Condo vs Apartment: What Are the Differences?

By Kenny Zhu · January 23, 2024 · 9 minute read

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Condo vs Apartment: What Are the Differences?

Both apartments and condominiums share quite a number of traits but differ in ownership. Apartments are often found in large residential complexes owned by a company. These complexes are often operated by professional property managers. Condos are also usually located in large residential complexes, but each condo unit is typically owned by an individual owner.

If you’re browsing the market for a rental, you’ve likely encountered a dazzling array of condos and apartments, and you might rent either type of property. The question of condo vs. apartment gets more complex if you’re debating whether to buy a condo or rent an apartment.

What Is a Condo?

A condo is a residential unit within a collective living community, where each individual condo is owned by a private owner, but the cost of maintaining communal areas is shared by all owners. While condos are often located in high-rise buildings, they can also take the form of a collection of standalone properties, each designated a “condo unit.”

One benefit to renting a condo is that you can deal directly with your landlord rather than a management office, which may mean more personalized attention for your needs.

For buyers, the purchase price for a condo can be significantly lower than the cost of most single-family homes.

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What Is an Apartment?

An apartment is a rental unit within a building, complex, or community. Often, an apartment complex is managed by a property management company, which serves as both landlord and leasing agent for all of the units on the premises. In big cities, “apartment” is sometimes used as shorthand for a condo or co-op unit. If you’re choosing between a co-op and a condo to rent or buy, you’ll want to know how they differ, and whether you’re ready to buy an apartment.

Rental apartments may be located in high-rises but can also be found in larger homes that have been subdivided into separate units.

Renting an apartment offers greater mobility than buying a property, which makes it a flexible option if you’re only planning on staying in an area for a couple of years. A full-time management office or private landlord takes care of leasing, rent payments, and repairs.

Where They Differ

Now that we’ve covered the condo vs. apartment basics, let’s dive deeper into some key dimensions in where they differ.


Each unit in a condo development is usually owned by a private homeowner. Unless the condo owner retains the services of a property manager, prospective renters can expect to deal with the condo owner directly when it comes to rental applications, monthly rent payments, and any maintenance issues that arise over the course of their lease.

Apartments are often managed by a property management company that may also own the apartment complex. Effectively, this makes the company the landlord for the entire property. Prospective apartment tenants will usually submit their application and rent payments through the apartment leasing office, while full-time maintenance staffers are on call to deal with any repairs. Of course, some apartments are in smaller buildings owned by individuals. In that case, a renter might deal directly with the property owner just as a renter in a condo does.

In either case, landlords may be amenable to your desire to negotiate rent in order to take you on or keep you. Paring the rent is the main goal in such a negotiation, but you can always ask for other benefits in lieu of a rent reduction.

Property Taxes

Renters aren’t responsible for paying property taxes, making them a non-issue in the apartment vs. condo choice. However, if you’re deciding whether to purchase a condo, understand that you’re responsible for paying property taxes for your unit every year. If you decide to rent your condo out, you should also expect to be taxed on any rental income you collect.


Regardless of structure type, condo owners retain the right to make cosmetic adjustments to the interior of their properties. So if you’re interested in renting in a particular condo complex and you don’t like the design choices an owner has made, consider looking at other units that are available for rent — you may find a very different look and feel in another unit. Apartments within a rental complex, in contrast, typically share similar, if not identical, layouts and designs regardless of which unit you choose.


The amenities of both apartments and condos vary widely and often depend on when and how they were built. Generally speaking, condos are more likely to offer customized amenities, like state-of-the-art appliances and granite countertops, that reflect the tastes and habits of their owners.


Apartments and condos of similar quality and in the same area should rent for around the same cost. Both condos and apartments often charge the following fees:

•   Application fee

•   First and last month’s rent

•   Security deposit

•   Credit and background check fee

•   Pet fees and deposit

•   Parking fee

Renters may find that condo owners are more willing to negotiate on things like fees than apartment management teams, as these are private owners trying to keep their units rented out for income purposes.

Buying a condo will mean paying monthly maintenance fees that cover insurance for and upkeep of common areas, water and sewer charges, garbage and recycling collection, condo management services, and contributions to a reserve account.


Condos usually have a greater sense of community than apartment complexes, given that their residents are likely to stay around longer. In many cases, residents consist of the condo owners themselves.

By contrast, renters living in apartments often intend to stay for only a couple of years. While that’s not to say that there aren’t occasional resident get-togethers at some apartment complexes, you’re less likely to encounter the same faces over several months.

If you’re renting a condo, expect to abide by rules set by the homeowners association. These can sometimes be fairly strict. Apartments have their own set of rules that may be less stringent.

