By: James Myers

Condo Fees vs Freehold


When you are looking for a house you may be tempted to exclude condominiums from your search because you don’t like the thought of monthly condo fees. Buyers see it as just an extra expense that does not have a value.
Now I’m not going to tell you either way whether you should consider a condominium, that is totally up to you. But I want to give you some things to think about before you automatically exclude condominiums from your purchasing decision.
All condominiums charge their fees differently so you really have to look at and research what the condo fees cover in each individual building. In highrise buildings the condo fees may include all of the utilities or just some of them. I know the buildings in Barrie are all very different about what the fees cover. Depending on how the building is constructed and the layout of the heating system, whether each unit has its’ own electric meter are all factors on how utilities are billed.
The number of amenities a condominium has has a huge impact on how high the monthly fees will be. Is there a pool? Pools are very expensive to maintain. There has to be a pool service and there are health and safety regulations to adhere to. Is there underground parking? There is lighting that has to be on all the time, automatic garage doors to look after, key fobs to maintain. Are there elevators? Elevators break down. They take a lot of electricity to power them. All of these things are nice to have but they are also expensive to maintain- I mean somebody has to pay for these things.
There is one townhouse complex in Barrie where the fees are well over $800 a month but that includes heat, hydro, water and even your CATV. It even covers lawn care. Now this is unusual in Barrie these days that the condo corporation pays everything and people see these fees and they almost have a heart attack but once they start to do some calculations they realize it is not that bad. These condos are about 45 years old and they have no trouble selling when they do come up for sale.
We have had many low rise condominiums built in Barrie in the past 5 or so years and most of these do not include any of the utilities. It makes it easier for the builder to sell them if they have low condominium fees.
If you are in a high-rise building you can rest assured that your fees cover the outside maintenance of the grounds. I mean that is one of the reasons you buy a condo, so you don't have to shovel snow or cut grass. But some of the townhouse condominium complexes may not cover lawn cutting or clearing out your own driveway, so you will probably have to shovel some snow.  And if the condominium does not look after that kind of stuff the fees may be lower.
The outside of the building, whether it is a high-rise, low-rise or a townhouse, is owned and maintained by the condominium corporation. That means when it needs a new roof, or windows or there is a leak somewhere, you do not have to pay to fix it.
Something that you may not have considered with regards to parking spots in a condo. I think pretty well all the condos sold in Barrie have one parking spot - this isn’t like Toronto where people can walk and take transit everywhere- I don’t know of any that do not come with a spot. Sometimes you will see condos that have 2 parking spots. But keep in mind that you will pay extra fees every month for that second parking spot. When my parents sold their house and bought a condo they still had two vehicles and my dad did not want to go down to one car - too many changes all at once I guess, so the builder gave them an extra parking spot. What they didn’t find out until later is that their monthly condo fees were $40 higher because of the extra parking spot.
A new type of townhouse development in Barrie are freehold townhouses but they have  a small fee that is called a “Common Elements Fee” of around $100 per month and that is to cover garbage collection, snow removal and generally yard maintenance. You still own the building and you do your own outside building maintenance such as the roof, windows and that kind of thing, but someone else looks after the outside maintenance.
If you have any questions about condos in Barrie please feel free to contact me for the answers.