Association Dues, are they really too high?

Stacks_of_money $460 dollars a month for association dues, you have to be kidding!  No I am not kidding and it looks like a bargain to me, especially in an older building.  I took the dues for a condo in my own neighborhood that is about the same size  and age as our home and compared the association dues to our monthly expenses.

The $460 monthly dues cover Heating, hazard insurance, water, sewer, refuse removal, lawn care, snow removal and exterior maintenance.   Our costs for a similar size home are $363 a month for heating, insurance, sewer, water and refuse removal, leaving $97 a month for exterior maintenance, snow removal and lawn care.

I don’t even have to factor in the cost of lawn care and snow removal to see that the dues are a bargain.  Our exterior maintenance costs spread out over the length of time we have owned our home easily come out to more than $100 dollars a month.

If I factor in the cost of the roof repair we needed, the gutters we had to add to keep the basement dry, the siding we replaced, and the porch we had rebuilt the total monthly exterior maintenance costs for our home are easily more than $100 a month, without including  the cost of plants, landscaping work or the labor costs associated with lawn care and snow removal.  Not to mention the cost of owning and maintaining both a lawn mower and a snow blower.

Our home still needs to have many of the windows replaced and the lower roof on the West end of the house is starting to look a little worn.  There is a tree in the back yard that needs to be removed and I am told that it will be expensive.  We had the deck on the front porch replaced a couple of years ago but have not yet started on the back porch.

There is an advantage to paying for exterior maintenance on a monthly basis.  When we need a major repair we need to come up with a major amount of cash all at one time.  Before buying a condo or townhouse, especially a unit in an older building make sure that the association has some reserves so that you don’t have to come up with a large sum of money for repairs. 

When buying an older home or any home at all keep in mind that things wear out or even break and budget some reserves for emergency repairs.  Before deciding that association dues are too high compare look at what the dues are paying for.

This post was requested by Stephen Gross of The Gross Report blog.

Also See:
St. Paul Real Estate: Association Dues

Condo sellers – review rules and bylaws

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7 Replies to “Association Dues, are they really too high?”

  1. Teresa-
    I’m a real estate agent working in Northern Va outside of DC & found your blog from the Tomato- I just love it and hope one day I can be as great a blogger as you. I’m falling in love with St. Paul just from reading your blog!

    You are so right about condo fees. We have a large condo market here in Arlington, VA- and the older the building the higher the fees.

    There are some major triggers that cause a higher condo fee:
    – elevators,
    – shared metering of electric, gas or water
    – older buildings.

    Most people don’t realize that a condo board is made up of owners- managed properly- they don’t want to pay a higher condo fee as much as the next person. And a condo board is not in the business of making money- but their job is to make sure your major investment retains its value.

    When reviewing condo documents- its important to review their financial statements. If you don’t understand them- get some help. Be wary of a low condo fee and many special assessments- that’s the sign of a poorly managed condo. Condo fees are just a planned way of managing the money needed to maintain your home now and in the future.

  2. Funny, I was going to send Stephen the link!

  3. Thanks so much for posting on this subject! You have addressed the major underlying question at play when dealing with condo fees: how do they compare to single-home-ownership costs?

    I’ve asked every homeowner I know how much they spend on maintenance for their home. Universally, no one can really tell me exactly how much. Five years will go by with no work, and then a new roof will set you back $10k. I’ve been trying to figure out if condo fees end up, on average, comparable to housing maintenance. It sounds like they do.

    Also, the interesting thing is that in condo ownership you don’t deal directly with capital investment. That is, you don’t buy your own snowblower / lawnmower / etc. That seems like a BIG selling point.

    With all that said, I think one should make sure to factor in condo fees when figuring out what kind of a mortage you can handle. If you think you can handle $1000 / month, what that really means is maybe more like $700 per month + $300 per month condo fees. It’s a very significant component of housing cost.

  4. Stephen – condo fees do need to be factored in but so do the expenses associated with owning a home that is not a condo.

  5. Teresa,
    Great post about association fees. There is also another option now available for Eastern Twin Cities residents – Single family home living, with the convenience of an association fee. One Call Property Care provides home maintenance of all kinds for a flat monthly rate. It is a great business, and can also be a selling tool that could assist you in selling single family homes to clients who would otherwise only be interested in a townhome or condo. I’d love to tell you more about it if you’d like. Take a look at our website at http://www.onecallpropertycare.com

    Thanks,
    Patrick McGuiness

  6. I took a look at the property care website. Looks interesting. I didn’t see roof or exterior wall maintenance anywhere–what’s the cost structure for including that kind of service in a monthly fee structure?

    –Steve

  7. Steve,
    The monthly fee structure generally includes regular mainenance items. That said, we are willing to spread the cost of 1 time improvements out over the 12 month duration of a contract. I realize this doesn’t take roof maintenance into account for most monthly fees, it does allow the homeowner to spread the cost out a little. Perhaps we will look into setting up trust accounts for each homeowner we work with and depositig a certain % into the account each month for ‘rainy day’ expenses and long term expenses.

    Thanks,
    Patrick
    http://www.onecallpropertycare.com

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