Isn't 'detatched condominium' an oxymoron?

Asked by Meg, Burien, WA Thu Jul 5, 2007

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Josh Hohman, ,
Fri Jul 6, 2007
I worked for a home builder in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the word 'condo' is meant to describe home ownership that encompasses the home, but not the dirt below the floor, or the sky above the roof. Often, we see developments of 'single-family' style homes that are actually condos since the homeowner does not actually own the land under the home. Often, this is done to bypass zoning requirements that may not allow the density or set-backs that the builder needs to make a worthwhile profit. In essence, the rules for developing condos are slightly different that that of single-family homes, so it becomes a trade-off of higher density versus slightly lower sales prices of traditional single-family detached homes and 'condo-style' detached homes. Confusing, but I hope this helps.

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Ardell Della…, Agent, Kirkland, WA
Mon Jul 9, 2007
Any property where the owner does not separately and individually own the land under the house, is condominium ownership. If the land is not subdivided, and you build several single family homes on the same undivided lot, they can all be condominiums.

You can't tell if a house is a condo or not simply by looking at it. In Seattle almost all attached townhomes are not condominiums and on the Eastside almost all attached townhomes are condominiums. It's all about whether or not the lots underneath are subdivided and separately owned.
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Greg Perry, Agent, Kirkland, WA
Fri Jul 6, 2007
I"m a King County Realtor. Condominium is a legal term. It describes how the dwelling is owned. Typically, the homeowner owns the interior space of a building (from the paint in) and is a member of a common homeowner's association. Condos can be a unit in a large building, townhouse style, or detached (that look like a Single Family Home).
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Nate Oskar, , 86336
Thu Jul 5, 2007
Haha! I love this question! It's making me think a little longer that the time it would take to blurt out 'no'.

I think the answer is yes, and no - and maybe some, though they're not referred to as such, technically could be considered one! Confused? Me too! Let me see if I can shed some light...

You see, to understand the definition of a condominium I'll start with the definition of a single family residence (SFR). With a SFR you own the two dementional space located within the parameters of the property lines and any structure on attached to that property. But you also, in theory, own to the center of the Earth and "through the sky". Now, with that said someone else may have the mineral rights under your property and good luck stopping a plane from 'tresspassing'! :)

Now, a condo is a different beast in that you own only the space within your walls and a proportionate share of the land. Therefore in theory if there are 20 condo owners, with units the same size, on a one acre parcel, then each owns a 1/20 share of the acre as well as a 1/20 share of the exterior of the building(s).

So, with that I'll get back to your question. Another type of property is the Townhome. For example, my father lives in a townhome in Redmond and what he owns is: The interior space, the land that his home actually sits on (including a small backyard that he is responsible for) and a share in the overall property. He is assessed, just as a condominium owner, by the home owners association when there is exterior maintenance to be done. Generally the home owners association also handles the landscaping of the common area. Now let me be clear - these nuances all depend on the individual home owners association.

Now a patio home, according to one definition, is basically considered a detached townhome. Therfore, I would say that is the closest to a form to a "detached condo" would be a townhome. Now, we'll let the others debate my answer and hopefully improve upon it!

Say hello to the Northwest for me!

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Merre Ward, Agent, Brentwood, CA
Fri Feb 8, 2008
Simple to define - ask for the legal description!

If the legal description states something like:

Lot XX Tract XXXX or something of the sort, and then it adds a whatever interest in the common area then it is a PUD (Planned Unit Development)

If the legal description says say 1/100th interest in say Lot 1 Unit B Tract XXX, then it is legally a condominum.

Ardell said it best! Yet, when in question ask for the legal description!!!!

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Duncan Clark, Agent, Covington, WA
Wed Jan 9, 2008
There are several condominium developments in Kent in which the homes are detached including one where the homes are manufactured homes. These developments all include spaces that are owned by the association for the enjoyment of all of the homeowners.
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Lisa Hill, , Port Orange, FL
Fri Jul 6, 2007
Interesting question. If I saw this wording in our area, I would wonder what the heck they were talking about. But after reading some of these other answers, it's obviously not unusual. In our area (Daytona Beach, FL) all condominiums are attached, as are town houses. But I suppose if a developer wanted to create a community of single family homes, but create a Condo Association in the Covenants and Restrictions, it only needs approval by the governing authorities.

I've seen the opposite in this area. I sold a home in a community of attached quads, that was governed by a standard Home Owner's Association. Therefore, each home owner was responsible for their own roofs, painting, interior and exterior insurance and maintenance, etc. It left a lot of questions that needed to be answered before we could close.

That's the great thing about this business. We're constantly learning something new. And it's great to share experiences from other agents around the country.
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Bruce Lynn, Agent, Coppell, TX
Fri Jul 6, 2007
Not always. It depends on how the home owner's association is setup. I would think this would be unusual, but I've seen it before.
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J Lo, Home Buyer, California Glory, Brentwood, CA
Fri Jul 6, 2007
I find that most "definitions" for condos are just a selling point - you will have the small differences that Nate described - but a condo is a condo and a townhome is a townhome. Even some SFR homes have what is called a "zero" lot line. The home adjacent to your home is the other persons back or side wall.

Condo's serve as that great first home in which an owner can build equity and move up the ladder to the SFR. Conversely, the condo serves great as a "downsized" home for those who have had the SFR and need a little less space to maintain.
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Seesthru, Home Buyer, Pensacola, FL
Fri Jul 6, 2007
NO. In Huntsville there are condos for sale, and they look detached to me! try that, I think some are listed there. THey are yellow. While looking for a house, I kept thinking it was a house, until I saw "condo" listed there. I dont' think condos want my cats and birds....
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