Living with a homeowner’s fee

One of the trade offs we made in choosing a condo over a single family home is flexibility with some of our monthly expenses. In other words, many of our utility expenses are rolled into an HOA (homeowner’s association) fee.

Some condo communities have relatively low HOA dues because very little is covered by the HOA. In our case, our HOA covers quite a bit so it’s not cheap. On the one hand, it pays for things we would have to pay for anyway. On the other hand, we’re locked into a monthly rate and we pay for services we wouldn’t otherwise want to pay for.

Fortunately, despite the monthly cost, our HOA fee covers the following:

  • Heat – The entire building shares a boiler and our heating system is interconnected.
  • Water and sewer – All incoming and outgoing water is included.
  • Hot water – Like the heat, the hot water is produced by a huge boiler for the entire building. And it’s very hot and we’ve never run out. We can even run the dishwasher and take a shower at the same time.
  • Garbage and recycling – Picked up a couple times a week.
  • Some electric – The electricity that powers our washer and dryer and garage is shared and included. We have our own secured space in the basement with our washer and dryer, but the electric hook-ups for those are on the house account.
  • Weekly lawn and garden maintenance – We never rake, mow, trim, weed, plant, sweep, shovel, or prune.
  • Homeowners insurance – This is very unusual, but the majority of our homeowner’s insurance coverage is provided through the HOA.
  • Professional management company – We have a number we can call for any building issues, much like renters enjoy. Of course, we all pay for this through the monthly dues, but it does provide peace of mind. The company also processes all of our payments and manages our budgets and accounts with oversight by our elected HOA board. If the heat were to shut off, or the basement started to flood, we’d call them and they would coordinate emergency service and maintenance from the HOA accounts.
  • Basic maintenance – Such as gutter cleaning, exterior painting, and building and grounds repairs.
  • The reserve account – This is essentially a savings account for major maintenance and repairs. Technically, we should never be hit with a surprise cost.  An engineer did a survey of the building and mapped out the projected maintenance. By contributing to the reserve account each month through the fee, all of the homeowners have peace of mind knowing major maintenance expenses will be covered when they hit.

Having the HOA fee was definitely a compromise. It’s not the most thrilling aspect of condo ownership. We could probably pay less on utilities if we just paid for our own directly. But the security of the reserve account is a bonus. And not having to do yard work is nice–a splurge we would never pay for on our own.

We actually considered the monthly HOA dues as part of the purchase. We still feel like we got a really great deal on our place and, even with the HOA fee, we still pay considerably less than we would have on a single family home. In short, some of our buying power went towards convenience and lifestyle.

Do you have an HOA fee? Have you come to terms with it, or does it bother you?

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