April 2019

People were not built for delaying gratification.  When we want something, we want it now.  Perhaps we don’t believe the reward for delaying today will materialize.

A 1960s Stanford University study on children tested this concept.  Children were given one marshmallow that they could eat. Or they could wait 15 minutes and receive two marshmallows.  Only one out of three waited for the two marshmallows. Follow-up studies showed that the children who waited the 15 minutes were more successful in life.

The conclusion was that an ability to delay gratification is hard-wired at a very early age.

The lesson for condo management is that most people, given the choice, will not plan for the future.  Yet that is the very concept of condo fees, and setting money aside in a reserve fund for maintaining a building or planning for future upgrades.

Living for the moment is incompatible with condo living and management.  Effective condo management requires that we plan for the future through payment of condo fees, budgeting and reserve funds.  This conflicts with the more common mindset of condo owners to retain more of their money to be spent today.

Condo management must operate differently.  A core element of condo living is contributing to a reserve fund that will maintain a shared home for decades into the future.  Condo management choosing not to fix what requires repair in a building, update areas that require updating, and maintain popular amenities fall into a pattern supported by a majority but which is known to be counter-productive.

Failure to adequately plan for future expenditures does lead to lower condo fees today.  Some go to great efforts to justify lower expenditures and, thus, lower condo fees.  They do a disservice to their community.  The resulting increase in condo fees or special assessment necessary a few years later can be devastating to those who fail to set aside funds for this eventuality.