Condo vs. Apartment: What's The Difference?

ByG. Dautovic
February 17, 2022

Whether you’re a prospective first-time homeowner or someone looking to move to a different home, knowing the difference between a condo vs. an apartment is vital because that difference will have a long-term impact on your lifestyle. Read on to find out the exact ways in which living in a condo is different from living in an apartment.

What Is the Difference Between a Condo and an Apartment?

There are a great number of differences between condos and apartments, but we’re going to start by discussing the ones that are relevant enough to sway someone into choosing one over the other.

Ownership of an Apartment vs. Condominium

Perhaps the most significant differentiating factor is the ownership of the property. The words “condo” and “apartment” are often used interchangeably by people describing the size and function of the property, but the actual difference lies in the way the property is defined as part of the building that it’s located in.

Both apartments and condos exist as part of a larger building, but the ownership conditions are where things start to differ. Apartments are often defined as rented residences within a building. On the other hand, condos are usually defined as owned residences within the building.

These definitions may confuse people as someone might say they’re looking to “buy an apartment.” While this is an innocent (and a fairly common) mistake, the official definitions for condos and apartments should be understood before you decide to look for a property to invest in.

This generally makes things a lot easier in the long run and will help you find the right services and home loans so you can obtain the property you desire.

Maintenance of an Apartment vs. Condo

Another important factor to consider is maintenance. Since apartments are owned by landlords, who may own multiple apartments within one building, they are the ones responsible for most of the interior maintenance.

When there’s a problem with an appliance or utility, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to have it fixed, assuming that the faulty appliance is owned by them and not the tenant.

If there’s something damaged - like a broken window - then it’s also the landlord’s responsibility to get it repaired. As a tenant, you don’t need to pay for maintenance because, again, it’s the apartment landlord’s problem and not yours.

On the other hand, a condo is the responsibility of the individual owner. In addition to everything on the inside being your responsibility, there may be some fees associated with owning a condo, such as fees for local amenities and common facilities in the complex.

In short, maintaining a condo is similar to looking after your own house. With an apartment, on the other hand, you can rely on your landlord to fix most of the issues within your home because it’s their property, although they likely won’t help with your own appliances unless it directly affects the property.

There’s obviously some maintenance you’re expected to perform in an apartment, such as basic cleaning tasks, but your contract will be a much better source for understanding these details.

Homeowners Association Differences 

No matter if you purchase a condo or rent an apartment, you’re going to be subject to rules designed to keep things civil in your local community. For example, some complexes will allow all manner of pets to live with you, while others will have strict rules against them or designated units that do and don’t allow pets.

However, when it comes to the inside of individual units, this is where things change.

For apartments, you’ll be subject to the rules of your landlord, specified in your lease agreement. This means you might be unable to decorate the inside of your house or might not be allowed to install any new shelves without permission, and you won’t be able to replace certain appliances.

However, a condo is fully owned by you, and there likely won’t be any restrictions as to what you can do inside the unit itself. This means you can install whatever furniture you want and make any improvements or renovations as long as you’re not affecting other people and their property.

Costs of a Condo vs. Apartment

And lastly, don’t forget about the costs associated with condos and apartments.

Apartments are fairly straightforward as the costs - fees, deposits, and other payments - will be described in your contract. Every landlord has their own conditions, but you’ll typically be required to pay a certain deposit and also one or several months’ worth of rent in advance.

Condos are a little more complex. This is because, in addition to your mortgage and other upfront fees, you may also need to pay for homeowners association fees, which can vary depending on the amenities within the complex. Some condos also offer various services, which can also be a part of the HOA fees.

Regardless of whether you choose a condo or an apartment, make sure you do your research and speak to your landlord or the condo management team, so you know exactly what you’ll be paying for.

Similarities of Condos and Apartments

Due to the similar structure of a condo and an apartment, you’ll find that there are actually quite a few similarities.

  • Amenities - Since most condos and apartments are a part of a larger complex, they often come with helpful amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, and so on.
  • Location - While location is an important factor for any property you invest in, there really isn’t a major difference between a condo and an apartment in terms of their area. This is because both condos and apartments exist in similar areas. They have similar structure and sizes, meaning you’ll find both of them in the same cities and suburbs.

