Explore your mortgage options
If you’re looking for a new place to live, you might find yourself seeing a lot of condo or apartment listings. On the surface, these dwellings have a lot in common, and it can be hard to tell the difference from pictures alone.
We’ll explain the differences and the pros and cons of each type of home, so you can make the right decision for your circumstances.
What’s the Difference Between a Condo and an Apartment?
Generally, condos are owned, while apartments are rented. This accounts for most of their differences. Both are usually units within residential buildings, so they share many features. In fact, it’s possible for a condo and an apartment to be units in the same building.
Shared amenities and community spaces – like pools, grills and dog parks – are also common for both home types. That means they can be impossible to tell apart physically.
If you own a condo, you’re part of the homeowners association (HOA), meaning you must follow HOA rules and pay dues. If you’re just renting an apartment, you wouldn’t be responsible for HOA fees.
With a condo, your HOA fees generally cover exterior maintenance and landscaping. However, if something breaks inside the unit – like a dishwasher – you’d be responsible for replacing it yourself.
If you’re renting an apartment, you might not be responsible for any home maintenance or repairs. Just call the leasing office or your landlord if something breaks.
Here’s a chart to help you visualize the main differences.
|Common Areas and Amenities||✔||✔|
|Some Maintenance Responsibility||✔|
Condo vs. Apartment Pros and Cons
Condos and apartments have a lot in common, but their differences can greatly impact your day-to-day life and overall finances. Here’s a list of pros and cons to consider.
You own a condo. This means that instead of paying rent each month, you can start building equity. If the condo appreciates in value, you’ll be the primary beneficiary.
Your HOA covenants could limit this. However, as long as you follow them, you have the freedom to customize your living space how you’d like without needing to ask a landlord’s permission.
With a mortgage, you won’t be subject to rent hikes like you would in an apartment. This makes it easier to plan your finances for the long term. And if property values in your area appreciate, your mortgage could be lower than the average local rent after a few years.
Usually, any work required on the exterior of the unit, including the maintenance, is covered by your HOA dues. That means you don’t have to worry about things like mowing the lawn or maintaining the roof.
Coming up with the down payment and closing costs to purchase a condo involves a lot of cash upfront. On top of that, your monthly payment for a condo might be more expensive than renting.
You don’t have the option to opt out of the HOA, meaning you must follow their rules and pay their dues. This might restrict customizations you’d like to make to your condo. Plus, these dues can have a big impact on your monthly mortgage payment.
With a condo, you have less control over the resale value of your home than you might with other single-family homes. The appearance and financial well-being of the condo association overall will play a significant role.
Apartment leases are usually for 1 year, which gives you the flexibility to move. It’s also a lot easier to break a lease for an apartment versus trying to get out of a mortgage.
Even if you need to pay a security deposit, that’s usually far cheaper than coming up with a down payment and closing costs to purchase a home.
One of the primary benefits of renting is that if something breaks, you submit a maintenance request or reach out to your landlord. You generally aren’t responsible for fixing issues yourself.
Generally, it’s easier to find an apartment to rent than available condos. In most cases, you’ll also be spared from bidding on the unit. The listed price is the price.
Your monthly rent payment doesn’t benefit you in the long term. It goes to the apartment maintenance company or your landlord, and you don’t build equity.
Because leases are short-term, rent hikes can happen. If market conditions change significantly during your lease term, you could face a significant rent increase.
Apartment restrictions can be even stricter than HOA covenants for condos. And if you have a landlord, you’ll have to follow their rules – some of which may be based on their personal preferences.
Factors To Consider When Choosing an Apartment vs. Condo
Every choice comes with tradeoffs. Now that you have a better idea of each option’s pros and cons, here are some personal factors to help guide you.
- Your budget: Can you afford a down payment on a condo? Would monthly rent be higher than a mortgage payment? Take the time to understand your financial reality, including what a potential mortgage payment would look like.
- How long you plan to live there: Renting might be your best bet if you aren’t planning to stay long – for example, if you take a short-term job. Conversely, a condo might make more sense if you want to put down roots by purchasing your next home.
- Community rules and regulations: What are the HOA covenants of the community? Are they too restrictive? If you were to rent an apartment, would you be able to do things with your decor or lifestyle that would make a big difference in your happiness with the home?
- Maintenance responsibilities: Are you willing to take on partial maintenance and repair responsibilities? Or would you prefer to avoid it?
This can be a difficult choice. But if you take the time to review your circumstances and research the community, ideally, one option will start to look more appealing than the other.
Final Thoughts on Condos and Apartments
Another way to think about condos versus apartments is to ask yourself if you’re ready to buy or if you want to keep renting. There are pros and cons to both options, so be sure to take the time to organize your finances and try to get a clear picture of your long-term goals.
The Short Version
- Generally, condos are owned, while apartments are rented. Most differences stem from this, as they can be impossible to tell apart physically
- One of the biggest perks of a condo over an apartment is the chance to build equity. One of the biggest perks of an apartment is the flexibility of a short-term lease
- When deciding which home option is best for you, take into account your budget, how long you plan to live there and how community rules might affect your lifestyle