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Brick Underground's best advice for figuring out the true cost of living in a co-op

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It’s well known that buyers pay less for New York City co-ops than they do for condos. The trend is borne out by the numbers: In the first quarter of this year, Manhattan buyers paid on average $1,389 per square foot for co-ops versus $1,989 per square foot for condos, according to Douglas Elliman’s market report.

But as a co-op owner, you’ll need to keep your checkbook handy after the move in. Co-op living comes with an assortment of fees, including charges that do not apply to condos, which newcomers need to understand. Read on for some of Brick Underground's best advice for figuring out the true cost of living in a co-op.

Why are maintenance fees higher than common charges?

Because co-op residents own shares in the building (instead of owning the property outright, as you do in a condo, where you pay common charges), maintenance includes the cost of a building's mortgage. Maintenance fees also include the owner's share of the building's property taxes, while condo owners pay property taxes on their apartments separately. Here’s more on the difference between maintenance and common charges.

What’s the deal with a super high maintenance?

Maintenance can vary dramatically from building to building, and while an apartment with a very high maintenance can sell for a steep discount, you need to be sure the building is financially sound. Read on for more of the pros and cons of high building maintenance charges. Also, while owners do not pay a separate fee to use a co-op building’s amenities, they do pay for things like gyms or pools as part of their maintenance. For more on understanding how amenities add to maintenance fees, see our article on buying in a building with a pool.

Can my maintenance fee go up?

You can expect your maintenance charges to go up every year or two to cover rising fuel and real estate tax costs—a rate that outpaces inflation. Read on for more on how often co-op maintenance fees go up.

Why do I have to pay an assessment?

Co-op and condo buildings use assessments to pay for big ticket, one-time expenses, like a new boiler or elevator. Buildings with reserve funds can offset steep assessments. Check out these tips to tell if the NYC apartment you want to buy is about to get hit with an assessment and when you should be concerned about an ongoing assessment.

How much do I have to tip the building staff?

Tipping can make some people anxious, but you could consider it an opportunity to thank your hardworking building staff, especially the ones you’ve turned into your own personal package handlers (ahem). For more on who to tip and how much, consult our guide to tipping building staff over the holidays, and read these articles if you want to know what doormen think is a fair tip and what happens to bad tippers.