Apartment vs. Condo and Which is Right for You
When you’re searching for your next place to rent, there are a number of factors that can help you narrow down your options. For starters, location is key. You want to live somewhere that’s convenient to the places that are important to you, like your office, school and public transportation –just to name a few. You’ll also need to consider the unit itself. Are there enough bathrooms? Are pets allowed? You’ll also want to think about amenities. For example, if you’re an avid swimmer, a pool might be a must for you. If you’re a dog owner, you’ll want to find an option that has a small dog park. And of course, you’ll also need to consider price.
There is one additional factor to consider that’s not quite as obvious, but it’ll help you further filter your search. That factor is whether you want to rent a condo or an apartment.
This post will explore how renting an apartment differs from renting a condo, as well as the pros and cons of each option. Armed with this information, you can decide which is the best choice for you.
What’s an Apartment?
When most people think about renting, the first thing that comes to mind is renting an apartment.An apartment is a property that’s owned and managed by a property management company. It can take many forms, including a single, high rise building or a series of smaller buildings grouped together, and often has common amenities like laundry facilities and fitness centers. Generally, all units within the apartment community or complex look the same. For example, all two-bedroom units have the same floor plan and feature identical flooring, paint colors and appliances.
The key thing to remember is that in an apartment, everyone rents their unit from the same property management company and is subject to the same rules as every other tenant.
What’s a Condo?
At first glance, a condo building looks quite similar to an apartment building. It’s a multi-unit dwelling, typically with some common amenities that all residents can use.
The key difference? In a condo, an individual person owns each unit. The buildings typically managed by a homeowner’s association, and the HOA will often hire a third-party property management company to handle the day-to-day operations.
In many cases, the owner lives in the unit they own. However, some owners opt to rent out their units to tenants.
Apartment vs Condo: Which is Better?
Now that you understand the difference between an apartment and a condo, you’re probably wondering which is the better option to rent. There’s no easy answer, though, and it all comes down to your needs and preferences. After all, something that’s considered a downside by one renter may be completely irrelevant to another.
It’s important to consider the pros and cons of renting an apartment from a property management company versus renting a condo from an owner, and then decide which choice is better for you.
Pros and Cons of Renting an Apartment
Let’s start off by looking at some of the positive and negative aspects of renting an apartment from a property management company.
Pro: Apartments are Professionally Managed
A big plus of renting an apartment is that they are managed by professional property management companies. These companies have plenty of experience managing the ins and outs of an apartment community and have solid processes and procedures in place for every aspect of renting, from completing an online application to handling resident complaints, and everything in between. In many cases, there’s even an on-site property manager –as well as leasing consultants –that are available to help prospective and current residents.
Another advantage of a property management company is that most offer an online resident portal that allows residents to sign their lease, pay their rent, submit a maintenance request (more on that later), and more.
Pro: Apartments Offer 24/7 Maintenance
Over the course of your lease, you’ll probably need some kind of maintenance assistance. Maybe the kitchen faucet will leak or one of your windows will stick.
If you live in an apartment, you’ll have access to24/7 maintenance assistance. Typically, you can submit a request for maintenance through the renter portal. Or, if it’s an urgent request, you can call the management office directly and maintenance will come to fix your issue, no matter the time of day. The best part is that you don’t have to pay for any of this; it’s included in your rent.
Pro: Apartments Have Shared Amenities
Many apartments offer amenities that are available for all residents to use. Of course, this varies widely from apartment to apartment. While some offer basic amenities like laundry facilities, complimentary beverages, and a communal barbecue grill, others feature premium amenities like swimming pools, fitness centers, and dog parks.
Con: Units in an Apartment Building are Identical
As mentioned earlier, units in an apartment are nearly identical. A two-bedroom apartment on the third floor has the same flooring, counters, and colors as a two-bedroom apartment on the sixth floor.
Of course, some renters might not be bothered by this. But others might find apartment units to be a little generic and may want to seek out an option that’s more unique.
