Are Condos A Uniquely American Phenomenon?

Anyone looking to buy a home in the US has heard of the concept of a condominium. It is a very popular form of homeownership that has specific conditions and comes with certain benefits. What is interesting is that it seems to be a very American concept.

A condo has a very specific meaning. The word is not just used for any apartment building or co-op. Condo owners also need a condo insurance policy, as they differ from any other type of housing unit. In order to understand why they are popular in America and if there are equivalents in other countries, let’s first discuss what exactly a condo is.

What is a condo?

A condominium refers to a building with multiple housing units, each owned by individual owners. The surrounding space and common areas are owned by every owner.

How does a condo differ from an apartment? Apartment buildings are generally owned by investors, and each unit is rented out to tenants who can have no ownership.

A condo is the most accessible form of homeownership in many parts of the US, considering that it is much more affordable than buying a freestanding property. It is also the logical next step for many people who are living in rented apartments.

The concept of a condo does not sound like it should be unique to America. After all, there are people living in flats around the world, and many of these people own their units. However, in some regions the specifics differ.

Condos around the world

Condos are a popular form of homeownership in Canada, but it is not just our neighbors who have embraced the concept. In Denmark, Germany, Finland, and many other European countries, condos are widespread, although they are named differently. In contrast, the UK’s equivalent to a condo – called a commonhold – is so uncommon that in 2009 there were fewer than 150 units throughout the UK.

All of that being said, no one has quite embraced the concept of the condo like America, where it is extremely common in many big cities. Why is this the case?

Why America loves condos

One of the most obvious reasons that condos are popular in big American cities is that there is limited space. Apartment buildings are, of course, prevalent, but many city-dwellers want to own the place they live in.

Buying a condo is also an excellent way of becoming a homeowner without many of the stresses of homeownership. Since many young Americans start out renting apartments, they find the lifestyle appealing. They contribute to the HOA, and take care of their own units, but major issues are dealt with by those who have taken up management roles.

Living in a condo is therefore convenient, and also allows people to focus on things like work and family. With a fast-paced lifestyle in crowded cities, where work takes on a huge level of importance, this is ideal.

The future of homeownership?

For many, ownership of a freestanding home is the ultimate ambition. This kind of ownership provides full independence, without the worry of stepping on someone else’s toes or having to ask for permission. They get to build a place of freedom and comfort. A condo will always fall short in this sense, as neighbors are way too close to ignore.

However, in a more globalized world, condo ownership makes sense. Many younger Americans don’t want to live in the same home all their lives. They want the option of moving to another city or country, trying out a new lifestyle, and starting over again without having a whole house to deal with.

Condos make sense to Americans, but we’re not the only ones embracing the freedom they offer. That said, they do have a distinctly American flavor.


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