For many people, there is a certain comfort in owning a home, instead of renting it. Though it is often viewed as being the wisest investment and a way to build equity, home ownership can often be a very expensive and questionable financial leap for many people when compared to the peace of mind of renting. For those who like the idea of home ownership without the added cost and sole responsibility of home maintenance and repairs, there is today’s word.
Our word, condominium, is a Modern Latin term, meaning ‘joint sovereignty,’ that comes from adding the prefix con, meaning ‘with or together,’ to the word dominium, meaning ‘property or dominion,’ which traces its root to the Latin word for house – domus.
Though we may consider the phraseology of “joint sovereignty” to be a little harsh for real estate and home ownership, it is due to the fact that this word is the product of 18th century Latin treatises in Germany, where 2 claimants would agree to jointly rule a particular area.
The first recorded use of the word occurred around 1715 in Bishop Burnet’s History of His Own Time (1734), stating that: “The Duke of Holstein began to build some new Forts… This, the Danes said, was contrary..to the Condominium, which that King and the Duke have in that Duchy.”
In strictly housing terms, which we have come to nearly universally associate with the term, the first use is surprisingly recent – a 1962 issue of The Economist, which wrote that: “The legal concept of buying a single flat, instead of a share in the whole building, is just making its way in the housing field in the United States where it is known as a ‘condominium’.”
While our word may originate from the 18th century, the actual understanding of the term with regards to an owned domicile within a greater building is surprisingly older. Known records indicate that the first instance of condominium living can be traced back to first century Babylon; however, there is no record of what was considered a common area or how much say the tenants actually had, which can still to the present day be a source of friction.
After falling out of favour for a millennium or 2, the attraction of affordable, low-risk home ownership seems to be picking up steam globally, with structures and varying-models popping up across Asia, Europe, Oceania, and even South Africa – even in the US, where condos are far from a novelty, new construction has been on a continual rise since bottoming out in 2010 during the Great Recession.