Disadvantages of Condos and Co-Ops

For all their advantages, condominiums also have a number of disadvantages that should make potential buyers weigh their decision carefully.

Ongoing Costs

A condominium or co-op owner has to pay not only a monthly mortgage but also the maintenance fee. In an expensive unit, this can run into thousands of dollars over the course of a year. Granted, some of that is probably tax deductible, and the money goes for maintenance and other common costs. Nevertheless, some people see the combination mortgage/maintenance fee as similar to paying double rent. Thus, the older couple who wants to trade their large house for a small co-op might find the various costs prohibitively expensive when they are all added up.

Because many condominium and co-op buildings are older, converted apartment houses, chances are that maintenance and repair costs will be quite high. For the condominium owner, this means higher repair costs within his or her own unit. For the co-op owner, this means higher monthly fees to pay for repairs throughout the building.

Restrictions

The extent of restrictions in condominiums depends on the layout of the development. If the development consists of free-standing homes or townhouses, residents may have a fair amount of leeway as far as landscaping, for example. For buildings, the restrictions will probably be more comprehensive and more carefully enforced.

Restrictions in co-ops are far more all-encompassing. Co-op residents who wish to sell their unit, or rather, their shares, often find that the co-op bylaws are extremely strict about whom they can sell to. People who fail to meet a minimum income may be ineligible to live in a particular co-op, even if they have enough money to make the purchase. For that matter, co-op apartments in wealthy neighborhoods will sometimes refuse to sell to celebrities, citing their fear that the presence of a celebrity will draw too many fans and other celebrities to the building.

Co-op subletting is also subject to significant restrictions. Some co-ops only allow a set number of subleases per year. Thus, a person who has been transferred to another state will need to seek approval to sell the co-op or to sublet it, and that approval may not be forthcoming.

Particularly in co-ops, the board of directors wields considerable power; often the only way to gain some influence within the development is to join the board. The politics involved in decision-making is literally brought home to co-op residents, and many do not enjoy the experience.

Because many people are unwilling to put up with the restrictions found in condominium and co-op communities, it can be much harder to find a buyer to begin with. Condominiums and co-ops do not rise in value the same way houses do, so while they preserve equity they do not build as much as a private home would.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you navigate issues relating to home ownership.

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