Condos vs. Apartments

Condominiums (condos) and apartments seem very similar, but what they offer and the costs and responsibilities included with each can differ greatly.

Whether you want to rent or buy, choosing between a condo and an apartment should involve factoring in the many differences between the two types of housing. When you are looking for a new place to live, be sure to take into consideration all the costs involved, the amenities available and the expectations of you as the tenant or the owner.

Condos are sometimes thought of as fancy apartments, but there is no actual difference between the two in terms of design or luxury. Condos can be poorly maintained or old, just like apartments. On the other hand, there are condos and apartments that are high-end and luxurious. Whatever you are looking for in terms of style and location, you can usually find it in both condos and apartments. The differences tend to lie in the costs and expectations or responsibilities of residents, especially on a legal basis that can be confusing if you have never lived in a condo before.

Find out all about condos versus apartments so you can best decide where you should live based on your housing needs.

What are condos?

Condos are often confused with apartments, but the legal structure of the building differs greatly. Condos are independently owned units within a building that can be lived in by homeowners or rented to tenants (depending on the condo rules). You can choose to rent a condo as you might an apartment, but make sure you understand what might be included in that rental in terms of costs. Condos include additional fees that you should clearly break down between you as the tenant and the landlord as the owner, even including condo insurance if that is a requirement.

If you want to rent a condo, make sure you understand the legal structure of your lease. Who is responsible for paying the homeowner’s association (HOA) fees and any increases of those fees? Who is responsible for maintenance and costs incurred, both inside your unit and within the building or community? What happens to you, as a tenant, if your property owner stops paying necessary fees? Local laws and regulations can affect these answers, so be sure you understand all the possibilities and challenges before you sign anything.

Condos operate under what are called CC&Rs, or Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. All tenants will have to abide by those rules, but the owner of the condo should be the legally responsible individual if there are any issues. Some CC&Rs include restrictions on the age of a tenant, types of pets permitted, the length of a visitor’s stay, the number of vehicles permitted per unit and more, so be sure you are able to fully review your building’s CC&Rs before signing a lease.

What are apartments?

Apartments are units within a building that is owned by an individual or a company. The units tend to be very similar, which also helps to keep costs down for the owners and, therefore, the tenants. The benefits of having a property management company in an apartment building can mean everything from paying your rent through an easy online system to 24/7 maintenance help that could take several days for an individual condo owner to coordinate. Apartments might cost less than condos since there are no additional fees, such as HOA fees or condo insurance. However, each apartment and condo will differ, so be sure to check all your options locally.

Condos vs. Apartments

Renting a condo can often mean renting a higher-end unit with overall better quality, simply because condos are individually owned as a real estate investment. A property management company or other property owner who will more likely keep the units similar and basic in order to cut costs, on the other hand, owns apartments. An individual property owner is also more likely to be more attentive to any problems or concerns, especially given that this home is a personal investment. There are plenty of variations to these rules, but, generally, you can consider a condo to be of potentially higher quality with a more attentive landlord.

With that quality comes potential additional costs, so be sure you include those when you consider your monthly and annual budget. Those costs could include other community amenities like a pool, gym or barbeque area for your use, plus condo insurance or other fees. Some condos will include utilities in a monthly cost, while others charge individually. Make sure all relevant costs are delineated before you jump into a lease agreement.

Apartments might offer lower monthly costs than condos, with less chance for additional fees added onto your bills. However, apartments are more likely to be fairly uniform and basic in their layouts and design, plus in appliances and general aesthetic. Overall, make sure you understand what your money is paying for, whether in an apartment or a condo. Knowing that the potential for additional fees exists can help ensure you are not surprised after moving into a new home.

Determine What’s Right for You

If your primary concern is your overall housing costs, perhaps an apartment is the better choice so you know there will be no additional fees added to your housing costs. However, if you prefer to have an attentive and invested property owner with the potential for higher quality inside your home, a condo might be a better decision over a large apartment building.

In both cases, you might get access to building or community amenities. Be sure you inquire as to how those amenities may be used. Condo associations will often have very strict rules and regulations for the costs or ability to use certain amenities, so be sure these parameters are clear.

Figuring out what is right for you is probably best done by actually visiting different condo or apartment buildings in your area so you understand the exact options available, taking into account all potential costs, amenities and other concerns before signing a lease. Now you know the questions to ask, so use these details to make the right decision for your next place to live.

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