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Saving up for a New York City apartment is a lofty goal—CityRealty listings show that the median asking price of a Manhattan condo is $2.375M—and the down payment is just the beginning. Even if a person is lucky enough to buy their new condo outright and avoid some surprise charges, they must still pay common charges and real estate taxes, the combined total of which can rival some mortgage payments, the entire time they're living in the apartment. This article takes a look at how the price of common charges is determined, what they cover, and how to avoid making excessively high monthly payments.

In this article:

The Gramercy North, 139 East 23rd Street
The Gramercy North, 139 East 23rd Street Gramercy Park
42 Saint Marks Place
42 Saint Marks Place East Village
655 Franklin Avenue
655 Franklin Avenue Crown Heights
Wyckoff Avenue Condominiums, 93 Wyckoff Avenue
Wyckoff Avenue Condominiums, 93 Wyckoff Avenue Bushwick
45 Christopher Street
45 Christopher Street Greenwich Village

What Common Charges Cover

In condos, tenants pay common charges, which cover many of these same things as co-op fees (e.g., maintenance of common areas such as the lobby and hallways, pest control, trash, and snow removal, etc.). But there is one notable difference: Common charges don’t cover property taxes. As a result, common charges are often lower than co-op fees. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that one ends up paying lower fees in a condo. Once the taxes are taken into account, one’s combined taxes and common charges can be much higher than one’s co-op fees. Of course, it depends on the building and the building’s range of amenities — a boutique condominium in Brooklyn is likelier to have significantly lower common charges than an amenity-rich supertall.

How Common Charges Are Set

Common charges are set based on the size (and in some cases, also the location) of one’s unit. In essence, the condo unit’s “percentage of common interest” (a variable usually based solely on square footage) is multiplied by the cost of the included operating costs. Therefore, the bigger the unit, the higher the fees.

Common charges are also subject to change over time. Higher fuel costs, major repairs to common areas in the building, and new services will all impact one’s fees. Like co-op boards, condo boards may also levy assessments to cover the cost of major projects, including façade repairs.

Negotiating Common Charges

If your common charges spike, there is not much you can do. In fact, even if you purchased in a new building and were led to believe the common charges would be considerably lower than they are, you may have little or no way to take action. What’s clear is that failure to pay your common charges is never a good idea. Condo boards are empowered to take legal action to ensure they can collect any common charges in arrears. Again, if a condo owner who believes their building’s common charges are too high, the best line of defense is to get involved in the building by running for the condo board.

Finding Low Common Charges

While there is rarely much one can do to lower their common charges, condo owners have long had one recourse that co-ops don't: From time to time, tax abatements can help lower monthly fees. The most common abatement is the 421-a tax abatement. The program, which dates back to the early 1970s, was created as an incentive to motivate developers to use underused land. In return, developers were given tax cuts, which were, in turn, passed along to owners in the form of dramatically low costs.

Most 421-a tax abatements lasted for ten years, but a 2006 initiative offered some developers a 20-year abatement if they also agreed to add affordable units to their development. For this reason, although the 421-a tax abatement program expired in June 2022, there are still a small handful of buildings in New York City where prospective buyers can take advantage of the abatement.

As New York's elected officials negotiate a possible renewal or replacement for 421-a, condo developers have cottoned on to the high costs of common charges and how this might be a deterrent for potential buyers. As such, some have sought to sweeten the deals by offering reduced common charges or a certain period of free common charges. As appealing as this may sound, it is important to note that it will not last forever, and the eventual common charges should be included in one's budget.

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547 West 47th Street, #516 (Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group)

Price-reduced condo listings with low common charges

2025 Ocean Avenue, #2C (Corcoran Group)

4 Monitor Street, #3A (Compass)

122 Palmetto Street, #4R (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)
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The River Ridge, #2C (Compass)

The Alcove Residences, #1B (Corcoran Group)

Wyckoff Avenue Condominiums, #4B (Keller Williams NYC)

1230 Bedford Avenue, #4F (Compass)

655 Franklin Avenue, #4R (Compass)

984 Bergen Street, #RESIDENCE3 (Corcoran Group)

Core Condominiums, #4B (Corcoran Group)

209 Smith Street, #4B (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

222 East 5th Street, #2E (Compass)

657 Baltic Street, #1 (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

104 Charlton Street, #2E (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

415 Degraw Condominium, #PH (Park Property Advisors)

6917 Shore Road, #5B (RE Max Edge Group)

22 Jefferson Avenue, #PARLOR (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

42 Saint Marks Place, #1 (Keller Williams NYC)

590 6th Street, #4L (Nest Seekers LLC)

The Gramercy North, #12 (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

28 Cliff Street, #4 (Serhant LLC)

124 Wyckoff Street, #PH (Serhant LLC)

45 Christopher Street, #1C (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

189 Prospect Place, #1 (Compass)

The Esquire Building, #6J (Serhant LLC)

459 Washington Street, #PH7S (Serhant LLC)

Would you like to tour any of these properties?
Just complete the info below.
  1. Select which properties are of interest to you:

Or call us at (212) 755-5544
Would you like to tour any of these properties?