Condo vs. Apartment: Understanding the Differences in Costs, Living, & Ownership

A photo of city apartment buildings surrounding by trees available for rent

People often get confused about the differences between a condo vs. an apartment, and understandably so. They’re both residential properties and even sometimes look alike. There’s also the added complexity where you can technically rent a condo from its property owners, which is traditionally owned.

Learn more about the difference between an apartment and a condo based on costs, living experience, ownership, and unique benefits they both offer below.

Condo vs. Apartment FAQs

A photo of high-rise apartment and condo buildings in a city

What is a Condo? 

A condominium (condo) is a residential property that’s owned by individual property owners. They’re often part of a building, complex, or association, but owned as single units.

 

How Do Condos Work? 

Condos are traditionally purchased through a mortgage loan lender. You’ll own the property as you would with buying a house and pay monthly mortgage payments. Owning a condo allows you to pay off your loan in advance, while apartment rental payments cannot.

 

Can You Rent a Condo? 

Yes, you can. Condo owners can rent out their properties to tenants. These instances are common with vacation condo rentals or if the condo owners move and want another source of cash flow.

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

The main difference between renting a condo vs. an apartment is who you’ll pay rent to. If you’re renting a condo, you’ll pay rent directly to the property owner, who acts as your landlord. If you’re renting an apartment, you’ll pay rent to the property management company or landlord.

Whether you rent a condo or apartment, they both involve lease agreements, security deposits, and monthly rent.

 

Can You Buy an Apartment? 

If you’re a tenant, you technically cannot buy an apartment. Property investors typically buy apartment complexes and lease out individual units.

 

Can You Own an Apartment? 

As a tenant, you cannot own an individual apartment. Property investors usually own the entire complex. However, property management companies may switch owners if the community is seeking new ownership.

 

Condo vs. Apartment: Key Differences

A row of suburban condos with front patios and a tree-lined sidewalk

A condo is short for a condominium, which is individually owned. Apartments are owned by a sole property owner/investor who leases out individual units to separate tenants. The main difference is that you own a condo but rent an apartment. However, condo owners can also lease their place to tenants for rent if the community allows subleasing.

Below is a condo vs. apartment guide so you can decide on the best property for you and make moving as easy as possible.

 

Property Maintenance & Repair Responsibilities

Since landlords or property investors own apartment complexes, they’re required to pay and make repairs as needed, like window replacements and plumbing issues. However, tenants are still required to maintain apartments, like keeping them clean/sanitary and changing lightbulbs.

You should always review your lease agreement before signing if there are built-in maintenance and repair clauses. You may be responsible for certain repairs if you didn’t report them timely before they grew into larger structural issues. Additionally, if you severely damage an apartment, like holes in the wall or pets ripping up the carpet, you’re likely liable for repair costs.

Since condos are typically owned, you’re responsible for in-unit repair and maintenance costs, like appliance issues and paint chips. Condos that are part of HOAs or associations are responsible for fixing and maintaining shared areas, like roofing and clubhouses.

If you’re renting a condo from its property owners, maintenance and repair responsibilities vary. You should confirm this before signing a condo lease to know who is liable for all possible repairs and maintenance costs.

 

Property Contracts

Property contracts for condos and apartments have different rules. If you’re renting an apartment, you’ll sign a lease agreement. If you buy a condo, you’ll need to get approved for a mortgage loan.

Depending on your landlord or property management company, apartment rentals allow you to move once the lease ends or break the lease early with a fee and prior approval. Since you own a condo, you’re committed to the property and must sell or lease it to a tenant if you want to move.

 

Property Costs

Condos and apartments both require financial pre-qualifications, including credit score checks and security deposits (apartments)/down payments (condos).

With condos, loan lenders may ask for four months’ worth of mortgage reserves in cash or liquid asset value, such as retirement accounts or stocks. Mortgage reserves act as a financial backup of your income to ensure you can afford to make monthly payments on top of your down payment and closing costs.

