By Heather Morse, Realtor
When buying a house or condo buyers are typically focused on the down payment and what their mortgage payment will be when all is said and done. That payment also might include a homeowner’s or road maintenance fee. This amount can be a little alarming at first and can range in price, depending on the association and what it covers. Some people love it, and some people hate it, but with or without it you’ll have to pay for the costs either way. There are three types of home maintenance situations: day-to-day, yearly and disaster.
Day-to-day fees can include public septic, public water, lawn care, driveway maintenance, plowing and sanding. These are fees homeowners without an association will have to face as well, but they won’t have the ease of having someone else handling it for them. Homeowners associations budgets each year to cover these fees and save some for the yearly costs. When buying a home that doesn’t include a homeowners’ association, I would highly encourage you to budget these costs in even if someone isn’t going to be charging you monthly.
Yearly costs typically are more like every few years. Some condo associations will cover the costs of new windows, siding, deck repairs and a roof. Hopefully, the association will have saved enough money and be prepared as these expenses come up. If not, then there will be a “special assessment,” and the association can decide on a one-time additional fee to cover the required cost or it can be spread out as an addition to the monthly cost. Not every association offers this, and when you go to purchase a home that does include repairs like this, you might notice that the monthly association fee is significantly higher than that of an association that doesn’t. Again, if purchasing a home without an association, make sure to gauge the life of the windows, furnace, roof, etc. This way you won’t be surprised when they have reached their life expectancy and you will have saved for the updates.
Disaster situations are when unexpected repairs need to happen. Now insurance will cover some situations, but not always or all of it. In Vermont we have all sorts of extreme weather conditions that can cause endless amounts of damage. Or something like a septic has to be replaced. These larger repairs aren’t usually something an association is prepared for nor are many homeowners. This would be a situation where a special assessment would almost always come into play, but when you share the cost with multiple other homeowners you take a much smaller hit.
So it’s up to you to decide when you are shopping how you would prefer to handle your money when it comes to repairs— let someone else take care of it and pay monthly or handle things as they come. As we head into the real estate busy season I wish you the best of luck with your home buying or selling experience!