Condo Pros

  • Cost - Condos are typically seen as a more affordable option for homebuyers - in the long term, at least. It’s also an excellent option for professionals who aren’t ready to settle down in a large home yet and would prefer to invest in a small unit. It can also be a good option for downsizing.
  • Maintenance - Condos are typically managed by staff, meaning the only thing you need to worry about maintaining is the inside of your home.
  • Amenities - Condos are usually located near large city centers and recreational areas, making it convenient for you to live the lifestyle that you want.

Condo Cons

  • HOA fees - These monthly costs can increase over time and will add a considerable amount of money to your monthly fees in addition to your mortgage.
  • HOA rules - Despite owning your unit, you may still be subject to HOA rules that limit what you can and can’t do. These rules can also be modified at a moment’s notice. This can make you feel like you have very little say in how to use your home.
  • No expansion options - When you purchase a house, you typically get access to the land and exterior around it which makes it easy to upgrade and expand your property. With a condo, your only option is to move to a larger property.

Apartment Pros

  • Flexibility - Lease agreements are typically short-term contracts, which means you can freely move to another place without being held down. This is a great option if you’re not sure about committing to a single area, or if you need to relocate because of your job.
  • Simplified costs - Apartments have a very simple cost structure. You pay the monthly rent, and that’s it. Other costs are bundled into the rent (at least, in most cases) and even maintenance is handled by your landlord.
  • Convenience - Much like condos, apartments are usually located in very convenient areas with access to many local businesses and transport links.

Apartment Cons

  • Lack of equity - If you’re renting an apartment, it generally means you’re not building equity in your own home. You’re not investing in anything by paying the rent.
  • Limited amenities - While apartments tend to have similar amenities to condos, there’s no doubt that condo complexes generally have larger community areas and extra facilities. If you’re looking for more amenities to help supplement your lifestyle or create more convenience, then a condo is usually the better option.
  • Lack of control - Tenants generally have very little influence over the apartment itself. They’re subjected to many rules and restrictions that prevent them from being creative with decor or renovations. This can be a huge problem for people who want to transform their home, but it’s definitely something that can change depending on your contract or relationship with your landlord.

Conclusion

The biggest difference between condos and apartments is the fact that condos are bought and owned, whereas apartments are rented. So rather than thinking about the design and style of the unit itself, the real question is this: Do you want to buy a property or rent one?

Once you’ve decided on your answer to this, the choice between a condo and an apartment becomes much easier to make.

FAQ

Which is better: a condo or apartment?

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Condos and apartments have many similarities, so there is really no clear winner; it all depends on what your personal preferences are for things like location and local amenities. However, if we only consider the main differentiating factor between a condo vs. an apartment, then it really depends on your preference for renting or buying a home.

If you’re looking to rent and don’t want to invest, then get yourself an apartment. If you like living in a complex but want to actually own a unit, then choose a condo.

Why are condos more expensive than apartments?

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Condos and apartments can vary a lot in terms of pricing. There are many factors that affect this, such as the local area, the amenities you gain access to, and the size of the unit.

However, if we put these factors aside, condos are usually more expensive than apartments because they’re actually bought and owned instead of just rented. This means that the upfront cost is a lot more expensive if you compare two similar units.

Why are condos cheaper than houses?

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This is because condos usually take up a lot less space than a regular house. Maintenance is usually a lot cheaper, too, because you’re only taking care of the interior of your home instead of the exterior as well.

However, luxury condo complexes can be rather expensive if there are many local amenities included with your HOA fees.

Are condos quieter than apartments?

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In terms of sound, there are no differences between condos and apartments, and this will be largely down to the soundproofing around each unit and also the local community. Some condo and apartment communities will have a lot of busy nightlife attractions, which can lead to a lot of noise, while other units can be a lot quieter because they’re away from busy roads.

The quality of the construction of your unit will also be a factor. In short, the sound is based on the location of the condo or apartment, and neither is inherently quieter or louder than the other.

About author

I have always thought of myself as a writer, but I began my career as a data operator with a large fintech firm. This position proved invaluable for learning how banks and other financial institutions operate. Daily correspondence with banking experts gave me insight into the systems and policies that power the economy. When I got the chance to translate my experience into words, I gladly joined the smart, enthusiastic Fortunly team.

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