Benefits of Buying a Cooperative in DC

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties DC AB15253

Buying a cooperative, also known as a co-op, can offer several benefits depending on your personal goals and circumstances. Here are some reasons why you might consider buying a cooperative:

Affordable Housing: Co-ops are often more affordable than traditional homeownership options. When you buy into a cooperative, you become a  shareholder in the cooperative corporation rather than owning the physical unit. This shared ownership structure can reduce the upfront costs, making it more accessible to individuals or families with limited financial resources.  In addition, because the market for co-ops tends to be limited in the DC metro area, prices also tend to be lower than similarly sized condos.   You have to evaluate the value of the space versus a quick sale to determine whether a co-op is a good decision for you. 

Community and Participation: Co-ops emphasize a sense of community and collective decision-making. As a member of the cooperative, you have the opportunity to participate in the governance and decision-making processes. This can provide a greater sense of belonging and control over your living environment, as decisions regarding maintenance, upgrades, and other matters are typically made collectively by the members.  This is not actually different than in a condominium community which also provides an opportunity to participate in the governance and decision-making processes. 

Shared Expenses: In a cooperative, members share the costs of maintaining and managing the property. This includes expenses such as property taxes, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and utilities. By pooling resources, individual members can benefit from economies of scale and potentially lower overall costs compared to owning an individual property.  The biggest differences between a co-op and a condo is that the taxes are paid by co-op on behalf of the entire community whereas each condo owner is responsible for the property taxes for that individual condo and the co-op may take out an underlying mortgage. 

Possibly More Restrictions on Purchase: Because the co-op community shares responsibility  for payment of more common expenses such as taxes and underlying mortgages, the co-op association is going to look carefully at the financial viability of anyone moving into the community.  If a condo owner does not pay his property taxes, then that condo owner is at risk of losing the individual property at a tax sale.  However, if enough co-op owners do not pay the coop fees which goes toward the tax payments, then the entire building is at risk of being lost to a tax sale. 

It's important to note that cooperative ownership also comes with some considerations. The decision-making process can sometimes be slower, and you may have to comply with specific rules and regulations set by the cooperative. Additionally, it may be challenging to sell your cooperative share in the future, as the market for co-op units can be more limited compared to traditional real estate. Therefore, it's essential to carefully evaluate your personal preferences, financial situation, and long-term goals before deciding to buy a cooperative.

If all this makes you want to buy a co-op, just click here to see what is available in the DC co-op market right now. 

Comments (13)

Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Good morning, Lise... of course, when I sold real estate in New York City 95% of my sales were coops... and it's all I ever lived in myself. We've only a handful of coops in Charlotte and in 25 years I haven't sold a single one.

Jun 06, 2023 05:42 AM
Brian England
Ambrose Realty Management LLC - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

I don't know a lot about co-ops so I just learned quite a bit from your post and it has me wondering if perhaps a co-op, rather than a condo community might be best for a development that I am working on.

Jun 06, 2023 05:45 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Lise - in real estate and life, learning different choices can expand understanding.  Of course, being mindful of the advantages/disadvantages remains a part of the bigger picture.  

Jun 06, 2023 06:15 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Lise, we don't have coops here in Denver, so very interesting you have them in DC.

Jun 06, 2023 06:52 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good afternoon Lise,

What an insightful post! We don't have co-ops here and I have never sold one! There are always advantages and disadvantages so its good to know all the opportunities out there, depending on your circumstances for living arrangements. 

Jun 06, 2023 12:38 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Lise great advice, now in Boston & Los Angeles where I sold real estate Coops were and are a minority, and part of the problem is that lenders are few to find as well, Endre

Jun 06, 2023 10:52 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Lise- good explanation. We don't have co-ops here but for those moving to your area and are unfamiliar with co-ops this is definitely a must read. 

Jun 07, 2023 11:55 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

This is interesting information to share with families considering a move to the area.

Dolores and I owned a cooperative unit at the Virginia House at Virginia Beach for many years. Our 9th floor location had a direct ocean view.

Jun 10, 2023 06:52 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Lise:

This is excellent education for those who might not really understand how a co-op works and the pros, and cons, of owning one. I learned quite a bit! That is quite a range of prices in the list of homes for sale!


Jun 10, 2023 02:40 PM
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Hello Lise Howe thank you for sharing very valuable market report with us. Have a wonderful great week!

Jun 11, 2023 08:26 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

Lise, Cooperative ownership has more important factors to consider. The process takes longer than a condo, and a buyer needs to realize there are specific co-op regulations. However, this s a good option for many.

Jun 12, 2023 07:30 AM
Kimo Stowell
HI Pro Realty LLC RB-21531 - Honolulu, HI
REALTOR Associate® RS-76763 - Honolulu Hawai'i

Aloha Lise Howe, we have a few co-ops here in Honolulu and from my experience, co-ops work for some and definitely not for others. The secret to successfully buying-in to a co-op is found in the name, cooperative i.e. cooperate. Be prepared to co-operate not negotiate. 

Generally speaking it is a process that takes more effort and time with more oversight from the co-op board. If you are a person that wants to make changes and do things your way, your first interview with the co-op board will reflect the intransigence you will inevitable face with virtually everything related to your percentage / living environment. Excellent post.

Jun 12, 2023 01:25 PM
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Platinum - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Great post!  Thanks for sharing and enjoy your day!

Jun 15, 2023 06:29 AM