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One of the most dreaded parts of owning an NYC coop or condo is the ever-looming possibility of being slapped with a high assessment. This article discusses when and why coops and condos apply assessments, how they are negotiated, and how to avoid purchasing in a building about to be hit with one.

When and Why Coops and Condos Apply Assessments

In most cases, assessment fees are applied when a coop or condo faces an unexpected repair. In New York City, one of the most common reasons for an assessment is a façade repair (also known as brickwork). Since it is illegal for buildings to not comply with citywide guidelines on façade repairs and these repairs can be costly (extensive façade work can cost over $1 million), shareholders and owners frequently face high assessments as a result. Other capital improvements can also lead to assessments. The assessment may be necessary (e.g., updating an old boiler or replacing windows) or result from a board decision to add a new amenity (e.g., a gym, common room, or roof-top garden).
Because capital improvement projects, whether necessary or simply desired, are not already part of a building’s anticipated annual operating costs, they are typically covered by applying an assessment. In coops, the assessment is charged on top of one’s coop fees, and the amount is based on the leaseholder’s number of shares in the building (i.e., the more shares you have in the coop, the higher your assessment fee will be). In condos, the assessments is charged on top of one’s HOA fees and generally reflects the percentage of interest the owner has in the common property.
2109-Broadway The gracious common spaces in The Ansonia

How Assessments Fees Are Set and the Impact on Shareholders and Owners

Typically, a coop or condo board identifies a necessary or desired capital project, assesses the cost, and then creates a timeline for the project. In most cases, the fees will need to be collected before the proposed project’s completion, so the timeline for paying one’s assessment is typically short (e.g., one to three years).
In the case of a necessary repair (façade work), even if the board discusses the project with the building’s shareholders or owners, there isn’t much one can do to stop the project from moving ahead and from paying the assessment. In cases where the project is negotiable, assessments can be highly controversial. For example, a coop might decide that they want to update their building’s décor. The board members and roughly half the tenants in the building may support the project, arguing that the renovation will ultimately raise the value of the building and its individual units. But aesthetic updates aren’t always an easy sell. Residents without as much disposable income, including retirees who may have chosen the current décor over two decades ago, may oppose the project.
While it may seem unfair to be slapped with an assessment, as a shareholder or owner, once your board approves a project, you have little way to negotiate. In fact, if you fail to pay an assessment, whether you live in a coop or condo, the building can put a lien on your unit. This explains why high assessments, especially for unnecessary repairs, often result in multiple units being sold either before or during the assessment period. Fortunately, there are at least two ways to finance capital improvement projects that may help one avoid the immediate impact of a steep assessment.
First, as a shareholder or owner, you might attempt to persuade your building to take out a second mortgage instead. While your fees may still go up slightly (since you’ll now be paying off a second mortgage on the building itself), there is a notable advantage. Just as you’re able to write off the interest on your own mortgage, you can also write off the interest paid down on your coop’s or condo’s second mortgage. Also, while assessments are typically paid back over the course of the capital improvement project, a second mortgage repayment is typically spread over a decade, making the monthly impact much lower. Second, if your coop or condo isn’t able or interested in taking out a second mortgage, you could take out a second mortgage on your own unit, though in this case, the paperwork and credit impact will fall on you rather than on the building.
2109-Broadway-03

How to Avoid Buying in a Building About to Apply an Assessment

If you’re on the market for a coop or condo, it is best to avoid buying in a building that seems likely to impose an assessment in the near future. The obvious way to do this is to buy a new condo. Given that assessments are nearly always imposed for capital improvements, the newer the building, the less likely it is that you’ll be faced with an assessment in the immediate future.
If you’re buying a resale coop or condo, there is always a risk that the board may impose an assessment in the future, but there are ways to manage the risk. The first and most important step is to ensure the attorney representing you during the sale does their due diligence and reads all recent board meeting minutes. Reviewing the coop or condo board’s minutes, your attorney will be able to flag any major repairs or other capital improvement projects on the horizon.

Current Listings with Buyer Incentives
61-20-Colonial-Avenue-01 61-20 Colonial Avenue, #B1410 (Peter Ashe)
From the Listing: Large alcove studio with gorgeous views and low maintenance of $854.84. The monthly maintenance includes electricity, gas, and hot water. Parking available for fee. Seller will provide credit for $140/month assessment ending 12/31/2022. See floor plan and full details here.

