011 at 02:17 AM.. Reason: forgot water - it ain't much, but it's something
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  #9  
Old 09-25-2011, 06:59 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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$108

Covers repairs & maintenance on everything outside the building.

Also covers water, & a monthly exterminator visit.

Since we "killed" the old swimming pool, left over from the corrupt old condo board, costs & insurance will be going down a trifle.
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  #10  
Old 09-25-2011, 07:50 AM
Pai325 Pai325 is offline
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$75 a month in a small complex. It covers mowing the lawn and snow removal, as well as other exterior maintenance for which the association is responsible like painting the back stoop or replacing garage doors on the units that have garages.
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  #11  
Old 09-25-2011, 08:55 AM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
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Downtown Chicago highrise. $420/month for a two-bedroom apartment. Covers maintenance and office staff, part-time doormen, landscaping, pool (but not workout room, that's extra), elevators, and heating/cooling of the hallways and lobby. Also keeps the reserves healthy, so that in a 30-year-old building we've only needed one special assessment (for unforeseen exterior repairs). Our assessments are supposedly modest compared to other nearby buildings. I've been on the board for 20 years if you want details or percentages.
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  #12  
Old 09-25-2011, 10:04 AM
emacknight emacknight is offline
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Fees in the range of $150-200 are very typical. Be careful of places that seem to be charging too little, because as Rand Rover said the association has to have a reserve in order to cover unexpected costs like the boiler blowing up. If they don't have enough in the reserve, they can give you an assessment to cover the cost.

We we were looking a few years ago we found a townhouse we loved but the association fees were $500 per month! After a bit of digging we learned they had problems with the retaining walls. The original $100 per month wasn't enough to cover repairs, so everyone got hit with a $10,000 assessment, and now the board is required to keep the fees high until they can build up enough of a reserve to pay for the time the retaining wall needs work.

And although it seems high compared to your mortgage, and one of the reasons we decided to buy a house instead, it is still part of the cost of ownership. I don't do much with my house, but $150 per month is about what I budget for house related expenses. Some times it's nice to have a lot of that dealt with by someone else.
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  #13  
Old 09-25-2011, 01:56 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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My wife's hairdresser is leaving her condo (or maybe it is a co-op) because the board has gone hog-wild over improvements and her assessments are going sky-high. That's the trouble with democracy. I am interested in selling my house and buying into a condo but me friend advises strongly against it.
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  #14  
Old 09-26-2011, 01:33 PM
suranyi suranyi is offline
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Originally Posted by emacknight View Post
Fees in the range of $150-200 are very typical. Be careful of places that seem to be charging too little, because as Rand Rover said the association has to have a reserve in order to cover unexpected costs like the boiler blowing up. If they don't have enough in the reserve, they can give you an assessment to cover the cost.
I can give you a personal example of this. For many years our fees were very low: Around $80 to $100 per month. Then we discovered the roof of our complex needed replacing, and there wasn't enough money in the reserve. So we had a special assessment of about $17,000 per unit.

That was about 5 years ago. Nowadays, the monthly fee is over $300, and much of it goes into the reserve to make sure that never happens again.
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  #15  
Old 09-26-2011, 01:33 PM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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A low-rise condo near us has a fee of 381 a month (and is on the market for 275,000). This is a highish-priced area (DC suburb) and it includes the exteriors, common grounds, parking, garbage removal, landscaping, snow removal, access to swimming pools / fitness facilities, access (for extra fee) to a number of community center rental spaces. I am certain it covers the building exteriors (walls, roofs), I don't know if it's the typical "from the paint on out" plan or not.

Another condo neighborhood in the same large development has a fee of 320. I believe that area was better built (lower maintenance); interestingly; that one has its own pool (but I think the residents have access to the larger pools as well).

I would think a high-rise and/or more luxurious place would be quite a bit higher (e.g. some I know of that are a few blocks from a Metro station). I looked up one high-rise I know of, where a similar space is going for 600,000+, and its fees are about 670 a month per one web site.
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  #16  
Old 09-26-2011, 01:34 PM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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Oh - a comment on amenities that you wouldn't use: depending on what they are, they might make for better resale value when that time rolls around.
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  #17  
Old 09-26-2011, 02:02 PM
Joey Tightlips Joey Tightlips is offline
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Mine is a 200k townhouse with monthly fees currently $135 a month. Pays for landscaping, exterior maintenance (power washing, gutter cleaning, termite inspection), trash pickup, snow removal (even though they normally don't get to us until it starts to melt anyway). Does not include utilities or pool.

