Why Owners Need a Condo Maintenance Plan for Their Unit

A clean and spacious condo with stark white walls that has been well maintained according to plan.
As a condo owner, you need to have a maintenance plan to protect your investment. This article will help you understand what should be on your plan, and how to budget for it.

If you own a condo, you’re responsible for maintaining the common areas of the building, as well as your own unit. What is known as a “preventative condo maintenance plan” typically includes common areas like the lobby, hallways, and any amenities shared by all residents, such as a pool or gym. Your condo association will have a budget for this common area maintenance, which is funded by monthly fees paid by all owners.

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Your unit itself will also require some maintenance. The cost of this will vary depending on the size and age of your apartment, as well as the type of repairs needed. Keeping your unit in shape is your financial responsibility. This is why it’s really good sense to have a personal condo maintenance plan as an owner.

As a condominium owner myself, I know how it can floor you when you get a contractor’s quote for a repair that runs into the four-figure range. I’ve been there and it’s no fun. This is why it’s so important to set funds aside to keep your home in shape.

In this article, I share some key learnings from my eight years of home ownership, what condo owners need to know about having a condo maintenance plan, and how to budget for upkeep costs. Let’s dig in!

The Difference Between the HOA’s Condo Maintenance Plan and Your Plan

Condo living has become hugely popular in recent years, and it’s no wonder. There is less work involved in care and upkeep. Yields are strong if you want to sell later on. And for city folk, they’re the most realistic and accessible form of home ownership. Unless, of course, you’re a Russian oligarch who can afford multiple townhouses all over the Upper East Side.

When you purchase a condominium, you usually become a member of your building’s home owners’ association (HOA). Your HOA manages the building and property as a whole. While you own your unit outright, the entire building itself and the ground it’s on are collectively owned by all the unit owners, forming the HOA.

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The main way an HOA supports its community of owners is by having a preventative condo maintenance plan for common areas. This plan can help identify and fix potential problems before they become major issues. By taking care of the common areas, the HOA ideally keeps the building looking its best, and ensures that everyone has a safe and comfortable place to live that’s up to code.

What the HOA does not take care of is your actual apartment. While some HOAs may have provisions for things like the HVAC system, fire alarms, structural damage, windows or other exterior-facing structures such as balconies, you’re generally going to have the sole responsibility of managing—and paying for—the upkeep and repair of your individual unit.

In essence: your unit is your responsibility. This is why you need your own condo maintenance plan independent of the HOA’s plan.

By having a plan for your individual unit, you can better keep track of what needs to be done, and when. This will help you stay on top of things so you don’t have to play catch-up all the time. Plus, it can be a great way to budget for maintenance and repairs. Having a plan in place will also provide some peace of mind, knowing that your home is well cared for.

What Should be on Your Condo Maintenance Plan?

When you own a condo, it’s important to keep an overview of the maintenance and repairs you need to do in your unit. By having a condo maintenance plan in place, you’ll be more motivated to stay on top of regular and semi-regular tasks to keep your flat in good condition. You’ll also be more apt to deal with any potential problems in a timely manner.

Beyond your regular cleaning routine at home, some of the things that you’ll need to take care of in your unit include:

  • Painting of walls, ceilings, trimming, baseboards etc.
  • Repairing doors and locks
  • Keeping your plumbing in good working order
  • Ensuring that your electrical installations are functional and up to code
  • Caring for your floors
  • Cleaning and weeding patios or balconies, including rain gutters
  • Pest control
  • Inspecting fire alarms
  • Maintaining, repairing and replacing appliances
  • Ensuring any chimneys get inspected at mandatory intervals
  • Heating and AC maintenance

Windows are usually owned by all the owners in the HOA, but if they’re not, you’ll also need to add window maintenance and repair to this list.

By staying on top of these main areas of maintenance, your condominium will stay in good shape while your investment accrues equity. And as a side effect, sticking to a condo maintenance plan also helps keep your neighbours happy in the long run. When your unit is always shipshape, it won’t cause anyone any disruptions or nuisances.

Handymen to Have on Speed Dial

Admittedly, maintaining your apartment can seem downright overwhelming with so much to keep track of. While having a condo maintenance plan helps alleviate some of the stress of tracking everything, you still have to actually get it all done to keep your home tip-top. This is why you need to have connections to good handymen and contractors.

You’ll want to have details for the following people and services on hand:

  • Painter
  • Electrician
  • Plumber
  • Municipal chimney sweeper (if you have any fireplaces)
  • HVAC services
  • Home appliance repairman
  • Gardner (if you have a terrace, patio or balcony)
  • Locksmith
  • Cleaner (for deep cleaning, special tasks, or your regular housekeeping)
  • Window washer

Finding Good Handymen

When you live in a flat, it can be hard to procure contractors because they’re often not keen on taking small jobs. They’re still out there, though. Here are a few tips for finding good ones you can count on:

  1. Ask your neighbours for recommendations. If someone in your building has had a good experience with a handyman, builder, or contractor, they might be a good fit for your unit as well. You might even be able to work out a discount if multiple neighbours contract one guy with the same service. For example, you could all have your fire alarms inspected at the same time, or your windows washed.
  2. Check online reviews. When you’re browsing TaskRabbit or other local handymen marketplaces, pay attention to both the positive and negative feedback, as well as the contractor’s response times. You want someone reliable.
  3. Ask for references. Once you’ve found a few potential candidates, be sure to ask for references. This will give you an idea of how others have fared working with them, and if they’d use their services again.
  4. Choose someone who understands the needs of condo owners and budgets. Look for a handyman who is familiar with the intricacies of working in a multi-unit building that has commonly owned facilities like plumbing mains or heating tanks. Yes, the thermostat in your unit might be broken. But the heating system doesn’t belong to you alone. A contractor who works for multi-unit buildings will know how to navigate things better than one who usually only works on single-family homes.

