Condos are often attractive to buyers for many reasons. One of the most common reasons is that they are typically offer a more favourable price range than single family detached homes. They also can provide easier access to amenities and offer a low-maintenance lifestyle.
However, like most things in life, these benefits typically come at an additional cost. In addition to your mortgage, you will also need to plan for maintenance fees, otherwise known as condo fees. In this blog, we will breakdown what condo fees are, when they can be reassessed and what they mean for your mortgage.
Unlike a single family detached home where it is just you living in it, it’s up to you to keep the exterior in good condition. However, a condo is a bit different. A condo has a shared roof, etc. These items are covered within your condo fee. To put it simply, condo fees are monthly contributions made by unit owners to a condo corporation. The money is pooled together and goes toward funding maintenance and general upkeep of the building. Every condo has a board, made up of people from the building, who manage the property on behalf of the residents. They are responsible for making decisions in the best interest of all parties.
While every building is different, the most common costs included in the monthly fees are:
Utilities: a condo corporation may pay some or all of a building’s utilities. For example, it may pay for water and electricity but not heat.
The reserve fund: a portion of condo fees will go toward maintaining the building’s reserve fund, which is essentially a sum of money set aside for unexpected repairs. For example, if the roof or boiler in a building needs to be replaced, the condo board can use some of this cash to pay for it. Before you buy into a building, it is a good idea to know how much money is in the reserve fund so you understand the building’s financial health.
Common area maintenance: Condo fees can also go toward paying for garbage pick up, snow removal and the upkeep of common spaces in the building or property including hallways, lobbies, elevators and the grounds of the building.
Amenities: the more amenities your condo building has to offer, the higher your condo fees will usually end up being. Pools, reception services, saunas, shared rooftop patios and parking all add to the cost of your condo fees, while admittedly offering a lot in return.
It’s important to note that the size of your condo building can also be a factor in your overall condo fees. A building with 20 units will likely not have the same fees as a building with 200 units.
When choosing a condo, it’s easy to gravitate towards one with lower fees. However, lower fees could come with a catch! If the fees are too low, the condo corporation might not have enough cash flow to pay for larger repairs, which in turn may lead to a special assessment.
What is a special assessment? It is a payment unit owners must make to the condo corporation, on top of their regularly monthly condo fees and regular mortgage payment.
Doing your due diligence upfront will save you headaches in the future! That’s what we are here for. As your Realtor, we will not only help you find your home, but make sure you’re always in the know about anything going on. We will walk through your plan and make sure that the home and finances are a good fit for your lifestyle.
As an example, the Condo Authority of Ontario (CAO)—an organization that aims to improve condominium living by providing services and resources for condo owners, residents, and directors—indicates special assessments can occur for various reasons, but the most common include:
- Unforeseen expenses—A major expense may arise unexpectedly, such as the roof needs to be replaced. The CAO says this might happen during a critical year for the reserve fund, which is when the condominium board has depleted its reserve fund to complete major projects. As a result, the remaining balance is too low to cover the unexpected expenses and the special assessment has to be paid.
- Under-budgeting—A special assessment can also be paid if an expense or major repair ends up costing more than expected.
- Losing a lawsuit—Finally, the CAO says unit owners must “bear any judgment against the condominium,” which means if the condominium can’t pay the judgment from the operating fund, the board must turn to a special assessment to cover the costs.
Finally, you might find yourself wondering. Do condo fees affect my mortgage? They can! When applying for a mortgage or a pre-approval, the lender will definitely look at condo fees when looking at how much debt that are willing to supply to a client.
If you’re unsure of how to interpret condo fees, what they represent, etc. you can request the condo board share their status certificate with you. This will contain all the details about the current financial state of the condo maintenance corporation.
Condo fees can be challenging to understand, doing your due diligence is important to making sure there are no surprises! It’s always important to ask your realtor any questions that you may have regarding condo fees. Regardless of whether you’re a first-time home buyer or a veteran. If you have questions about condo fees or would like a second opinion, get in touch with us today and we would be happy to help!