The monthly condo fee is often a stumbling block for buyers considering the purchase of their first condo. In the current market, where the high inventory of single family homes has lowered prices so that buyers have the option of choosing between a condo and a house, they tend to see the condo fee as a "savings" if they buy the house.
This could not be futher from the truth. Everything that is included in the condo fee is usually an expense that they would have with a single family home or they would have to do the work themselves. Using FalmouthPort, a well-run, mature waterfront condo community in Falmouth, MA as an example, the monthly fee includes the following: exterior building maintenance, roof and septic system management, landscaping, lawn mowing, snow plowing, show shoveling, basic cable service, facility maintenance (pool, tennis courts, walking trail, two dock systems), rubbish removal, and funding of a maintenance reserve.
In my mind, the maintenance reserve is the key. If the association has a long-range repair/replacement fund and a working plan to use it, the maintenance reserve is an insurance policy against surprise expenses (i.e. roof replacement, septic systems, exterior siding). This should create peace of mind and serve as a hedge against unanticipated expenses for the individual owner.