Feb 10, 2024 - Real Estate

Strict rules, high fees: What to know about Chicago HOAs

Estimated number of HOAs, condominiums and cooperatives with fees, 2023
Data: Foundation for Community Association Research; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

With roughly 19,550 housing communities in Illinois, many home shoppers need to factor in homeowners association fees as part of their purchase price.

Why it matters: Homebuyers looking at condos for their lower prices might not realize HOA dues can run into the thousands per month and can change over time.

Between the lines: HOA fees cover maintenance and amenities like pools and gyms, among other things keeping the building running.

Be smart: Buyers should pay close attention to the building's age, condition, location and finances, Clare Trapasso with Realtor.com tells Axios.

  • "If they're buying [in] an older building that doesn't have much in its reserve fund to pay for emergencies, and the building floods frequently or the elevator gives out, then each individual condo owner may see their monthly HOA fees go up," says Trapasso, the company's executive news editor.

What's next: If your dues change, the association board should report that in the community newsletter, website, notices, or meetings, according to Thomas M. Skiba, CEO of the Community Associations Institute.

  • Typically condo fees don't go down, unless a special assessment — extra fees charged under unforeseen circumstances — ends or the building gets an influx of cash, Trapasso says.

What they're saying: HOA fees are an "eye-watering" expense on top of higher mortgage costs, says John Rauch, who paid off his mortgage early — and is now thinking about staying put.

  • "In a sense, I feel trapped here by the new need to take on a housing expense in the future, if I move," Rauch tells Axios.

Also, don't forget the rules. Some that Chad Gernady's Wauconda association enforces: No sheds, only wooden fences and no trash cans outside after pickup.

The intrigue: Higher monthly fees have similarly pushed up the price of renting.

  • Many renters are being hit with charges for valet trash pickup, pest control, move-ins and move-outs, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Go deeper: How much owning a single-family home really costs in the U.S.

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