Condo or Co-op, what's the difference?

N.W. Washington D.C. view from the roof of a co-op.

N.W. Washington D.C. view from the roof of a co-op.

Condominiums and Cooperatives are different types of ownership. A condominium is a building or complex of individually owned units.

A condominium is owned outright with the owners sharing ownership of common areas like hallways, entryways, and rooftops. 


A co-op is a legal entity usually a corporation or cooperative which owns real estate. The corporation is membership based and each member or shareholder is granted the right to own one housing unit. Monthly payments to the co-op are used to pay taxes, in addition to paying other building expenses. In addition, shareholders have elected representatives who screen and select new applicants to the cooperative. 

 Co-op's are very different type of ownership as compared to owning a single family home, townhouse or condo. 

With condo's and co-op's, buyers should check the rules and regulations. 

  1. Are pets allowed? If so, is there a size limit or are only cats allowed and not dogs?
  2. What are the rules regarding remodeling the co-op or condo?
  3. Can you rent out your condo or co-op?
  4. What are the monthly condo or co-op fees and what is covered? 
Cooperatively Speaking, written by Edmund J Flynn Company based in Washington D.C., is a 28 page book. It's an excellent go-to manual on housing cooperatives. This page is a side by side comparison of condo's and co-ops. 

When searching for a condo or co-op in Washington D.C., remember you have a period of 3 business days to review the condo or co-op documents.

These "docs" give a description of the rules and bylaws, the budget, which is very important to review, minutes from previous meetings and a description of special assessments.

As a buyer, you will want to carefully review these documents because you will be buying into this living situation. When you buy a condo you share the maintenance expenses for common areas. When you buy a co-op, you are buying into a community that shares the entire buildings operations. 

Links for more information

Search for a home with Buyer's Edge

Co-op D.C. 

National Association of Housing Cooperatives