condos townhouses co-ops

Breaking It Down: Condos, Townhouses and Co-ops

July 30, 2016 | Buying a Home | By: Sara

The type of home you choose when househunting for condos, townhouses and co-ops can affect a number of factors: the types of changes you can or cannot make to the home, rules and restrictions, and the amount of monthly fees you’ll be responsible for paying.


Condos:  Condo owners own “walls in”  — they own only the walls inside of the unit itself. All unit owners collectively own and share any common space (hallways, courtyards, etc.).  However, it’s possible you will own the a/c unit that sits outside of your unit.  Window replacement depends upon the condo association.


Condos fees are typically higher than homeowner association (HOA) fees. Condo owners pay monthly for the maintenance of the property. The size of your unit usually corresponds to how much of the condo fee you pay and the percentage of votes you receive in the community.  Your size represents the percentage of the condo building  you own.


Condo owners can customize their unit, however be sure to carefully review the condo documents if you are thinking of moving walls or making major changes.


Townhouse: Townhouse owners own the home itself and the land on which it is sited. In real estate lingo, this means it is owned “fee simple,” just like a detached house. Unlike a condo, townhouse owners are responsible for all exterior maintenance, including the roof.  


Some townhomes are a part of an HOA (usually town homes built after 1980). HOAs may have rules or restrictions about exterior paint colors, landscaping, and other aesthetic changes. HOA fees are typically much lower than condo fees since they don’t cover the same level of maintenance as a condo. Dues can be paid monthly, quarterly, or yearly depending on the association.


Co-op: Co-ops are a totally different form of ownership – much like buying shares in a corporation. The co-op corporation owns the building and the land on which it sits. Instead of buying a unit, the buyer of a co-op is buying shares in the cooperation. The cooperation then assigns the buyer the “right” to occupy a specific unit.  


Co-op ownership is considered personal property rather than real property. Co-op fees are generally higher than condo fees and usually include property taxes, building maintenance, and the underlying mortgage. Co-ops usually have very strict rules regarding renting out the unit and pets. Co-ops often require higher down payments. Lastly, co-op boards vet all potential new owners so be prepared to submit a lot of information and sit through an interview.


Because of the type of ownership and the restrictions that come with co-ops, the prices tend to be a bit lower than condos. Co-ops can be harder to sell. Keep in mind that many lenders also do not offer loans for co-ops, so you would need to work with a lender that has been approved by the building.


If you have questions about buying a condo, townhome, or co-op, please contact us. We are always happy to help you navigate you through the home search and buying process!

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