Apartment vs. Condo: What’s the Difference?


What’s the difference between an apartment and a condo? In terms of physical attributes, nothing. The difference stems from ownership, with apartment units housed within a complex owned by a single entity, often a corporation, and then leased out to individual tenants. Condo units are owned by individuals and usually then managed under the umbrella of that condo community’s homeowner association (HOA), often with the assistance of a property-management company. So when you rent a condo, the individual condo owner is your landlord. How do the differences between an apartment and a condo affect the rental experience? Let’s take a look.

Costs of renting an apartment vs. a condo

Costs for renting an apartment or a condo are typically quite similar, although condos will often come with a few more high-end appliances and upgrades given the fact that the owner has an incentive to invest in his or her unit, both for the purposes of rental income as well as for the sake of future property values. Often, a condo will have been lived in by the owner prior to renting, so may feature more personal features and flourishes, adding a degree of variety between units in a community. Another aspect of condo living that could work in your favor as a renter is that the property will often include utilities and HOA fees as part of the monthly rent. You may find, however, that there are more upfront costs when moving into a condo for things like reserving the freight elevator and administrative fees owed to the property-management company. 

Amenities in an apartment vs. a condo

Apartment communities will usually come with a pretty straightforward slate of amenities: think, one parking spot per unit, on-site laundry and maybe a gym, free maintenance, an outdoor pool in summer. Condo amenities can vary a little more as it’ll come down to what the landlord wishes to provide under the terms of the individual lease, and what kind of amenities are administered through the HOA. For bigger condo complexes, you could expect amenities such as a concierge, gym, pool and outdoor areas. Before renting a condo, you should be sure to clarify what maintenance tasks are covered as part of your lease. Typically the HOA is responsible for the common areas and building exteriors; owners for repairs inside individual units. Of course, the property owner will be incented to take care of his or her unit, but it’s worth confirming beforehand exactly what maintenance costs will come out of your pocket in the cases of breakages and other unexpected emergencies.

Other things to consider when renting an apartment vs. a condo

Renting a condo often means interfacing directly with the owner as your landlord, which could be a blessing or a curse depending on the individual. The main benefit is in establishing a one-to-one relationship with the person who owns your place, helpful in case of upgrade requests or getting something fixed. Conversely, if the owner is out of the country or in another state, say, it may take more time to contact him or her or their management proxy. Apartments operated under a bigger leasing company may also offer more of network effect with things like online payment options or 24/7 maintenance-service availability. Some condominium complexes limit the number of units that can be rented out, thus limiting availability. Renters should also be aware that they are required to comply with condo-association rules and regulations and should familiarize themselves with available documentation.

So what does all this mean when it comes to the definition of a condo versus an apartment? At the end of the day, it’ll come down to a choice between an individual property and those factors that make it an ideal choice for your specific rental needs: cost, location, amenities, to name but a few. But knowing what makes the difference between a condo and apartment will help you make that choice even more smoothly!

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