Condo or apartment building in the fall.

Condo Vs. Apartment: Is There A Better Option?

5-Minute Read
Published on August 26, 2021

Moving is part of life – most of us do it at least a few times before settling down. If it’s your time to move, you’ve got plenty of living space options beyond a traditional house. At the top of the list: condos and apartments. Depending on your situation, either one could be a great place to call your next home.

In this article, we’ll look at the differences between a condo and an apartment so you can determine which is the better option for you.

What Is The Main Difference Between A Condo And An Apartment?

On the surface, condos and apartments look very much alike. They’re both in multi-unit buildings; they both offer community spaces and amenities; and, depending on your leasing agreement, they could also charge you roughly the same in monthly cost. While there are many similarities between a condo and an apartment, there is one significant distinction: who owns the property.

Condo Vs. Apartment Ownership Rights

A condo (that’s short for “condominium”) is privately owned and typically managed by the owner. That means the owner is your landlord. On the other hand, an apartment is generally owned by a real estate firm and managed by a property management company. When you have a question or concern about your apartment, a representative from that company acts as your landlord.

In addition, apartments are never sold as individual units. So, unless you purchase the entire building or complex, you can’t take ownership of the property. However, that’s not the case with a condo. You can buy the unit if the current owner wants to sell. In fact, it’s more common to own a condo than it is to rent one.

Condo Vs. Apartment Costs

If you decide to lease rather than own, while you’ll need to pay monthly rent for either type of unit, what that rent payment covers can differ. With a condo, your monthly payment will likely also take care of your utilities (think water, gas, electricity, etc.). That could be a great deal, considering many apartments require you to pay for those things separately.

However, unlike apartments, condos come with homeowners association (HOA) fees. HOA fees cover the upkeep of common areas and the exterior of the building. Your landlord may include these fees in your rent, ask you to pay them on your own or cover the expense for you. Bottom line? No matter which option you choose – condo or apartment – you should make sure your financial responsibilities are clearly spelled out in your lease.

Condo Vs. Apartment Tenant Rules

You’ll have to follow largely similar rules, whether you live in a condo building or an apartment complex. For example, both places will expect you to keep your unit reasonably tidy, keep the noise level down to a respectable level, and pick up after yourself (and your pets) in common areas. However, who determines and enforces those rules differs based on unit type.

With a condo, the HOA will ensure compliance with rules that apply to common areas. However, inside each unit, the condo owner has complete authority to create the rules. That means your living experience could be radically different in a neighboring condo. With an apartment building, the rules are set by the owner, enforced by the property management company and applied equally to all tenants.

Condo Vs. Apartment Upkeep

Typically, when you rent, the owner of either type of unit is financially responsible for making repairs to the property. That means if the air conditioner dies or your plumbing springs a leak, they have to open their wallet to take care of it. However, with a condo, your landlord could require you to cover the expense and arrange the needed service. Be sure to check your lease carefully before signing, because you never know what unexpected expenses might pop up as a property owner.

You won’t encounter that requirement in an apartment rental agreement. Sure, you may be responsible for small things like replacing light bulbs, but that’s the extent of it. And, as an apartment dweller, when you do need service, your property manager will usually take care of it fast, dispatching a repair company they have on speed dial. Your condo’s landlord may not be as responsive to your request – especially if they need to source a service provider for you.

Condo Vs. Apartment Amenities

Condo and apartment amenities are actually pretty similar, and they account for why so many people want to live in either one. Both types of housing typically offer on-site perks like the following:

  • Parking
  • Laundry
  • Gym
  • Pool
  • Community center

However, depending on how high-end the community is or when it was last updated, a condo generally delivers a touch more luxury. For example, an upscale condo may offer concierge services.

In addition to community amenities, a condo often offers several bonuses inside of the unit. Chances are that your landlord has done some upgrades that you probably wouldn’t see in a cookie-cutter apartment. These features could include modern design elements, completely renovated kitchens and baths, or hardwood floors. Plus, condo owners are generally more willing to let you make aesthetic changes to suit your tastes.

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Buying A Condo Vs. Renting An Apartment: Which Is More Expensive?

Usually, if the location and quality of the unit are equal, the cost of renting a condo versus an apartment will be roughly the same. That’s because landlords must remain competitive to attract renters. However, in some cases, getting into a condo could be more expensive.

Renting a condo can cost more if you’re responsible for HOA fees or maintenance and repairs. If you decide to purchase the unit, you’ll need to have enough money for your down payment and closing costs.

There are essentially two main financial upsides to buying a condo: First, you build equity. Second, if you have a fixed mortgage, your monthly housing payment will be stable. With an apartment, you may experience a rent increase year-over-year.

If you're leaning toward an apartment but still need financial assistance, you can take out an apartment loan, otherwise known as a personal loan. You’ll use that money to help pay for rent and other expenses that you need help with.

Owning A Condo Vs. An Apartment: Which Better Suits Your Needs?

When it comes to deciding on an apartment or a condo, you’ll need to take your preferences and needs into account. Take a moment and think about what you need from your next home. Based on your answers, and what you’ve learned here, a clear victor should emerge.

Reasons To Choose A Condo

There are many reasons why you might want to rent or buy a condo. Let’s take a look at a few features that could entice you to choose a condo over an apartment:

  • You’ll get custom high-end finishes and amenities.
  • There’s potential to personalize your home.
  • You’ll have the option to deal directly with the property owner.
  • If you’re renting, you might want to and could buy the unit someday.
  • You’re fine with possibly paying HOA fees.
  • You don’t mind maintenance delays.

Reasons To Choose An Apartment

When it comes to choosing to rent an apartment, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons as well. An apartment might be a better fit for you compared to a condo, especially if any of these factors describe you:

  • You’re not concerned with the unit’s design or community’s amenities.
  • You don’t care to drastically change the place.
  • You don’t mind dealing with a company as your landlord.
  • You see yourself being a renter for the foreseeable future.
  • You don’t want to deal with HOA fees or unit repair costs.
  • You value extremely responsive and prompt maintenance.

The Bottom Line: Condos And Apartments Are Both Great Options

When it’s time to find a new place to live, you’ve got options. Before you make your big decision, you should go over the pros and cons of living in a condo vs. apartment. You may think you want one option initially, but then decide that the other one is best. We recommend really looking inward here. Having read this article, ask yourself what you absolutely can and can’t tolerate in a living arrangement.

If you’re upfront and honest about how you like to live, both condo and apartment living can offer you an affordable and comfortable lifestyle. For more great articles that can help make your next move worry-free, check out the Rocket Mortgage® Learning Center.

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Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.