How Much Should Your Strata Fees Be?
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If you’re in the process of shopping for a home, you may have come across something called strata fees. Strata fees are most commonly applied in housing communities, such as a condo. As you probably noticed, strata fees are not cheap. They are yet another cost you need to consider and assess when purchasing a property. To understand what strata fees are composed of and how to determine the reasonability of the fees, continue reading below.
Learn about the importance of insuring your condo, click here.
What Are Strata Fees?
When you purchase a property, there are sometimes common areas that can be used by everyone in your building or area. For example, there may be a pool, outdoor areas that need to be maintained, or a concierge service. Naturally, these amenities are not free, they are paid for through something known as strata fees. Strata fees are most often paid monthly and are mandatory and non-negotiable.
What Factors Are Considered When Determining Fees?
A number of factors are considered when the property management of your building or area determines the monthly strata fees. Below are common factors that apply to nearly every property that incurs strata fees.
- Utilities. Strata fees cover some of the water, heat and hydro, if not all of it. In older buildings, heat may be centralized instead of controlled in each unit. If this is the case, then heat would likely be included in your strata fees.
- Size of Building. How large the building you live in will play an important role in how expensive your condo fees are. Generally speaking, larger buildings tend to have lower condo fees because the cost is split among more people.
- Reserve Fund. A portion of your condo fees is contributed to a reserve fund every month. A reserve fund is mandatory for every building to have under the Condominium Act in Canada. In the event of an emergency within the building, the reserve fund is used to cover the cost of an unexpected repair.
- Repairs and Maintenance. Regular repairs and maintenance required for basic operation of your building’s common amenities are always included in your strata fees. A couple of examples include landscaping, snow removal, garbage disposal, and cleaning of common areas.
- Available Amenities. The more amenities a building offers, the higher your condo fees will be. Some buildings come with a gym, pool, party rooms, security system, and a valet, all of this is paid for through your strata fees. Your condo fees cover the usage, operation, and upkeep of these amenities.
- Building Age. Older buildings tend to cost more to maintain than new buildings. This is because older buildings break down easier and more often than newer buildings do. That being said, new buildings don’t always have the lowest strata fees, it all depends on what else is included in the cost.
- Increase in Fees. Strata fees can increase at any point in time by any amount. The building’s board controls the strata fee amount and if they deem that it needs to be changed, they can do so. An increase in strata fees could be for an array of reasons, but be sure to consider this factor when determining the affordability of the place you’d like to live in.
Are Condo Fees and Strata Fees the Same Thing?
The short answer is yes, condo fees and strata fees are the same thing. However, you can expect to pay this type of fee in a number of common interest developments (CID). A common interest development is defined as any housing area where owners are a part of an association that owns and maintains the common areas.
Many Canadians are turning to CIDs since the cost of an individual, freestanding home is so expensive. Let’s explore the different types of CIDs below which are all subject to strata fees, also known as condo fees.
- Condominium. With a condo, the homeowner owns their individual unit within a complex. All of the homeowners share interests in the common areas, such as elevators, hallways, patios, parking garages, and lobbies. The common areas are managed and owned by a condo corporation and the owners of units.
- Strata. Unless you live in British Columbia, condos and stratas are the exact same thing. In BC, strata refers to apartments that have two or more levels within an apartment community. Despite this minor distinction, the management of a strata and a condo is essentially the exact same.
- Co-op Association. A co-op owns a particular property including its facilities and common areas. The residents of the co-op own a share of the co-op association which is a requirement to occupy the unit. The difference between a condo and a co-op is the residents don’t actually own their unit, they merely have a share within the co-op. Once a homeowner has a share in a co-op, they have the right to lease their unit within the community. Shares in a co-op are considered to be an intangible personal property which usually cannot be used as security for financing, unfortunately.
- Home Owners Association (HOA). An HOA is a non-profit organization that oversees developments or alterations of shared property. The goal of an HOA is to improve the overall community and related experiences. They generally have more responsibilities and objectives than a regular condominium association. HOAs are composed of homeowners within the housing community and they are actively involved in the maintenance of the shared areas and enforcement of the rules of the community. The HOA owns the common areas of the development and is responsible for charging homeowners their monthly fees.
What are first time home buyers really worried about? Check out this article.
How to Tell If Your Strata Fees Are Too High
To determine if your strata fees are too high, you will first need to assess the age of the building and what is included. Once you know that information, you can gauge how reasonably the fees are for what you are getting. If you’re having trouble gauging the reasonability of the fees, try looking for similar properties and compare the strata fees. If one set of fees is completely different from the other set of fees, that could be a cause for alarm.
What About Strata Fees That Are Too Low?
We all want to pay as little as possible when it comes to our living expenses. If you found a property with low strata fees, you might be marvelling at the great deal you found, but not so fast. Strata fees that are too low can indicate poor management and inadequate building maintenance. The last thing you want is to invest in a building that is not being maintained properly because it could impact the value of your individual unit.
Before you complete your purchase, you might want to hire a realtor or real estate lawyer to assess your strata fees. Not only will they be able to tell you exactly what you’re paying for, but they can also assess the reasonability of the fees and give you a professional opinion.
Do you know what the hidden costs of buying a home are? Find out here.
Why Strata Fees Aren’t Always a Bad Thing
Knowing that you need to pay strata fees on top of a mortgage and other housing costs can be daunting, frustrating and discouraging. However, strata fees aren’t all bad, in fact, there are actually benefits to paying strata fees. Let’s explore some of these benefits below.
- Split Costs. The repairs and maintenance and other costs of your building are split among all the residents. If you were to live on your own, you (and only you) would be responsible for these costs which can be pricey.
- Amenities at Your Disposal. If you want access to a home security system, pool or gym, you will have to pay for it some way or another. If these kinds of amenities are included in your building, the cost is paid for within your strata fees. If you want these amenities while living in a regular home, you would be paying someone else for them. Either way, you will pay someone for these perks.
- Either You Pay or They Pay. Strata fees mainly pay for repairs and maintenance of your building. If you own your own place without strata fees, you’d be paying and doing the repairs and maintenance on your own. It’s actually beneficial having someone else manage the repairs and maintenance for you.
Are Strata Fees Right for Me?
Living in a community with strata fees has its benefits, but these advantages aren’t always right for everyone. For instance, if you’re a handy individual who is easily capable of repairing and maintaining a property on your own, you may think strata fees are a waste of money. Alternatively, if you don’t want the burden of repairs and maintenance on your hands, then strata fees are worth your while. Whether or not strata fees are right for you all depends on your home buying goals and financial position.
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Margaret Johnson is in the business of helping Canadians tackle their debt, deal with credit issues, and regain control of their finances.