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In co-ops, fees are generally set based on the size of the apartment. (39 West 83rd Street, #7 - Keller Williams) In co-ops, fees are generally set based on the size of the apartment. (39 West 83rd Street, #7 - Keller Williams)
It may sound hard to believe now, but there was a time when New York City condo and co-op prices were relatively in sync. The amenity craze had yet to take hold in new condominiums, which didn't differentiate them much from cooperatives. Moreover, in a slightly more dangerous city, a full-time doorman and an additional slate of gatekeepers (also known as the co-op board) was seen by many as a must-have. As a result of the evolution of the city and real estate market, CityRealty listings show that median Manhattan prices are a whopping $2,679,413 for condos and only (!!) $978,604 for their co-op counterparts.
However, that is not to say that co-ops are necessarily the place to go for bargains. The cost of one’s maintenance fees must be taken into account since, in New York City, fees are often extremely high. While fees in an older walk-up in Brooklyn may be just a few hundred dollars per month, fees in prestigious Manhattan co-ops are several thousands of dollars each month. In fact, some co-ops can come with extremely low sticker prices but maintenance fees as high as, if not higher than, one’s monthly mortgage payment (this listing is an excellent example). Just as we recently examined condo common charges, this article examines co-op maintenance fees in detail, discusses how they are set, and how to avoid excessively high fees if and when possible.

What Co-op Fees Cover

In co-ops, all shareholders pay co-op fees. Generally, co-op fees include property taxes, any underlying mortgage on the building, and building insurance. In many buildings, utilities (e.g., heat and hot water, electricity, and gas) are also included in the fees. One’s fees likely also cover other regular upkeep costs (e.g., landscaping, pest control, etc.). Finally, fees cover building staff salaries and any additional services. As a result, the more staff and services found in the building, the higher the fees.

How Co-op Fees Are Set

In co-ops, fees are generally set based on the size of the apartment. As a result, if you combine two units, expect to pay higher fees. In some cases, other factors, including the floor level, may also be taken into account when setting fees.

345 West 145th Street 345 West 145th Street, #6B3, a Hamilton Heights co-op with a famous past owner and low monthly maintenance (Douglas Elliman)

Negotiating Co-op Fees

Co-op fees are set by the co-op board and voted on at an annual meeting for shareholders. Small fee increases are expected (e.g., to cover higher taxes or fuel costs). Also, from time to time, a building may need to temporarily charge higher fees to cover the cost of a major capital improvement or repair. For example, many buildings are forced to raise their fees as a result of façade work. However, fees can also be a source of controversy in some co-op buildings.
While some shareholders may want to renovate the lobby or install a gym and be happy to pay higher fees in the process, other shareholders may consider such additions and the related costs unnecessary. Where majority rules, however, there isn’t much a shareholder can do. Ultimately, once the fees are set, shareholders are obliged to pay the fees as long as they remain shareholders in the building. This is one of the risks of buying in a co-op building. Of course, there is always one line of recourse: Shareholders who feel spending is out of control can always get elected to their co-op board and put an end to the frivolous spending and soaring fees.

444 East 87th Street, #2B (Compass)

70 Park Terrace East, #6G (The Agency Brokerage)

Windsor Tower, #1915 (Compass)

Queensview, #14B (Compass Greater NY LLC)

229 East 28th Street, #LC (Compass)

The Lincoln, #4FE (Sothebys International Realty)

335 West 21st Street, #3RE (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

345 West 145th Street, #6B3 (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

524 East 13th Street, #E4 (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

39 West 83rd Street, #7 (Keller Williams NYC)

251 Pacific Street, #8 (Serhant LLC)

University Towers, #8K (Compass)

54 Orange Street, #5G (Argo Residential)

Raymore Court, #1AA (Engel & Volkers New York Real Estate LLC)

Francine Towers, #3J (Stile Real Estate LLC)

140 East 2nd Street, #6C (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)
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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.