What exactly is this thing that's called|
Is it a condominium?
Do I rent it? Do I own it?
It's confusing, sometimes, to understand just what a housing cooperative is, and how it differs from renting or from purchasing a condo. The most important thing to remember, however, is that there definitely is a difference! We'll try to explain.
Let's begin with the word "cooperative," because that truly explains what we're all about. When you become a member of Park Forest Cooperative - Birch Street Townhomes housing cooperative, you enter into a "cooperative" agreement with your neighbors whereby each of you owns one share of stock in the corporation called "Park Forest Cooperative."
The share of stock you own entitles you to live in the townhome you choose when you become a member. The value of that share of stock is determined by what the market will bear for the living standards offered by that townhome. If, for example, a number of decorative improvements have been made, the market usually will yield a higher value for that share of stock. In other words, some people are willing to pay more for that share of stock because the townhome offers more amenities than another might.
This arrangement is different from a condominium purchase, where you actually buy the real estate. In purchasing a co-op, the cooperative agreement into which you enter allows for certain long-term maintenance and beautification to be paid for by the corporation with funds that have been collected with your monthly carrying charges. In a condominium, the association often levies large assessments to cover things such as roof repairs or landscaping, and you are responsible personally for paying plumbers or electricians for costs associated with the upkeep of your townhouse.
You might also wonder how your monthly carrying charge is different from rent that is paid to a landlord.
Well, first of all, there is no landlord in a co-op! Because the residents own the corporation, they are their own landlords. The staff works for the corporation at the direction of the Board of Directors. As a result, no profit motive comes into play and your monthly carrying charges are considerably less than rental charges for comparable townhouses.
Secondly, some of what you pay in carrying charges pays real estate taxes on the property and you - as a partial owner of the corporation - are allowed to deduct that cost when filing your income taxes. Likewise, you would receive a deduction for your share of the interest paid on the corporation's mortgage if it has a mortgage. (At this time Park Forest Cooperative - Birch Street Townhomes does not have a mortgage.)
Finally, a small amount of your carrying charges also is held in reserve to protect you from catastrophic costs in the case of emergency repairs or other major corporate expenses. The reserves are carefully watched by the Board of Directors to assure that they accurately reflect what emergency costs might be.