With apartments, you’ll only need a security deposit that’s often three months’ worth of rent and a minimal 650 credit score. Depending on the property and location, landlords may allow a lower credit score or no security deposit in your application. Some apartment applications may require references or a co-signer if you have a prior eviction history or low credit score.

In addition to upfront property costs, you’ll also have monthly payments for condos and apartments. Apartments require monthly rent payments, and loan lenders require monthly mortgage payments for condos unless you’re renting it directly from the owner.

If the condo is part of an HOA complex, you may also be required to pay monthly association fees or assessments as the condo owner.

 

Property Structure & Amenities

An apartment complex pool with beach chairs and trees

Condos and apartments have similar building designs. They’re both individual properties, often in high-rise buildings or complexes. Condos part of an HOA or association may offer amenities like community-exclusive events, fitness classes at the onsite gym, and tenant age restrictions for 55+ communities.

Professionally managed apartments also offer events and onsite amenities that are typically more accessible than condos. Apartment complexes, especially in major cities, don’t have restrictions from HOA board decisions and additional special assessments to enhance their current structure or amenities as condo associations.

 

Residential Ownership

If you rent an apartment, the landlord or property investor is the owner of the residential complex. As a tenant, re-designing the original state of an apartment is likely restricted, like painting the walls or building in-closet cabinetry.

If you buy a condo, you’re the property owner, allowing you more freedom to re-design as you see fit. However, most condos are part of associations or HOAs, so there may be limitations and design approval requests required if you want to change the external look of your property.

 

Embrace the Ease of Renting Luxury Apartments: Your Home Sweet Home Awaits

While condos are conventionally owned, renting an apartment can be a much easier option. You don’t need to take out a loan, no closing costs are required, and you can leave once your lease ends.

At TLC Management, we offer no security deposits for many of our luxury apartments to make renting more accessible. We own and manage over 36 properties within Chicago and the surrounding suburbs for the best tenant experience possible—as it should be.

Our upscale amenities include skyline views of the Windy City, community-exclusive dog parks, and custom wood French doors. We can’t wait to welcome you home.

Browse our apartment listings or contact us at info@chicagorentals.com for help finding your perfect place today!

 

ABOUT TLC

Recent Posts

  • Aerial view image of a Chicago suburb with houses and local streets

    Mundelein, IL: A Close-Knit Community Worth Exploring

    Mundelein, IL, is a charming village community in a convenient location. It’s nestled near the major cities of Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, WI. Yet, it still offers a quiet suburban lifestyle locally. Learn more about Mundelein, its top neighborhood highlights, and why residents choose to live here. CHICAGO APARTMENTS SUBURBAN APARTMENTS Where is Mundelein, Illinois?  Mundelein […]

    Read More
  • An image of suburban row homes in an Uptown Chicago neighborhood

    Buena Park, Chicago: Your Go-To Guide to This Windy City Neighborhood

    Buena Park, Chicago is a hidden gem in the Windy City. Although it’s a smaller Chicago borough, it brings the same magic as other larger neighborhoods nearby. From close lakeside living to convenient public transportation, learn why locals love living here and what makes this area so special. CHICAGO APARTMENTS SUBURBAN APARTMENTS Where is Buena Park […]

    Read More
  • Residential buildings and skyscrapers along Lake Michigan in Edgewater, Chicago

    Living in Edgewater, Chicago: Neighborhood Highlights & Attractions

    Metropolitan meets coastal living in Edgewater, Chicago. Located along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood gives you the best of both worlds. Whether you want a lakefront oasis or prefer the vibrant city, it offers diverse lifestyles for many. Our Edgewater, IL neighborhood guide dives deeper into this unique community with its top highlights, […]

    Read More

About TLC

Since 1996, TLC has been dedicated to delivering everything apartment living should be, and as a Chicago-based company that owns and operates its own properties, we are uniquely qualified to do so. Well-maintained buildings. Desirable locations. Responsive service. Reasonable rents. All from a group of people – corporate, management, maintenance – united in their commitment to the satisfaction of every resident we serve.

Resident Services

Want to pay your rent online? Request service or maintenance for your apartment or building? At TLC, these and other vital resident services are all just a click away.