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The Differences Between Condos & Apartments

As you no doubt know already, Florida is bursting at the seams with condominiums and apartments throughout the state. The beach areas are especially ripe with taller buildings that can be mistaken for either of them. So how do you tell the difference? Visibly speaking, you don’t! It can very easily be one or the other. They differ in many other ways, and it is advantageous to understand those differences as common knowledge. Maybe you already live in an apartment, or maybe you have just been curious as to why so many people choose condo living. We’re here to talk about the differences as well as the pros and cons of both, and hopefully we can help you make the right decision if you are preparing to make a big move soon.

WHAT IS AN APARTMENT? WHAT IS A CONDO?

It is important to understand what the two words specifically mean, and why they are never interchangeable in any capacity. A condo, or condominium, is housing where only the interior is owned by the purchaser, where-as the building or complex is owned by someone else. It is more specifically a legal term to describe the type of ownership that exists, where the proper owner holds title only to the space inside the walls of their housing unit and nowhere else. Other condo owners share ownership to the building or complex outside of common areas, which is usually areas like parking lots or amenities. 

Apartments, on the other hand, are also individual housing units, but instead of owning outright, you are simply renting from the company or individuals that own the building that contains said unit. Apartments are the more popular of the two terms, as these are found throughout the country and most especially in densely populated areas like New York City. These types of locations vary in shapes and sizes as opposed to condos typically taking the same form of a high-rise building. Because of this, you will find a great range of prices for apartments as well.

A lot of this is common knowledge and doesn’t need much more explaining. Let’s go a bit deeper into what makes them so different from one another.

COMPARING AND CONTRASTING

Quite possibly the most important distinction is ownership. Apartments can be owned by multiple entities or a single individual, but the common denominator is that it isn’t you. The building may comprise multiple homes of identical sizes, but all occupants share a lease to the landlord that ensures they are guaranteed residence for a fixed period of time. Who the landlord is can vary, and even then, they may not be the point of contact when it comes to day-to-day matters regarding the complex itself. Oftentimes, property administrators or entire management companies will be hired to handle this specific area of work, up to and including maintenance problems, issues with tenants and ensuring collection of rent. 

Leasing an apartment is a contractual process between the landlord and renter. This is where the renter is signing an agreement to the terms and conditions the landlord has set forth, as well as agreeing to reside in that specific property until the lease is set to expire. The average is usually a year, though you can usually find landlords that are flexible on the timeframe if your situation calls for it. This allows for renters to leave the complex easily if they choose, and the landlord can revisit the terms of the lease when it comes to renewal.

Condo ownership includes actual ownership. There is no renting in this scenario. You own your condo unit, just as your neighbors in the building own theirs. Instead of dealing with landlords, condo owners deal with condo associations.  A general requirement for all owners is to pay regular fees that contribute to a larger pool in the event of required upkeep and maintenance to the general area of the building itself. 

As one can expect, there are no such things as lease agreements or contracts when it comes to condos. You are purchasing the lot just as you would a standard home. Whether you are equipped to buy the property outright or have to pay a mortgage, you are dealing with the technicalities of equity and loss when it comes to selling. This can be a big win or loss depending on timing, but it can be safely said that the process involves more steps than simply leaving at the end of a lease. 

MAINTENANCE, RULES & THE COSTS OF BOTH

No matter what state you live in, one of the biggest differences between condos and apartments is who is responsible for maintaining their property. Apartment owners have it easy in this regard. Landlords are the responsible party for most maintenance and repairs. Broken utilities are tended to by whoever handles the management of the complex as they have a legal obligation to ensure your home is functioning to standards of safety set forth by local and national authorities. Meanwhile, condo owners are usually footing the bill for any and everything that goes wrong inside their home. This is where homeowner’s insurance steps in when the incident that causes damage is covered. 

Things can get complicated on both sides of the coin when it comes to more complex issues, such as a storm damaging multiple units of a condo or a water pipe bursting inside an apartment. Both apartment renters and condo owners will be given paperwork to ascertain responsibility in scenarios like this more often than not. 

