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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