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It may come as a surprise to many of you renters out there that condos and apartments are in fact not one in the same, though they share many similarities. There are several key differences between a condo and an apartment (stemming from ownership). While a condo is owned and managed by a landlord, an apartment is typically owned and managed by a corporation, known as a property management company. Let’s dive into the details to discover more about each rental option, shall we?
What Is a Condo?
A condominium (what us cool kids – and everyone else – like to call a “condo”) is a private residence that is rented out to tenants like yourself. A condo is typically located in a residential building or community, but the unit itself is privately owned by an individual who becomes the landlord of that property. The owner of the condo has full say as to who is approved to rent their unit, so renting a condo is more of a personal, one-on-one process than renting, say, an apartment. However, the landlord will not be on site, unless they live in another condo they own in the same building – a little too close for comfort for my taste, but to each his own, right?
What Is an Apartment?
An apartment is a rental property that is usually owned (not just managed) by a property management company, located in a residential building, complex, or community – whatever the situation may be. In an apartment building, all of the units are the same, the owner is the same, and the tenants all follow the same guidelines for renting a unit in the complex. Every tenant reports to the same property manager, who can typically be found in the leasing office with employed leasing agents (to assist current residents and lease other units) at the front of the community or within the complex.
What’s the Difference Between a Condo and an Apartment?
So, what makes a condo different from an apartment? In terms of physical attributes, nothing. The difference between the two stems from ownership. You now know that an apartment is housed within a complex (filled with other apartments) that is owned by a single entity, often a corporation, and then leased out to individual tenants.
A condo, however, is owned by an individual and usually managed by either the owner personally, or it lies under the umbrella of that condo community’s homeowner association (HOA), often relying on the assistance of a property management company. This is getting a bit tricky – I know, but bear with me! So, when you rent a condo, the individual condo owner is your landlord, but when you rent an apartment, the property manager that works for the corporation (the owners) serves as your landlord of sorts, though you may not have as much contact with them directly as you would a landlord because all members of the leasing office assist residents. Got it? Good. Let’s move on to how condos and apartments differ apart from their ownership.
Characteristics of a Condo versus an Apartment
We’ve covered the most important factor that will affect your rental journey when living in a condo versus an apartment – the ownership. But how else does a condo differ from an apartment, you ask? There are a few factors that can differ (even slightly) between the two.
Types of Amenities
Between fireplaces and fitness centers, there’s a vast array that comes with renting, whether that be a condo or an apartment. So what different amenities are offered in each?
Because the landlord of the condo is also the owner, it’s probable that a condo has more of a personal touch to it. You’ll likely find updated features such as granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and upgraded flooring (hello, hardwoods!), along with personal touches such as the paint color on the walls or the backsplash in the kitchen. It gives some variety between each condo in the community. Everything in a condo is done by the individual owner (unless they didn’t update anything since buying or inheriting the property – which doesn’t happen often).
It’s likely updated and well-kept because the owner has more incentive to do so – they may have even previously lived in the condo, and they want the property value to remain high. If the condo is looking sharp, then it’ll be easier to rent, and the owner can charge more for an updated condo than for a lackluster one. In the condo community itself, you’ll likely find luxurious amenities such as concierge services, garage parking, outdoor areas, a fitness center, and even an indoor or outdoor pool.
When it comes to an apartment, there isn’t going to be a special, personal touch with the kitchen’s color scheme or the choice of flooring. The units in an apartment complex are identical, unless some are more upgraded than others. Though many apartment communities these days also offer luxury amenities, most apartments will still offer more basic amenities, such as a laundry room, an outdoor pool, and a gym, while in others, you’ll find a dog park, tennis courts, valet waste, and even an indoor mailroom. It depends on the area and the quality of the apartment.
Cost of Renting
Right now, I have a feeling you’re asking, “Is a condo more expensive than an apartment?” The answer to your question, my fellow renter, is no. A condo is not technically going to cost you more in rent than an apartment. If a condo and an apartment are in the same part of town, then they will probably cost around the same. It does, however, depend on the quality of the rentals. If one is more upgraded and offers more amenities than the other, then it’ll be priced accordingly. Both landlords of condos and property managers of apartments price their units based on the average rent in the area, comparing their rent to nearby condos and apartments. Competitive pricing is the name of the game!
