If you are currently shopping/hunting for a place to live, then you have probably asked yourself, at some point, what the differences between an apartment and a condo are? The truth is sometimes it is hard to tell, especially if an apartment building has been recently purchased and turned into condos. Nevertheless, you should know the difference before you start eyeing housing in a particular area. Thus, to better assist you in your apartment home or condo search, here are the six main ways these two types of housing differ and reasons why one may be better suited for you.
One of the key ways that apartments differ from condos is ownership. Obviously, when you are apartment searching or hunting, you are looking for a place to rent. Yet when you are considering a condo, it could go either way—maybe you are looking to rent or buy. Though typically with condos, people purchase their units and become a part of a Homeowner’s Association (HOA). Thus, in many ways, owning a condo is not too different than owning a traditional-style home.
On the other hand, apartments do not go over homeownership, but they do offer a certain amount of flexibility. Generally, with an apartment home, you lease a unit and deal with your landlord directly or the complex’s property management team. Here, there are no HOA fees, and if you want to move out, you do not have to list your unit and sell.
Along those same lines, owning your condo likely means you are responsible for the upkeep. Again, much like a traditional-style home, maintenance and repairs fall to the owner. That said, some condo communities have the HOA handle major repairs, which, more often than not, becomes a headache with needed approvals, specific protocols, etc. In contrast, with an apartment home, the landlord or property management team must handle any major repairs. This is actually a perk for many people who simply do not have the time or money to deal with broken appliances, plumbing issues, etc. Many apartment complexes have on-site staff or 24-hour maintenance, so most issues are resolved faster as well.
Another way apartments and condos differ is when it comes to fees. As you know, renting an apartment generally means first and last months’ rent, a security deposit, an application fee, plus a possible background or minimal credit check fee. Additional expenses that may arise with apartment living include carport fees, pet rent, and a portion of the utilities. Alternatively, condos can involve down payments, mortgages, HOA fees, more expense insurance, assessment fees, and more. Plus, in the event that you need to relocate, you will likely have to hire a real estate agent to help you put your condo on the market. Thus, if you are not ready to take on all the things that come with condo ownership, an apartment tends to be the safer bet.
Apartments and condos also tend to offer different layouts. Usually, contemporary apartment homes have a fairly standard design, ie., most units in the building look similar, but vary in size. Older apartment complexes may offer traditional and upgraded units, but that is really the only time you may notice a slight difference. Condos, on the other hand, tend to have less cookie cutter designs. Not only do condos vary in available layouts, but they also may have been remodeled by the previous owner. Furthermore, when purchasing a brand new condo, you tend to have more of a say in the flooring, carpeting, blinds, fixtures, and so on. Finally, as the new owner, you can renovate—though you may need the approval of the condo board or HOA.
In terms of amenities, it really is a mixed bag with both condos and apartments. Some apartment complexes have top-notch amenities that rival luxury condos, while others offer you the basics. As a result, it truly depends on where you are looking.
The same is true for condos. You may have amazing communal perks like pet parks, swimming pools, on-site coffee shops, gyms, valet parking, or you may not. Typically, luxury condos pull out all the stops, and standard condos offer comparable basics like covered parking, a pool, etc. That said, the reason you tend to get more with condo living is because you are paying a monthly HOA fee. These particular fees can easily cost over $250 a month, with many even as high as $700 a month.
When it comes to rental policies or guidelines, you will also notice a difference. With apartment living, typically, rules/policies are clearly laid out in the lease agreement and are enforced by management. Yet, with condo living, a condo board, and an HOA are likely the ones making the policies. Plus, with a condo, you can have a host of restrictions, conditions, and covenants that you need to be mindful of. What’s more, even if you choose to rent a condo, you will have to likely cover a portion of HOAs, and you will be subject to all condo community regulations as if you were the owner.
Pros and Cons
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. If you are chomping at the idea of being a homeowner, then condo ownership may be the next best thing for you. That said, being responsible for maintenance, upkeep, and HOA fees tend to be drawbacks for most people.
In contrast, apartment living is more flexible, and you have fewer responsibilities and expenses. Generally, the only real drawbacks with apartment homes are that you cannot freely renovate your leased space and that you have to pay pet rent or a deposit at most places. Overall, when it comes to amenities, as previously mentioned, it could go either way with an apartment or a condo. So, now that you know the major differences, you may be wondering how do you choose?
How To Choose
Well, the answer is probably not what you want to hear. The reality is only you know what you are ready for and what you can afford. Moreover, your lifestyle may change in the next six months or a year from now, which could also affect your decision. Thus, all you can do is narrow down your options, have a list of must-haves, and stick to your budget. Once you get a feel for what is available in your desired location, you will likely know which route is best for you.
Ultimately, the difference between a condo and an apartment can be minor. It really depends on where you are looking for and what is available. Nevertheless, figuring out what is right for you will not happen overnight. You will need to do your research, take a few tours, and crunch some numbers.
Of course, if you think you are leaning more towards condo living because you believe that you will get more bang for your buck, you may want to take a closer look at the fine print. Though condos seem to have it all with a side of ownership, many apartment complexes offer the exact same perks or comparable amenities. Moreover, when you think about it, with condos, you are essentially paying a monthly mortgage and HOA fees (which are often as much as rent for a 1-bedroom apartment somewhere). Therefore, you might fare better with renting, as you are likely cutting your monthly costs in half and are not on the hook for a 15 to 30-year mortgage.