Renting and Financing

Renting an apartment involves one monthly rent payment, in addition to any utilities you’re responsible for. Of course, when you leave the apartment, you leave with just your security deposit, assuming all payments have been made and no damage has been done.

Financing a condo and purchasing the property allows you to lock in your monthly mortgage payments at a steady long-term rate and gives you the chance to start building equity. In exchange, you’ll be required to make a down payment and be responsible for any taxes, insurance, and maintenance fees, among other costs.

Deciding whether it’s better to buy a condo or to rent — or to get a house or condo — is a complicated decision that depends on your personal finances and your lifestyle. If you’re thinking about settling down, have a stable job with steady income, and have enough saved up for a down payment with an emergency fund to spare, buying a condo or house may be the right choice for you. However, if you’re still exploring the area or have variable income with limited savings, it may be best to continue renting. For those trying to decide between renting an apartment and financing a condo or house, a mortgage help center can help provide answers.

💡 Quick Tip: Your parents or grandparents probably got mortgages for 30 years. But these days, you can get them for 20, 15, or 10 years — and pay less interest over the life of the loan.


Most apartment complexes have an on-site building supervisor who can address maintenance issues. Given that the owner of a large apartment complex oversees all of the units, they’re incentivized to employ someone full time to attend to the day-to-day affairs. This often means that apartment owners can react faster than condo owners, who sometimes don’t even live on the premises.

By contrast, condo units are usually owned by landlords, and most of them hire a third-party contractor to come in and make repairs as necessary. In some cases, condo owners may be handy and handle the repairs on their own.

If you buy a condo, you’ll have a regular maintenance fee that covers the shared parts of the property, but because condo owners typically own just the interior of their unit, any repairs in the condo unit will be separate. (It’s a good idea to pore over the covenants, conditions, and restrictions to see exactly what is part of your unit or part of the common elements.)

Condominium vs Apartment: A Side-by-Side Comparison

To help sum it all up, here’s a quick guide to the condo and apartment traits discussed above.



Ownership Private owner Property management company, if a large complex; private owner if a smaller building
Property taxes Paid by condo owner Paid by building owner
Design Customized by owner Uniform across all units

First and last month’s rent

Security deposit

Credit and background check

Application fee

First and last month’s rent

Security deposit

Pet fees

Community Typically condo owners and long-term residents Typically shorter-term renters
Renting & Financing

Condo renters:

Monthly rent


Condo owners:

Mortgage payment


Property taxes

Maintenance fees

Property insurance

Monthly rent


Renter’s insurance

Maintenance Private owner hires third-party contractors for repairs and maintenance On-site maintenance staff

Condo vs Apartment: Which One May Be Right for You?

Whether a condo or apartment is right for you depends on your preferred rental experience. If you’re looking for something that feels a little more akin to home and don’t mind dealing directly with your landlord when discussing repairs and rent payments, a condo (or an apartment in a small privately owned apartment building) may be the better option for you.

On the other hand, if you prefer dealing with a full-time staff of property managers, want something more structured, and don’t mind cookie-cutter corporate apartments, an apartment may be the better rental option for you.

Prospective condo buyers will want to keep their finances and monthly budget in mind when deciding if they want to rent or buy. While the idea of building equity is appealing, settling down and committing to a mortgage isn’t for everyone. You’ll want to thoughtfully evaluate your ability to make monthly payments and whether you want to stick around an area.

The Takeaway

In the condo vs. apartment comparison, you’ll pay similar costs when renting properties of similar quality. Things get more complex if you’re debating whether to buy a condo or rent an apartment, as there are myriad added costs for condo owners in exchange for the chance to build equity.

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Why are condos more expensive than apartments?

In general, condos and apartments of comparable quality cost around the same amount to rent. A condo owner, however, will likely face higher monthly costs than an apartment renter, thanks to the added costs that come with owning a property, including mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, and maintenance fees. Over time, the added expense may be offset by the equity built through mortgage payments.

Which retains more value, condos or apartments?

Over the long run, both a condo and an apartment in a co-op building can lose or gain value. Whether your specific property appreciates will depend on local market factors and on upkeep of your unit as well as of the larger complex.

Can I get a loan to buy a condo or co-op apartment?

A qualified buyer can finance a condo with a government-backed or conventional mortgage loan. Getting a loan for buying into a housing cooperative can be more difficult. The buyer is purchasing shares that give them the right to live in the unit — personal property, not real property. That’s one reason that some lenders do not offer financing for co-ops.

Photo credit: iStock/Michael Vi

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