What are Condo Fees / Strata Fees / Maintenance Fees?
Condo fees (also known as Strata Fees and Maintenance Fees) are inevitable when you live in a Kitsilano condo (or anywhere else). Condos fees are collected from every owner in the building, every month, and typically start from about $200 and go up given the square footage and building (they are typically 40 to 60 cents per sqft). The funds from these fees will cover everything from common building repairs and upkeep, contributions to the building’s Contingency Reserve Fund (CRF), upkeep of building amenities, property management fees, and (possibly) utility bills, such as gas or hot water.
Condo fees are paid monthly, and must be considered by Buyers prior to buying a condo. You will have to have the finances to cover these fees, else you risk fines, and worse, legal trouble. Even mortgage lenders consider condo fees when it comes to determining how much you can afford.
Condo fees will be listed on the property information sheet for all condos for sale in Kitsilano.
Every condo building will have different fees, so pinpointing a reasonable rate depends on the building itself and a few different factors. Keep in mind that buildings can increase condo fees every year, and most do. Some of the factors that will affect how much the fees are include:
Condo Building Age
Naturally, older Buildings require more maintenance and upgrades than brand new buildings. This includes updating the plumbing, roof, elevators, hallways, rainscreen, windows, balcony’s, and more. As a general rule, as soon as you hit the 15 year condo building age mark, modern updates need to be performed to keep the building running smoothly. These tasks will be budgeted for, and may lead to an increase in strata fees to ensure there is enough money to pay for them. Also, when expensive maintenance projects arise, much of the funds are taken from the CRF (contingency reserve fund – where a portion of you condo fees go) in order to find the project. Buildings should maintain a good amount of money in the fund, so the CRF will need to be replenished with more funds.
Newer buildings are a slightly different story. Sometimes if you buy from a developer, you’ll save on Condo fees for the first few months or years you live there as an incentive to buy. Sometimes newer condo buildings were built with poor materials or workmanship and unfortunately the owners have to pay to fix it (this situation can lead to a big lawsuit revolving around who’s responsible for paying).
Condo Building Amenities
Building Amenities are great – no need to pay for a gym membership, you can go for a swim anytime you want, a concierge can accept your packages and keep the building secure, the caretaker can keep everything clean and the gardens are maintained. However, you are paying for all of these luxuries in your monthly condo fees. If you don’t use the amenities, you many want to think about finding a building that only offers the amenities you need.
Some condos pay for the gas or hot water for every unit in the building, so the owners don’t have to individually set up accounts with the utility companies. However, you can’t control how much is used, so if your neighbour takes long showers and keeps their unit toasty warm all year, those extra costs can lead to a small increase in fees for everyone in the building.
Reviewing Condo Fees
If you find a Kitsilano condo you want to buy and have your offer to purchase accepted, we will go through the building’s Strata Documents. The strata documents will give you a good idea of the financial status on the building – the budget, the year to date financials, the building updates, the amount of money in the Contingency Reserve Fund and more. Also, as of the end of 2013, most building will have commissioned a Depreciation Report, which is a long term report prepared by Engineers detailing the status of the building and the 30 year maintenance and financial plan (we expect every building to increase condo fees once these reports are released).
We’ll take a look at what the condo fees are and what they cover. Unfortunately, you can’t change or fight the strata corporation to pay fewer fees (that requires a popular vote by the entire Strata Corporation), so if you don’t like the amount of condo fees the building charges, you are out of luck.
How much can you expect to pay in Condo Fees?
Like I mentioned previously, the amount depends. However, you can expect to pay somewhere between 40 and 60 cents per square foot of your Kits Condo. It’s rare to see a building with unusually high condo fees, so as your Realtors, we’ll definitely point this out of we do.