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How to Tell If Your Condo Maintenance Fee Is Fair

Owning a condo comes with an additional (often costly) maintenance fee for certain amenities like a pool or parking. But, how do you know if the cost is reasonable? Here are some key things to consider to see how your condo stacks up against the rest.
Owning a condo comes with an additional (often costly) maintenance fee for certain amenities like a pool or parking. But, how do you know if the cost is reasonable? Here are some key things to consider to see how your condo stacks up against the rest.

Condo — sounds fancy, right? While condos are most common in larger cities where space is at a premium, you can find them anywhere. Condos are like apartments in that you share walls with a neighbor and can enjoy certain shared community amenities. The main difference is you own a condo, much like you own a home.

Buying a condo can be a good alternative for those who love living that maintenance-free apartment life, but who also want to own their own property that may appreciate. Unlike apartment living — where amenities like a pool or fitness center are included in rent — when you own a condo, you’ll pay a condo maintenance fee. This is besides your monthly mortgage payment and your property taxes, and you can’t opt out.

What Does a Condo Maintenance Fee Cover?

The condo maintenance fee is often calculated by the size of your unit, and may go toward the building’s insurance policy, repairs, snow removal, utilities like trash or water, and upkeep on amenities like a pool or fitness center. Along with these fees come a condo homeowner association’s ability to make community rules affecting what you can and can’t do in the building.

Most anything inside your unit isn’t included or taken care of by your condo association. If your sink leaks or you need a new carpet, that’s on you. So, you’ll still want to budget for routine maintenance, just like you would if you bought a single-family home.

How Much Is a Typical Condo Maintenance Fee?

Not shockingly, we have to answer with — it depends. Just like gym memberships and hotel rates vary based on the amount and quality of the amenities included, condo fees do the same. On the low end, you can expect at least $100 a month that would cover the basics, like building insurance and general upkeep, plus trash, water and sewer utilities.

Some condo homeowner associations may charge as much as $1,000 a month for more luxurious condo communities. Instead of one pool, they may have six. Instead of one large room with a few treadmills, they may have a full gym. They may also offer concierge services, covered parking in more populous cities, or game rooms, etc.

Keep in mind that a condo homeowners association can always change their fees. You are at the mercy of the association and if you can’t pay the fees, they may restrict your access from some areas, or sometimes, place a lien on your property. Not good. It’s important that you give yourself a buffer in case the association increases fees or announces a one time fee for a major upgrade, like a roof.

Is My Condo Maintenance Fee Fair?

Now you understand how your particular condo community and its offerings may fare compared to the full spectrum of amenities, you can begin to determine if the fee sounds reasonable to you.

If your fee is $800 a month and just covers the basics — no sparkling pool, no fancy gym, and no valet — rethink your situation. Remember, some apartment complexes include these same perks in their monthly rent, or you could purchase a single-family home free of these costly fees.

If you love the amenities your association offers — like covered parking in Chicago, or a concierge — you may feel comfortable paying $300 a month for these luxuries. However, if you would purchase a gym membership and a parking spot in a garage anyway, it’s reasonable to wrap them into your monthly budget and enjoy them just a short distance from your front door.

If you haven’t yet purchased a condo, but are looking to do so, it may be helpful to make a list of all the amenities you run across offered by different condo homeowners associations. Then, compare each community — along with its cost — to determine which ones offer the best value.

You can also ask a local, trusted real estate agent who has experience with condos for guidance. They can help you wade through the nuances of buying a condo to find the one that fits your needs (and your budget!) best.

Besides helping you uncover additional cost-savings opportunities, Clever Partner Agents also offer on-demand showings — sometimes in less than an hour — so you know you won’t miss out on your dream home. Plus, you’re eligible for a $1,000 buyer’s rebate on any home you purchase for more than $150,000 (in 40 states).

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Jamie Ayers

Jamie is the Director of Content at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top real estate agents and helps you save thousands on commission. In the past, Jamie has managed columns for clients in a variety of leading business publications, including Forbes, Inc., CEO World, Entrepreneur, and more. At Clever, Jamie's primary goal is to provide home sellers, buyers, and investors with the information they need to successfully navigate the ins and outs of the real estate industry.

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