Is this the right question? The HOA fee is how much?

Real Estate Agent with Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 PA License - AB067198

The HOA fee is how much?

Community Pool

When looking at town homes and condo developments many buyers ask how much the HOA(Home Owners Association) fee or Condo fee is on a monthly basis. Is this the right question? The benefit of living in a community with a fee of one sort or another is that these fees take care of much of the general maintenance, possibly some of the exterior maintenance and in a condo even more. It allows the home owner to live their life without having to be concerned with as many chores on days off.

Everybody likes the fee to be low because none of us like to pay money out every moth when it could be sitting in our own bank account however little interest it earns us there. But is that rational.

What is the difference between an HOA and a condo association?

First let's explain the difference between a condo and a home under a home owner association. A condo or condominium may be an apartment or a townhome. The owner owns everything within the unit up to and including the skin on the walls. What is behind the walls is common and the association is responsible for any repairs unless caused by negligence of a condo owner, including pipes, sewer lines etc. A town home under a home owner association the owner is responsible for everything other than common areas, just as a single family home owner is responsible for their home other than when the association rules and by laws stipulate that the association will cover repairs to certain items even including some exterior maintenance.

Let's consider what these fees might cover

HOA - General area maintenance, snow clearing, maintenance of trees, community pool, community tennis courts, community club house, trash and recycling service, maybe roof maintenance due to community rules that all roofs are replaced on a regular basis to maintain the correct look throughout the community.

Condo - All of the above, but it may also include water, hot water, gas for cooking, electricity, any maintenance to common areas of the units including pest treatment.

What is Not Covered?

What is often not covered by either type of association may be windows, doors, sliders, balconies, decks although it is always wise to read the association documentation to verify what is covered and what is not.

Why would a fee be high?

It all depends what is actually covered, the age of the units within the complex. Very often new complexes have lower fees because they have no repair history, being new they expect to build up reserves to cover needed repairs by the time they are required. Older complexes have a history and the management knows what to expect and how much they need in the association reserves to cover roofs replacement.

Some associations plan to have a special assessment when they repair roofs or balconies or decks and everyone gets an assessment and often a period of time to pay it in one installment or over time.

An association may also have had several recurring problems such as stucco, or repairs to chimneys in a community for example and decided rather than tackling the issue piece meal to take it head on and repair everyones chimney or stucco issue in one go.

What system is better?

High fees with no assessments, or low fees with regular assessments, it all depends where in the cycle the complex may be. If there are a lot of repairs coming up you will want to know what the expected repairs and costs are going to be as well as the level of the assessments. Some homeowners will try to sell before an assessment hits, others will offer to pay part or all of the assessment for a new owner as an incentive to purchase their unit.

These are all things to consider when buying a home in a home owners association or with in a condo association; along with what are the rules for both, can you live within those rules or will they curb your lifestyle. Do they allow kids swing sets behind a unit, or are you allowed a grill of any type on a balcony, maybe you cannot park trucks or vans outside of a garage overnight, etc.

Many of these associations have restrictions, but these restrictions are often why people love to live in these communities, they know there are certain standards that are going to be maintained.

We have many communities in the Main Line area that are either regulated under a home owner association or are condominiums. Let us help you find your home in the perfect community in the perfect location.

Posted by


Nick Vandekar
Nick is a Tredyffrin Easttown Residential and Commercial REALTOR selling The Main Line, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties.

Giving you the confidence to make
the right decisions.

92 Lancaster Avenue
Devon , PA 19333
Mobile: (610) 203-4543 [call or text me]
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If you are buying or selling on or around
Tredyffrin Easttown or along the Main Line, 
we can help you, contact us.


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  1. Debbie Reynolds 12/21/2016 02:00 PM
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Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line

Debbie one of the reasons why we work in a specific area so we know the answers.

Dec 21, 2016 08:10 AM #7
Don Hess
KW Elite Keller Williams 1280 Plaza Blvd. Lancaster, PA 17601 - Quarryville, PA

Good explanation. I own a condo as an investment property. It's important in an aging community to examine their history closely before buying. Like every other organization, some are managed well and some not. 

Dec 21, 2016 08:21 AM #8
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Nick & Trudy Vandekar, You have the answers and that is more then most people can say.  Make it a great day!


Dec 21, 2016 08:38 AM #9
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line

Don Hess, many investors like condos because they take care of so much.

Will Hamm thank you for the compliment.,

Dec 21, 2016 08:56 AM #10
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hi Trudy and Nick --- all homeowner associations are not created equal so your post is a good read for those considering a purchase with a HOA.  There are many issues to consider and thoroughly review before/during the due diligence period.

Dec 21, 2016 09:39 AM #11
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line

Michael Jacobs, in PA our forms give the buyer 5 days to review the docs, bylaws and financials etc, a lot to cover in a short time. Waht about CA?