I was told the reason our monthly fee is so low is because our association is entirely made up of residents who volunteer to do it. They come around asking for new board members every so often and nicely remind us that if they had to pay someone to come in and run the association, the monthly fees would be in the hundreds per month. So I think it's likely that's the huge reason behind the disparity in fees. It's also possible that was just a BS line to get new people to volunteer.
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  #18  
Old 09-26-2011, 05:38 PM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is offline
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Do the fees vary based on how full the condo complex is? If a complex is only half full with the other half empty, are the fees double what they'd be if the complex were at full occupancy?

So is it better to look at the larger complexes or better to look at the small ones? The larger ones seem like they'd have lower fees and more anemities due to economies of scale (a pool or workout room for 100 units is easier than 8 units).
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  #19  
Old 09-26-2011, 05:47 PM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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Originally Posted by Wesley Clark View Post
Do the fees vary based on how full the condo complex is? If a complex is only half full with the other half empty, are the fees double what they'd be if the complex were at full occupancy?

So is it better to look at the larger complexes or better to look at the small ones? The larger ones seem like they'd have lower fees and more anemities due to economies of scale (a pool or workout room for 100 units is easier than 8 units).
Shouldn't be, even the unoccupied units have owners (the builder or the bank that foreclosed, if nothing else) and those owners are responsible for the fees.

Now, if there are a lot of deadbeat owners, of course the association might run low on reserves and hit the existing residents up for the fees.

I actually knew of a situation in which someone was *renting* a condo.... the owner wasn't paying the fees.... and the association went after the TENANTS. I don't recall the outcome of that except that the tenant was pretty worried about it, apparently this was legal.
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  #20  
Old 09-26-2011, 05:51 PM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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Wow - apparently that's not unheard-of!:
http://www.houselogic.com/articles/d...ee-collection/
http://www.forsalebyowner.com/educat...sociation-fees
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  #21  
Old 09-26-2011, 06:48 PM
Patty O'Furniture Patty O'Furniture is offline
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Originally Posted by Mama Zappa View Post
I actually knew of a situation in which someone was *renting* a condo.... the owner wasn't paying the fees.... and the association went after the TENANTS.
As president of my association, I did this just a few months ago. However I went after the owners (filed a lien at the DC deeds office). If the owners hadn't paid up, we would have been within our rights to auction off the property at best offer and collect the back dues from the proceeds. I wouldn't have "gone after" the tenants, but I might have offered them the opportunity of paying up the back dues or facing eviction due to the property going to auction (and being bought by somebody else).

Quote:
So is it better to look at the larger complexes or better to look at the small ones? The larger ones seem like they'd have lower fees and more anemities due to economies of scale (a pool or workout room for 100 units is easier than 8 units).
I recommend a small one. It's easier to get elected to the board where you can have some say in the operation and budget. In fact, because most officers aren't allowed to be paid for their positions, people often don't want to serve. I've held the presidency for almost 14 years mainly because nobody else wants it.

Smaller buildings will have lower fees because you won't be maintaining things like pools, multiple elevators, a security desk, grounds keeping staff, etc. Also, reserve accounts don't need to be as large.

On the question of how large a reserve fund should be in the bank, the association should be doing a reserve study every 5 or 10 years to get a professional know-it-all to come in and analyze the health of the major building structures and other common elements. These studies will tell you things such as how many years the roof has before it needs to be replaced. Having high monthly condo fees "just in case" is almost as bad as having them be too low. That money should stay in the pockets of the owners unless it's budgeted for a known thing (as opposed to an unknown thing).

In my experience, the bigger a condo gets, the more it behaves like a run-away freight train with hundreds of bickering passengers inside asking for their money back.

Last edited by Patty O'Furniture; 09-26-2011 at 06:50 PM..
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  #22  
Old 09-26-2011, 06:58 PM
suranyi suranyi is offline
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Originally Posted by Joey Tightlips View Post
Mine is a 200k townhouse with monthly fees currently $135 a month. Pays for landscaping, exterior maintenance (power washing, gutter cleaning, termite inspection), trash pickup, snow removal (even though they normally don't get to us until it starts to melt anyway). Does not include utilities or pool.

I was told the reason our monthly fee is so low is because our association is entirely made up of residents who volunteer to do it. They come around asking for new board members every so often and nicely remind us that if they had to pay someone to come in and run the association, the monthly fees would be in the hundreds per month. So I think it's likely that's the huge reason behind the disparity in fees. It's also possible that was just a BS line to get new people to volunteer.
Make sure these volunteers are figuring out a reasonable amount to be put aside in the reserves, and are budgeting part of the monthly fees for this purpose. (In other words, they are doing the proper reserve studies mentioned by Patty O'Furniture.) I mentioned above that our fees were low because we weren't funding our reserve adequately. Part of the reason was that, like you, we used volunteers to run the association, and they didn't have the financial background. Now we use a professional management company to make sure we don't make that mistake again.

