What is the difference between a condo and an apartment?

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So you have already crossed out the option of getting a single-family home and are currently looking at smaller real estate offers. Don’t think though that your options are limited once you decided to skip the big fish. There is still plenty of fish in the sea and many smaller property options on the market. There are pros and cons of getting a smaller property, and it mainly depends on a variety of reasons, from location to monthly fees if any, and so on. However, if you have a tight budget, a smaller family, and would like to eliminate long and exhausting commutes to work from your life entirely, a condo or an apartment are your best bet.

But first, let’s set the terminology straight. You might be asking how is a condo different from an apartment? Are they the same thing? The answer to this question will luckily require some explanation. After all, we want to make sure you weigh all the pros and cons before you make such a life-changing choice as purchasing or renting a property.

Apartments and condos: similarities

Condos and apartments might seem very similar at first glance. The obvious similarities lie in the structure of both condos and apartments. Since both are located in a larger complex that consists of multiple similar units, people often assume that they are the same thing.

Another benefit of these properties, compared to single-family homes is security. While you have to look for a gated community in order to settle in a safe and serene environment, the 24/7 security feature is a built-in one for both condos and apartments.

And lastly, both condos and apartments offer amenities that are again only available to single-family homeowners if they purchase a property in a gated community. What is more is that these amenities can sometimes extend beyond a community house and pool as many condo complexes, for example, are affiliated with hotels.

We have come up with the list of differences for each property type in regards to whether you are buying or renting the property. An important thing to remember here is that you are bound by more restrictions when you are leasing the property than when you are buying it. This is why we feel it is our obligation to go beyond simply describing the condo vs apartment definition.

What is a condo?

When it comes to a difference between apartments and condos, the latter are the ones that usually come up first in a conversation simply because they are a more common choice for when you are looking to buy a property. Does it make them a better choice overall? It depends on what your goals are.

  1. Ownership. The first thing that sparks any condo versus apartment argument is ownership. Condos units are owned by individuals while the common areas are supervised by a Home Owners Association (HOA). This means that when you are purchasing a condo, the person who will be selling it to you will most likely own only one unit in this condo complex. Your neighbors, then, would be buying their units from a different owner.
  2. Maintenance. Condos are often run by HOA that decides upon the community rules, helps residents deal with arising home issues and controls the funds that are collected monthly. The huge advantage of this is that you don’t have to worry about the exterior and common spaces. However, the condos vs apartments comparison in this particular area is leaning slightly towards the latter as it takes faster to fix issues within apartments, while condo owners might bump into longer waiting hours allowing the HOA to contact an independent vendor to do the job.
  3. Rules. This next condo and apartment difference point was probably an easy one to guess. Since both property types are controlled by different legal entities, their set of rules and regulations will also vary by a lot. HOA is the one that sets rules and regulations for condos. If you are leasing a condo, it is important to keep in mind that unlike the apartment buildings, condo owners’ rules may vary from one unit to another. This is why it is important to make sure you have a copy of the list and read them carefully before making a final decision.
  4. Amenities. Condo complexes definitely have a heads up when it comes to amenities. Even though apartments might have similar ones, the key advantage of condos is the monthly fees that each owner pays to the HOA every month. These fees go towards managing both the amenities and the common areas. A unique feature of condos is that they sometimes can be a part of a group that is affiliated with hotels. This usually happens for condo complexes that are located in touristy areas, such as Miami and Miami Beach, for example. The obvious benefits of this are that the condo residents get to enjoy all or some of the amenities that the hotel provides. This means that condos offer almost vacation-style living year-round, which would probably put them in the first place above other property options for many of us.
  5. Units. Condo complexes tend to split their units into various price categories. This is why it is quite common to find a condo unit that would be below someone’s penthouse. Additionally, condo owners tend to customize their homes which affects their price as well.
  6. Renting vs buying. Condos are usually bought and apartments are rented. The reason for that stems in the ownership and is tied to the other points that we are discussing in this article. Condo owners tend to burden potential renters with many rules while the benefits of renting a condo do not outweigh the cons. This happens due to the fact that when the HOA fees, the maintenance issues resolution, and on top of everything else, the rent pile up, it doesn’t leave much room for maneuvers.
  7. Costs. Surprisingly enough, in terms of renting, both condos and apartments tend to fall into the same price category if they are located in the same area. The only difference lies in the monthly rental fees which might be higher for condos, depending on the agreement and due to the fact that HOA fees are a factor. As for purchase prices, condos are a more preferable property to buy simply because they are owned by individual owners, and not companies like apartments are.

What is an apartment?

Even though we have already established certain similarities between condos and apartments, there are still major benefits and downsides that apartments have to offer. Let’s get back to the list we had before and look at these features from an apartment point of view.

  1. Ownership. Unlike condo complexes, apartment buildings usually have one owner, a company or a corporation. This means that all the units are bought from the same owner. Additionally, there is also a third party that is involved, which doesn’t happen in the case of condominiums. This third party is usually a managing company. Throughout the purchasing process, you most likely will be dealing with this managing company rather than the owner himself.
  2. Maintenance. As we mentioned before, apartments have an advantage over condos when it comes to the speed of fixing issues inside your home. However, apartment buildings might have a certain set of rules that might slow the process down a little bit.
  3. Rules. Rules for apartment buildings are usually set by a property manager. These may include ‘Quiet hours’, pet policies, or a number of guests that are allowed. The rules mainly apply to the common areas of a condo complex as their aim is to ensure all the residents’ safety and comfort. The key difference between apartment building rules and those of a condo complex is that they are enforced for the whole building and its units and not individually.
  4. Amenities. The list of amenities that are common for both apartments and condos usually includes free parking, pools/ hot tubs/ spa areas, exercise rooms, community and business rooms, kids and pets playgrounds, and onsite services, like valet or laundry, for example. Apartments, however, tend to fall short in terms of variety and quantity. And what is more, apartment complexes might be charging extra for the use of amenities. This is why it is important to review the rules and regulations once again.
  5. Units. Apartment units tend to follow a certain standard that turns them into cookie-cutter residences. The owners are normally not interested in any upgrades which makes them not the best choice for people who are looking for groundbreaking and unique design elements.
  6. Renting vs buying. As we mentioned before, apartments are the preferred property for rent over condos due to a number of reasons. Apartments win this round simply because they are easier to manage financially through a rental agreement.
  7. Costs. As we mentioned all the main differences between condo and apartment costs in the condo part of this article, here we will only specify that it is crucial to carefully read your lease agreement because in the case of condos it is important to establish who is paying the HOA fees. And this is never the issue with apartments.

Condo and apartment differences summed up

Even though condos and apartments tend to be very similar in terms of services and amenities that they offer on top of easy access to the key city’s entertainment and business facilities, it is important to establish whether you are planning on buying or renting this property. There are many factors that play into that difference but eventually, condos tend to be purchased, while apartments tend to be rented.

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