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Condos? Co-ops? What’s the big difference?

Published in Real Estate Market on March 8, 2023 by  Katie Geffken

Condos and Co-ops, same thing, right? Wrong! These property types are similar but if you’re in the market to buy one or the other, it’s important to understand the differences between them.

🏢 Condo: the owner owns their unit in the building. They have to abide by the rules of the building and have access to any common areas

🏢 Co-op: The owner has a share in a company that happens to own real estate, with a contract allowing them to occupy their specific unit. They have to abide by the rules of the building and have access to any common areas.

But what does this mean?

  • Monthly fees are often higher for a co-op, but these fees can include much more than condo fees do. For example, property taxes are always part of co-op fees. In addition, we’ve seen heating, cooling, internet service, etc. included—often at a much lower rate than a similar condo!
  • Co-ops often have rules that limit how much of the burden of repairs is on the shareholder, which can be GREAT for people who don’t want to deal with some of the common hassles of homeownership! Many co-ops only make what’s “outside of the walls” the unit owner’s responsibility; some even have on-site handi-people to deal with anything that happens “behind the wall.” So if a pipe bursts, it may not be the owner’s problem!
  • Co-ops at their best really are “cooperative”—they have a set of rules that all residents need to adhere to (just like condos) but are often geared toward working together. Each building is different – there’s a building in Kalorama where residents share the burden of shoveling their front steps, saving a lot of money over time by not paying for the service to be done. A building in Southwest DC has an extensive community garden and book club. Other buildings salvage old radiators (which can be expensive) from units that have been updated so that if anyone wants to replace one, they’re available.

Depending on what you’re looking for, both condos and co-ops can be great options. Still unsure about the difference? We’re here to answer all your questions!

About Katie Geffken

Katie is founder and partner agent at Collective Property Consultants. A marketing strategist and local business owner turned Realtor®, Katie has an entrepreneurial spirit and loves to make a positive impact in people’s lives through her work. She spent years marketing for top brands before opening a successful cycling and barre studio in Capitol Hill, finally pivoting to real estate where she found she had the ideal blend of hard and soft skills to serve buyers and sellers in the Washington, DC area.

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