Owning a condo is different from owning a single family residence due to the shared common spaces in such developments. Condominium associations represent the interests of owners and are usually run by an elected Board of Directors. A condo association sets the condo fees, which typically cover common area maintenance, repairs and sometimes utilities in each unit. The amount of a condo fee varies and depends on location, property value and included services.
As a condo owner, you'll share the cost of maintaining the interior and exterior common areas with other residents. Exterior maintenance includes winterizing, cleaning out rain gutters, mowing, landscaping and trimming. Interior maintenance might include fresh paint and carpet in the fitness room and community center, elevator maintenance and the inspection and upkeep of common heating, cooling and plumbing or electrical units. Keeping the community pool clean and safe also is covered by your condo assessment.
In addition to preventative maintenance, condo fees typically cover major repairs. The building might need a new roof, exterior siding may need to be replaced and new paving in parking lots might be necessary. These repairs and replacements aren't made annually but are important to keeping the condo property attractive and habitable. Part of your condo fee goes into a reserve similar to a savings account for these large property expenses.
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Some condo fees cover utilities such as water, sewer and trash. This might increase the amount of money you pay in condo fees on an annual basis, but you won't have that extra monthly utility bill to factor into your budget. Before you buy a condo, check with the association on whether utilities are included. Depending on the structure of your building, you might get heat and electricity as well. Most condo owners have to pay for cable, telephone and Internet services on their own.
Most condo fees include a homeowner's insurance policy on the exterior of the condo, any shared or common areas and the building structure itself. This can save you money when you buy homeowners insurance, because you'll need a policy that only covers the interior of your condo. Consider purchasing insurance for personal property as well, because most condo fees don't insure your personal belongings.
How Much to Pay
Condo fees vary greatly, especially by region. A condo with few amenities in a small town might charge less than $50 per month, while a large condo community in a major city with swimming pools, rooftop gardens and a fitness center might charge more than $1,000 every month. When setting fees, the Association of Condominium, Townhouse and Homeowners Associations notes that the Board of Directors considers many factors including state law. For example, in Illinois, the Condominium Property Act influences how much condo owners pay in assessments and what the fee should cover.
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