Sometimes, living in one of those enormous, labyrinthine co-op or condo buildings can make a resident feel like one among the many, indistinguishable from any other. While many people prefer the anonymity of a large building, others seek smaller, cozier living arrangements. And that’s where ultra-small co-op and condo communities—buildings with fewer than 10 units—come into play, providing an environment where everyone knows everybody else and where nearly everyone has a say in how the building community is run.
When it comes to managing and living in these buildings, their operations are similar but also different from their larger counterparts. For the most part, the closeness can be a good thing for all involved, and the best of these buildings benefit from a prevailing “all hands on deck” philosophy, says Jeff Friedman of the Manhattan-based management firm Vintage Real Estate. “The biggest challenge is to make sure everyone is involved,” says Friedman. “Things go a lot smoother when everyone takes part. When you have some [residents] that don’t want to be involved, yet raise their hand and want to discuss it after a decision has been made, that’s when things can get difficult.”
Often that involvement manifests itself in board positions. Anita Sapirman of Saparn Realty in Manhattan has managed small buildings where five of the seven owners were board members—and that level of involvement proved a good recipe for harmonious co-existence. “The more involved, the better,” Sapirman says. “The more they have control and know what’s going on, the better.”
On the other hand, smaller buildings also can suffer from a lack of participation where residents lack the time or the inclination—or both—to take part in the operations and management of their homestead.
Buildings under 20 units, “[are] always hard pressed to get a board,” says Anton Cirulli, the managing director at Lawrence Properties in Manhattan. “Usually, it’s only one person who’s interested” and who ends up doing the majority of the work.