Last edited by suranyi; 09-26-2011 at 06:59 PM..
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  #23  
Old 09-26-2011, 07:06 PM
Patty O'Furniture Patty O'Furniture is offline
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Originally Posted by Patty O'Furniture View Post
Having high monthly condo fees "just in case" is almost as bad as having them be too low. That money should stay in the pockets of the owners unless it's budgeted for a known thing (as opposed to an unknown thing).
I didn't mean to imply that there should be NO reserve, of course there should be some money in the bank. A reserve study can't predict things like a drunk driver taking out your historic iron fence. I'm saying that it's crazy to let the reserves climb up to more than about two or three thousand dollars per unit. Again, the reserve study should tell the association how much money it should have on hand.
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  #24  
Old 09-26-2011, 07:08 PM
Moonlitherial Moonlitherial is offline
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Originally Posted by Patty O'Furniture View Post
In my experience, the bigger a condo gets, the more it behaves like a run-away freight train with hundreds of bickering passengers inside asking for their money back.
You mean like this?

Not a train but even more self contained.
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  #25  
Old 09-26-2011, 09:16 PM
Rand Rover Rand Rover is offline
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Very slight hijack (since we have a thread full of condo owners): can a condo owner insure against a special assessment? I would imagine they can get fairly high (I think I read something about a $2 million or so place in Chicago having a special assessment of almost $300,000.)
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  #26  
Old 09-26-2011, 09:20 PM
emacknight emacknight is offline
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Originally Posted by suranyi View Post
I can give you a personal example of this. For many years our fees were very low: Around $80 to $100 per month. Then we discovered the roof of our complex needed replacing, and there wasn't enough money in the reserve. So we had a special assessment of about $17,000 per unit.

That was about 5 years ago. Nowadays, the monthly fee is over $300, and much of it goes into the reserve to make sure that never happens again.
It was stories like this that turned us away from buying a townhouse.

But the reality is that every house will have unexpected costs, just like a condo unit. Furnaces break down, roofs leak, pipes collapse.

My perception of condos has always been that the process tends to be out of your control, which bothers me. A friend recently had an issue with his townhouse where the front windows were leaking. That fell under the condo insurance, so the board planned to replace everyone's windows. Sounds great in theory, except that it meant months went buy before it could get repaired. He could have had it down over the weekend, instead he had a leaking window that damaged the interior wall, which was then his responsibility to fix.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Patty O'Furniture View Post
Having high monthly condo fees "just in case" is almost as bad as having them be too low. That money should stay in the pockets of the owners unless it's budgeted for a known thing (as opposed to an unknown thing).
Right, and in theory it all balances out. Unfortunately it seems few residents are consciously putting away a few hundred a month for potential assessments. So when it happens they aren't ready.
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  #27  
Old 09-26-2011, 09:46 PM
Patty O'Furniture Patty O'Furniture is offline
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Originally Posted by emacknight View Post
Unfortunately it seems few residents are consciously putting away a few hundred a month for potential assessments. So when it happens they aren't ready.
That's not particular to condos. Whether you own a house or a condo, you need to be prepared for the unknown.

Quote:
can a condo owner insure against a special assessment? I would imagine they can get fairly high (I think I read something about a $2 million or so place in Chicago having a special assessment of almost $300,000.)
I assume that was the size of the entire assessment, and not each owner's share. I don't know of any insurance company that will insure against a generic costly incident. Our policy is very specific in what it will and won't cover.
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Old 09-26-2011, 09:55 PM
Rand Rover Rand Rover is offline
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Every once in a while (say, after a big snowfall, or when I think my lawn is looking kinda crappy compared to my neighbor's) I'll think of moving into a condo or co-op, but reading this thread reminds me why I'm not too excited about that prospect--condo fees and associations just make me nervous. I like being the master of my domain, so to speak.
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  #29  
Old 09-27-2011, 01:29 PM
suranyi suranyi is offline
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Originally Posted by Rand Rover View Post
Very slight hijack (since we have a thread full of condo owners): can a condo owner insure against a special assessment? I would imagine they can get fairly high (I think I read something about a $2 million or so place in Chicago having a special assessment of almost $300,000.)
Yes, if the assessement is for something that the homeowners insurance covers normally. My own condo insurance covers me for up to $10,000 in special assessments in these circumstances. Since my insurance covers me for fire, it also covers me for a special assessement if there was a fire.

(For those who are unfamiliar with it, condo insurance covers your belongings plus the interior structure of the condo. The exterior structure is normally covered by insurance purchased by the HOA as a whole.)