Paying rent for a condo
The greatest difference between a condo and an apartment cost-wise is the way you pay rent, utilities, and additional fees. In a condo, you’ll probably be a part of the condo community’s homeowners association (HOA). As a tenant of the condo, you’ll have to pay monthly HOA fees for the upkeep of the common areas of the community and the exterior of the complex, along with any amenity fees such as the concierge services. When paying rent to a landlord, you probably won’t have the convenience of online payments. Paying by check will always be in style when it comes to renting a condo. It really just depends on the landlord, so make sure you ask their preferred method of payment for rent before you sign your lease.
Paying rent for an apartment
In an apartment, you’ll likely pay your monthly rent (and any included utilities) on your apartment community’s online portal, or by check if you prefer. You will typically pay any other utilities that are not included in your rent (such as gas, electricity, and internet) separately to those external providers on a monthly basis. Whereas in a condo, your monthly rent may include a flat (or by usage) rate for utilities because they are managed by the landlord (depending on the landlord).
Whether you rent a condo or an apartment, you’re going to have maintenance issues that come up. Whether it’s a leaky faucet or a running toilet, the problem is going to need to be fixed. But whether that’s by you, the landlord, or a maintenance team depends on which type of rental you choose.
In a condo, either you or the landlord (or both) are responsible for the maintenance of the unit. This could mean more potential out-of-pocket costs for you, but the landlord usually covers most of the issues through his/her property management proxy or hired maintenance. Though the HOA covers the maintenance of community areas such as the shared amenities and the building itself, they do not fix your leaky toilet – for that, you will either have to fix it yourself, or wait for your landlord to call in their preferred maintenance provider. Keep in mind that if the owner is out of the country or in another state, it may take them more time to contact their management proxy to get things fixed in the unit.
In apartment living, you will most likely find that your apartment community offers free, around-the-clock maintenance, meaning that as a renter, you are not responsible for most repairs. Typically, through the apartment community’s online portal, you will put in a service request for anything that you need fixed in the apartment – easy peasy! You can, of course, always call during office hours (or the after-hours emergency line) if the matter is urgent. Maintenance that is 24/7 (and free) is one of the greatest perks of apartment living.
Rules and Regulations
No one likes rules (for the most part) – other than those who enforce them – but it’s important to follow them if you want to stay on good terms with your landlord or property manager. They may differ depending on the type of rental you live in.
In a condo…
In a condo, the residential guidelines for the building will likely be set by the HOA. For instance, there may be rules against keeping trash outside of your front door, picking up pet waste, and not leaving personal items around the community. Speaking of pets, if the condo community is pet-friendly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the condo you’re interested in renting is. Check with the landlord to make sure that this unit is pet-friendly if you plan to bring your furry friend along on your rental journey.
In an apartment…
With an apartment’s property management company, you’ll also find guidelines regarding trash and pet waste in the community, but every tenant must follow the same rules when it comes to the interior of the apartment as well. Though you are not allowed to paint the walls, hang heavy items that many damage the walls, or do any type of permanent decorating in an apartment, you’ll find that condo owners often have more lenient guidelines. It just depends on the owner!
Choosing Between a Condo and an Apartment
When renting a condo, expect to have a personal, direct relationship with the owner of the condo. This owner is now your landlord, and you’ll want to keep things friendly as this is the only person you will be contacting when you pay rent, request maintenance, or ask any questions regarding the condo. It’s best to keep a positive relationship with this person if you like living in their rental. After all, the condo belongs to them, and if you’re not a good tenant, it’s possible they won’t allow for a lease renewal.
When renting an apartment, you’ll likely deal with several members of the property management company, including the property manager, assistant property manager, and various leasing agents. These people will help process your rent, assign the maintenance team to your requests, send out community announcements and reminders, and keep the community pristine through hired workers and reminders to residents about their responsibility to the upkeep of the community. This is in regards to picking up after your pets, parking in one spot (and one spot only), and being respectful of your apartment neighbors. It’s easy stuff!
Choosing between a condo and an apartment is up to you, but with a richer understanding of what makes them unique, your rental journey should be smooth sailing from here! Happy hunting, you knowledgeable renter, you.
Published February 14, 2019
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