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In condos and co-ops, fees are generally set based on the size of the apartment. (132 West 71st Street via Compass) In condos and co-ops, fees are generally set based on the size of the apartment. (132 West 71st Street via Compass)
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 million for condos and only (!!) $900K 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 many 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 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.

133 West 75th Street Apartment in 133 West 75th Street with extremely low maintenance

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.

Available co-ops with extremely low monthly maintenance

652-Lafayette-Avenue-01 652 Lafayette Avenue via Compass
From the listing: As soon as you head through the private garden entrance, it is clear that this recent brownstone condo conversion is anything but ordinary. Sprawling wide plank hardwood floors and exposed brick walls greet your first moments in the home. With high ceilings, integrated Bluetooth speakers, and a private patio with a manicured garden, this home is perfect for quiet days and nights by a fire or entertaining by a stunning outdoor oasis. Only $669 in combined monthlies! See floor plan and full details here.

133-West-75th-Street-01 133 West 75th Street via Compass
From the listing: Located on one of the most beautiful tree lined streets within the Upper West Side Historic District, Unit #4B features soaring 10' ceilings, Northern Garden facing windows and an extremely low monthly maintenance of only $670. The bright and airy living room provides ample space for relaxing and can easily accommodate a dining room table. The modern kitchen is outfitted with black granite countertops along with a large stainless-steel fridge, dishwasher and oven. See floor plan and full details here.

106-Suffolk-Street-01 106 Suffolk Street via Compass
From the listing: With ceiling heights of almost 10', an exposed brick wall with built in bookshelves, and white oak floors, the configuration and generous scale of the main living space is well suited for day to day living, as well as entertaining. Open to the dining area, the recently renovated chef's kitchen features stainless steel countertops, ample storage, a dual LG washer/dryer, and stainless steel Bosch appliances including a dishwasher. Built in 1920, 106 Suffolk Street is an intimate, self-managed 10 unit walk up on the Lower East Side with low maintenance and additional storage in the basement. See floor plan and full details here.

368-West-23rd-Street-01 368 West 23rd Street via Compass
From the listing: Just one flight up, this apartment features an in-unit washer & dryer, hardwood floors throughout, a wood-burning fireplace, triple-pane soundproof windows in every room, through the wall A/C, and a 68-square-foot balcony perfectly proportioned for entertaining and enjoying dinner with friends as the sun sets. The bedrooms are well proportioned with over-sized closets. Apartments with maintenance below $1,000 are rare, let alone a two-bedroom with private balcony in Chelsea! See floor plan and full details here.

132-West-71st-Street-01 132 West 71st Street via Compass
From the listing: Beautiful Upper West Side apartment is rich is pre-war details including soaring beamed ceilings, exposed brick wall and a wood-burning fireplace with spider damper. There are two large closets one of them walk in and additional cubbies for plenty of storage. Best of all, the maintenance is $628.70. See floor plan and full details here.

309-East-Houston-Street-01 309 East Houston Street via Keller Williams
From the listing: As you enter this renovated downtown apartment, you are greeted by a lovely foyer, which leads to the living room and kitchen. The living room boasts an exposed brick wall and can fit a sectional couch and a dining set. The windowed chef's kitchen boasts stainless steel appliances, granite counter-tops, an abundance of soft-close cabinets. Extremely low maintenance! See floor plan and full details here.

301-East-62nd-Street-01 301 East 62nd Street via Compass
From the listing: This airy and light apartment has roughly a 30-foot-long living room, perfect for including a dining area, two sitting areas or the space could also be converted to have a second room. The renovated kitchen features stainless steel appliances, custom cabinets, granite countertops, and a thoughtfully designed breakfast bar. The maintenance is among the lowest for comparable buildings on the Upper East Side. See floor plan and full details here.

35-East-1st-Street-01 35 East 1st Street via Douglas Elliman
From the listing: The home was just gut renovated down to the studs with stunning bamboo floors, sweeping ceilings, a functional and chic galley kitchen with tons of storage and the icing on the cake is the in-unit washer/dryer combo. The oversized bedroom provides plenty of storage and seating with a large window illuminating the space with northern exposure. Maintenance is only $600/month. See floor plan and full details here.

408-West-34th-Street-01 408 West 34th Street via The Corcoran Group
From the listing: Spacious one-bed boasts all new construction throughout with fully soundproof windows that create a pin-drop quiet ambiance, beautiful hardwood floors and plenty of storage. The kitchen features a Bosch stainless steel refrigerator and dishwasher, quartzite countertops and Bertazzoni range and microwave making this kitchen perfect for those who like to cook. Maintenance is only $624/month. See floor plan and full details here.

315-East-12th-Street-01 315 East 12th Street via Compass
From the listing: This north facing home, with high ceilings, brings in beautiful natural light and quiet calmness. The open kitchen to the living room is equipped with new quartz countertops, wood cabinetry, a full-size dishwasher along with a breakfast bar for dining. The oversized bedroom has a large closet with ceiling height storage and an en suite renovated bathroom. Maintenance is only $717/month. See floor plan and full details here.

From the listing:In the heart of Park Slope, one block from Prospect Park, WITH ITS OWN PRIVATE GARDEN and a renovated kitchen and bath, this classic two-bedroom, one-bath coop offers great space with a flexible layout. Two west-facing bay windows bring wonderful light into the large front bedroom, while two large closets have additional storage above. The well-proportioned living room provides plenty of space to relax and unwind. 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.