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Condo or Co-op: What are the differences?

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Here in South Florida complacency regarding the power of the ubiquitous board, whether condo or co-op, has set in as new buildings sprout, all of which are condos. This interesting article Ask an Expert: Are condo boards as powerful as co-op boards? that appeared in a New York newspaper answers the question, but the answer isn’t as definitive as might be hoped.

Before proceeding, the decision to purchase or rent in a condo or co-op isn’t one that should be made blindly. Disputes with neighbors take place in all living situations, but the less distance between you and your neighbor, the more intense the interaction and the more potential for problems. There will be more issues in a multi-family situation than a private home, so care is the operative word. There is only one real solution to an inter neighbor dispute—move—not so easy and certainly not fiscally promising.

Before you choose a condo or a co-op, do your research. Spend some time in the lobby, in the common areas, talking to people in adjacent buildings and talking to the people who work in the building. If you hear about a real troublemaker, check out the source of the rumor, and, if it sounds like there’s a real issue, one that the board hasn’t been able to handle, run for the hills. You don’t want to end up in court to try to settle a housing dispute

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Horror stories about co-ops are rampant, especially in cities like New York where the oldest buildings have been cooperatives for many years. Some co-ops require all cash purchases, even for multi-million dollar properties. Co-op boards have been known to hold up applications for purely personal reasons, acting like they are choosing a relative rather than a neighbor. Some have stringent policies restricting rentals, if they allow them at all. The applications can be overwhelming and time consuming, requiring answers to intrusive questions.

The condo board, though it doesn’t have the power of the co-op board, can make life difficult for the prospective seller, purchaser, lessor or lessee. Yes, the only recourse they have if they don’t like the applicant is the right of first refusal, but they rarely purchase the property outright. Rather, if they don’t like the prospects, their tactic is to delay. Delay meetings, delay their decisions, ask for more documentation, drag their feet, all of which can make what should be a simple process extremely difficult.

In today’s depressed real estate market, take your time before you purchase and, conversely, make sure that your prospective purchaser can jump through the inevitable hoops so you don’t waste time and let someone else get away.

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