I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown prospective buyers a listing for a beautiful condo, watched their eyes scan down to the fees area and immediately cast the listing aside, convinced that paying condo fees is not something they are interested in.  Condo fees are one of the great mysteries of homeownership, capable of turning an outright purchase into what seems like a rental, with monthly payments to factor into your budget for as long as you live at that address.

If you have never paid condo fees before and the concept has you running scared, take a few minutes here to understand what they are and what they cover.

Your condo fees pay for: 

• The costs of keeping shared spaces, such as the elevators, indoor and outdoor gardens, lobbies and hallways, in good working order and clean.

• The upkeep of amenities such as fitness rooms, swimming pools, bowling alleys, theatre rooms, spas and party rooms – the very items that initially attracted you to the place.

• Snow removal, roof repair and insurance.

How much should you pay? 

This is a difficult question to answer as amenities, the age of a building, location and a number of other factors come into play. In Toronto, for example, the rate per square foot varies from 40 cents to 80 cents, or $320 – $640 on a 800-square foot condo.

The first step in deciding if condo fees are worth your while is considering the amenities offered and if you will make use of them. If you can cancel your gym membership and eat out less in favour of cooking on your rooftop patio, perhaps you will see some serious savings. When you think about the actual costs of maintaining the exterior of a home, landscaping, paving, fertilizer, purchasing a lawnmower, weed-whacker, hedge trimmer, etc., most homeowners would spend more than $95 a month, on average. Factor in eventual big ticket items like a roof ($5,000) and furnace replacement ($5,000), and condo fees are justified because it has the added value of living a low maintenance, carefree lifestyle.