Co-op, Condo and Townhouse: What’s the Difference?

Decoding the type of home you’re looking for can be a confusing process. With different types of homes come different pros and cons—which one is right for you? Here, we help you decode the ins and outs of the most common housing types in New York City: Co-ops, condos and townhouses.

condo coop townhouse

Cooperative Buildings

Cooperative buildings, or co-ops, make up about three-quarters of New York City’s real estate inventory. Co-ops, however differ from housing in other parts of the country in one major way; instead of purchasing the actual property, you are instead buying shares of a corporation.

The co-op building is owned by a corporation, and you purchase shares from them directly when you buy a co-op. That gives you rights to a proprietary lease, but you are an investor in the building instead of an outright owner of your particular apartment or unit. In addition, shareholders in co-op buildings are also responsible for monthly maintenance fees that cover building-wide expenses, like real estate tax, any renovations, utilities and staff salaries.

Co-ops also typically have a very strict approval process. Every co-op has a board, and they review and approve new applicants. Each group has different standards and systems, making some more strict than others. They will require you to come before the board for an interview during the review process, and they can approve or deny you application for any reason.

condo coop townhouse

Condominium Buildings

Unlike with a co-op, when you purchase a condo you own the property. While condos still have monthly charges like co-ops, they are typically significantly lower. Because of this, condos are usually more desirable to buyers but make up a much smaller portion of the housing market.

In New York, new development apartments are typically condos and are the preferred choice for foreign buyers or for those who want more ownership flexibility.

condo coop townhouse


Like with a condo, when you purchase a townhouse you own it outright. But unlike a condo, when you purchase a townhouse you also own the land it is on. These owners are not responsible for any additional monthly fees besides the mortgage and real estate taxes. However, all upkeep and repairs are the financial burden of the owner.

Typically, townhouses are a multi-story home, often attached and depending on the home, there could be multiple units converted into rental apartments. Townhouse owners have more freedom when it comes to the home and property, especially for renovations and subleases, though they are still subject to local zoning laws. For these reasons, townhouses are extremely desirable but make up a marginal part of New York’s market.

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