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Condos: Association Fees - Are they worth it?

Old 05-13-05, 12:17 PM
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Condos: Association Fees - Are they worth it?

I am looking into buying a condo. The association fees are $322/month. This seems to be about average for the area (Ann Arbor, MI).

My question for those who have condos: Are the fees worth it? What do they generally cover. I would assume they plow, mow, cut down trees, etc.

I will get the details from the realtor but I'm wondering if this is just wasted money when I could buy a house and not have to worry about it. I realize that would be more work for me but $322/month is a good chunk of change.

Thanks.
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Old 05-13-05, 12:24 PM
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usually they are not worth it.
if you can afford a house, that's the way to go
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Old 05-13-05, 12:27 PM
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322/mo sounds like a lot to me.
What does it pay for? It depends.
Your realtor should definitely be able to get you the details.
It could pay for:
yard
community
garbage pickup
neighbourhood events
pool/community center if you have one
legal fees for the 'association'
road repair [my dad owns a condo, and the street its on is 'private', so they have to add things like speed bumps if they want them]
landscaping
security
etc. etc.

I forget how much the fees are for his condo [he rents it out, but he's also the treasurer for the HOA], but they seemed high to me; though not as high as yours.

Houses, however, often fall under homeowners association as well, and fees are required. Mine are 100/quarter, which is lots less than yours, but there's also like hundreds of houses in the neighbourhood, so we just wonder where the money goes. We have a neighbourhood pool, and a little park that is nice, but I can't imagine the upkeep on that is that much. We do have events sometimes, but really only 3 or 4 a year.
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Old 05-13-05, 12:32 PM
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As someone who lived in a homeowner's association and someone who maintains 500+ homeowner association websites for a living, I can tell you, absolutely, positively they are NOT worth it. There are whack jobs in every association, hell, someone KILLED their property manager last year over a $54 shrub. Went into a board meeting and shot her along with 2 board members. 9 property managers were murdered last year. And lots of these whack jobs make it onto the board of directors. Personally I don't want someone who emails bodies of dead Iraqi soldiers to total strangers for posting on their association's website making the rules and regulations for MY front yard!

That's why we bought a house with no association. For as much money as we paid, nobody short of the governement is going to freaking tell ME what color to paint my front door!

Last edited by PrincessT; 05-13-05 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 05-13-05, 12:37 PM
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Many people are against HOA fees just without even considering any of the factors. Sometimes they can be very worth it. I LOVE mine :-) It pays for garbage, water, lawn service, plow service, heated garage, and basic cable. I am lazy so would have lawn and plow service even if I had a house. You have to figure in what you are getting for it. Also a HUGE thing for me is insurance. Saves me big $$ there. I have like an H04 policy or something that would cover me in a total loss scenario for like $250 a year. What are you homeowners paying for homeowners insurance?

That being said I have a 250K loft and my association fee is only 225 b/c we don't have pool/excerize and all that garbage that really drags it up. Make sure you check their budget and stuff though too. Ours will likely go up b/c they misestimated snow removal costs and said it cost them way more b/c of the snow, but we hardly had any this year so having a hard time figuring that one out.

Anyway I'm just saying it takes a lot of analysis to figure out if it is worth it for you. Figure out what it covers, and what you would pay for that if you had a house. Then figure out convenience factors for services you might have to do yourself and what that is worth to you.
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Old 05-13-05, 12:41 PM
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$300+ sounds like a lot to me. Mine was around $200 in the Atlanta area (pool, landscaping, garbage, water). While every time I wrote that check it seemed a waste to me, I will say this... the upkeep was impressive. When it was time to sell my condo 6 years later I was very happy that the grounds were in great shape. I've seen fee simple townhomes that look like hell because the fees were so low.
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Old 05-13-05, 12:47 PM
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It depends what you're getting for your money. Keep in mind that the common areas of the building are all paid for with Association dues. So your big expenses will be 1) building insurance, and 2) capital improvements/repairs. The roof of every building, for example, only has a certain lifespan and needs to be replaced every 25 (or whatever) years; your dues will help pay for this. Also, you've got to pay utility bills (electric for the common areas; here in Chicago, water is billed on a building-by-building basis rather than a unit-by-unit basis, so that is also covered by our dues).

Some Associations pay for yard work, snow shoveling, gardening, etc.; others prefer to have the members pitch in and do it themselves.

If there's a doorman or a security system with monthly fees (e.g. Brinks or ADT), that will have to be included in the dues as well.
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Old 05-13-05, 12:50 PM
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Some are worth it and some are not. You would have to list the specific details of what yours covers in order for anyone to even make a guess. They all cover different items.


That being said, if you are the kind of person that must have 100% control of every dollar spent and you must have 100% control over appearnace and you really really care to the point that you obsess about what kind of tree is planted where, then you should probably not belong to a condo or HOA.

Also it depends on how much of this you would do yourself or contract out anyway. You will defintely see volume discounts on services and purchases with condo associations, but you will also have to pay the overhead of the condo assoc, they may cancel out. One thing is for certain, the condo association will decide to do things that you will pay for that you may not like or agree with. If you can't accept that, then don't join.


Personally I couldn't care less about things of this nature, tree here, tree there, flower here, whatever, grass cut 3 times a week so it always looks sharp, I just don't give a crap. I would concrete everything and put down astro turf and plastic trees if I could

I don't even mind a little pissing away of the condo money as long as it is not out of control. If it gets out of control, sell and move
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Old 05-13-05, 12:51 PM
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That does seem a bit high. I pay $182 a month (outside Boston). It covers landscape, pool, trash pickup, basic cable, snow removal in the winter, and water. I feel it's a fair price for what I'm getting.
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Old 05-13-05, 12:56 PM
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wasn't there a malcom in the middle episode about this?
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Old 05-13-05, 01:11 PM
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DOn't forget about special assesments. This occurs when the condo board needs more money for an improvement. This could be thousands of dollars. I know a building that was comprised of mostly older folks and they needed to have the building tuckpointed. The made a special assesment and some people had to pay about $5K.

