Should You Go Co-op Or Condo?

Should You Go Co-op Or Condo?

Some people are just not made to live in houses (and if you’ve been doing your own shoveling this winter, you know what I mean). Apartment living offers the ease of someone else taking care of major maintenance issues. Additionally, there are often common amenities, like shared swimming pools or roof decks, as well as a more social vibe.

But if you’re buying, you’ll find out that even apartments subdivide further into two categories: co-operatives and condominiums. You may want to look at both types and buy the one with the best living room, but it’s worth being aware of the differences just in case.

What You Should Know About Co-Ops.

In a co-op, people get together and form a corporation to buy an apartment building – sort of like a team of people buying a pie. A buyer doesn’t purchase an actual apartment, but instead buys shares in the corporation that represent the ownership of an apartment. The buyer also gets a lease to live in that particular apartment.

What You Should Know About Condos.

A condo, on the other hand, is when a baker pre-cuts the pie and sells you just a slice. You own the apartment itself, as well as a small percentage of the hallways (you can think of that as a little crumbly bit of crust that has fallen off). Sometimes, though, you pay higher closing costs for the privilege of getting pre-sliced pie.

How It Works With A Board Of Directors.

A board of directors generally runs each type of building, and the owners vote to represent them in terms of making decisions about finances, renovations, and maintenance. Co-op boards are generally considered more dictatorial – they usually approve all prospective purchasers, which makes it a little tougher to buy and sell. Also, if you want to rent out your condo apartment, it’s typically pretty easy, but if you want to rent out your co-op, you’ll likely have to go through a complicated process to get board approval, if the board allows it at all.

The Changing Winds Of Co-Ops.

The flip side is that co-ops are usually cheaper because the market penalizes them for the hassle of the board process, and they’re more “neighborhood-y” because people don’t move in and out as often. Not too many new co-operatives have been formed in the past couple of decades, so if you want the newest, trendiest buildings, they’re usually going to be condos. (Of course, in an overbuilt city like Miami, some of those buildings might be half-empty.)

How Co-Ops And Condos Handle Square Footage.

One more big point: Square footage is calculated a little differently in each. In New York, condo square footage, especially with new condos, often includes the condo’s percentage of common areas such as lobby and hallway space. So something might be quoted at 700 square feet, but only seem like 590 square feet when you actually try putting your furniture in it. Co-ops, in contrast, often don’t have stated measurements, but when they do it’s usually just the interior square footage. My rule of thumb is that a 700-square-foot co-op is going to seem bigger than a 700-square-foot condo.

Consider The Advantages Of Each:


  • Cheaper per square foot and usually contain close to the amount of square footage they claim (though bring a tape measure just in case).
  • Often lower closing costs.
  • Stable building population that allows you to get to know your neighbors. Plus, an approval process that generally keeps you from living next door to someone who owns three dogs and a drum kit.


  • Typically the newest and trendiest buildings.
  • An easier board process (or in some cases, none at all) makes buying and selling less of a hassle.
  • Easier to sublet or renovate.



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