Everybody Thinks Condo: Here are the Reasons Your Client May Want to Consider a Co-Op Instead

If your clients are in the market to purchase a home in Chicago, they have a lot of options. When they see “co-op,” their first instinct might be to keep on clicking, but they shouldn’t. Unlike a condo, your clients aren’t buying an individual unit. Instead, they buy shares in a corporation that owns the entire building and get a stake-hold to a specific unit. This may sound crazy, but it totally works. Here’s why.


In Chicago, as in New York and Washington, D.C., many co-op buildings are in highly sought-after locations that take advantage of great views. In Chicago, co-op buildings line Lake Shore Drive from the Gold Coast up to Evanston with views of the lake, city and green space. Exit any one of these buildings and you are surrounded by shopping, restaurants and transportation, not to mention unparalleled access to miles of lakefront path and parks.


Many co-ops give your clients more space. They benefit from unique floor plans that you don’t find in modern construction. You often get fewer units on one floor, or maybe even a whole floor to yourself. Co-ops may also span multiple levels as a duplex up or duplex down. Transition spaces, like grand entryways and barrel-vaulted hallways, plenty of closets and large storage spaces add to the value.

Price per Square Foot.

There is value in a co-op. The price per square foot is the ultimate value proposition in Chicago, as compared to a condo.


Walking into a co-op building, you are immediately greeted by door staff, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Package delivery, no problem. Solicitors, absolutely not. Help with parcels, hailing a cab, or preventing an Uber from driving away — yes, yes and yes. This gate-keeper provides your clients with peace of mind and service.


Some people think that a co-op’s purpose is to keep people out. However, the goal of a co-op is to create comfortable communal living. It’s like a real neighborhood under one roof. Most co-ops in Chicago do not allow apartments to be rented out, although a few allow rentals on a limited basis. Rental restrictions foster a less transient environment, so your clients will know your neighbors — all of them.

Ultimate Bundling.

If your clients like to bundle services and dislike paying multiple bills, then a co-op might be for them. These buildings are incredibly well-run, and assessments often include all the building essentials, including common insurance, lawn care, trash removal (scavenger) and snow removal, in addition to heat, water, gas, tv/cable, door staff and property taxes. How’s that for the ultimate bundle?!

Co-op Considerations.

There are a few things your clients should consider when buying a co-op:
  • Not all co-ops allow mortgages and if they do, they may require at least 25 percent down.
  • Your clients will pay their unit’s share of the corporation’s property tax each month as part of the assessment. Taxes tend to be lower in a co-op compared to a condo in the same sales price range.
  • Board approval. Your clients will most likely have to complete a Thomas Report – an in-depth review of finances and background check.

Finding the Right Co-op for You.

Chicago works on relationships. To find the right co-op for your clients, off market or otherwise, you need to work your REALTOR® connections. Consult with Chicago REALTORS® who have a personal connection with the co-op buildings and the people buying and selling their units. With a little research and networking, you can help your clients find the co-op of their dreams, with enough space and lakefront views to make all their friends want to live the co-op life, too! Author: Lauren Shell of the Julie Harron Real Estate Group, Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty