Co-ops vs. Condos vs. Condops vs. Pied-a-Terres

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to tips@curbed.com. Up now: the differences among some key NYC real estate categories.

As we’ve discussed many times, co-ops and condos are two different players in the real estate ballgame. And just like a Nathan’s hot dog is priced differently at Yankee Stadium and Citified ($6 at Yankee Stadium and $5.50 at Citifield, in case you were wondering), both of the buildings charge their inhabitants differently: in the form of maintenance for co-ops and common charges for condos.

Co-op and condo charges both cover payment for common fees in the building, such as upkeep of areas like the lobby, roof deck, or gym, as well as payment of building employees like the doormen, concierge, or super. They also get into your basic needs?heat, hot water, sometimes electricity, etc.

Which of These Things is Not Like the Other?

Maintenance for Co-ops: The main difference between the two is that the co-op maintenance charges include property taxes and insurance, and that part is also tax deductible. The tax deductibility of the co-op maintenance charges usually goes up to 50 percent. Remember, co-op’s don’t usually own the land they sit on, meaning that the underlying mortgage on the property is split up between the shareholders.

Common Charges for Condos: Condo common charges are separate from real estate taxes, so condo owners have two bills to write every month. The monthly fees are based on how many shares you own in a co-op and how many square feet your apartment is in a condo.

WTF is a Condop?

When you buy a condo, you can rest easy knowing that you “own” that property, whereas when you buy into a co-op, you’re buying a part of a corporation that technically sells “shares” to you. So what is this mutant NYC housing form called the “Condop”? The most important trait of a condop is that it combines a residential sector as well as a commercial section of the building (which could be a garage, retail store, or even a McDonalds. But hopefully…not a McDonalds.)

A common misconception is that a condop is a “co-op with condo rules” but this mashup is not necessarily the case. The condo aspects usually include the entry procedures, since the building has either no board approval or a fairly easy board application process. The building also (usually) has less restrictive sublet policies and financing requirements. Another slightly related bit of info is that the 80/20 tax law that applies to residential buildings requires 80 percent of the building’s income come from shareholders and 20 percent from commercial tenants. Interesting.

Take note, first time buyers?this could be a good arrangement for you! Beware, though? you might have to hunt for a condop that fits your dream home requirements, since “According to a survey of New York City apartment buildings commissioned by the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums in 2005, the city has roughly 6,700 co-op buildings, 2,300 condos and fewer than 300 condops. Happy Hunting!

Pied-A-What?

Ahh… the pied-à-terre, a second home for the busy traveler or often bored suburban inhabitants. French for “foot on the ground,” they can also be used for stashing your mistress! Handy.

Pied-à-terres are the crash pad version of a summer home, and they can be used for anything from a nearly permanent second residence for a commuter to a hotel room of sorts on a random night in the city. Though the apartment itself may not be luxurious, the second home aspect remains a still-important part of the luxury NYC market.

One of the interesting things about the purchase of a pied-à-terre is that the normal comforts of home are not necessarily a worry, such as being in a good school district or even being near a grocery store. It’s all about convenience of transportation and location. Another important thing to consider when purchasing a pied-à-terre is to resign yourself to the fact that you’ll most likely have to buy in a condo. Most co-ops restrict pied-à-terre purchases because they want residents who live there full time. Of course, as in all NYC real estate transactions, there are always grey areas. Make sure your broker double and triple checks with the management company and the board before you buy a pied-à-terre in a co-op!

Always Included

Living in a full service building is a choice that comes with a bunch of perks?including always having someone around to help you out, whether in condo or co-op or condop or pied-a-terre. Depending on the size of the building, there could even be multiple people to watch your FreshDirect delivery.

The Doorman is the staple of full service buildings, helping with packages, hailing cabs, and of course… opening the door. BrickUnderground’s resident doorman spy also considers himself, “a counselor, doctor, psychiatrist, ESPN sports analyst, weatherman, babysitter, friend, matchmaker and drug dealer.” That’s quite a job description. Generally, your doorman is the eyes and ears of the building and it’s always nice to be on their good side. (You can prove how close you are come holiday time?ka-ching.)

A building can also have a concierge (who may or may not be a separate person from the doorman). The concierge’s job includes everything from handling work orders and complaints to arranging for a housekeeper, dogwalker, or car service. They can be there 24 hours a day to make sure you get that dry-cleaning and are usually well versed in the neighborhood to give directions and recommendations.

The superintendent usually runs the show and should always be available to help you out. The super has a wide range of jobs, including managing the repairs of the building and the other staff, keeping common areas clean, and though not the “face” of the building like the doorman, the super should be your main point of contact for small repairs since they usually also live in the building. These people have dedicated their time just to help you out, so show them some love.

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