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 an alternative retirement housing for active adults.

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 who has proprietary lease to live in the unit and corresponding number of shares in cooperative corporation that owns buildings 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:

Master deed
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.

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