Dec 21, 2016 09:41 AM #12
Beth Atalay
Cam Realty and Property Management - Clermont, FL
Cam Realty of Clermont FL

Excellent explanation Nick and Trudy! Most of the subdivisions in my area have HOA fees and about 80% of my buyer clients moving from other states ask to be in a neighborhood with NO HOA fees but that's almost impossible. 

Dec 21, 2016 05:44 PM #13
Keji Ogunleye
Fairfax Realty, Inc - Greenbelt, MD
GRI, SFR, KejiYour Realtor

I hate paying them so I quite understand when my clients don't want to live where they have HOA..

Dec 21, 2016 06:09 PM #14
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Great post about the  HOA and what it entails, needless to say there are so many differences... Once the property is in Escrow I always advise my clients to read the CC&R's (the Condo Documents that entail what is covered and what the rules are)...out of 20+ years I only had three clients who actually read the 100+ page document...Endre

Dec 21, 2016 06:30 PM #15
Anthony Vosilla
Tony's Appraisal Services - Centereach, NY

Good points on the coverage of what the fees give a potential buyer.  One of the things that these buyers should aslo be looking at is the history of the budget.  This will give them an idea as to what the future may hold in the community.

Dec 21, 2016 06:35 PM #16
Dorothy Liu
Alain Pinel Realtors - Los Altos, CA
Broker Associate, Silicon Valley Area,650-492-0859

Good comments.  Would recommend buyers review all the finances such as cash flow and reserves.   If there is not enough reserves the likelihood for a special assessment is higher.  So addition to knowing what the HOA is, how frequent fees has been going up, what is covered, we need to know the stability of the finances.

Dec 21, 2016 06:41 PM #17
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Nick and Trudy- it is a very important question, and buyers need to know what it is they are paying and what it does and does not cover.  A few years ago, buyers could purchase a small condo for as little as $15,000.  The monthly fees, however, could have exceeded $400 a month for some. 

Dec 21, 2016 06:44 PM #18
Lottie Kendall
Compass - San Francisco, CA
Helping make your real estate dreams a reality

You've done a great job of explaining more about that question we hear all the time, "what is the HOA fee?" So many variables!

As listing agents of properties with an HOA fee, it behooves us to take the time to know what the dues cover as well as some of the more common regulations. Information can do a lot to quell worries from prospective buyers.

Dec 21, 2016 07:43 PM #19
Hella Mitschke Rothwell
(831) 626-4000 - Honolulu, HI
Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker

Some condos that have a high HOA fee have a lot of amenities, yes, but will you be using them? There may be pretty water features and lush grounds but is it costing too much for the upkeep? Find out when large expenses will  come up, as you say, some owners will sell just before large assessments are made. Finally, some HOA boards are a real pain to work with if you want changes made in a townhouse, for example; find out from current owners what yours will be like.

Dec 22, 2016 12:38 AM #20
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Buyers who balk at HOA fees are usually misinformed or uninformed. Using your illustration to educate them should convince them that the fees are reasonable and necessary to maintain the pride and appeal of the community including the potential of escalating appreciation and market value for the future. Excellent post.

Dec 22, 2016 12:40 AM #21
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Nick & Trudy

This is a wonderful post about HOAs and fees. Buyer must definitely do their due diligence very carefully and thoroughly so they understand what they are getting into and what it will cost. They are all different but rest assured fees WILL go up over time.

Dec 22, 2016 05:01 PM #22
Patricia Kennedy
Redfin - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Hi, Nick and Trudy.  This post is included in Last Week's Favorites.  Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Dec 24, 2016 08:39 PM #23
Thom Abbott |770.713.1505 | Intown Atlanta GA Condo Living - Atlanta, GA
Midtown Atlanta GA Condos For Sale

I always thought the windows in a high rise were the HOA (or condo assn) responsibility since they are "part of the building." Ahhhh....NOT!!!

Had a client get a window broken on the 27th floor (we still don't know how as they were not washing windows on the building) and when we thought the HOA would need to make the repair, they pulled something in the condo docs that said the windows were the responsibility of the condo owner. 

Go figure. 

There are some tricky paragraphs in condo docs, that even though I get a copy for all of my buyers, who reads a 400-600 page document.

Dec 25, 2016 07:23 AM #24
Steve Davis
Davis Coastal Properties - Carlsbad, CA
Carlsbad CA

San Diego county has lots of communities with HOA's. Our responsibity is to know where ALL the information can be found - especially the reserves and the history of the monthly dues. We need to know the current dues and be able to send the Buyer for the information on the other details.

Dec 26, 2016 08:19 AM #25
David Alan Baker Laveen & South Phoenix Realtor
Keller Williams Realty Phoenix - Laveen, AZ
Your local Expert

Came to your post via Patricia's list of best of last week, congrats.  Nice post.

Dec 26, 2016 02:00 PM #26
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Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line
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