A condominium is a form of real estate which is separated in various units within a building with each unit being owned separately. The term is commonly shortened to simply ‘condo’, and units are typically surrounded with common areas that are jointly owned and shared.
Traditional residential condominiums have commonly been designed and built similar to apartment buildings with multiple units per building. Depending on the architectural design buildings may have multiple condominiums per floor, or a single condo that takes up the entire level of a building.
In recent years, detached condominiums have become an increasing trend. In this sense, the building looks similar to single-family houses with a yard and exterior features. The streets, yard and exterior features of detached condos are jointly owned, maintained, and shared by community associations.
While apartments get leased out by tenants, the condo unit is purchased. Meanwhile, the owner of the individual unit jointly owns sections of the property known as the common areas, including walkways, hallways, laundry rooms, and so on. In addition to these areas, certain amenities and utilities are considered to be ‘common’ with owners being jointly responsible, including elevators, HVAC systems, along with others.
Many times, individual office space and retail stores within shopping malls consist of industrial condominiums, where each business space is individually owned by the operating business occupying the space. Meanwhile, the common areas include the walkways, escalators, parking lot, etc. The common areas of the mall are jointly owned by the business entities.
Furthermore, common areas, utilities and amenities are managed and maintained collectively by the condominium owners indirectly through the community association. One example being a homeowner association.
Condominiums have been traced back through history. According to scholars, the earlier condo known was referenced in a document dating back to 1st century Babylon, with the word condominium originating from Latin.
In most provinces in Canada and throughout the United States, condominium is a term that is commonly referred to as ‘condo’. Meanwhile, in provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, In the Canadian Province of Quebec, copropriete divise is the official term, meaning co-property devise. However, both condominium and condo are colloquially used.
In countries like New Zealand and Australia refer to them as Strata title. Furthermore, the term commonhold is used to describe these types of real estate within the United Kingdom, while sectional title is the term used in South Africa.
In Italy, modern types of condominiums are called condominio. Meanwhile in France, the term used ‘copropriete’ simply means ‘co-property’. Additionally, the common areas of these type of properties are commonly managed by a co-property union, similar to a group association.
In Spanish speaking regions of the world, these types of real estate are commonly called propiedad horizontal, which translates into ‘horizontal property’. However, the term means each property owner has an equal interest, but they also use the word condominio.
The word condominium originates from a Latin word (dominium), which means property, domain, and/or ownership and adding the prefix con-, which means ‘together’. Thus, con- and dominium literally translates into ‘shared property’.
The Latin plural for condominium is Condominia, which had originally referenced territories that had multiple sovereign powers sharing the dominion jointly. This was a technique commonly used for settling disputes over boarder problems when an agreement could not be decided among multiple claimants regarding how to dispute territory partitions.
For instance, between 1818 and 1846, Oregon Country had been a condominium whereas both Great Britain and the United States jointly shared sovereignty, prior to Oregon joining the USA as a state.
The only difference between a condominium and an apartment complex is entirely legal. There is no visible difference when visiting or looking at a building. The type of ownership defines a condominium over an apartment. When buildings are developed for the purpose of selling condominiums, individual units are sold to separate owners. The exact layout could be constructed in another location and have units leased out as apartments, where individual units would retain ownership with the developers, while being rented out to various tenants.
Generally speaking, when a building is constructed with the purpose of selling condominiums, it is common for higher quality materials and attention to detail to go into the project, compared to building for leasing apartment buildings. The reason for this is due to the differences that exist between the sale and rental markets. Whereas, with condominiums each unit is sold outright to the new owner, who takes over responsibility for the unit, utilities, and any additional features. However, with apartment complexes the developers often have to lease the same unit to multiple tenants over a period of time, and can be held responsible for various features, in addition to any needed repairs that may occur between tenants.
In technical terms, condominiums are collections of individual units with a common area and land which it sits upon. Ownership of an individual home unit within the condominium is limited to the space within the boundaries of the home unit. A legal document specifies the boundaries of the home unit, this is referred to as a Declaration, which is filed and on record with local governing authorities. Usually the boundaries of a condominium unit include the walls surrounding the condominium, which allows the owner to make interior customizations without affecting the common areas. Meanwhile, areas outside the boundaries of the purchased unit is considered to have undivided ownership interests and managed by a corporation or association which was established when the condominium was constructed. The property is held by the corporation in trust on the homeowner’s behalf as a group, and itself might not have ownership.