Ask an Agent: What Are the Pros and Cons of a Self-Managed Condo Building?

by Mark Wellborn


In this week’s installment of Ask An Agent, a reader wonders about the pros and cons of buying a unit in a self-managed condo building. Keller Williams’ Jason Martin offers up some insight.

Question: I am considering purchasing a condo in a small building (less than 10 units). The building is currently self-managed. Should this concern me? What are the pros and cons to living in a self-managed building versus one that is managed professionally?

Answer: This is a very good question, but is one that has to be answered on a case by case basis. The building is likely managing itself in an attempt to save on management fees. This should not concern you if the condo board is well organized and has a proven track record.  In order to find out if this is the case, you should review the condo documents and find the operating budget as well as the current reserve amount. If the numbers seem to be reasonable and the reserve account is growing, then you should be fine. On the flip side, you must understand that self management is very time consuming and if you have a board that takes the task lightly, the overall quality of the building will likely suffer. Managing a building that has fewer than 10 units can still be very burdensome unless the members of the association fully understand the task at hand.

If you would like to submit a question for Ask An Agent, send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

See other articles related to: dclofts, condo buying, ask an agent

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/ask_an_agent_what_are_the_pros_and_cons_of_a_self-managed_condo_building/1387


  1. maria said at 10:06 am on Wednesday October 7, 2009:

    Good advice. Does anyone live in a self-managed building and have you run into any issues?

  1. John said at 1:55 pm on Wednesday October 7, 2009:

    I’m condo president of a 4-unit self-managed building and I really can’t see any issues with managing a small building like ours.  The four owners communicate through e-mail, phone, and knocking on the door if needed.  The (small) condo fees are deposited monthly, bills are automagically paid via online setups, and extra funds are transfered into a reserve savings account with a decent interest rate.  Getting four personalities in tow to make decisions is certainly easier than 10, but you have to balance that with the condo fees (some of which are outrageous) that managed buildings are charging.  Some are upwards of $600/month—that’s like $100,000 added to your mortgage amount!

  1. maria said at 2:19 pm on Wednesday October 7, 2009:

    John, are your monthly fees notably lower? Thanks for the first-hand insight.

  1. Pat said at 12:34 pm on Thursday October 8, 2009:

    Beware!  I currently live in a four unit building that was mismanaged by the person who sold us our units.  His unit (the last that he couldn’t sell but rented out) went into forclosure after he ripped us off used our condo fees for his own personal legal bills instead of paying the bills for our building. We have placed a lien on that unit for back fees ($3,000+). I am now the condo president and I’ve hired a property manager for a nominal monthly fee but I swear it is another full time job for me. She has other clients so that means I have to take up slack where she can’t. The vice president/treasurer purchased another home so she no longer lives in the building.  On top of that we have unsavory neighbors that drive me insane in the unit under me(another long story). I plan on moving out of the building as soon as I can because I don’t have time to deal with the drama.  We are currently trying to replenish the reserves but it’s difficult because the property was neglected for several months before we found out what was going on and I’ve been working on getting the property back into shape - that takes money. Currently only three units are paying condo fees and we need fees from all four to generate a healthy reserve. I personally would rather pay $300-500 a month in condo fees versus the $188 I pay now if it meant no work for me and the building was clean, beautiful and well run.

  1. John said at 2:20 pm on Thursday October 8, 2009:

    Maria—Ours is only $220/month and in the U Street/Col Hgts/14th Street Corridor, that is SUPER cheap.  Oh, and our by-laws are pretty strong for dealing with illegal actions and there is insurance for someone taking the money and running.  So read everything carefully and analyze the situation.

  1. Robert said at 2:23 pm on Thursday October 8, 2009:

    I live in a building that is too large for self-management, but there are some issues that are relevant to any condo property.

    First, I sympathize with Pat. Over and over I hear stories that are similar to this. It is often suggested that a third-party financial management firm be engaged (to collect monies and pay bills).  If you to this route, make sure they have experience with buildings of your size.

    Second, if you are considering a self-managed condo make sure they have a good replacement reserve study and fund. This will give you an idea of whether big ticket items, such as the roof or the building wide tuck-pointing, are on the horizon and whether there are adequate funds for them or if you can expect a special assessment, which could easily hit $5K to $10k.

    My final thought is that if you have to ask the question “Self-managed or professionally-managed” about a particular condo, you should probably go with the professional management. Like the author said, if they have a good track record they will be proud of it and will be able to explain it to you clearly and succinctly. If there is any cause for doubt, that would be a big red flag.

Join the discussion

UrbanTurf now requires registration in order to post comments. Register here, or login below if you are already registered.

Click here if you forgot your password.

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »

Upcoming Seminars ▾