I lived in NYC for 18 years, I have been living in Madrid for 12 but I have a condominium in NYC. NYC as far as I know is unique in the world on its system of property ownership, especially the Coop. Coops are one the most surreal form of property ownership that you can imagine (the other one being the London thing that your grandchildren lose your apartment to some noble person). Basically Coops are buildings in which you don´t really own your apartment but you own shares in a corporation that can exclude anyone for any reason. Coops are a way that certain New Yorkers found to increase the probability that their neighbors will be somebody they like and abide by all the weird rules that the shareholders may want to have (in one coop of mine my downstairs neighbor forced me to cover my beautiful wooden floors with wall to wall carpet because he said he could hear me walk). Among the unusual rules of Coops there´s the one that you cannot sell your apartment to anyone you like but it has to be sold to someone that the others like and they do not need to explain why they don´t like him/her. Also many coops don´t allow you to have guests stay at your apartment when you travel, or rent your apartment out. Lastly Coops are entitled to look at the finances of somebody who buys into the building as if they were the IRS. Condominiums on the other side are a system that is similar to the style of ownership that there is say in Paris or Madrid but in my case they still ask you about your finances to make sure you can afford the expenses. In my view all they should do is ask you that proof that you can pay the expenses and not about all your assets.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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andi on July 26, 2007  · 

The only alternative to renting in Sweden are “bostadsrätter”, similar to NYC coops, but nowhere near as discriminatory. Getting approved by the board is usually just a formality as the discrimination that goes on in NYC would not be legal here. Still, you cannot rent your apartment without board approval (sometimes denied in my buildning) and you have to ask for permission for major renovations (almost always allowed in my building). But getting rid of someone that doesn´t follow other rules (like playing loud music after 23.00) can be quite difficult, the board has to go through the courts.

About finances: people’s salaries, net worth, etc is public information in Sweden (MAJOR culture shock for many foreigners) and very easy to obtain. Everybody knows everybody else’s salaries but I doubt boards check as it is be easier to get rid of somebody that doesn’t pay the monthly expenses than to deny someone membership.

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Antoin O Lachtnain on July 26, 2007  · 

The thing about the coop though is the way that it is geared. The coop has a mortgage that finances the building. As a result of this,when someone new joins a coop, the rest of the members are essentially going into business with him/her. I guess that justifies being a bit more careful. But the whole coop interviews thing seems like an occasion for sin. It is just too easy to enforce your prejudices against some unfortunate person, either by refusing to let them join (which actually isn’t too bad) or by refusing to accept any of an existing members’ prospective purchasers (which could financially cripple somebody).

With any apartment, you aren’t really buying real property. The square footage of actual ground you have an indirect claim on is tiny. You are essentially buying a share in a community, and the value of your apartment is going to be proportionate to the strength of that community.

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Fernando López de Ayala on July 26, 2007  · 

Do your neighbors really ask you about your finances to make sure you can afford the expenses of your condo?

Come on Martin, we all know about your finances and properties… Ask them to read your blog!

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Sergio Fogel on July 26, 2007  · 

I heard of some coops that do not allow children. When your first child is born you have a few months to sell.

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Sergio Fogel on July 26, 2007  · 

There are some other interesting financing models. In France there is something called “reverse mortgage”. It is catered to old people, whose main (or only) asset is their home. In practice, they stay to live in the house, and receive a monthly payment for life. The catch is that when they die, the bank keeps the property. Formally, you sell the house to the bank, which pays for it in lifetime installments, and rents it back to you for life.

A strange scheme used in Bolivia is called anticretico. The owner “rents” an appartment to someone, but instead of receiving a monthly rental, he or she receives a large amount of money. When the apartment is returned, the capital is returned.

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