Friday, May 14, 2021
Attached Housing, A Primer
Condominiums, townhouses or cooperative apartments are three forms of attached housing, or homes
that share common walls and common areas with neighbors. This type of housing is popular and essential in
expensive real estate markets where only a small percentage of households can afford to purchase a house.
Condominiums are beginning to proliferate in less-populated areas, too, as alternative retirement housing for
Here's a quick comparison of the three:
Condominium Townhouse Cooperative
What it is Single unit that usually resembles a finely finished apartment. Found in large and small,
high-rise or low-rise complexes Two-floor unit that shares a common wall with at least one other townhouse,
found in clusters (also known as rowhouses) Single apartment unit owned as shares in a corporation,
partnership or trust that holds title to building
Ownership status Owner has title to interior space of unit and shares title to common areas in complex
Owner has title to unit and land under unit and shares title to common areas (if any)
Some ownership arrangements more closely resemble those of condominiums Owner has proprietary l
ease to live in unit and corresponding number of shares in cooperative corporation that owns building
Governed by Condominium board of directors (elected by residents) in accordance with bylaws and
covenants, conditions and restrictions Homeowners' association, in most cases (elected by residents)
Board of directors (elected by residents)
Know Your Condominium
Before you buy a condominium, research the project by yourself or with a real estate attorney.
There are several documents you'll want to review carefully before you sign any kind of purchase contract.
These papers should be available from the condominium board of directors or its representative:
This key document establishes the project as a condominium project. It gives residents the authority to
form an operating association and includes the legal descriptions of all individual units and common areas.
Bylaws are the operating rules for the condo association. Among other things, they authorize the
board of directors to create a budget, assess fees, hire professional management staff and
perform other operating duties.
Covenants, conditions and restrictions
This is similar to a standard purchase. It should include a cooling-off period during which you can back out,
and financing and inspection contingencies.
You may also ask to see current operating budget, current and proposed assessments,
financial statement of the homeowners' association and any leases, contracts, blueprints or other design plans.
Know Your Co-op
Some cooperatives are run like families, but most have budgets and rules that you must follow to the letter.
Some cooperatives prohibit renting; others do not allow pets. Make sure that you can live with the restrictions before you buy.
More than 50 percent of the units are rentals. Upkeep may be poor and
some lenders will not make a loan on a unit in the complex, which may reduce your investment's long-term value.
The condo association doesn't have a healthy reserve fund. Members may have to pay a
special assessment to cover the cost of major repairs.
Members of the board of directors don't get along with each other. If they can't agree they
will make poor decisions for everyone else.
The project is heavily involved in litigation. Lawsuits with builders and otherhomeowners can sap reserve funds and affect resale value.