Dave Says: A Lot of Red Flags Here

Dear Dave,

I live in Dallas, Texas, and I’m wondering if I should sell my condo in order to pay off debt. I owe $120,000 on it, and it’s worth around $260,000. Plus, the homeowners association fee used to be $450 a month and has gone up $100 each year for the last two years, so now we’re paying $650. No one has ever told us why the fee went up so much. There haven’t been any major improvements to the complex in the last five years, so I don’t know what to think. Can you give me some advice?

Daniella

Dear Daniella,

As a homeowner, I’d want some answers by the end of day as to why the HOA fees are so high. I mean, for a $260,000 condo, the fee you mentioned is ridiculous unless the building owners are doing a major renovation, like replacing the parking lot or updating the community’s clubhouse. Even then, it’s crazy! On top of all that, it devalues your condo. Nobody wants to buy a $260,000 condo with a $650 HOA fee every month, especially when the fee has gone up that much for no apparent reason.

There’s always the possibility the company is building up a war chest for improvements in the next year or so. But you have a right to know exactly where the money you pay in HOA fees is going. Ask to see a copy of their financials, and if they won’t do that—or explain why the fee is so high and where the money’s going—you need to sell the place because it’s being poorly managed.

You’ve got to get an explanation. You’re owed one. And, if you try to sell the place, you’re going to have to tell prospective buyers why the HOA fee is so high. Maybe there’s a good reason for it buried somewhere. But without knowing more, as a buyer, there’s no way I’d take this thing off your hands.

There are a lot of red flags fluttering around the situation, Daniella. Even in a place like Dallas, this HOA fee is about double what it should be for a $260,000 condo. I’m not saying this just because I don’t like HOAs, which I don’t. And that’s mainly because I don’t like paying money for something, and then being told by someone else what I can or can’t do with it. But you need some answers for your own information, peace of mind and to give potential buyers an honest answer when they ask why the fees are insanely high.

Lose the headache. Sell it.

— Dave