What’s the Difference Between a Condo, a Townhouse, and an Apartment?

Posted by: TheGuarantors on November 9, 2021

Moving to a new place and renting a property can be stressful. All of the complex real estate jargon often just adds to the confusion, especially for a first-time renter. With so many different styles of homes on the market, where should you even begin your house search? The best place to start is to iron out the differences between a condo vs townhouse vs apartment. That way you'll know where you want to spend this next phase of your life!

The difference between a condo, townhouse and an apartment

What's the difference between a condo, an apartment, and a townhouse? They all look pretty similar, so it's no wonder so many renters are confused. While the structures have similarities, there are some key differences that will impact lifestyle expectations around your new pad, such as ownership. Let's take a look into the finer details of a condo vs. townhouse vs. apartment.

What is a Condo?

A condominium or "condo" is a leased private dwelling. A condo is usually found in a residential structure or community, but the unit is privately held by a person who then becomes the property's landlord. Simply defined, a condo is a single unit that can be rented out. The condo owner has complete control over who can rent their property. So a tenant tends to have more of a one-on-one relationship with the owner compared to tenants of an apartment.

Residents in this building share the rest of the facility and pay into a homeowner's association (HOA). The HOA is responsible for all essential maintenance and insurance outside of your unit (think hallways, elevators and gardens, for example).

For those who want to keep home upkeep to a minimum, a condo is a great choice. You won't have to worry about mowing the lawn or scheduling trash pickup, as the association takes care of that. You'll also find security guards on the door of some condo complexes. This adds an extra layer of protection and is a definite advantage between a condo and a townhouse.

The perks of a condo

What is a Townhouse?

A townhouse is a hybrid of a single-family residence and a condominium. They're usually two or three stories high and share walls with the houses next door, but none are above or below them. Townhouses are a more popular choice than a condo. They are best for first-time renters who intend to live alone as well as young families. They are also available in age-restricted active adult communities.

townhouse may be the best option when deciding between a house and a condo. They usually provide more space than a typical family home with less outdoor maintenance needed which is always a bonus. Pet owners might also get a yard for their four-legged companions. Thus making a townhouse a no-brainer when it comes to the condo vs. townhouse decision.

What is an Apartment?

An apartment is a rental property that is often owned (rather than merely managed) by a property management firm. It's located in a residential building, complex, or community, depending on the circumstances. All of the apartments in an apartment building are the same, the owner is the same, and the tenants all follow the same rules for renting a unit in the complex. Every renter reports to the same property manager who can be found at the front of the community or within the complex in the leasing office.

Renting an apartment provides lease flexibility. This makes it an excellent choice if you don't plan on staying in one location for a long period of time. Renting an apartment also allows you to try on a new city for size, before you commit to something more long-term.

The perks of an apartment

Condo vs. Townhouse vs. Apartment: Key Differences

  Condominium Townhouse Apartment
Ownership Owned by an individual and usually managed by either the owner personally or lies under the umbrella of that condo’s HOA Owned by an individual and maintained under the buildings' HOA Owned by a single entity, often a corporation, and then leased out to individual tenants
Ongoing fees Monthly due to HOA Monthly due to owner or HOA Monthly rent and maintenance fees if any
What you rent Your individual unit, but not the land or other common areas Your home plus the land it sits on and possibly a yard Your individual unit
Amenities Condos often have shared amenities like a swimming pool or fitness club May also have shared amenities like a swimming pool or fitness club Depends on the agreement and specific building
Responsibilities You aren't responsible for mowing the lawn or other upkeep          You aren't responsible for mowing the lawn or other upkeep  Landlord is responsible for upkeep

An owners association may impose rules you'll be expected to follow You may also be subject to the rules of an owners association You are subjected to obey the rules and regulations laid out by the owners
Most Suitable for Those who want to live independently or downsizing seniors Those who want more space than a condo, but not the responsibilities of a house Those who want flexibility to relocate or are saving for a down payment

To help you select the best option between a condo vs. a townhouse vs. an apartment, consider your budget, how much room you'll need, and how long you expect to remain in a house. Also, consider how much money you can comfortably spend on repairs, upkeep, and renovation expenditures. To explore what's available in your price range, go to open houses and explore online listings. Consider hiring an agent to assist you in narrowing down your options and finding the perfect place.