So no HOA's are not worth it. buy a house instead. It can be cheaper
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Old 05-13-05, 01:24 PM
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I live in Chicago and I pay less then $300 HOA. My building has 24 hour doorman. My HOA also covers cable, heat, and water. Most of the dues goes towards building insurance though. I honestly feel that I get a pretty good deal for what I pay for. I know a lot of buildings that have HOA dues over $350/month for the same size condo as mine.

That being said, it really depends on the type of building to determine the "worthiness" of it. Some offer gyms with pools (the HOA dues at the John Hancock building is well over $800/mo for a 2 bedroom condo, but includes the best pool I've ever seen) and some HOAs are very bare bone buildings.

I really don't want to mow my lawn, plant flowers, and shovel snow. I also don't want to leave the city, so a house is out of the question.
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Old 05-13-05, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by ChiTownAbs, Inc
I really don't want to mow my lawn, plant flowers, and shovel snow. I also don't want to leave the city, so a house is out of the question.
Someday, one of those Victorian or Queen Anne houses on the Gold Coast will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.
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Old 05-13-05, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
Someday, one of those Victorian or Queen Anne houses on the Gold Coast will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.
We will be neighbors and we'll have Mexican landscapers
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Old 05-13-05, 01:41 PM
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It also depends on what type of people will be living there. An HOA can keep those nasty, slobby, tasteless people who do not respect others' property in check.
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Old 05-13-05, 01:48 PM
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Hell no it's not worth it. I have a townhouse in Columbia, MD so not only do I have to pay an Association fee for the neiborhood I also have to pay a Association fee to the City since it's a city wide assosiation. I don't mind the city one but the neihborhood one burns me since I can't think of a single thing that they do for that money.
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Old 05-13-05, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by tublecane
What are you homeowners paying for homeowners insurance?
About $300 per year. Average around here is $250-400/yr for "starter" homes.

My HOA fees are about $200/yr and they cover landscaping and snow removal. That's a fine amount to pay. I personally would be wary of any HOA fees over $50/m.

I know HOA+Condo fees at Sea Colony in Bethany Beach run up to $500/m, but this is for a place with eleven pools, dozens of tennis courts, lakes, private beach, etc.

So, no, the $322 is not worth it. Figure that $322 can easily buy you an extra $40,000 to $60,000 in house.
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Old 05-13-05, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by cdollaz
It also depends on what type of people will be living there. An HOA can keep those nasty, slobby, tasteless people who do not respect others' property in check.
Where the heck am I supposed to live then?
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Old 05-13-05, 02:25 PM
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No not worth it. IMHO the reason is simple. If you have a bunch of rules people will automatically only do the minimum. I lived in a very strick HOA. Sure people mowed their grass, but that was it. I was one of only a very few that would put in flowers. Most folks would only trim their trees bushes once a year (as required), but only a few would do it more often. With a HOA neighors don't talk. They report.

I now live in a much nicer area with no HOA. Our neighborhood is MUCH better kept. Just as an example, just last weekend my neighbor saw me planting some flowers and he brought me over two small colorful plants as HE had bought to many. I offered to pay for them, but of course he refused. In 5 years of living in a house with a HOA, I never saw anyone else planting anything.

Plus when I decided to put up a decorative mail box I did not have to submit a $75.00 "plan".
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Old 05-13-05, 02:34 PM
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I just bought a townhome and the HOA is $25.00 a month ! so yes, that is worth it.
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Old 05-13-05, 02:40 PM
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if people hate their HOA so much then why not run for a board seat? Or get a bunch of homeowners together that don't like the way things are going and run for the board?
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Old 05-13-05, 03:01 PM
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Thanks for all the replies. I guess I'll have to find out exactly what they cover and list it here to get a better idea.

For what it's worth, this is a "community" (not a building) and I know it covers landscaping, mowing, plowing, flowers and plants, water and insurance.

They also cover your roof and foundation.
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Old 05-13-05, 03:07 PM
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You're in Ypsilanti? Which HOA are you thinking of moving into? Who is the management comany for this condo?
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Old 05-13-05, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by PrincessT
You're in Ypsilanti? Which HOA are you thinking of moving into? Who is the management comany for this condo?
It's in Ann Arbor, MI. It's called The Village. Located between Washtenaw & Packard near US-23 if you know the area.

Can't remember the name of the management company. I'll post it later.
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Old 05-13-05, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
if people hate their HOA so much then why not run for a board seat? Or get a bunch of homeowners together that don't like the way things are going and run for the board?
I did one better, I moved. I told my realator that I was not interested in my place that had a HOA.

Don't get me wrong, if you live in an area where people take apart their cars in their front yard, leaving pieces out to rust for months at a time then a HOA is great. But IMHO most have way over stepped their original intent. Just to paint my front door a different color or plant a different type plant in the yard I had to submit a $75.00 "varience" request! Non-refundable of course. (I found a loope hole that allowed me to plant flowers in a movable pot so I didn't have to put in a request for spring flowers).

Again, people in general are going to just do what is "OK" with the HOA and no more. In my new neighborhood it is alive with spring flowers, new plants, trees, etc. I love it!
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