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When is a house not a house? Property types and ways you can own them can vary as much as the color if you wanted something different. With that said most home buyers will buy their house and own it in the same way as almost everyone else in the country. In this section I just want to mention a two common alternative styles and some of the legal ways to take title of the house so you can be familiar with them when you see them.

Condominium ownership really includes two pieces. First you own the specific unit that you live in. In addition you share membership in the condominium association. The association owns the common areas. As an owner you may use the common areas whether that means a blade of grass or an 18-hole golf course. In addition to your mortgage you must pay property taxes and common charges to the condominium association to keep up the common areas as well as parts of the buildings considered common such as the roof.

Co-op apartments or houses have an even more unique legal status. Ownership of the “property” involved in co-op remains with a corporation. As owners you do not really own property at all. Instead you own certain shares of the corporation. Your shares link to a specific unit and you get a lease on that unit and the right to live there. In addition to any loan you took to buy the shares you will pay monthly fees to the corporation each month similar to condominium common charges.

When two of more people own property together they choose one of these three ways to own it most of the time:

  • Tenants in Common - Each person shares ownership in the property, when one dies their share goes to their heirs of the one who died.
  • Joint Tenants - Each person shares ownership in the property, when one dies the other living owner(s) get their share.
  • Tenants by the Entirety - Only for a husband and wife. When one spouse dies the living spouse gets their share. Under certain situations where one spouse loses their share the remaining spouse may have special additional rights that will prevent a forced sale or eviction by the party gaining the other spouse’s share.

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Edited and suplimented by Mory Brenner, Esq. For more information read our terms of use and privacy policy.