832-Monroe-Street-01 832 Monroe Street, #1F (Nest Seekers)
From the Listing: A pristine duplex situated at the nexus of Bushwick and Stuyvesant Heights, this gorgeous 1.5-bathroom studio apartment boasts clean lines and sleek finishes that embody contemporary city living and design. Beautiful hardwood floors glow beneath airy 10-ft ceilings with recessed lighting. A central Mitsubishi heating and cooling system has luxurious integrated linear diffusers. Additional features include huge windows, an Aiphone intercom system, and an in-unit washer/dryer (hook up). Taxes advertised include a 50% sponsor credit for the first 2 years. See floor plan and full details here.

415-East-85th-Street-01 415 East 85th Street, #4E (Freda Green & Assoc.)
From the Listing: Move right into this welcoming bright, light renovated one bedroom with southern exposure, tree-top views in this charming 24-hour doorman, live-in super, Yorkville building. There are new hardwood floors throughout the apt, new baseboard moldings, custom closets, new windows, thru-wall A/C and CAT-5 wiring in living room and bedroom. The spacious living room is large enough for a dining area, full size living area and work space. Seller will credit 6 months maintenance at closing, and seller will include living/dining room furniture if desired.
See floor plan and full details here.

77-Clarkson-Avenue-01 The Benny, #3A (Real New York Properties)
From the Listing: Be the first to live in this beautiful south-facing one-bedroom, one-bathroom home featuring floor to ceiling windows. This residence is outfitted in modern, natural finishes: white oak hardwood floors run throughout, while matte white cabinetry and polished white quartz kitchen countertops create a light, airy feel. In the bathroom, white subway tiles and Moen fixtures present a pristine finish. Sponsor looking to make deals. See floor plan and full details here.

433-East-56th-Street-01 The George, #6A (Red Star New York LLC)
From the Listing: Unit #6A is a bright, freshly-painted, pin-drop quiet apartment perfect for comfortable New York City living. The flexible living/dining space has a wall of north facing windows and can easily accommodate a home office/bonus room. The windowed galley kitchen can be updated, renovated, or opened into the living area. The generous bedroom has two oversized closets and can easily handle king-sized furniture with space to spare. This comfortable home features a true entry foyer, original wood floors throughout and multiple closets. This is an all electric building, owners control their own through wall heat and air units and hot water heaters. Seller incentives and low maintenance. See floor plan and full details here.

300-East-71st-Street-01 The Theso, #6J (Brown Harris Stevens)
From the Listing: One-bedroom, one-bath with separate dining alcove and large balcony (18' x 6'2") is in a luxury 24 hour doorman cooperative. Open western light and views flood the living room and bedroom. The large bedroom easily fits a king sized bed and has both double and single closets. There is generous closet space throughout. Estate condition. The seller is going to pay the $204/month assessment (ending November 2022) remaining due at closing. Seller will issue a $20,000 credit towards buyer's closing/moving costs at closing. See floor plan and full details here.

11-Riverside-Drive-01 The Schwab House, #15OW (Brown Harris Stevens)
From the Listing: Perched on the 15th floor, this quiet and sunny one-bedroom home sits high above the private manicured Schwab House gardens on 73rd Street and boasts bright east facing city and sky views. The renovated, windowed kitchen features granite countertops, wood cabinets, and a functional breakfast bar opening to the spacious dining and living areas. Rise as the sun shines into this large bedroom, roomy enough for a king-sized bed and home office. There are five spacious, customized closets plus a huge entry foyer. This owner will pay the current capital assessment in full at the closing. See floor plan and full details here.

401-Rutland-Road-01 The Rutland, #6A (MNS)
From the Listing: Residence 6A in The Rutland is a 2-bedoom, 1 bathroom layout with two private balconies! As you walk in, you will first notice the over-sized, double-paned Schuco windows, providing plenty of sun while keeping the interiors insulated and the distinctive 7" wide plank, red oak flooring. The kitchen is graced with Samsung appliances, durable Quartz counters, Kohler fixtures and custom cabinetry. Other notable features include solid-core doors, individually controlled heating and cooling and Bluetooth enabled speakers. Tax abatement is in effect, and get $$ to lower your interest rate! Limited time through Memorial Day only. See floor plan and full details here.