The Cost of Condo Maintenance

Maintaining a flat can be costly for an owner, especially when you need repairs done. A condo maintenance plan can help keep costs down by providing a way to budget for semi-regular repairs and inspections. In turn, having that budget in place allows you to better plan for the future and avoid unexpected expenses.

Every apartment and building is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all calculation for ongoing maintenance costs. If you’re a new condo owner, you’re going to obviously want to have a thorough inspection done of the property before you buy.

Be direct with the previous owner and ask them how much they were spending on non-HOA maintenance per year. Also look long and hard at the size and scope of the condo you’re interested in buying. You might be getting a huge amount of space at a fantastic price per square metre, but if you don’t have the money every month to look after it all, you’re going to run into trouble sooner than later.

Also take into consideration how much actual sweat and tears you might have to invest in upkeep. Time is money, too. Do you really want to be spending every free minute of your days off with chores?

When I bought my city penthouse some years ago, I was enthralled by the huge size of the outdoor area. It was bigger than the inside!

I had just returned from a holiday where I had been staying at a friend’s posh beach house. When my property agent showed me the penthouse listing, I was totally sold. I fantasized of having big rooftop barbecues, a garden, and even installing a hot tub. Looking back, I was envisioning a lifestyle that was my friend’s at the beach, not mine.

Long story short: I bought the place and to this day, the huge outdoor area goes largely unused in terms of actual recreation. When I go out there, it’s to do all the work just to keep it looking nice. Friends very rarely visit me in the city, I live alone and it’s just too big for one person. The amount of upkeep it requires devours my weekends from February to October. The place was a good investment, yes. But would I buy it again? Nope. If I could go back in time, I would’ve chosen a condo with more indoor space, and less patio upkeep.

My story illustrates that condo maintenance can also be costly in terms of time and energy required, not just money. So budget accordingly. Stay realistic about who you are and what your lifestyle is. And about how you like to spend your free time and weekends!

How Do You Budget for Your Condo Maintenance Plan?

The 1% rule is a standard guideline for budgeting for home maintenance, repairs, and inspections. It can be applied whether you own a single-family home, townhouse, duplex, or condo.

This rule suggests that owners budget 1% of the purchase price of their home each year to cover maintenance costs. For example, if you purchased a condo for $200,000, you’d budget $2,000 annually for home maintenance.

This rule of thumb is a helpful guideline for budgeting, as it can help owners plan for unexpected repairs and inspections. However, it is important to note that each home is different and some may require more or less than 1% of the purchase price annually for maintenance. If you’re investing in a pre-war condo that needs some work, for example, you might find you require far more than 1% of the purchase price your first few years in.

On the other hand, if you’re buying a newly built condo with low-maintenance features like hardwood floors, and even get a developer’s warranty, you’ll likely need a lot less than 1% annually for maintenance, at least for the first few years.

I’d still recommend setting the full 1% aside in the latter case. If worse comes to worst, you won’t fret when something unexpected does come up.

Other Factors to Consider

All in all, there are a number of factors which can affect your condo maintenance budget and the annual cost of repairs. The type of unit you have, its age and location all play a role in how much you’ll spend on upkeep each year.

A flat in an older building is more likely to need repairs and replacements than a newer one, especially if your unit has outdated installations and appliances. And a condo in a hurricane-prone area could very well require emergency repairs as opposed to one in a more weather-stable location.

Again, your condo’s size can also affect your maintenance costs. A larger home will not only be more costly to heat, cool, and clean. It will generally require more maintenance than a smaller flat would. Apartments with high-end features (luxury rooftop pool, anyone?) will also need more cost-intensive upkeep. Finally, your personal situation can play a role in your maintenance budget. If you have kids or pets, you may, for instance, need to do more up front to protect the flooring and walls.

A Condo Maintenance Plan Puts You in Control

Whether you’re downsizing, moving, or investing in your first home ever, buying a condo is super exciting. As a condo owner, you’ll want to have a plan in place to protect your investment.

A condo maintenance plan will ensure that your property is well-maintained. It will ultimately help you avoid expensive repairs in the future. Outlining all your tasks and costs in your condo maintenance plan makes it easier to budget for all of your semi-regular costs like painting, inspections, appliance repairs, HVAC or chimney upkeep. In short, having a plan for you unit puts you in control. And that in turn gives you greater peace of mind.

Black woman in her late twenties or early thirties, wearing a baby blue t-shirt and red apron while sitting at the counter in her condo's kitchen working on her condo maintenance plan.
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