What is the Difference Between a Condo and an Apartment?

Condos and apartments look similar but have many differences. The ownership is the largest difference, including whether you rent or buy. Even if you rent, though individuals own condos and companies or management companies own apartments. 

What is a Condo?

A condo (condominium) is a unit in a building with many other units. There are usually multiple owners throughout the building. Many associations limit the number of units one owner can have. 

You can rent or buy a condo. If you rent, you rent it from a private owner (landlord) who is responsible only for the units he/she owns. It may even be just your unit. If you buy a condo, you own only the interior of the unit. All owners of units own the exterior components including the common areas together.

Some people feel a larger sense of community when they live in a condo (whether they rent or buy) because many people own a condo, which gives them a greater sense of belonging. 

What is an Apartment?

An apartment is a unit within a building, like a condo, but one person (usually a company) owns the entire property. The owner rents out each apartment to individuals like yourself.

Everyone has the same ‘rules’ and deal with the same landlord. The landlord usually works in the leasing office at the front of the building and deals with everyone throughout the complex, not just the renters in one or two owned units.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Condo and an Apartment 

The difference between a condo and apartment is almost exclusively tied to the ownership of the unit.

Looking at a condo and apartment, you probably can’t tell the difference. There aren’t a lot of obvious physical differences. 

Each building may have common areas, such as a pool, exercise room, or even a clubhouse. Condos and apartments are usually multi-story buildings, each with individual units.

The largest ‘telltale sign’ of an apartment versus a condo is the look of the units. Condos have unique appearances because individual owners own them. You may find upgraded features in some condos (granite countertops or hardwood floors). 

Apartments all look the same. They may have different colors or small unique features, but overall, they have a uniform look. 

The Most Important Factors to Consider

  • If you rent a condo or apartment, the landlord is responsible for all maintenance and repairs.
  • If you own a condo, you are responsible for all maintenance and repairs inside the condo, but the association handles the exterior repairs/maintenance
  • Think about what amenities you want. Both apartments and condos offer different amenities. Determine what you want, such as a pool, workout area, etc.
  • Know the condo or apartment rules. If you rent, the landlord determines what you can and can’t do. If you buy a condo, you must abide by the association rules for the exterior of the property, but not the interior.
  • Ask about pets. If you have pets or will have pets, find out the condo or apartment rules regarding pets. Some allow them and some don’t. Even those that do allow pets have rules regarding the type/breed.
  • You’ll have neighbors (close neighbors). Make sure you know the area to make sure it’s somewhere you’re comfortable living and dealing with those around you. 

Will you Rent or Buy?

One of the largest deciding factors is whether you want to rent or buy. If you’re strictly renting, a condo or an apartment is a good idea. Do your research and find the development that suits your needs. Get to know the landlord, the rules, and even talk to other tenants to see what it’s like to live there.

If you want to buy or rent to buy, a condo is your only option. You’ll deal with an individual rather than a company, though, so you may have more flexibility. 

Which is Right for You?

There is no right or wrong when choosing a condo or apartment. Think about what you’re most comfortable with – do you want to deal with an individual or a company? Do you want to buy something (think about rent to buy) or will you rent for now?

Do you want to live in an area where everyone rents and has similar units or do you want something more unique, which you’ll get in a condo? Either way, look at the area and amenities and make sure the development has what you need to make it feel like home.