Costs of Ownership: Dues and fees can add up, even before you add golf membership

         I thought today about a friend of mine who lives in a nice Florida golf community –- on the east coast of the state -– and pays nearly $30,000 in carrying costs annually, even after resigning his golf club membership. His home is valued a little north of $400,000. I thought his carrying costs were an anomaly, but after doing a little research for a customer from the United Kingdom who is considering purchasing a condo in Florida, I’ve spent the day contemplating the costs of ownership.

         Here are the details on one listing I reviewed for my UK customer:

Community: Waterlefe in Bradenton, FL

Unit: 2 BR, 2 BA, 1,300 square feet

Semi-private golf and all other standard amenities

The Manatee River runs along edge of golf course.

Price: $182,500

         Now that certainly seems like a fair, maybe even a bargain, price for a unit in a modern, well-tended golf community. Close inspection of the listing may reveal why the price appears so reasonable. First, there are the taxes, set at $2,077 annually. But this being Florida -– a zero-income-tax state where they have to pay for things somehow -- there is an annual charge of $2,408 for CDD, which stands for Community Development District, essentially a local tax to run the local community. The CDD is in lieu of an incorporated town. In essence, the tax on the $182,500 condo is a healthy $4,485 annually. But of course, any owner of a home in a planned development is on the hook for homeowner association dues; in the case of Waterlefe, HOA dues are $483 per quarter, or $1,932 per year.       

         We aren’t done. This is a condo, and condo associations everywhere assess their own fees for exterior maintenance. The charge for the Waterlefe condo is $223 monthly, or $2,676 annually. That seems like a lot, but we saw the photos of the condo unit and its surrounding units, and the landscaping is impressive.

         Without any consideration for golf dues, the next owner of this lovely condo in Bradenton, FL, will be on the hook for $9,093 annually. But there is good news: Waterlefe is charging no intiation fee at the moment (it used to be $10,000). But monthly dues of $441.67, or $5,300.04 annually, bring the total carrying costs to $14,393.04 per year.

         Actually, the CDD assessment is the only fee at Waterlefe that is different from golf community fees charged in states outside Florida. For my own condo in South Carolina, I pay taxes and separate HOA and condo fees, but no CDD. All in, golf membership included, total costs run to about $11,000 annually. I offer the above figures only to advise those looking for an inexpensive condo that the costs to carry that condo may be higher than they expect.

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