Choosing Between a Condo and a Co-op Things You Should Know Before Buying

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To many people outside New York City, the very word ‘condo’ conjures up an image of an ultra-modern apartment located in a high-rise building with dramatic views. But that’s for the movies. First of all, condos, like any other type of apartment owned by a resident, can come in many shapes, sizes, and layouts ranging from high-rise luxury to garden efficiency and everything in between. Additionally, condos are often mentioned in the same breath as co-ops. But there are important distinctions between the two types of property.

The Differences

The basic difference in co-op and condo ownership is not in property type, but rather in the way in which your rights are held. A condominium isn’t an apartment per se, but an ownership of real property. The purchaser owns his or her individual unit, but has shared ownership of the common areas with other unit owners.  

In a cooperative (co-op) apartment, the owner actually is the owner of shares in a corporation that owns the property and holds a proprietary lease for their specific unit. While the result -- a place to call home -- may be similar, the differences are quite dramatic, and affect the way you live from day to day.

What to Consider When Purchasing an Apartment

There are many potential differences between condominium and cooperative ownership that can determine what type of ownership is right for any particular purchaser. There are five factors to consider:

  • Inventory
  • Price
  • Relative size
  • Approvals
  • Rules

Inventory

For various historical reasons, co-op ownership has been more common in New York City than condominium ownership. The New York Times reported in 2012 that the ratio of co-ops to condo units was about 75 percent to 25 percent. (In the late 1980s, that split was more like 85 percent co-op and 15 percent condo).  

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Comments

  • Looking over this article , as a broker of over 35 years in Manhattan, I think there are a few comments I would challenge. First of all the fact that a condo ownership is CLEANER than a coop. Coop's are know for paying very close attention to who is purchasing shares of stock in the corp. and what their financial standing is, whereas many condos are owned by veiled LLCS. In a shared ownership situation I would think it is CLEANER to know who your neighbors are and what their qualifications were at the time of purchase, rather than a vague LLC. Also stating that rooms are larger in a condo is rarely the case, compared to most coops built between the 1920 up to the 1980's. Look at books like Mansions In the Sky and Life at the Top, the most legendary, gracious and grand apartments were built during the pre war era, with high ceilings and elegantly proportioned rooms, foyers and servants quarters, even in the more modest apartments the bedrooms tended to be larger and more gracious and there were more halls and gallery entrance ways, separate dining rooms than in most modern buildings that have had to focus on efficiency of design to be profitable. The Americans With Disabilities Act mandated wider halls and a turning radius in bathrooms and kitchen in most cases that square footage came out of the adjoining Living rooms and Bedrooms. Even white brick buildings that were built in the 50's and 60's featured large rooms and abundant closets to attract buyers while having more efficient kitchen and bath configurations and were largely converted to coop rather than condos in the 1980's. The barriers to entry are less formidable in condos for sure but I wouldn't regard that as cleaner. In terms of space you definitely get more space for your $ in coops even when you add back the allocation of underlying debt in most cases.