Condominiums have undergone a remarkable development, now that the laws permit individuals to own housing units in multiple-unit structures.

Condo owners can deduct property taxes and interest just as individual homeowners do. Generally, condos cost less for the same space, because a bunch of units cost less to build and the land cost is shared by more owners. Taxes tend to be lower for a condo than for a similar space in an individual house. Whether units actually cost less depends on location as well as supply and demand, as for other segments of the housing market.

A condo often will offer benefits not available in a single-family house. For example, a high-rise condo may look over other buildings to a lake, ocean shore or mountains. A low-rise condo might occupy a choice waterfront site that no single family could afford.

Shared amenities such as swimming pool, social hall and tennis courts add value to basic living space that would not be a part of a single-family home. Thus, the cost of a condo could be equal to or exceed an individual house on its own lot. But the package is different. Comparing prices only, without noting the elements, becomes an "apples and oranges" comparison.

Numerous disadvantages also may accrue to condominium dwellers. Some people object to high-density housing, shared parking spaces and common halls. Sometimes nolise between walls or floors may be distracting or objectionable,

Another potential hazard for condo woners is the association for managing the common areas -- those parts of the condominium complex that are owned by everyone. Common areas include the front walk and entrance, elevators (if any), lawn and grounds, swimming pool, roof and others.

Maintaining the structure is another shared cost administered by the owners association. When an owners association is run by and for the benefit of all the owners, the costs are likely to be fair and reasonable.

But if the association is controlled by the developer or builder with a profit built in, costs could be higher. This is a point worth investigating.

For an older person or couple, a condominium offers these potential benefits:

Owned living space can be less expensive, as noted earlier, if one selects a unit without expensive amenities. It can be a hedge against inflation.

Maintenance problems with the outside, roof and grounds are avoided, as these are shared responsibilities managed by the owners association. For retirees uninterested or unable to maintain their own houses, this facet of housing can be important.

Condo complexes frequently provide for security control. This service can be particularly important when a resident may be traveling or away for days or weeks at a time.