It's much more difficult to buy a house with a yard if you live in the city. So think about apartment living instead. However, buying an apartment can be much more complicated than buying a single-family dwelling. First, you need to decide if you want to live in a co-op or a condo (condominium) and since they each have a different legal status, you need to understand the differences involved.


When you buy into a co-op you are buying shares in the legal entity that owns the building, which is often a limited stock company. The co-op then gives you a "proprietary lease" on the apartment. Many co-ops have restrictions on who is allowed to move into the building, and you have to be approved by a vote of the building committee or board of directors. Many co-op committees have very restrictive rules and require prior approval before you can rent out your apartment, or even have pets. So check the rules carefully before signing on the dotted line. Mortgages are usually more difficult to get for a co-op and you will probably need a larger down payment too. Take good advice from a realtor who has a lot of experience with co-op's to help you avoid the pitfalls. Once you are a 'shareholder' in the co-op and moved in, getting involved with the building management will enable you to make sure that the building is being managed properly.


When you buy an apartment in a condo you buy the apartment itself and get a deed of ownership. The shared spaces like the halls and corridors are owned and managed jointly by the homeowners association. One of the things to consider is how well the building is managed as you may have high maintenance charges to consider. Unlike a co-op where the building is usually managed by the shareholders, in a condo the building is very often professionally managed by a management company. Condos also often have amenities like laundry rooms, saunas, and even swimming pools and roof gardens. Of course, your maintenance charges will reflect this, so it is very important to find out what your monthly outgoings will be. Co-ops may have some of these amenities too, but as they are normally non-profit legal entities, they may not have sufficient funds to afford the more high-end amenities. Condos also have rules or bylaws of the homeowners association so make sure you give them to your lawyer for approval.

Maintenance Costs

Whether you buy into a co-op or condo there are regular costs to take into account. The cost of cleaning communal areas, communal electricity, and the maintenance of the elevator are usually paid in monthly fees, which are in addition to your mortgage costs. In a higher-end co-op or condo you may also have to take into account the salary of the supervisor, doorman, concierge, or other staff.

There is also the general maintenance of the building and grounds, parking garages or other amenities. If the regular maintenance charges seem very low or almost nonexistent then you need to find out how the maintenance of the roof and the painting of the outside of the building are paid for. You don't want to be caught with having to pay your share of a new roof if you've only just moved in.

Getting Advice

When you buy into a condo or co-op having a realtor or real estate agent to walk you through all the legal requirements is even more important than when you buy a single home dwelling.