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Renting a Condo vs. Apartment: What's Right for You?

When the time comes to think about moving — whether you are leaving home for the first time or you’re a seasoned pro at relocating — one question worth asking is “What’s the difference between condo and apartment hunting?” They both seem similar enough, but after looking a little closer, you’ll find there can be big differences between renting a condo versus renting an apartment.

Take homeowners association (HOA) rules for instance. Does the condo rental you’re considering require renters to follow those rules and do you know what they are? Does your lease require you to get renter’s insurance? These are key questions to know the answers to before you sign on the dotted line. Because getting it right the first time is so important, we’ve put together this deep dive to help you decide when comparing apartments versus condos. What’s the right fit for you? Let’s take a look.

Table of Contents:

What Is a Condo?

What Is an Apartment?

Renting a Condo vs. Apartment: What’s the Difference?

How to Decide If a Condo or Apartment Is Right for You

Protect Your Condo or Apartment with Renters Insurance

What Is a Condo?

Also called a condominium, a condo is an individually-owned private residence unit — typically situated withing a group of homes, like a gated community, or in a single building, like a high rise. Jointly owning shared areas such as garages, gyms, and pools, condo owners frequently enjoy access to amenities that enrich their lives.

What is a condominium’s main attraction? In many cases, it’s the “extras” that add value to renting a condo. What is a condo rental good for? It can help you to better understand what life in a condo will feel like, if you’re thinking about buying a condo in the future. The real meaning of “condo” for you may reside in the access to the shared facilities and on-site amenities that apartments typically don’t have.

But it’s key to inquire about their use before renting —because HOA rules may limit renters from using those collectively-owned amenities. Condos may cost more to rent, but they can be worth it if you’re saving on a monthly gym membership and your quality of life is enhanced at home.

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What Is an Apartment?

Generally understood to be a residential rental unit within a building, an apartment can actually mean many things. That’s because the definition of what an apartment is varies from one owner to the other. The first floor of a home can be considered an apartment, as can the basement. Apartments are typically owned by a property management group or an individual landlord. Both entities will usually manage the day-to-day operations of the business, like upkeep and general maintenance.

What is an apartment home? Sometimes called an apartment block or apartment house, apartment homes are buildings that contain more than one rental dwelling unit, which are typically designed for domestic use. In some cases, the building’s primary floors may house convenience stores, coffee shops or other commercially operated storefronts.

Apartments are not typically associated with the extra amenities found in condos. But that’s changing, as newly constructed apartments take aim at offering up many of the benefits that condo living presents, in order to better compete in the marketplace.

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Renting a Condo vs. Apartment: What’s the Difference?

When you’re thinking about renting a condo versus an apartment, it really can come down to property ownership. Apartments may be owned and operated by an LLC or another business entity that outsources the operations of the building to a property manager.

When comparing condos versus apartments, it’s important to consider who you’re more comfortable with as your landlord. Do you prefer the social aspects of getting to know your landlord and learning about your neighborhood from someone familiar with the area? If so, you may find renting an apartment or condo owned by a single proprietor is all you need.

But the benefits of renting from a professional property management group shouldn’t be overlooked. They’ll usually be very attentive to tenant issues, in most cases working quickly to resolve problems and make repairs. You may not be as lucky with a sole proprietor who may need to hold on expensive repairs. When it comes to renting a condo versus an apartment, pros and cons — and weighing them out before you sign — can help you decide:

Condo vs. apartment amenities

You’ll likely find apartments to be more generic in their offerings to tenants. If renting a condo versus an apartment is more about expensive finishes and high-end kitchen appliances, you may be better off going with a condo. Condos are usually better appointed, but the offerings don’t stop there.

When weighing the pros and cons of renting a condo versus renting an apartment, be sure to look carefully at the benefits that each are offering you. Because you may be denied access to certain areas when renting a condo, you’ll need to read through the HOA rules and the details in your lease as well.

