Co-ops and Condo Corps: A Comprehensive Comparison

You’re just about to pull the trigger and purchase that condo you’ve always dreamed of. You’ve done the walkthrough, met the neighbours, gone over all the documents, and everything looks great. Then, right before you sign on the dotted line, you hear a term you might not have given much thought to previously: co-op.

Ahhhh yes, the alluring siren song of the co-op. It’s like a condo, but better!, you may have had friends tell you. Your uncle Jimmy lived in a co-op for years and loved it!, your Aunt Barb may have posted on your Facebook wall at one point. In reality, the co-op living experience is similar to condo living in nearly every way, but for a few notable exceptions. Get ready, because we’re about to take a deep-dive into the differences between condos and co-ops.

Different Living, Different Laws

One of the key differences between condos and co-ops is the legislations and governing that’s been built up around them. Both sorts of living arrangements are governed provincially, but where condo buildings and their residents adhere to the Alberta Condominium Property Act, co-ops are beholden to a different set of rules and regulations: the Cooperatives Act. These two pieces of legislation go quite in-depth, and as such, we simply don’t have the word count to dissect and compare the differences within the scope of this blog article, but the gist of it is that co-ops are treated less like residential properties and more like corporations by the provincial government, and the legislation follows suit.

In most cases and for most owners, the differences between legislation are detailed and enough in-the-weeds that they’ll generally go unnoticed – but there are further discrepancies between condos and co-ops that are more apparent throughout the course of ownership that we’ll be digging into today.

Who Owns What?

It’s in the case of ownership that some of the starker differences between condos and co-ops start to make themselves known. Most people are familiar enough with condo ownership, in which a resident owns the real estate itself, and has an interest in common areas throughout the property like landscaping, drive lanes, etc.

In a co-op, however, owners don’t technically or necessarily “own” anything. Rather, residents buy shares – just as one might when investing in a corporation – and it is ownership of these shares that entitle them to a portion of the building (aka: their unit).

This has a few different implications for folks looking to call a co-op home. First, in addition to not truly owning any part of the real estate, it means that existing co-op members are given the option to turn down your application for residency. Now, this might sound like a set-up for an incredibly boring sequel to a Mean Girls-type movie, but in reality, it’s actually something of a positive, as this veto power allows the co-op to build a community that’s incredibly tight-knit, well-to-do, and aligned in interests and lifestyles. The negativism here, though, is that when you go to sell your shares, the co-op also has a say in who your shares go to – meaning that depending on the members of the cooperative, you could be in for a lengthy, drawn-out selling process.

Monthly Fees (Maintenance and Otherwise)

This comparison is a bit of a mixed bag, and is really six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other when it comes to determining a clear “winner” between condos and cooperatives.

Insofar as ongoing fees are concerned, condos generally charge owners regular maintenance fees, whether that be on a monthly or quarterly basis. These fees cover everything from snow removal to landscaping, lawn maintenance, and beyond, and are the reason that condo living is so easy and carefree.

Co-ops also charge regular fees, but often at a bit of a higher rate than condo buildings do, and also have a tendency to lump utility charges in with these recurring invoices as well. That said, while co-ops may boast higher maintenance fees than condos do on the regular, co-op residents are far less likely to see a big special assessment notice slipped under their door, so really, this one’s a bit of a bit of a toss-up, if we’re keeping score.

The Same, but Different

We’ve spent some time now outlining the big differences between condos and co-ops – but what about the details these two different living arrangements share in common? As mentioned, there really is more shared between condos and co-ops than what separates them. At the end of the day, both of these living situations are geared towards providing residents with relatively stress-free lifestyles within the confines of a close, tightly-knit community.

Both condos and co-ops are governed by boards that oversee their operations, control their collective finances, and plot a course for the community that residents as a whole can agree is the right direction to pursue.

Both condos and co-ops are governed by a comprehensive set of self-imposed bylaws intended to keep things running on the up-and-up and provide recourse in the event that intervention or board mediation is necessary.

Both condos and co-ops maintain common, public spaces planned for the benefit of the residential community and designed to bring people together in common enjoyment of the place that they live and play.

And finally, both condos and co-ops are made up of residents just like you and I, who are simply looking for a safe, comfortable place to hang their hats at the end of the day.

To tell it plainly, there are more similarities than differences between condos and cooperatives when you compare the two side-by-side. However, it’s worth noting that there are some very key variances between the two that you need to be aware of if you’re thinking of signing up for either one.

For our part, we’ll stick with condos, but we can definitely appreciate those individuals out there who decide that in fact, a co-op is just right for them. To learn more about how condo living stacks up to life in a co-op, or to explore the different ways that condo corporations work with condominium management companies, drop us a line at condo management companies calgary
today. We’re always up for chatting condos and will be happy to help make sure you end up in the place that’s just right for you!

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