232-East-18th-Street-01 Park West, #5A (Corcoran)
From the Listing: Unit 5A is a magnificent 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom unit that floods with natural morning sunlight from the east facing exposure. This distinguished layout offers a Pullman kitchen, an expansive living/dining area with floor-to-ceiling windows and a private balcony. The primary bedroom has a stunning en-suite bathroom featuring dark tone European tiles that contrast the light tone vanity. The unit is outfitted with custom Italian cabinetry and, complemented by modern quartz countertops, with a classic white subway tiled backsplash, microwave with an exhaust vent, and stainless-steel appliances taking your cooking skills to the next level. A washer/dryer is added in every unit for further convenience. Sponsor offering incentives for a limited time See floor plan and full details here.

11-Hancock-Place-01 Eleven Hancock, #504 (Brown Harris Stevens)
From the Listing: Unit 504 is a magnificent one-bedroom residence boasting two balconies and abundant closet space. The U-shaped chef's kitchen with a breakfast bar, designed with Italian-crafted Cesar high quality custom millwork, overlooks an expansive living room which looks out through the floor-to-ceiling windows to southern skies. Sign a contract prior to May 15 and get 6 months real estate taxes on us! See floor plan and full details here.

176-East-71st-Street-01 Townsend House, #14E (Singer Real Estate)
From the Listing: This beautiful sunny, high floor convertible 2-bedroom home is elegant, generous, spacious and consists of 1.5 baths. The dining room is 10' x 10', has a bay window and can be converted to a second bedroom, there is a separate area that is 14' x 8.4' and is used as a den. The apartment is on a high floor. The living room is 24.6' x 15' and the primary bedroom is 19' x12'. There is a surcharge of $229.68 per month, which the seller will pay for 2 years. See floor plan and full details here.

2521-Palisade-Avenue-01 La Rive, #4C (Brown Harris Stevens)
From the Listing: This dream home is ready and waiting for you to move in. Lovingly renovated and immaculately maintained, it welcomes all who enter. The magnificent views, the breathtaking sunsets, and the quality of the condo and its staff cannot be beat. Three bedrooms, two and half baths. Renovated kitchen and baths. Washer/dryer in unit. Two deeded parking spaces, one indoor and one outdoor. Motivated seller! Assessments paid for by the seller. See floor plan and full details here.

42-14-Crescent-Street-01 The Independent, #12A (MNS)
From the Listing: Welcome to residence 12A - a striking and spacious, floor-through two-bedroom home with Manhattan views! The open kitchen with island overlook the grand living and dining space, perfect for entertaining and taking in the views. The incredibly private and spacious primary suite is graced with a large walk-in-closet, Southern exposure and room for a king-sized bed. Equipped with a sizable second bedroom and bathroom, two exposures, tons of light and in-unit washer and dryer, this residence checks all the boxes for a two bedroom home in a prime location. Receive one year maintenance credit! See floor plan and full details here.

61-Lenox-Avenue-01 61 Lenox Avenue, #5A (Brown Harris Stevens)
From the Listing: From the entry foyer, the space opens into a showstopping Great Room with gas fireplace, vaulted 16'10'' ceilings, and multiple skylights taking advantage of the southern exposure. Off the Great Room is a spacious open kitchen with ample countertop and storage space and stainless appliances. Past the Great Room down a long hall, you will find a king-sized guest bedroom, windowed full bath, and separate laundry room with side-by-side washer/dryer and storage above. Seller will consider delivering with upgrades completed ahead of closing. See floor plan and full details here.

350-West-53rd-Street-01 The Lumiere, #4J (Compass)
From the Listing: Residence 4J, at the coveted Lumiere condominium in the heart of Midtown West, recently completed a gut-renovation with no expense spared, creating a stunning sanctuary and could be your next home! This two bedroom, two bathroom south-facing gem is unlike any other apartment in the building and boasts 1,050 sq ft of impeccably-designed living space with luxury finishes, generously-sized rooms, storage galore and a split bedroom layout for optimal privacy. The icing on the cake is a private terrace, almost 90 square feet, overlooking the building's waterfall feature. This unit is being offered with NO Assessment - pre-paid in full, with no continuing obligation for the new owner! See floor plan and full details here.