Cons: Apartments are Less Flexible
Earlier, we discussed why having a professional property management company at an apartment is a good thing. However, like all things, there is a downside.
At an apartment, there are established policies for just about everything. This leaves little room for flexibility and negotiation. In fact, rules are often set at a corporate level, and individual property managers don’t have the authority to override them or make exceptions.
For example, it’s rare that a property management company will negotiate on things like rent cost and lease terms. Even things like pet policies are set in stone. If the building doesn’t allow pets, they’re not going to make an exception for your furry friend (unless, of course, it’s a service animal). What’s more, all tenants are bound by the same rules about the interior of the apartments, so if things like painting aren’t allowed, there are no exceptions.
Pros and Cons of Renting a Condo
When you’re looking for your next place to live, renting a condo from an owner can be another great option. However, similar to renting an apartment, there are pros and cons.
Pro: Condos are (Often) Well Maintained
Condo owners have a vested interest in keeping their units in great shape. A key goal of condo owners is to preserve resale value, so they may even invest in sought-after features like wood flooring, granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances. If that’s the case, you’ll find yourself
living in a beautiful, updated condo. However, that’s not always the case. There are plenty of outdated condos out there.
Pro: Condo Owners are More Flexible
While property managers make rules for entire apartment communities, condo owners only make the rules for their own units. Of course, there are certain rules the entire building must follow, like picking up after pets and properly disposing of trash. But when it comes to the rules of the unit itself, there may be a little more wiggle room. And that’s a great thing for potential renters.
For example, a condo owner may be open to negotiating rent prices or other fees to avoid having a vacant unit. Or, they may be willing to let a renter paint an accent wall, provided the renter repaints it to the original color before vacating.
Pro: Each Condo Looks Unique
While all units in an apartment building look very nearly identical, condos are a different story. Each condo in a building offers a unique look with different flooring, colors, and finished. This can be a big advantage for someone looking for a home that’s a little less “cookie cutter.”
Pro: Condos Have Great Shared Amenities
Like apartments, many condos have shared amenities that are available to all residents. These amenities range from basic (think free coffee, a laundry room, and a communal area) to more luxurious (think swimming pools, yoga rooms, and spas).
Con: A Condo Owner May Be an Inexperienced Landlord
While property management companies have plenty of experience managing apartments, a condo owner may be a first-time landlord. Some inexperienced landlords may not understand what’s expected of them, and they may not be equipped to handle the ins and outs of renting a condo. Essentially, you’ll be their guinea pig as they try to figure out what they’re doing.
In addition, most condo owners don’t have the resources property management companies do. That means you’ll likely encounter processes that are more manual than you would if you were renting an apartment. For example, you may have to complete a paper application, pay rent with a check, and call the landlord directly to request maintenance, rather than using an online portal.
Con: Maintenance May Fall by the Wayside
If you’re lucky, the condo you’re renting won’t require any kind of maintenance while you’re living there. But chances are, it will. And if you need maintenance, you’re at the mercy of the landlord.
Let’s say your toilet starts leaking. If you lived in an apartment, you could call the management office or submit a maintenance request through the renter portal. The request would then be
routed to the appropriate on-site staff member, who would come to fix your issue. But when you live in a condo, you have to call the landlord. He might not be available. And even if he is, he may decide your issue isn’t a priority and put it off.
Con: The Condo Owner May Decide to Sell
If the owner has a life change –for example, he gets a job in a new city –he may decide to sell his condo. That means you’ll have to start looking for a new place to live, perhaps sooner than you planned. You may find yourself in a similar situation if the owner stops making mortgage payments or doesn’t pay his assessments.
As an added inconvenience, if the owner puts the condo on the market while you’re still living there, you may have to accommodate showings of the property.
When you’re looking for a new place to rent, one key consideration is whether you want to rent a condo or an apartment. There are pros and cons to each option, and the right choice depends on your individual needs and preference. Happy hunting!