If the apartment you’re looking at has a fitness room available for your use, learn about access and ask if it’s yours to use freely, without charge. Then, verify that these details are present in your lease.

Condo vs. apartment pricing

Do you know if renting a condo — versus an apartment — is a better value? In most cases, you’ll find that an equally appointed one-bedroom condo rental will be more costly than an apartment. That’s due in part to increased overhead in the form of HOA dues and the costs condo owners encounter when managing a rental property. Access to the gym and pool can come at an increased cost to your rent.

The higher investment costs incurred by condo owners for stainless steel appliances or quality wall-to-wall carpeting may be pushing the rent higher, too. Condos may cost more, but you’ll probably find apartments don’t generally invest in the same finishes or offer as wide an array of amenities for you to consume.

Exactly how rent is paid each month can be another factor to consider. Larger apartment buildings may offer you the means to pay your rent online, and in some cases — you may be able to schedule your payments automatically from your checking account. The odds of that option can be less with a condo owner renting to a sole tenant.

Also, if your condo landlord agrees to customize the rental with finishes you request, you may want to buy the place one day. With the right working relationship, you may find that the condo owner willing to offer you a chance to buy after a few years. You probably won’t get that option when renting an apartment.

Condo vs. apartment maintenance

Another key consideration, when weighing out the pros and cons of renting a condo versus an apartment, is the that you’re rental will need regular maintenance. If you’re thinking about signing a long-term lease, this is really important. Be sure to find out how issues will be handled when you’re on-site for a visit before you sign.

If you’re looking at a condo, check to see if the HOA is required to handle certain expenses — like issues that may arise in your HVAC system. If the HOA is responsible, they may have an emergency fund to help pay for major repairs. And that means the condo owner won’t be on the hook for that expense.

It’s also key for you to learn about how maintenance concerns will be managed when renting an apartment. Typically, you’re ok to assume that if your kitchen sink is leaking, someone will be assigned to fix the problem and the repair will be made free of charge to you. Free maintenance is a real perk for apartment renting tenants.

Condo vs. apartment rules

Another thing to consider when contemplating renting a condo versus an apartment is the fact that both leases may require you to operate according to a certain set of rules. Although condo HOAs tend to be stricter, and may impose fines for breaking the rules, that type of structure can be very attractive to those seeking consistency where they’re living.

If you’re looking for a place to rent with early quiet hours, you may want to go with a condo. But you may be required to walk your dog in designated areas and pick up pet waste or face a fine. However, if you’re looking for a rental where you and your friends can get together and laugh out loud well into the evening, an apartment without such harsh regulations in the lease may be a better answer for you.

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How to Decide If a Condo or Apartment Is Right for You

It should be clear by now that much of the condo versus apartment decision boils down to your budget and personal preferences. If renting a condo versus an apartment offers you enhanced security and that’s just what you’re willing to pay for, then go with a condo rental.

But if you are looking to save money for a down payment on the purchase of a home someday soon, renting a less expensive place may be the right answer.

Take a look at this table outlining the “Pros and Cons of Renting” to help you make the right call:

Pros and Cons of Renting a Condo Versus Renting an Apartment
Fast, free maintenance and repairs
HOA rules and regulations
Strict pet policies
Greater security
Increased savings
More expensive
Professional property manager
Greater lifestyle flexibility
Access to on-site amenities
Custom renovation opportunities
Ease of making payments
Option to buy after renting

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Protect Your Condo or Apartment with Renters Insurance

Now that you’ve got a better idea of what you’re looking for — and what your finances can afford — you’re hopefully better able to make an informed decision on renting.

Whichever direction your choice takes you, be sure you do all you can to protect everything you’ve worked so hard for with renters insurance from American Family. And if you one day decide to buy that condo, reach out to your agent and get a quote on condo insurance to best protect everything that matters most.

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Related Topics: At Home , Home Insurance , Owning A Home , Renters