Re: HOA fee question
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2013 05:20:37 -0800 (PST)
On Feb 20, 2013, at 4:11 PM, Bea Sochor <beasochor [at]> wrote:

> I am looking for information on how other cohousing calculate HOA fees? Split 
> evenly with all homes no matter the size? Based on home square footage? 
> garage? carport, etc 

Important to check the local laws on this. What is allowed in DC is not allowed 
in Florida. California has particularly clear and well-thought out regulations 
on condos. Even if  you use a different legal structure, I think they would be 
helpful to you.

We have 50% as an equal percentage and 50% variable based on percent interest. 
Percent interest is more or less related to size of unit. Basements were 
weighted at 20% of the square footage of the unit space -- ours are storage 
space, not really livable though some of the attached basements under condos 
are used for exercise equipment, etc.

Our documents and the initial laying out of condo fees and percentage interest 
are in conflict and vague. Our limited common elements -- porches, storage 
units, decks, etc. -- were not well defined and changed during construction 
after the percent interest was set in stone. This has confused the picture 
greatly and I have been working to figure it out for about 6 years. Lesson: get 
it right the first time.

One reason "normal" condos are so cookie cutter in design is that it makes it 
much easier to determine and defend the relative assessment of fees. 

I do not advise the 50/50 split or equally assessed fees. Per square footage is 
more fair down the line. The larger units cost more to maintain. They have more 
windows, more siding, more roof, more foundations. They have bigger roofs.  The 
smaller units are stacked and have far less roof space per unit than even the 
square footage. It's square footage of one floor divided by 3 for the roof of 
the smaller units. The larger units are townhouses and most have their own 
roofs. While singles bought some of the larger units initially, at least twice 
as people now inhabit those units. The smaller units have about the same 
number. The only way to calculate use of the CH is by person and larger units 
have more people and more children. Children are wonderful but they take up a 
lot of space.

One reason for the 50/50 split was that the founders were afraid that the 
larger units wouldn't sell if they paid more in condo fees. Another was that 
people felt the CH would be used more by smaller units than large. In my 
opinion, neither is or was true. We do have only one parking space per unit but 
parking is relatively inexpensive to maintain.

By far the largest part of the condo fee is supporting maintenance, repair, and 
replacement of the buildings. We have a very healthy reserve fund. A fee based 
on per square footage with a lower weighting for (unlivable) basements, garages 
(possibly), porches, etc. is more equitable in the end. All of these things are 
also directly related to higher resale value. While the smaller units are in 
high demand, so are the larger units. You can buy a house in our neighborhood 
for what our 3-4 bedroom units now cost.

Our 50/50 split means the smaller units are subsidizing the larger units. Mine 
is in the middle so I'm not saying this because I feel persecuted, but I 
personally would not move to one of the smaller units for this reason.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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