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Our main blog has been moved to chicagonow.com/getting-real
but we occasionally post articles here as well.

Comparing Assessments – Part III

February 4th, 2010 by Gary Lucido

As part of my ongoing rant about the high condo assessments in Chicago I’d like to revisit a topic I covered a while ago – what is the appropriate tradeoff between price and assessments? In that previous post I got into some fairly esoteric finance details about discounted cash flows and perpetuities that may have made the decision process seem a bit unreal. However, in discussions with a current client, I came up with a more concrete analysis that looks at what the impact of different assessments might be for a typical buyer with a finite time horizon.

In the example below I look at a theoretical high income buyer facing a choice between two condos, with one condo having assessments that are $100/month higher than the other. Given that the buyer is only going to live there for 5 years, the question is how much more can the buyer spend on the condo with lower assessments and still have the same monthly expenses, if the mortgage rate is 5%. In addition, are there any other economic considerations?

Unit A Unit B
Price $ 500,000 $ 541,311
Mortgage Rate 5.00%
Monthly P&I $ 2,684 $ 2,906
5 Year Average Monthly Interest $ 2,006 $ 2,172
Tax Bracket 36%
Initial Assessment $ 600 $ 500
5 Year Average Assessment $ 637 $ 530
After Tax Annual Cost $ 23,047 $ 23,047
5 Year Appreciation @ 3% $ 79,637 $ 86,217
Appreciation Benefit $ 6,580

I factored in the buyer’s tax bracket because of the deductibility of mortgage interest. The impact of the deductibility is to make mortgages more attractive relative to assessments for high income buyers than for lower income buyers. I made a few simplifying assumptions as well: that assessments and the value of the condos would go up with the rate of inflation, assumed to be 3% per year and, that for purposes of this analysis, we could just look at an average of the monthly interest and assessments.

The conclusion is that you could spend an additional $41,000 on the condo with the lower assessments, have the same monthly after tax monthly expenses, and end up with an additional $6,580 of appreciation at the end of 5 years. In other words, think long and hard before signing up for a condo with high assessments.

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