If you’re trying to decide between renting a condo or an apartment, the differences between the two can be confusing. Learning more about what separates these two home choices can help you make a better decision regarding your living situation.

Apartments vs Condos - image of apartment building

Ownership

The biggest difference between condominiums, more commonly called condos, and apartments is ownership. Apartments are usually part of a larger complex, and all of the apartments in the complex are owned by one landlord or management company, and this company or owner rents each apartment.

Sections of large buildings are not the only apartments available, however. Some people do rent a single, private apartment, such as an apartment over a garage or a spare room.

Condos, on the other hand, are part of a larger building, but each condo is privately owned. When you buy a condo, it’s very similar to buying a house, but it’s still part of a community that offers certain amenities.

Many people choose to buy condos because they require less upkeep, as the grounds, pool, gym, and any other outdoor amenities are taken care of. They can also be less expensive than buying a house, so they’re a good option for first-time home buyers or people looking to retire and downsize.

You can still rent a condo from the condo’s owner. Renting a condo is very similar to renting an apartment, but there are a few key differences.

taking ownership of condo

Property Taxes and Homeowners Association Fees

If you’re renting an apartment, you won’t ever need to pay any property taxes. These taxes will be covered by whoever owns the building, although the cost of the taxes may be reflected in the amount of rent you pay.

It’s also unlikely that you’ll be required to pay any homeowners association, or HOA, fees. Most apartment complexes do not have an HOA.

If you buy a condo, as the homeowner, you’ll need to pay property taxes. Almost all condos also have an HOA. The HOA helps define what is and isn’t acceptable within the condo complex, and these ground rules make living in the condo complex easier, safer, and cleaner.

An HOA usually charges a monthly or yearly fee, which will need to be paid by the condo owner. The fee can vary in price from place to place and is often determined by how involved the HOA is in the condo complex’s upkeep.

If you’re renting a condo, your landlord might pay the HOA fees, or they might factor those fees into your rent. You might also be asked to pay the fees while you’re renting the condo.

Apartments vs Condos difference image

Renting

The cost of renting a condo or apartment is usually quite similar within the same city or region. The difference is in where the landlord is and how available they are.

Most apartment buildings have a management person on-site at all times. This is helpful if you have a problem in your apartment, such as a leaking pipe, that needs to be fixed quickly.

The landlord of a condo that you’re renting, however, will most likely not be on-site, and they might even live far away. It can sometimes be trickier to get ahold of your landlord if you’re renting a condo, as they’re only one person and not a company.

However, most condo landlords are receptive to their renter’s needs and offer professional, timely help.

landlord and tenant law book

Interior Maintenance

The rules regarding what you can do cosmetically to the inside of your apartment vary from place to place. Whenever you choose to rent an apartment, you’ll be asked to sign a lease agreement, and this agreement dictates whether you can paint, hang up paintings or other decorative items, or make any other kinds of permanent interior changes.

Many apartments won’t allow you to make too many changes to the interior. Some places ask that you don’t paint the walls, for example, while other apartment complexes might allow you to paint as long as you paint any areas over in the original color before you move out.

You must also keep everything looking as good as it did when you moved in. This means that if you chip a tile or stain a carpet, you can be fined, or the apartment complex might keep your security deposit.

The upside to renting an apartment is that if anything goes wrong in the apartment, like if an appliance stops working or there is an issue with the plumbing, the apartment management has to fix the issue promptly. Most likely, you will not be charged for the cost of repairs.

If you’re renting a condo, you’ll also most likely be prohibited from painting or making other cosmetic changes, but your landlord will still be responsible for repairs to anything that malfunctions inside the condo.

If you own a condo, you can make any changes to the inside that you want as long as those changes don’t disrupt the structural integrity of the building. You can paint, replace fixtures, flooring, or countertops, or drill holes in the walls for brackets to hold up shelves or art.

The downside to this freedom is that, as the owner of the property, you’ll be responsible for fixing anything that isn’t working correctly, and you’ll need to pay for repairs.

man and woman painting a wall

Structure and Amenities

The structure and amenities of most condo and apartment complexes are very similar. You can choose an apartment or condo that has almost any floor plan you like.

You can also pick complexes that offer few amenities, which can lower the cost of the rent or mortgage, or complexes that offer many amenities, such as a pool, tennis courts, a clubhouse, or a gym.

If you choose to rent or buy a condo, you may find that it has more updated features. Condo owners often prefer to update appliances, flooring, and paint more frequently than apartment managers do.

Condos may also have more decorative or personal touches, as they are someone’s private residence, and that person will have decorated to their personal tastes. Apartments, on the other hand, can seem a bit blank until a renter moves in.

condo living space

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