What’s the Maintenance Fee?
It’s interesting that when shopping for condos with buyers, the buyers are always attracted to condos with low maintenance fees. What is not often considered, is that maintenance fees can be too low. What does that mean? Well, the maintenance fee should be high enough to fund the ongoing operating expenses of running the condo (things like the management fee, if professionally managed, insurance, utilities for the common area, cleaning the common areas, etc.). In addition, there should be some ‘left over’ each month to fund the condo’s capital account which is used for long term improvements and repairs. This account is for items with a long useful life, like the roof, heating system for the building, elevator, brick face and so on.
Let’s Make Up a Budget
Often times, when a condo is built, the developer, in order to make the property seem more attractive and easier to market, sets the maintenance artificially low. Since there is no history, the budget is just made up. There are no past year actual figures to use in order to have a realistic budget. The building is ‘transitioned’ to the unit owners when the developer no longer has a controlling interest in the condo. The transition is supposed to happen soon after the majority of the units are sold and a new condo board elected. At that time, the new board ought to look very carefully at the proposed budget and make adjustments where needed. Having maintenance fees set too low will usually result in a deficit in the future. Without an adequate reserve fund, special assessments are required to pay for building operations and repairs. Most owners prefer to know what their monthly obligations will be and don’t appreciate getting hit with an unexpected assessment.
Show Me The Money
When a condo is sold, the buyer has the right to see the financials of the condo association. The buyer’s attorney should review these documents on the buyers behalf to see if the building is in good financial standing. Sellers of units that are in condo associations where the numbers are good, meaning there is an adequate budget and decent reserve fund, should let potential buyers know that.