Understanding homeowners association fees

Many first-time homeowners opt to purchase a condo or a townhouse. Condos are especially popular for unmarried people who want to live in the heart of a city. Townhouses are often an affordable way to get newly built properties, with up-to-date appliances, designs and features.

Unlike traditional family homes, there is one monthly cost that comes with these properties. It's a monthly fee that can really sting. Yes, Homeowner Association (HOA) fees can be pricey, and for many first-time buyers, this additional cost comes as a surprise. 

At first it might seem ridiculous to have to pay an extra $200 or $300 a month to live in a condo. After all, it kind of feels like you're paying rent! Understandably, many want to know where their money goes.

The basics of HOA fees

Property management companies usually run condos and townhouses, with the help of a governing board of homeowners. Generally, these property management companies take care of common areas, snow removal, lawn care, garbage removal and insurance for damage to these areas. The monthly HOA fees pay for these things.

That's the broad picture. Each association will have its own schedule of fees, and it's important you know what these are before you make a purchase. 

For instance, some buildings have a workout facility, a pool or offer a concierge service. Remember, with each perk that is available to homeowners, there is a fee. Pools require upkeep, cleaning, chemicals and so forth, and it's you, the homeowner, who has to pay for this.

Get involved

Even if you've found a place that doesn't have luxurious amenities, you can still get stuck with high fees. One of the ways this happens is when members on the board approve fresh flowers in the lobby each week or wall repainting twice a year. You might not think these things are necessary, but you'll still have to pay for them. 

There are associations that run a bare-bones shop, and others that are somewhat lavish in their spending. Some people like to enter the political fray and join a board in an effort to sway the association one way or another. 

In general, association fees don't go down, they go up. So don't count on becoming the association president and drastically slashing costs. 

To learn more about the many facets of home ownership, contact a Coldwell Banker Hedges Realtor® today. They know the business and can answer any questions you may have.

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