Boston’s Highest and Lowest Condo Fees by Neighborhood

David Bates / May 2, 2012-12:56 pm

 

In South Boston, the median condo fee is a around a hundred dollars a month. But in midtown, the median condo fee is around a thousand dollars a month. What’s the deal?

This Southie condo had a condo fee of $125 a month.

In reviewing median condo fees for different Greater Boston neighborhoods, I quickly came to the conclusion that when it comes to condo fees, it’s not the neighborhood, but the building size that apparently matters most. Small buildings tend to have small condo fees. Big buildings tend to have big condo fees. My quick survey of South Boston MLS condo sales for 2011 supported that belief and shows that more than 70% of the sales occurred in buildings where fewer than six units made up the association. Compare this to midtown, Boston’s full-service building Mecca, where 100% of the condominium sales occurred in buildings which housed more than six units.

How neighborhoods impact a high or low condo fees is more along the lines of whether the market the condo development is in is emerging or established. In newer geographic markets that are hot for development, developers know that the “condo fee” is one of the three payments that make up affordability (the other two are price–mortgage principal + interest — and real estate taxes). By keeping condo fees as low as possible, developers can attract the widest buying audience to their development price. So the more recently developed and developing condominium markets like South Boston, Somerville, Jamaica Plain and Dorchester have the lowest median condo fees, while many of the oldest and most established Greater Boston markets, like Back Bay, Beacon Hill and Brookline tend to have the highest median condo fees.

While big/small building and new/old market may be a tell-tale sign of whether a condo fee is low or high, in no way am I suggesting that these are the only characteristics that lead to low or high condo fees. There are many factors that may cause a fee to be low or high, including whether the condo fee includes heat or the pay off of a previous building assessment. As a BatesRealEstateReport buying rule, buyers, their agents, and their attorneys should scrutinize the condo fee in whichever building they are thinking of buying.

 Neighborhood Median Fee (+/-)
South Boston $164
Somerville $186
Charlestown $192
Jamaica Plain $199
Dorchester $207
North End $213
Cambridge $259
South End $291
Brighton $325
Natick $336
Beacon Hill $389
Brookline $424
Back Bay $565
Waterfront $769
Midtown $957

 

(Numbers based on a BatesRealEstateReport survey of MLS closed condo sales between 1/1/11-12/31/11. These numbers are meant to be representative and not precise. Back Bay is the only fee that has been scrutinized and in all likelihood is more accurate than the numbers for other neighborhoods.)