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How to Buy

A New York City Apartment

Now, brace yourself for some sweeping generalizations about lifestyle and other considerations in a co-op versus condo. You will need to do your research to discover which of these statements actually applies to the building you’re considering.

  • CONDO owners favor freedom and autonomy. Among other things, they don’t want to be told whether they can buy an apartment or to whom they can sell it or sublet it to; whether they can have a dog (or what kind, or the maximum it can weigh); whether they may refinance or take out a home equity loan, etc.
  • CO-OP owners are more worried about whether the living environment they think they are buying into will live up to their expectations—and they want to protect it.
  • For the reasons above, CONDOS may be noisier and filled with a high turnover of renters who don’t care about getting along with the neighbors and may have a greater tendency to neglect the building. CO-OPS, while often more peaceful and better tended, can be micromanaged, inbred, and change averse.
  • Newer CONDOS that sprang up during the recent construction boom and afterward—the majority of condos for sale today—tend to be located in less convenient or desirable areas, where land was available. In Manhattan, for instance, Harlem, the Financial District and Midtown West in particular saw a disproportionate share of new development.  
  • Newer CONDOS tend to have more desirable amenities both inside the apartment (washer/dryers, anyone?) and outside (roof decks, playrooms, health-club-quality gyms, etc.) than co-ops and older condos. (That said, many CO-OPS have started retrofitting some amenities in order to stay competitive...often with mixed results.)
  • It can be difficult, and expensive, to find CONDOS in the most desirable areas such as Central Park West or the best parts of the West Village.  Similarly, if you’re looking for prewar details, these buildings are almost always CO-OPS--and when you find a rare prewar condo, demand and prices are typically high.