2109-Broadway-01 The Ansonia, #4109 (Sotheby's International Realty)
From the Listing: Unit #4-109's grand proportions begin with original double-doors opening to the broad 24-foot-long entrance gallery. The generous eat-in kitchen features stainless appliances, Sub-Zero refrigerator and abundant storage. A central gallery provides an enormous wall for displaying art or custom shelving. The circular living room overlooks 74th Street to the north, and east over Broadway. The primary bedroom includes a north exposure, generous proportions, and true walk-in-closet. High 10'10" ceilings and a wrap-around Juliet balcony with stone balustrade complete this one-of-a-kind residence. The seller will pre-pay the multi-year assessment for the once-in-a-century facade restoration that is already completed on the Broadway facade. See floor plan and full details here.

205-East-63rd-Street-01 205 East 63rd Street, #11G (Brown Harris Stevens)
From the Listing: Oversized windows, lots of sun, and luxurious space await you in this home that features a house-sized kitchen, a real dining room and a 15x28 living room that is truly a "great room." The 8'6" ceilings are another plus! There are two sizable bedrooms, and the 600-foot studio that was added to this original 5 room apartment is a huge third bedroom that has space for a home office, playroom or artist studio, exercise room, etc. The generous house-sized windowed kitchen has top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances and long sweeps of stone countertops. The maintenance quoted here includes a deduction of a $2,304/month rebate for 20 years ($552,960) The actual maintenance is $6,1542 The sellers are also willing to make further concessions: Seller will pay your Mansion Tax ($21,000) and the buildings 2% Flip tax ($42,000). See floor plan and full details here.

30-East-31st-Street-01 30E31, #15 (Reuveni Real Estate)
From the Listing: Residence 15 is a full-floor 2-bed/2.5-bath residence of 1,677 square feet, with 9'-9' ceilings, offering abundant light and views to the north, west, and south, capturing the dynamic New York City skyline. This sophisticated home offers 7' wide-plank white oak flooring throughout, expansive picture-frame windows and multi-zone climate control. The residence boasts a 4-pipe HVAC system, allowing for simultaneous heating and cooling in different zones. The inviting kitchen offers custom walnut cabinetry, crafted in Italy, and is complemented by exquisite quartzite countertops and backsplashes with a leather-textured finish. Now offering 2 years free of common charges! See floor plan and full details here.

269-West-87th-Street-01 West End and Eighty Seven, #10C (Douglas Elliman)
From the Listing: Light abounds in this perfectly proportioned 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom home featuring a south facing living room and stunning eat-in kitchen. The gorgeous Smallbone of Devizes kitchen with dining peninsula, features hand painted white lacquer cabinets, resplendent with Arabesco light ash stone countertops and backsplash, Wolf vented stove and microwave, Miele dishwasher, Sub-Zero refrigerator and wine cooler. The luxurious primary suite features two walk-in closets, and Bianco Dolomiti marble en-suite bathroom, double vanity, a walk-in shower, and a Kohler cast-iron soaking tub. Sponsor is now offering new incentives and subsidized maintenance. See floor plan and full details here.

121-East-22nd-Street-01 121 E 22nd, #N802 (Toll Brothers Real Estate, Inc.)
121-East-22nd-Street-02
From the Listing: Residence N802 runs floor-through with both northern & southern exposure. This 1,674-square-foot home has a 26' wide living/dining room and a 168-square-foot balcony perfect for entertaining. Both bedrooms are en-suite and can easily accommodate a king size bed and an office or seating area. With 7 generous closets, you will have plenty of storage space. The home features wide plank, white oak floors, Gaggenau appliances, polished quartz counter tops, and acid-etched, back-painted glass cabinetry with custom millwork interiors. Limited time incentives, 5/14-6/5: Sponsor-paid mansion and transfer taxes, 1 year of common charges, and $50K off parking! See floor plan and full details here.

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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.