When searching for a place to call home, you'll see a variety of listings available for rent. The differences between homes and apartments will be obvious, but what about the difference between an apartment and a condo?
They may seem similar when it comes to specs or monthly rent, but there are actual differences between the two property types. These are significant enough to affect how your home, and the building it's in, operates on a daily basis, so they're important to understand.
The difference in ownership between condos and apartment buildings is the most significant distinction. It's something you'll notice in a rental listing.
According to Statista, there are a little more than 43 million renter-occupied housing units in the U.S.
Ownership of an apartment differs from that of a condo because an entire building typically has one owner in an apartment complex. You'll either interact with them or you'll work with a management company, who handles the tenants for the entire building. Most renters fill most units within an apartment building, so you'll be on the same page as many of your neighbors.
Condominium units differ in ownership from apartments because each condo typically has a unique owner. All the homeowners within a condo building will share responsibility for common areas, but the individual units are separate. There may also be a Homeowner's Association to manage building fees for the upkeep of areas outside of individual units.
Because each unit has a different property owner, you'll get a unique experience renting from unit to unit. This means you could stay in a condo building even if you have a bad experience with a property owner. Simply switching to another unit to rent can give you a totally different renting experience.
It's all about who's managing the maintenance of your apartment or condo that can lead to differences between the two types of units. The biggest factor with maintenance is how quickly your issue gets handled, and sometimes, it can actually take longer in a condo.
When an apartment repair goes beyond what you're able to handle, the first step is contacting your property owner or management company. They're usually quick to respond, especially if it's an issue that can impact other units in the building.
If you end up somewhere with a dedicated maintenance staff or a place with on-call maintenance, your issue can get resolved even faster. This is a huge perk for apartment dwellers.
The drawback to maintenance within an apartment vs. condo is the number of rules for repairs. If certain things break and need replacing, you most likely won't be able to change up the faucet or appliance yourself.
Your property manager will have certain standards to maintain to create a consistent look throughout the apartment building. This can mean having to report maintenance issues you would typically handle yourself.
In a condo, maintenance is the responsibility of each owner. While they might respond to your issues faster since they're not managing an entire building of units, it can just as easily take them longer since they have to secure an independent vendor to make repairs.
For issues in any common areas, the homeowner's association is often in charge of managing maintenance. If you have anything to report, you should contact them since they'll have protocols in place for issues in those areas.
There are always fees when you sign a new lease. The amount you have to pay in an apartment is pretty standard, but that's not always the case for condo rentals.
While your property owner should make you aware of fees upfront, it's important to ask if you're uncertain about how much money you should bring when you sign your lease.
The standard apartment fees include first and last month's rent and a security deposit. If you're bringing a pet into your new home, a pet fee is usually added to this initial payment.
Security deposits are usually equal to one month's rent, which means you'll need three times your monthly rent when you sign your lease. Your pet fee or deposit, if applicable, will vary in price, but is there to cover any extra maintenance from pet wear and tear after you move out.
The other fee you may not think about is the application fee. This comes even before you get to the lease signing. According to Kaycee Miller from Rentec Direct, the application fee covers a few essential services, including:
Condo fees are up to each unit's individual owner so they can vary. You may have to put down a security deposit, but no pet fee since they're pet owners themselves. You may also be able to negotiate whether you put down first and last month's rent and a security payment if that's more than you're able to provide.
The only unique fee you may end up paying relates to HOA fees. These can be due monthly or annually and the condo owner may incorporate it into your rent or ask you to pay it while you're occupying the unit.
“HOA fees typically cover the costs of maintaining the building's common areas, such as lobbies, patios, landscaping, swimming pools and elevators," says James Chen from Investopedia. HOA fees can range from $100-700 per month based on what level of service the company provides and what type of amenities are included.
The layout of individual units between apartments and condos may not feel too different. If you're looking for a one-bedroom, it's a guarantee most options will have a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or kitchenette and living space.
What varies more is the number of upgrades. Because condos are individually owned, you've got a better chance of things being a little more high-end.
Units within a single apartment building will often have a cookie-cutter design. All the one-beds will look similar, as will the studios or two-bed units. A building with units of all the same size can rotate through two or three layout options much like the homes in a planned community.
If you're looking at a lease in an older building, you may get more variety in layout, but not as many upgrades as you'd find in a condo where it's less expensive for individual owners to make improvements in their own unit.
There are a few probable similarities between a unit in an apartment building and a condo. “A condo offers some similar aspects of apartment living. For instance, many condos are adjacent to others, so owners often share a wall and live in…proximity. And if you live in a high-rise building, your condo may be located above or below someone else's home," says Geoff Williams from U.S. News and World Report.
However, condos often vary on the inside from unit to unit since owner preference will influence appearance. Flooring choices, countertop materials, even cabinet built-ins will vary.
Condos can have more upgrades because the owner wants to keep the unit ready to sell just in case. They may also be more amenable to your suggestions for improvements if there's something you'd like to change while you're living in the unit.
There's often not much difference between what amenities can be available in both apartments and condos. There's a pretty standard list.
More variations exist in this area when comparing apartments and condos to themselves. This is because the amenities you get are often based on when the building was constructed and how high-end the building is.
It's hard to nail down a list of amenities you'll find in every apartment building. There isn't much consistency. It's also hard to say that a certain amenity is always free. Here's a list of the most common amenities you're likely to find in an apartment building:
There's also a chance that an apartment building won't have any amenities, or ones that are too poorly maintained to get used. If on-site laundry or a pool are deal breakers for you, make sure you check out the spaces before you sign the lease to ensure they're up to your standards. Apartment amenities may be included in your rent price, but certain amenities might cost extra.
A condo building will most likely have all the apartment amenities listed above, but will often throw in a few more like a:
Some luxury apartments may have these types of amenities, too, but they're more common in condos. Generally, the amenities in a condo are covered under an HOA fee, which could either be the owner or renter's responsibility, depending on the lease.
Who enforces the rules and regulations within your building can be yet another difference between apartment and condo. Each type of home, though, will have these written into your lease that you need to follow.
A property manager handles the enforcement of all the building rules in an apartment. They'll also handle any complaints. The same rules apply to every unit and consist of things like noise restrictions, pet or guest policies and the need to have renters insurance. There may even be restrictions against painting or putting holes in the walls. Failure to follow these rules can lead to serious consequences.
HOA guidelines create the rules for common areas in a condo. They're often similar to those in an apartment building. You can find specifics in the condo association covenants, conditions and restrictions or CC&Rs. You should make sure you have a copy when you move in since you're also expected to follow these even though you're only a renter.
Any additional rules within the unit itself will come from the owner and can differ from unit to unit. You may end up with a stricter property owner with more rules, so make sure you carefully review your lease.
Knowing apartments from condos before going through listings can help you narrow down your search. This is especially true if living in a city where there's a hefty combination of the two up for rent.
While differences are often slight, it's important to find options that align with your preferences in how the unit is managed and what amenities are available.