Difference between Co-op Fee and Condo Fee Explained and Simplified

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties DC AB15253




There are not many co-ops in the Washington DC area, although some of the older buildings like the Westchester and the Broadmoor are co-ops, and the Watergate buildings all are co-ops. The most recent co-op to be built in DC is the Capitol Hill Tower, a nine year old high rise just south of Capitol Hill. One of my favorite buildings in the Chastleton which recently converted to co-ops from a rental apartment building.

A major distinguishing factor of co-op living is the maintenance fee. Shareholders are required to pay a monthly maintenance fee to cover communal expenses such as property taxes, payments on the underlying mortgage, repairs, and maintenance. The maintenance fee ranges from negligible to substantial, so it’s important to understand the difference between a condo fee and a co-op fee. Once you understand the difference in principal, it may make the concept of a co-op less foreign. You may have just opened up a whole new part of the city to explore when you put co-ops back into your search.


It is important to remember that co-op fees and condo fees are not the same.  Many people balk at the maintenance or co-op fees which typically are higher than similarly sized condos.  You have to look at what is included in those fees. For instance, if you focus  just on the amount of the maintenance fee (which covers utilities and amenities and repairs) by subtracting the taxes, underlying mortgage payment, and property insurance from the co-op fee total, you may discover that the co-op fee is comparable to a condo building with similar services.  A good listing agent will lay this out as part of the marketing package. If not, your buyer's agent should be able to research it for you.

In addition, if the co-op fee includes all the utilities (gas and electric in addition to water) then you wll realize that the co-op fee is actually even less than you had previously thought. Some co-ops include water and sewer, gas, electric, heat, and internet service in their fees.  At the end of each year, you will get a statement from the co-op detailing how much you paid in property taxes and underlying mortgage so that you can declare that on your tax return.

If you would like more information about co-ops in DC or you have one to sell, please give the Lise Howe Group a call at 240-401-5577 or email us at lise@lisehowe.com.  Don't you want to work with a realtor who understands the intricacies of cooperatives? Some of my favorite buildings in all of DC are co-ops so it would be a shame to eliminate them at the start. The additional good news is that coops are frequently larger than their comparably priced condos -- because of the confusion about what the value of the coop fee is. That coop may actually be a good deal! So.... give us a call and get our list of favorite coops currently on the market - the ones that represent the REALLY good value! 


Comments (20)

Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

This is good information for prospective purchasers. You should blog about how to finance a cooperative purchase.

Apr 17, 2015 10:49 PM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

GReat information...not common in our part of the country....Buyers need this kind of information to be "ready" buyers.

Apr 17, 2015 10:51 PM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Roy Kelley - I had actually started writing a blog about financing a coop and then decided to do this one first -but that is the next blog - probably tomorrow - and all because of your great suggestion - then I think I will work on a blog or two a week about the coops in DC - who finances them - underlying mortgage, amenities, etc etc - sort of what I am doing with condo buildings in Bethesda- so much to do so little time - but you were the inspiration for this post and the next one to come! Thanks Roy!

Apr 17, 2015 10:58 PM
Roger D. Mucci
Shaken...with a Twist 216.633.2092 - Euclid, OH
Lets shake things up at your home today!

Excellent post.  Clear and concise explanation of both fees Lise.

Apr 17, 2015 11:32 PM
Noah Seidenberg
Coldwell Banker - Evanston, IL
Chicagoland and Suburbs (800) 858-7917

Very important information Lise. I always get these questions.

Apr 17, 2015 11:51 PM
John McCormack, CRS
Albuquerque Homes Realty - Albuquerque, NM
Honesty, Integrity, Results, Experienced. HIRE Me!

Good Saturday morning Realtor Lise Howe -

You have provided excellent information for those purchasing a co-op or condo.  Now they will know the difference and what to expect in fees. 

Apr 18, 2015 12:40 AM
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
HomeSmart - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Lise - Great information for anyone looking to buy in your area. Now they will be able to compare co-ops with condo's, and have a much better understanding of their fees.

Apr 18, 2015 03:44 AM
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
Fathom Realty Washington LLC - Tacoma, WA
South Puget Sound Washington Agent/Broker!

Co-ops are pretty much nonexistent here in Washington State however I found your post interesting and easy to understand , Lise Howe 

Apr 18, 2015 07:24 AM
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Lise I did not know the difference between an Co-Op Fee and Condo Fee, but after reading your blog I have a much better handle on it.

Apr 18, 2015 08:27 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

George Souto  thank you. That means a lot to me that I clarified the issues for you

Apr 18, 2015 10:08 AM
Wayne Johnson
Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS® - San Antonio, TX
San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale

 Lise Howe -Thanks for the information. I have not seen that type ownership model in our area up to now.  But if I see it in the future, I will understand the concept.

Apr 18, 2015 10:17 AM
Rob Thomas
Prestige Homes of The Tri Cities, Inc. CALL....423-341-6954 - Bristol, TN
Bristol TN-VA & Tri Cities Agent, ABR, GRI, e-Pro

Yes, great info for buyers and a great explanation post

Apr 18, 2015 11:58 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Wayne Johnson - Interesting that there are no coops in the San Antonio area - they are very popular in New York, relatively common here and apparently common in Chicago according to Noah Seidenberg - but you have lots of other wonderful things in San Antonio! 

Apr 18, 2015 12:48 PM
James Dray
Fathom Realty - Bentonville, AR

Morning Lise, I can't recall but I don't believe we have a co-ops in this area.  

Apr 18, 2015 07:43 PM
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Excellent information Lise.  It's not the amount, but what you get for that fee that's important.

Apr 18, 2015 09:28 PM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Lise ~ a great explanation. Having sold real estate in NYC in the 1990's where most properties were coops and having owned a few coops myself, I'm more than a little familiar with the differences. But coop ownership for most people is a mystery and needs careful explanation.

Apr 18, 2015 09:33 PM
Lawrence "Larry" & Sheila Agranoff. Cell: 631-805-4400
The Top Team @ Charles Rutenberg Realty 255 Executive Dr, Plainview NY 11803 - Plainview, NY
Long Island Condo and Home Specialists

It can be confusing Lise. Not only do buyers not understand the difference, many Realtors don't know them either. Good explanation!

Apr 18, 2015 11:01 PM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Lise, great explanation, as in this part of the country, we do not have co-ops, so relocating buyers will love this post! 

Apr 18, 2015 11:53 PM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Pasadena And Southern California 818.516.4393

Hi Lise - while most of our buildings have long converted from co-ops to condos(or were never co-ops) your post certainly proves knowledge is power. When understanding the nuances of any real estate term, it often doesn't appear as scary or intimidating as it once did.   

Apr 19, 2015 01:04 AM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Lise, this is a good explanation of the differences between co-op and condo fees.  To my knowledge, we do not have co-ops in Dallas.

Apr 19, 2015 07:57 AM