Condo or Coop? What's the difference ?

Asked by Sonja, Arlington, TX Sun Dec 21, 2008

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Melissa Bark…, Agent, Washington, DC
Tue Dec 28, 2010
A co-o is a corporation, owned and operated by its members (unit owners are shareholders) and formed to provide housing for its members. The co-op is actually owned in the name of the co-op vs individual owners names like you would find in condo. With a cop-op you pay the corporation, which in turn takes care of the majority of building and unit expense, typically included are taxes and utilities whereas very few condos cover the payment for these items.

Finding a loan for a co-op is a bit more challenging and typically you have to be approved by the board before the sale can go through. There are more co-ops in Washington DC than in Arlington or Northern VA.

Please contact me if you have any more questions.
1 vote
Great answer Melissa.
Flag Tue Mar 18, 2014
Jim McCowan, Agent, Arlington, VA
Thu Nov 18, 2010
WHen you buy a co-op you are buying 'shares' in the organization. The tax benefits are the same as a condo. It's harder to get financing and you usually have to be approved by the co-op board. If yoy have further questions, feel free to email me or call.
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1 vote
Adrienne Cic…, , Arlington, VA
Thu Dec 19, 2013
Condos and Co-ops are typically very similar, just not legally. In a co-op, you own a section of the building that you are living in. In a condo, you own a percentage of the common space as well as the unit you purchased.

Take a look at all the condos in Arlington at!
0 votes
Gabriel Deuk…, Agent, Arlington, VA
Fri Nov 1, 2013
Hi Sonja! There are some big differences between condo & coop but it would be best to talk to you in person to explain it. Please contact me through my profile and I will talk you through your options.
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Moses Oyewole, Agent, Arlington, TX
Wed Dec 22, 2010
The basic difference between condo and coop is in the form of ownership. In coop you buy a share, just like you buy a share of coca-cola or apple and you are entitled to the space in the building equivalent to the number or percentage of the total share owned. In terms of condo, what you pay for, is a particular space with common ownership in the common elements like pool, playground, roof, exterior of the building.
If you need more clarification, I will be happy to hear from you. Thank you.
0 votes
Sara Rubida, Agent, Arlington, VA
Wed Dec 1, 2010
The situation for condos v. co-ops may vary according to the jurisdiction, and I'll respond based on my Virginia experience. DC has more coops than Virginia, and coops evidently are widespread in NYC. Virginia co-ops are scare; Virginia law evidently doesn't "like" co-ops.

My Virginia experience is that condos and co-ops "live" just the same. The difference is in the ownership andt he financing and sometimes the way you join the community. For a condo, detached home, etc., you own that specific property until you sell it. For a co-op, you buy shares in a corporation, like owning shares in GM or McDonald's. The corporation then gives you the right to use a particular component of the community. If you own shares in GM, you can exchange them for other shares and still be in the "community." I hear that is the case in co-ops: If the board agrees, you can swap physical units in the community with another owner.

A condo works like a detached home in that you just buy it if you have the funds and the inclination. Essentially, your lender screens you for ownership. There is no screening by the condo board or others. A co-op will individually screen potential buyers, and the lender will still screen you for financial capability. My experience--limited to northern Virginia--is that for practical purposes, the Virginia co-ops screen paperwork showing the buyer's financial situation, to be as certain as possible that the buyer will be able to carry his/her share of the community expenses (which seems fair). The situation is different in, for example, NYC, where I gather co-ops actually meet the buyer in person and decide whether he/she will be allowed to join the community. The famous story is of a NYC co-op that refused admission to former President Richard Nixon because they didn't want the notoriety and security and traffic issues that were expected to accompany his residence.

As for the financing, both condos and co-ops will have fees (usually monthly). A condo owner will pay the county his own slice of property taxes and community expenses and fully carry his own mortgage. A co-op owner's fees can range widely. In some co-ops there is an underlying mortgage on the whole property, and the owner's monthly fee paid to the co-op may include a proportionate slice of that mortgage plus the property taxes. The owner probably will have a personal mortgage payment on top of that, covering the growth in property value since the original community mortgage was obtained. Other co-ops act more like condos: The co-op owner has his own mortgage and his own property taxes and pays just a share of the on-going community expenses and reserves.

For a condo or a single family home, you can go to almost any lender for your mortgage. Most co-ops, in Virginia at least, have only one lender, or maybe 2-3 lenders, who will finance that community.

Bottom line: You have to check out the regulations and practices of the jurisdiction and the individual community. A good real estate agent will educate you here and help you figure out your options and your best fit.
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Theresa L. H…, , Arlington, VA
Thu Nov 18, 2010
It's a very long explanation. However, I want to make it clear that Have have sold a coop very rarely due to the equity difference to the buyer!!!
Hence, beware Buyer(s) on co-ops
TL Howard
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