Guide to Condo Fees in Calgary: What, Why & How Much?
- July 11, 2023
- By Cody Battershill
Guide to Calgary Condo Fees: 6+ Common Questions (& Answers)
Updated August 2023
If you’re thinking of purchasing a multi-family property, you may be surprised when learning about condo fees in Calgary and how they are an additional expense you’ll need to budget for every month.
Potential condo and townhome buyers typically ask three questions about condo fees:
- What are they?
- How are they calculated?
- What do they pay for?
Many also ask if these fees are somehow avoidable altogether, while others specifically look for developments without them.
Unfortunately, condo fees are a must-pay and their prices are non-negotiable. Every owner has to pay them on a monthly basis to the condo corporation, which in turn is then used to pay for water, heat and an assortment of other things depending on the building.
Here are some important facts about Calgary condo fees you’ll want to consider before signing on the dotted line. Also see:
Q: What do condo fees pay for?
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Condo fees pay for three main things in any given apartment building: common areas, utilities and the reserve fund.
Items usually covered by condo fees:
- Heat and water for the condo units as most buildings have centralized heat and water systems
- Heat and electricity for the common area and operation of the common property throughout
- Insurance for the overall structure and common property
- Reserve fund contributions to replace common property as required
- Management company fees for the overall management of the corporation
- Landscaping & snow clearing for any greenery, sidewalks or driveways
- Exterior maintenance and cleaning for the overall building
- Caretakers and live-in managers as required
- Security personnel as required
Items typically not covered by condo fees:
- Television and internet services
- Full time or part-time concierge
You know all those common areas enjoyed by you, your friends and family - like the rooftop patio, hot tub, fitness centre, party room, lounge area and public bathrooms? Well, they are all maintained by funds collected via condo fees, as are any other public spaces within the building.
Maintenance and services such as snow removal, cleaning, garbage and repairs to any of the building’s structures are also paid for with condo fees.
In other words, any part of a building deemed as common property by the condominium board is maintained using condo fees. Read the fine print in your condo documents carefully to determine what you are responsible for as an owner and what is deemed “common property” by the board.
The most common utilities covered by condo fees in Calgary are water and heat, although this does vary from building to building. In some apartments, electricity is also covered by the condo fees you pay, although this is becoming less commonplace as the years pass by.
Get a good grasp of what is and is not covered by your condo fees before buying any unit. Take, for example, if you were to buy in an older development with an ancient heating system – your electricity bill may be much higher when compared to a newer building with individual heating systems for each unit.
Heating costs in older buildings with less efficient heating systems are typically shared between units on a per square foot basis, so keep that in mind when you’re out and about browsing apartment buildings.
What is a reserve fund exactly? You should know since condo fees that aren’t used to pay for utilities, maintenance and other costs will be put into your building’s reserve fund.
This fund is basically there as a safety net for repairs to the building in case of an emergency or necessary renovations. Every condo board must have a reserve fund to cover the costs of big-ticket items that arise eventually.
Flood damage to common property, for example, or repairs to the roof can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it’s imperative that the reserve fund is in a healthy condition. Healthy means plump with cash, of course.
Review Your Condo Documents
The reserve fund might not always cover expensive maintenance jobs and condo owners may be stuck with a big bill. Hence, it is extremely important to choose your developer carefully and understand all angles about the building (location, elevation, reserve fund health, etc.) before you sign on the dotted line.
This includes a full condo document review where important details about the condo’s financial status are detailed via the status certificate, including:
- Condo’s annual budget
- Pending legal matters
- Reserve fund information
- Current maintenance fees
- Planned increases to condo fees
Q: How much are condo fees?
The cost of condo fees varies from building to building and also from region to region.
Some Calgary condos, for example, have condo fees around $0.50 per square foot, but that can quickly skyrocket upward depending on a number of factors. Expect to pay at least $0.50 or more per square foot for condo fees in Calgary, and even more than that in areas like Vancouver and Toronto.
High-end luxury condos are another breed on their own. Owners can expect to pay anywhere from $0.70 to up to $1.00 per square foot every month in condo fees.
> If you are paying $0.40 per square foot and live in a 1,000-square-foot condo, that amounts to $400 per month.
> If you are paying $0.55 per square foot and live in a 1,000-square-foot condo, that’s $550 per month.
As you can see, the slightest increase or decrease in cost per square foot can have a huge difference in how much condo fees you’ll have as an owner.
A difference of $150 multiplied by 12 months a year is a substantial chunk of cash ($1800) and you must be aware of the cost of condo fees when determining the affordability of a particular property.
Some more cost considerations are:
- Older buildings tend to have higher condo fees because they require more maintenance
- Developments with an all-inclusive list of amenities will have higher condo fees because of upkeep costs
- Smaller buildings tend to have higher condo fees because costs are shared between fewer owners
- This also means that larger buildings usually have lower condo fees because of the same principle but reversed
Q: Can my condo fees change?
Yes, they can. Your Calgary condo fees per square foot are subject to change at any time and are controlled by your building’s condo board.
When considering a purchase at a new or resale condominium, it is crucial you factor in a potential increase per square foot for condo fees and see such a change is still within your budget.
Q: Why are condo fees important?
Without condo fees, the condominium corporation wouldn't be able to operate; you would have a condo unit in a dark, cold and vacant building simply put. Another reason is that the condo's elevators, roof, structure and every other component will one day have to be replaced and/or maintained, which costs money!
When that time comes, you want to have enough money in your condo corporation's reserve fund to cover those expenses, otherwise, it may result in a special assessment where the owners cover the difference. This can sometimes happen with little warning and be a large figure which isn't affordable by any means.
Special assessments can range from $500 all the way up to $100,000 per condo - or more! Your condo's value is intrinsically tied to the health and overall operation of the condominium corporation!
Q: How do condo fees work in new construction?
When buying a new construction condo, one question to always ask is how much the condo fee will be. Don't be surprised if the sales centre staff and developer give you a quick estimate and try to move on from the topic; stay focussed and ask a few more questions to make sure you are thoroughly satisfied with the cost per square foot.
Developer estimates for condo fees are just that - an estimate. Dig deeper to understand the components of their estimate and what they're using to base those projections on. For example, is the condo fee estimate:
- based on realistic inputs?
- based on guesstimation?
- reasonable for the type of product?
It is critical to understand all the details because you want to make the most educated and informed decision by comparing every component and variable in each new condo development equally. Doing your due diligence will ensure you're not surprised or disappointed when you take possession of the new condo and the condo fees turn out higher than they were supposed to be.
We have seen new Calgary condo developments where the estimated condo fee was $300 yet the actual condo fee was $450 on possession. This is one extreme example but an example nonetheless you want to take into consideration.
If you bought in this building and had you been told the condo fee was going to be 50% more than originally estimated would you still have bought? Maybe, maybe not, but it's better to be aware of all the costs and fees and make informed decisions rather than be surprised afterwards.
Q: What other important questions should I ask?
There are also other aspects of the conversation and research to do in regard to the condo fee for your prospective purchase. These include what firm will be managing the property, and how accurate has the developer been on previous condo fee estimates.
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Questions about Condos in Calgary?
Have questions about Calgary condos, but aren't sure who to ask? As highly experienced Realtors in Calgary who specialize in multi-family properties, we'd be happy to assist you! Contact us anytime to discuss your real estate goals - we are looking forward to connecting with you!