That same paperwork will also determine the rules the owner or renter will need to uphold to maintain a residency as well as avoid penalties and fines. For condo owners, you are subject to the rules ascertained by the complex’s homeowners association — or HOA. Renters can expect their guidelines to be listed on lease agreements and anything provided in addition to by the landlord or property manager.

These rules contain many things, and while it is easy to assume condo owners have more freedom, that isn’t necessarily the case. HOAs can determine whether you can have pets, for example, or determine that no smoking will be allowed in specified areas on property. Landlords can do the same thing, or they can advise that things like animal or smoke damage will impact your security deposit given at the start of a lease. 

Fees are more closely aligned with condos than apartments, and this is once again because of the HOA you have to join in the process. As briefly mentioned before, the majority of these monthly costs are to maintain and uphold the building your condo belongs to. Monthly dues are broken down and explained during the initial paperwork process, and you can expect one-off scenarios where the HOA will request a larger amount for larger repairs. Owners can also expect to be responsible for property taxes the same as normal houses, and utility costs (i.e. water/heat) are either separate or included in HOA fees. 

Apartments can be considered more simple in nature. You have a monthly rent that has been pre-determined by your lease, and then there are the typical utility bills on top of that. There is variety here as well; some apartments will roll in specific utilities to your rent, which may or may not increase the cost you would be paying. 

Both apartments and condos are subject to change over time. Mortgage payments to a condo will most likely remain consistent barring a refinance, but HOA costs can go up or down over time. If you decide to remain in your apartment when your current lease term expires, it is common practice for a landlord to increase the rent of your new lease. It is beneficial to do market research to determine what might be most cost effective for your budget.

PROS AND CONS

We can start with the obvious pro: condo living is home ownership. Most times, you can enjoy the benefits and pride of being a homeowner at a more affordable cost to that of buying a standard home in a neighborhood. They are called investments for a reason, because the money you put towards it is expected to be returned. This can be in the future when it’s time for you to sell as value has climbed and a profit is to be made, or you may be looking to develop trickle income by renting your condo out to others. 

That being said, if you’re forced to or just make the decision to sell your condo without giving it enough time to build equity, you are likely doing so at a loss. There is a risk to it that needs to be understood, so hopeful condo owners will want to ensure they are ready to keep their condo for the long haul. NSB is full of properties that house condos, so it is important to work with real estate experts like NSB Homes that knows the best of the best.

Renting an apartment does nothing but fill the coffers of the landlords that own the actual building. You can’t expect a return of any kind at the end of a lease. No returns on investments is a significant disadvantage, but apartments are designed for ease of convenience. Tenants rotate in and out often, so if your life sees a lot of unexpected changes or developments, it might still be the choice for you. 

Condos are given more freedom in making renovations and changes to bring life to the interior of the home. Landlords are generally strict in ensuring that the lot does not see any semi-permanent improvements by the renter. If you are hoping to make a property truly “yours” through decor and style, condos are the way to go.

NOW THAT YOU KNOW…

The end question is always whether an apartment or a condo is for you. The answer is probably different to every reader for a host of different reasons. The size of your family, your yearly combined income and general finances will determine if you can pull the trigger on a bigger purchase like a condo, or if you may want to allow another year or two of apartment living while you build your savings up. 

Remember this when you make your decision: condos are meant for the long-term, apartments are meant for short-term.

If you’re ready for the long-term, that is where we come in! We can happily say we are biased to condos, and for good reasons at that. The condo buildings that run throughout NSB are beautiful and worth seeing with your own eyes. To own a part of one is an accomplishment and achievement, and you are joining hundreds of other owners who would love to have you as their neighbor! Assuming you’ve read through all of this and decided condo living is for you, the next step is to check out what we have available HERE! The NSBHomes family is here to help you find the perfect condo for your price range, and we are happy to go into much more detail on what you can expect for specific condo associations. Let us be the people that help you check that big box off on life goals! 

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