UrbanTurf Reader Asks: Where Can You Get the Most For Your Condo Fees?

by Mark Wellborn

Roof at Kenyon Square

In this week’s installment of “UrbanTurf Reader Asks,” a reader who is looking to buy a condo in DC wonders which condo developments offer the most bang for their buck in terms of the amenities and services that you get for your condo fees.

“I am looking to buy a condo in DC, but have been surprised at how steep monthly condo fees are at a lot of buildings. I wouldn’t mind paying $400 a month if that included access to a pool, fitness center, roof deck, etc. as well as covering maintenance and some utilities. However, it seems like some of the buildings in DC just have fees that are arbitrarily high (like down on the Southwest Waterfront and in Kalorama). 

Does anyone know which developments offer the most services/amenities for the monthly condo fees that you have to shell out?”

Post your thoughts in the comments section. If you would like to submit a question for “UrbanTurf Reader Asks,” send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

See other articles related to: urbanturf reader asks, dclofts

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/urbanturf_reader_asks_where_can_you_get_the_most_for_your_condo_fees/900


  1. BD said at 1:16 pm on Tuesday May 12, 2009:

    I too, am confused about the outrageous condo fees for some places that I’ve looked at.  One place I saw recently was a 2bd/2ba/den for $485k with condo fees in excess of $600 a month.  This place didn’t have a pool, and the fee didn’t even cover use of the community room!  When I inquired with the sales people about what the main component of the fee was, the answer was “master insurance”.  I’m new to the whole condo idea, so I’m not exactly sure what this is and why it is so ungodly high here.  Any insight?

  1. Maria said at 3:44 pm on Tuesday May 12, 2009:

    Yes, yes, thank you for bringing this up. I have been looking in the SW waterfront and the condo fees are ridiculous. There are listings for under $200K, but with condo fees of $700/month, I am almost paying as much in fees as I am in mortgage payments.

  1. George said at 4:05 pm on Tuesday May 12, 2009:

    I think you get the most bang for your buck at CityVista.

  1. CR said at 4:25 pm on Tuesday May 12, 2009:

    Yes, thanks for posting this! I’ve been looking for a condo for 2 months now but haven’t been able to find anything with condo fees below 400/month for a 2 bedroom in NW DC. I’m not even considering pool or gym included…this is so frustrating

  1. Tom A. said at 4:35 pm on Tuesday May 12, 2009:

    There are no condo fees if you buy a house.  Zero nada.  If your concerned about a tiny patch of lawn to “maintain”, hire a neighborhood kid to mow it for 20 bucks 2x a month from April-October.  That’s much less than 400 bucks for condo fees that include nothing but mowed grass and a bit of snow removal.  Water and sewer fees for a small house are about 20 bucks a month, and trash and recycling are free.

  1. Aguirre said at 4:58 pm on Tuesday May 12, 2009:

    Great advice Tom.  If you can afford a single family house in DC then you’re probably not sweating the prospect of $400 a month in condo fees.

  1. Georgetowner said at 6:12 pm on Tuesday May 12, 2009:

    Yes, I have also noticed that condo fees are insane in DC. Some are even more insane than others (like SW) because those units are actually co-ops.  In co-ops, the fee includes underlying mortgage and property tax as well as the usual stuff like building insurance, reserve funds, front desk, etc…

    As for condos without pools or community rooms with fees around $400-500… I have no idea why they are that high.

  1. Steven said at 6:48 pm on Tuesday May 12, 2009:

    As Georgetowner mentioned, if you see a really high condo fee, it’s probably because it’s a co-op.  One co-op I looked at had really high fees, but the fees included cable and high-speed internet.  So as annoying as it is, it’s very tough to compare the fees without doing more research.

    And to better compare a condo fee vs. single-family home (SFH), keep in mind that condo fees usually include:
    * master insurance (with a SFH, you will have to buy homeowners’ insurance separately—unless you’re buying the place with cash)
    * reserves (this is “forced” saving to replace and refurbish parts of the building as it ages; with a SFH, you just have to plan for this yourself—but there’s no regular monthly “payment”)
    * property maintenance (the level varies depending on the building—but it’s often more than just mowing the lawn; it can include cleaning, certain repairs to the property, landscaping, etc.)

    A lot of the buildings with higher fees included some utilities—so that’s another factor to keep in mind.  Also, in general, older condo buildings will have higher fees because the cost to maintain them is higher.

    Larger buildings can be expensive because they have to maintain elevators, large rooftop decks, etc.  Elevators are especially expensive to maintain.  Many larger buildings also have a person staffing the front desk as well and/or an on-site property manager.

