At one glance, condos and co-ops seem to belong to the same housing options category because we’re talking about purchasing ownership of a property in a building.
But legally and technically speaking, there is a big difference that buyers should know about. If not, misunderstanding the terms would be risking yourself with some serious legal implications.
What Are Condos?
Condos or condominium ownership is the more common real-estate-housing option.
Once you buy one unit from a condominium corporation (as a client), you’re already considered a unit owner. You can use them freely as condo owners, yes. But you’re not the ones maintaining them, thus, the additional maintenance fees.
You’re also paying for other common amenities such as security measures the condo management implements such as guards, cameras, etc.
What are Co-Ops?
Co-op or co-operative, on the other hand, is not just real-estate buying and selling.
It’s a type of corporation, and purchasing space in a co-op apartment share doesn’t make you a simple client. You’re now a shareholder of that common property. And if you’re familiar with the law, corporations have legal terms you must understand before getting into it.
In easier terms, co-op residents are already part owners of that entire building or the entire property.
You have shares to the same space, which means you have a responsibility to – say, make modifications to the pool, renting process, or have a say in the by-laws (internal rules) of the co-op building.
Like other corporations, there’s a co-op board that serves as the decision-makers in running the co-op.
They (and you, included) have to power to approve and reject who you can onboard because as a corporation, you have the right to choose who your fellow shareholders and many co-owners are.
How Do They Differ?
Let’s take a deeper look into their specific differences.
These are the significant differences when it comes to owning a condo vs co-op:
You become entitled to the unit you bought in the condo. You can use the common areas – since you’re technically paying for them – as long as you’re a unit owner, but the common areas (i.e., swimming pool, gym, conference rooms, rooftop) are not entirely yours.
You own the shares of the corporation, and it so happens that the object this corporation is running is a residence or real estate property. So, more than just buying the units, you’re co-owning the rest of the property too.
The decision-makers of the two highly vary.
Condo residents are free to do whatever they want to the condo space as long as it’s following the internal rules of the management.
For instance, some condos don’t allow pets , while some don’t allow you to drill holes into the walls deeper than 1-2 inches. Some don’t allow you to lease your unit unless certain conditions are met. Since you don’t own the entire part of the building and real property, you have to respect these rules.
There is still a management team running the administrative concerns of the condo. You can report concerns to them or send requests, and they’ll help you address them. Technically, they’re part of the monthly fees that you’re paying.
Decisions go through co-op board approval. They have the right to decide about who to rent to, who to evict, and the like.
The plus side is you also have more control to decide what happens since you’re a part-owner. But here, you’re also more involved with the matters (cost, lease, terms, rent or renting to others, etc.)
Fees and Payments
The usual monthly expenses also differ for the two.
Condominiums usually have higher fees, because you also pay the condo fees, maintenance fees, property taxes separately. For some, the purchase price comes with a parking space or storage unit.
The co-op cost usually involves a higher down-payment, a mortgage and interest, and a maintenance fee, but a lot lower.
Also read: Warrantable vs Non-warrantable condo
The specifics of the rules still depend on the internals of each, but here is a general difference: ownerships.
Condo owners still need to follow management, and they don’t go through special assessments anymore. Whereas co-op owners are already part of the management. However, the big decisions still need to go through the board or the consensus of all shareholders.
Overall, there is a big difference between the condo and co-op. Though it can be time-consuming, be sure to include your financial status in your decision-making or inquire about a registered real-estate salesperson for a clearer view.
Our real estate experts hope this co-op vs condo guide provided you with a quick overview about these two housing types.