Many people use the terms “condo” and “apartment” interchangeably, but they actually mean different things. While condos and apartments are physically similar, they differ in the way that they’re owned and managed. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between condos vs. apartments and the benefits of buying a condo vs. the benefits of renting an apartment

What is a Condo vs. an Apartment

The main difference between a condo and an apartment is who owns the property. With a condo, the person who owns the unit usually lives in it. Apartments are owned by a landlord or property management company and rented by the residents that live in them. 

Condo vs. Apartment: The Breakdown

Here is a quick breakdown of some of the key differences between renting an apartment and buying a condo. 


Condo Apartment
Definition An individually-owned unit in a larger residential building        A unit in a residential building, rented from the owner
Monthly fees     Mortgage paid to lender, HOA fees        Monthly rent paid to landlord
Utilities Utilities are paid by owner        Utilities could be paid by renter or landlord, depending on lease terms.
Other Costs Owners pay down payment, closing costs, and inspection fees upon move-in        Renters pay application charges and security deposit to move in. Some companies also charge a move-in fee
Maintenance Owner is responsible for scheduling and paying for maintenance        Landlord handles and pays for most maintenance 
Policies An elected board usually sets policies on behalf of residents         Rental policies set and enforced by landlord
Amenities May have gyms, pools, social spaces within building        May have gyms, pools, social spaces within building
Autonomy           Almost total autonomy within unit, may have to follow certain guidelines in common spaces        Limited, will need to get landlord approval to make major changes to space

Fees and Expenses

Buying a condo typically comes with more fees and expenses than renting an apartment. Condo owners will need to make a down payment when moving in, and they’ll need to cover closing costs, inspection fees and more. This can easily add up to thousands of dollars at once. They’ll also be responsible for paying a monthly mortgage to their lender. Additionally, many condo buildings charge homeowners association, or HOA, fees. 

When renting an apartment, you’ll typically pay a small application fee as well as a refundable deposit to move in. The deposit is typically equal to one or two months’ rent. Additionally, you’ll need to pay rent on a monthly basis.

Utilities and Maintenance

In a condo, owners are always responsible for paying for utilities and maintenance. Additionally, condo owners will need to find their own contractors when they need major repairs or renovations.

When renting an apartment, the landlord is responsible for providing most maintenance services in a timely manner. In some cases, the landlord will cover utilities, while in others, the renter is responsible for some or all of them. The details about maintenance and utilities will be specified in your lease

Policies and Autonomy

When renting an apartment, the policies you’re required to follow vary based on your landlord and their preferences. There are a few very important lease terms to look for before signing your contract

For example, many landlords do not allow subletting. Some may have specific policies about painting the apartment. The bottom line is if you want to make major changes to your apartment or to your lease agreement, you’ll typically need to ask your landlord before doing so. 

In contrast, when you own a condo, you’ll have far more autonomy. You’ll be able to paint or make major changes without approval from anyone. However, you may have to follow policies or rules related to the use of common areas in your building and exterior facing spaces like windows or balconies.


Both condo and apartment buildings often have communal amenities for their residents. These may include gyms, pools, outdoor gardens or decks, coworking spaces, garages and more. Not all residential buildings have these extra amenities. 

When to Buy A Condo vs. Rent an Apartment

Ultimately, the choice of buying a condo or renting an apartment will depend on a variety of factors. There isn’t one “right” option. It will depend on what’s best for your current situation. 

For many people, the benefits of renting an apartment begin with the fact that it is more financially accessible, as the cost of a security deposit is far less than a down payment. You also might not be ready to commit to a long-term living space. If you’re not quite ready for a long-term living commitment or plan on moving in the near future, renting gives you more flexibility. Buying and selling a condo can be a major hassle, so it’s important to wait until you’re truly ready. 

For those that are ready to settle down, two key benefits of buying a condo are that it provides more autonomy and can make you money over time. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for all of your own maintenance and related expenses as a condo owner. 

Enjoy the Benefits of Renting an Apartment With Southern Management

If you’re looking to rent an apartment in the Washington, D.C., or Baltimore metropolitan areas, Southern Management can help. We have apartments located throughout Northern Virginia and Maryland, with options for everyone. Explore our communities today.