What type of maintenance expenses needs to be budgeted for a townhouse with strata fee?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-21-2011
What type of maintenance expenses needs to be budgeted for a townhouse with strata fee?
6
Fri, 07-08-2011 - 1:33pm

Hi there,

I live in a townhouse. We bought it from floor plans six years ago. The original cost was $265,000 (in BC, Canada, house prices are inflated, as I know that for this same money we could own a big-detached house in Eastern Canada...).

Anyways, we re-financed it three years ago and use some equity, so now we own the bank $315,000. The house sells between $375,000 and $400,000.

We pay $250/month for strata fees. These fees include all the garden, fences, outside walls, roof, windows and what's considered "common property" maintenance. There is no choice of not-paying this fee apparently. It also includes the garbage and water service and outside lighting. This is NOT a luxury complex, most neighbours are immigrants like us, retired people or young couples with kids. It's a nice place but the maintenance has been really bad in service...and there seems not being anyone out there in charge. There is a strata council (made up neighbours) but they sub-contract a strata management service who does all the contracts and pays all the bills.

We have a few issues with the constructor that were never solved (our fault, because we were too new to the country and thought everybody would be perfect. For us, this was a perfect house, until we started noticing things such as the floor tiles not being that good, the washroom's floors coming out, etc.). These are small things to repair, but they are there. Apparently they are not covered by the strata because they are internal and we should have noticed and complained to the builder/seller six years ago)...

My question is: if all the exterior is "covered" by the strata fees we pay monthly, what else we need to budget for? When do you schedule a check up to see whether all the things are working properly? Is there any recommended timetable? What issues do I have to pay attention to?

For us this is all new. My husband is NOT a handy-man person. I clear all the drains and work in the garden or do minor repairs if needed, such when the dog eat the all (don't laugh!). He is always in his own world and doesn't care or know about house maintenance...he seems to think that the house will stay forever as it is today and everything will be taken care off magically.

I am the one who has more concerns, because I know we cannot sell or move anywhere for a big while and we may need to live here for at least 10 more years or so, unless a big thing changes in our lives. In 10 years I'll be 55 and DH will be 61, so at that time, my plan is to sell and buy a small apartment as my children won't be here anymore. That will reduce our mortgage because the house may have some equity we can use by then, and our unsecured debts will be paid off (I hope).

So, what type of budget should I have for this and what things should I pay attention to? Everything is new now: only the carpets look a bit old because I have children and pets. The washroom floors are covered by a plastic thing that simulates tiles and is coming out in the borders, but I assume changing that is not that expensive either...so, what else? And I apologize for my ignorance in this subject...:(

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-12-2009

Hi Silviatic :smileyhappy:

Your strata sounds very much like the condo set-up my parents have down south. Same things covered by the monthly condo fee, which is mandatory (if you don't pay it, a lien can be put against your property). I think someone here has/had a condo so they will probably have more info for you about that. One thing I would suggest is sitting on any sort of homeowners council they might have and stay informed & involved with how things are run. There are good ones and bad ones, and staying informed is important. Then you may have more input on things like planning for repairs and maintenance (ie: when will they have the roofs re-done, what sort of yardwork should be done, etc.). Also you will know if the strata has funds for this (ie: do they take any of the monthly fees and keep them in reserve for these things, or will every unit be assessed and have to pay more when a big expense comes up?)

As for interior stuff, I think it's just general maintenance (keep things in good repair, fix them when they break) and then replacing things as they age. For example, your carpets may look old but not really be old, and you might not want to change them or install different flooring until your kids are older - but you can plan for it and get estimates regarding costs and options, so that when you are ready to do so, you are informed and have the cash set aside.

With any house there will be things that break or go wrong - it just happens. An appliance dies on you, your furnace breaks down, etc ... and this is why having savings set aside specifically for house issues is important. That way, when the fridge stops working, you have the money in that fund to get a new one.

Hope this helped a wee bit :smileywink:, I'm sure others here will think of more stuff ...

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-10-2003
Hi Silviatic,

It sounds like you have the same set up as my mom (in Ontario). First thing I would do is check into the financial stability of the association. Do they have a large enough reserve to cover anticipated expenses? If not and something goes wrong you may be hit with a special assessment (meaning you have to pay more for several months to cover whatever it is that needs repairing).
Other than that its just general home maintenance you have to worry about. I have a sinking fund that I put money into every pay to pay for those "one off" things that need fixing. The bathroom flooring shouldn't be too hard to repair. Go to home depot and see when their next course on ceramic tiling is. Its a pretty easy repair (I did my own bathroom and kitchen) and it won't cost much at all.
Hope this helps!

Bex -

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-21-2011

Thanks Bex,

I actually found several guides issued by the CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) that talk about those issues, some of them are free and may apply also to US:

https://www03.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/catalog/productList.cfm?cat=3&lang=en&fr=1310569670002

Our strata council has been changed because the first one was inefficient. I am getting that the second one is the same...I don't have too much time to sit in their meetings, and when I tried to do it in the past, they would not allow me to talk. The experience was not a pleasant one, I had the feeling that the ones there thought the complex was "theirs" and nobody else's opinion would count.

I have several complaints about their "maintenance" (inexistent), but don't know where else to go...however, if I stop paying the monthly fees, I will have a bunch of fees and lawyers telling me that I need to pay.

I find the monthly fee expensive ($246). They barely cut the grass...that's it! They don't clean the windows, or the common areas, they don't repair gates, don't replace trees or plants if they die, I haven't seen anybody doing any roof maintenance...etc. so I don't know what they do with all that money...

My concern is that if I need to sell, in the future, I would have paid thousands of dollars for nothing, and I may need to cover the repairs with my own money if I want the house to look great.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2005

The major expenses you will face will be replacing appliances.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-31-2010
What if you put $50 a month in a home maintenance fund now, worst case if something breaks (like our dishwasher which flooded our cabin 4 times the past two weeks due to hard water) you will have at least some money to put toward the cost. By the end of the year, if nothing breaks, there will be $600 in the fund, and that can easily buy a dishwasher, half a refrigerator or half a room of carpet. Basically you are in the getting out of debt mode, so with your emergency fund (you do have the $1000 emergency fund in place, right?) you could get out of an unexpected jam.
If you get out of debt, have no emergencies in a couple years you can use it for a renovation of a room or some new furniture.
Remember, you are in the early stages of becoming debt free, this is the hardest stage because you were living on your income PLUS your credit as additional income. Now you are switching to living on your income MINUS paying off that credit, so keep these extra funds to a minimum and consider any outside spending as wants that can be put off for a while, but do have a cushion for things that unexpectedly break.
I just bought a new couch for the cabin - on sale - but now we NEED a dishwasher! We decided to do paper plates for the rest of vacation, then we have to move some money from our CC pay down plan to a new dishwasher. That is disheartening, because it means one more month of us being in debt.
Lesson learned.
-Marie
#Marie
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-21-2011

Thank you Marie and all,

Following your suggestions back in April, I started a sinking fund and an eFund. The sinking fund includes home repairs, and for now is very small, because of the weigh of the debt repayment plan. We don't have $1000 yet and we won't until probably October this year, as each time there is something there, one of the things it is supposed to cover comes to our way (some of them are expected, such s my older son's birthday this week), but we are doing find there...no more need of credit cards for this month...my hope is to keep that way until July 31 and then start counting again, another 31 days without using the CCs.

My questions were more towards the repairs needed in a regular house in these North American countries, where all is so different for us (pipes, wood floors, carpets, wood walls, insulation, etc, as we are used to brick houses with metal pipes (not plastic ones like here-