Apartment Tips

What’s the Difference Between a Condo and an Apartment?

June 18, 2019
what's the difference between an apartment and a condo

Maybe you’re ready to think about buying, or you’re hunting for a new place to live and are just confused by the terminology. What’s the difference between a condo and an apartment, anyway?

On the outside, it may appear as though a condo and an apartment are interchangeable terms for one another, but that’s not the case. Each property has its own specific features, as well as its perks. Read on to find out which one’s right for you — buying or renting.

First, let’s define each housing option:

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What Is a Condo?

In most cases, a condo sits within a building full of similar units, and their owners will either occupy them or rent them out to tenants. You will buy your condo like you would a single-family home, thus becoming a homeowner in your own right — or the person in charge, should you choose to rent the place out at some point down the line.

What Is an Apartment?

In an apartment, a landlord or property management company will likely maintain the unit you live in. In fact, they will take care of all the apartments within your building, community or complex. To that end, the units will feature identical or very similar layouts, and you can typically find your property manager on the premises since they’re in charge of the entire operation, not just a single unit.

renovating your condo

What’s the Difference Between a Condo and an Apartment?

As a potential tenant or buyer, you can find both apartments and condos with similar features. The difference lies in the ownership and who you report to as a tenant. In a condo, you will be the owner of your unit, which means you can make the rules yourself. Plus, you can make cosmetic changes — although you might have to answer to the building’s homeowner’s association if your plans affect any of the common areas or community standards.

In an apartment complex, though, the property management firm will set up the guidelines, and a manager will enforce them. As for cosmetic changes, they have to be done carefully — you can’t damage the rented property in which you live unless you want to pay a fee or lose your deposit.

There’s no clear-cut answer as to which is better, since it all comes down to personal preference. Here are some other factors to consider.

1. The Look of the Place

As a condo owner, you can revamp the place with a personal flair, whether by painting the walls or upgrading some of its features. You might find you prefer to live in a space with a bit more character. Who wouldn’t want to create a home with swanky features, like modern appliances, hardwood floors or stone countertops? Best of all, as the condo’s owner, you don’t have to answer to anyone. You can change these things based on your own preferences and no one else’s.

You might see such features in an apartment, too, but it’s much less likely. One thing you definitely won’t have is the individuality of a condo. Although you can find ways to decorate your rental without violating the rules, you won’t be able to personalize it in the way a condo owner can. Plus, your unit will look the same as your neighbors’. If this bothers, you, then you might have to search for a rentable condo.

painting condo

2. Maintenance

Having a property manager on site can have its perks. If you have a problem in your apartment, you have someone available on-site to get maintenance to fix whatever’s out of order. This feature is often seen as one of the biggest perks of apartment living.

In a condo, maintenance depends on your efforts — and your cash. You have to call in the help, so it depends how quickly you do so and who you bring in. On the other side of the coin, your condo might have upgraded appliances and features that make maintenance visits fewer and farther between.

3. Price and Payments

Buying a condo will have a higher upfront cost than renting an apartment. However, once you’ve signed a mortgage and moved in, you should pay about the same each month as an apartment renter in the area. Depending on your financial situation and the money you put down, you may even pay less.

In a condo, you’re also likely to have to pay HOA fees, which go toward the upkeep of the building where you live. Before you buy a condo, make sure you ask plenty of questions about these costs and what they support.

As an apartment renter, your living expenses may not be too different from the mortgage payment and taxes a condo owner in your area pays each month. However, you’ll be depositing money in your landlord’s account rather than earning home equity. Whether this is good or bad ultimately depends on your lifestyle and goals, but many condo buyers are interesting in taking ownership of their space.

what's the difference between an apartment and a condo

4. Rules

Finally, you might want to look into how your property will be regulated, whether by a landlord or a property manager. In a condo, of course, the HOA will set rules for the common areas of your building. These might include what your responsibilities are as a tenant and where you can store your trash.

This doesn’t mean these policies make for draconian living, however. For the most part, rules will be set to protect everyone’s investments. Comfortingly, 62% of Americans feel that their HOA protects and enhances their property values.

Inside your domain, you’re usually the boss — which is where condo life really departs from apartment living. It can be freeing to buy a place and have full control over how you run it. If you want to paint your walls, then it’s strictly your decision.

A property manager for an apartment serves as both the HOA and the landlord. They’ll set the rules for all areas, and they’ll enforce them. It’s their job to keep units in tip-top shape, so they’ll be keeping track of violations and damage. These transgressions can cost money, too. It all depends on who you get, but most condo owners tend to be more relaxed than property managers about such regulations.

apartment vs condo

The Difference Between Apartments and Condos

Now that you know the difference between these two housing options, which one’s the better choice for you? That’s one question we can’t answer — you’re the one who has to decide! However, the above information should make it simpler for you to choose between renting an apartment and buying a condo. Ultimately, it comes down to whether you’re ready to invest in homeownership and find the community to your liking.

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