Condos are usually managed by a Homeowners Association (HOA), but each individual unit has a separate owner. You have the option to purchase a condo, just like you would a house. If you choose to rent a condo, the owner of the unit would be your landlord.
On the other hand, you cannot purchase individual apartment units. Instead, apartments typically have one owner, most likely a corporation, and are leased to individual tenants. So your landlord would be a management company.
The rules governing a condo and an apartment are different based on the owner. For instance, in an apartment, the property management company enforces rules, and those same rules apply to all of the units.
Rules can be trickier in condos. Aside from guidelines set by the HOA for areas outside of the units, restrictions for condos may vary per unit, with owners setting their own regulations.
The rules set by the HOA include fees – which help pay for maintenance of common areas and building exteriors. But in some cases, HOAs have restrictions on the number of units that can be rented. This is something to keep in mind when thinking about purchasing a condo with the intention of renting it.
Rent for an apartment is a fixed amount for the extent of the lease and can increase when it’s time for you to renew. Some apartments offer month-to-month or short-term leases, but the contracts are usually for a year. Payments for an apartment depend on the market rate and unit availability. Also, some apartments will require you to have renter’s insurance. Utilities are often not included in your rent, so that would be an additional cost.
If you are renting a condo, your payments will also be a fixed amount for the rental period unless your agreement states otherwise. Rental payments for a condo are decided by the landlord. Some owners include HOA fees and utilities as part of the rent for a flat fee rather than based on usage, which is found with most apartments.
Units in apartment complexes have standard features that are the same across the community. Sometimes there are different floor plans available and options for standard or upgraded appliances if the landlord is investing in the property.
Amenities can include free parking, an on-site laundry facility, pool, gym, community room available to rent for events, a business office, a park, playground, car wash and other conveniences that make a property appealing. The more luxury the apartment, the wider the range of available niceties.
Condo community amenities are pretty much the same found in an apartment complex. Inside the units, the features are sometimes more unique and upscale (granite countertops, hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings) than apartments because quality amenities can create higher property value for the owners.
One key difference is that you are not allowed to renovate an apartment and usually cannot make renovations to a rental condo unless the owner gives you permission.
Free maintenance is a perk of renting an apartment. Some complexes offer services that include submitting work orders online and 24-hour on-call emergency maintenance, so you are still able to receive service after hours. Issues are usually resolved in a timely manner and can be fixed even if you are not home.
In a condo, you or the property owner are typically responsible for the maintenance of the unit, which could mean more out-of-pocket costs to you in the long run. It is important to discuss and get these terms in writing before you move into the unit. If you have issues with your rental condo, you have to contact the owner who may not be available at your convenience, which could mean a longer wait time for repairs to be completed. Usually, the HOA covers the maintenance of common areas including the outside of buildings.
Renting an apartment typically offers a more professional experience. Renting a condo can be a more laid-back arrangement with fewer services than an apartment.
Knowing your preferences and needs can help you find the home that is best for you when choosing based on the difference between a condo and an apartment. The decision is really about what you are seeking as an individual in terms of short-term versus long-term goals and desired standard of living.