    Also, caveat emptor: if you are buying at a NEW building, read your contract and the condo documents carefully.  Most new buildings have a subsidized/reduced starting condo fee that can go up significantly (10-25%) once the building is occupied.

  1. Steve Dean said at 7:30 am on Wednesday May 13, 2009:

    When purchasing an apartment, it’s important to see what is covered in the fee. Fees in Southwest DC have been given as examples as “high” by other people leaving comments. Many buildings with these “high” fees include property tax, insurance, electric, gas, Comcast cable, in-unit maintenance, and other items in their fees. Many of these buildings are actually able to negotiate with the utility companies and purchase their utilities at lower rates.

    It’s easier for many people to many many smaller bills rather than one large bill, so buyers should always see what’s in a fee and if it’s a good value. I’ve had clients who lived in single family homes think that condo or coop fees were high until they added up all their monthly bills. Then the fees can be seen in a different light.

    Be sure to check on the building’s physical condition, reserve funds, and replacement study. Having a low fee in a building with deferred maintenance can easily lead to an unpleasant experience waiting for something to be fixed or a special assessment.

    Steve Dean
    RE/MAX Allegiance

  1. BD said at 10:10 am on Wednesday May 13, 2009:


    My experience lately has been that most of these ridiculously high condo fees cover absolutely nothing beyond master insurance, reserves and building maintenance.  $700/mo. is a large pill to swallow (especially when it can change!) for a first-time buyer such as myself, when you’re trying to get the best bang for your buck and look long-term.  It’s been frustrating for me, as I make pretty decent money as an engineer, yet can’t comfortably afford to purchase new construction.

  1. AM said at 10:37 am on Wednesday May 13, 2009:

    My husband and I have looked at about 12-14 different condos in DC and so far, the Yale Laundry Condos (or Yale Lofts) seem to give you the best deal for your condo fees.  There is a beautiful rooftop pool as well as a great fitness room with new equipment and new pool tables.  We haven’t seen any other condos that offer all of these amenities at a reasonable condo fee like Yale Lofts does.  I can’t remember the exact number but I think it was around $350-$400 condo fees for a 1bdrm.

  1. Divi said at 11:11 am on Wednesday May 13, 2009:

    One thing to remember about condo fees is that if you buy a fee simple house you will be hit with hazard insurance, water, sewage, and trash fees that can total $200. Some of the condo fees you see are not THAT high when you consider they cover these things. However the nature of a condo is the fees rise incrementally forever- so many of the older developments in the city have huge fees for what appears to be little service.

  1. David Bediz said at 11:59 am on Wednesday May 13, 2009:

    I think the Clara Barton has the most amenities for your fees for a one-bedroom. Fees are around $350 but include really nice common areas, front desk, pool, huge gym, party room, courtyard, rooftop grills, movie theater, conference room and business room… phew!! The two bedroom fees are pricier, in the mid-$600 range.

    There are some coops that have ridiculously low fees considering the INCLUDE PROPERTY TAXES… case in point 2854 Connecticut Ave NW (we have a 1100 sq ft 2-bedroom coming up there for only $429k!!), 2707 Adams Mill Rd, 1725 17th St and others, which generally have coop fees in the low $300 range for 1 bedrooms and about double (but still very reasonable) for 2-bedrooms.

    Call me if you want some more info!
    202 352 8456

  1. Bella said at 3:05 pm on Wednesday May 13, 2009:

    After looking at 2 bedrooms for a while, what I find crazy is not the fees, but that they don’t seem to affect the purchase price.  Example—I recently saw two 2 bedrooms in the same neighborhood, within 2 blocks of each other, one was 10% bigger than the other—but the fees were almost double.  Same amenities in both buildings, and they were asking 15-20% more for the larger unit (which needed work, by the way).  Of course, the unit with low fees sold right away, and the one with higher fees has been on the market for 4 months. 

    It seems to me that it’s not the buyers who are ignoring the differences in fees, it’s the sellers. 

    But to answer the “bang for your buck” question, I find that if you don’t want the amenities (gym, parking, etc.) then the fees are generally lower without them, but if you add in what it would cost to add those things in (gym membership, rental parking, etc.), then your best deals are in buildings that have as many amenities as possible.  So, it’s back to what you want v. what you can afford.

  1. dcuser said at 1:43 pm on Saturday May 16, 2009:

    When looking at a relatively new bldg (1-3 yrs old?) how concerned should one be that the condo fees may rise drastically, due to underestimates by the builder (or due to construction problems that have to be addressed by the association?)

  1. Jon said at 10:41 am on Monday May 18, 2009:

    The buyer should ALWAYS check the financial docs and reserve amount set aside by the condo association. Beware of low reserve amounts, they will almost certainly mean a future rise in condo fees or “special assessments”.

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