Last edited by suranyi; 09-27-2011 at 01:30 PM..
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  #30  
Old 09-27-2011, 01:32 PM
suranyi suranyi is offline
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Originally Posted by Patty O'Furniture View Post
I didn't mean to imply that there should be NO reserve, of course there should be some money in the bank. A reserve study can't predict things like a drunk driver taking out your historic iron fence. I'm saying that it's crazy to let the reserves climb up to more than about two or three thousand dollars per unit. Again, the reserve study should tell the association how much money it should have on hand.
It depends what kind of work might need to be done in the near future. As I mentioned, when we had our roof replaced a few years ago, it cost almost $20,000 per unit.
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  #31  
Old 09-27-2011, 01:35 PM
suranyi suranyi is offline
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Originally Posted by Rand Rover View Post
Every once in a while (say, after a big snowfall, or when I think my lawn is looking kinda crappy compared to my neighbor's) I'll think of moving into a condo or co-op, but reading this thread reminds me why I'm not too excited about that prospect--condo fees and associations just make me nervous. I like being the master of my domain, so to speak.
Different strokes and all. I've lived in condos/townhouses practically my whole life, so I'm used to it. The last time I lived in a single family house I was ten years old. I like not having to do exterior maintainance.
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Old 09-27-2011, 01:41 PM
Patty O'Furniture Patty O'Furniture is offline
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Yes, if the assessement is for something that the homeowners insurance covers normally.
I'm having a hard time thinking of something that your condo insurance would cover that the association would also be handing out assessments for.
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  #33  
Old 09-27-2011, 02:01 PM
suranyi suranyi is offline
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Originally Posted by Patty O'Furniture View Post
I'm having a hard time thinking of something that your condo insurance would cover that the association would also be handing out assessments for.
Here's one example: My condo insurance covers me for water damage in case a pipe bursts. If the damage extends to the exterior, or to another unit, I would be assessed by the association, and that would be covered.

Last edited by suranyi; 09-27-2011 at 02:02 PM..
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  #34  
Old 09-27-2011, 02:10 PM
Patty O'Furniture Patty O'Furniture is offline
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Originally Posted by suranyi View Post
Here's one example: My condo insurance covers me for water damage in case a pipe bursts. If the damage extends to the exterior, or to another unit, I would be assessed by the association, and that would be covered.
This actually happened to me five years ago. My upstairs neighbor's water heater burst and I had ceiling damage and a ruined carpet. But in my condo the second owner would simply file a claim against the first owner's insurance company. The association wouldn't get involved unless there was damage to the common elements. Our bylaws don't give us the authority over individual unit issues.

If some condos are really micro-managing to that extreme, it's no wonder some fees are so high.
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  #35  
Old 09-27-2011, 02:17 PM
Eva Luna Eva Luna is offline
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Originally Posted by Patty O'Furniture View Post
I didn't mean to imply that there should be NO reserve, of course there should be some money in the bank. A reserve study can't predict things like a drunk driver taking out your historic iron fence. I'm saying that it's crazy to let the reserves climb up to more than about two or three thousand dollars per unit. Again, the reserve study should tell the association how much money it should have on hand.
Our roof assessment cost $2400 per unit, I think, which was even more fun when one owner refused to pay up - because the roof still needed to be repaired. And an extra $2400 spread over the remaining 3 units is a chunk of change.

The rest of us basically handled it by padding the special assessment and using what little reserves we had to cover the delinquent owner's share, which meant we basically had about enough to cover regular monthly expenses (water, insurance, etc.) until he finally paid up. Personally, I'd rather not cut things quite that close. I mean I can plan to have cash in the bank for a special assessment, but I'd rather not have to plan for the circumstance that nobody else does. Better to have more in reserves.
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  #36  
Old 09-27-2011, 02:35 PM
perfectparanoia perfectparanoia is offline
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I live in a condo townhouse complex. Our fees are about 250 a month. It covers everything from the walls out (to include doors, windows, roof, siding, lawn maintenance, snow removal, gutter cleaning, leaf removal, pool). We have a professional management team and a great set of directors.

The thing that I love most is that the reserve fund is almost enough to rebuild every building. Is it too high? Probably but since we are only (at this point) paying about 2% of our fees into it, it seems reasonable to keep it there. It's just been slowly building up over 40 years.

And really, 250 a month to not have to deal with any of that sounds great to me!
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  #37  
Old 09-27-2011, 07:12 PM
suranyi suranyi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patty O'Furniture View Post
This actually happened to me five years ago. My upstairs neighbor's water heater burst and I had ceiling damage and a ruined carpet. But in my condo the second owner would simply file a claim against the first owner's insurance company. The association wouldn't get involved unless there was damage to the common elements. Our bylaws don't give us the authority over individual unit issues.

If some condos are really micro-managing to that extreme, it's no wonder some fees are so high.
You're right: The association would probably only get involved if there is damage to the common property. But that can happen.
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