The Pros and Cons of Living in a Condominium
A condominium and an apartment have similar physical attributes- square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. In addition, both may offer comparable community amenities, including on-property recreational areas, trash disposal, and laundry facilities. But despite these similarities, you could have radically different living experiences living in an apartment rental vs living in a condominium.
For the sake of this post, we assume that you’re planning to rent or buy a condo and want to understand the benefits and downsides that come with this decision.
Key Differences Between a Condo and an Apartment Rental
1. Type of Ownership
First, the basics. What is an apartment? An apartment is a dwelling space among similar units in one building. That being said, an apartment complex is a building made up of similar rooms. An apartment complex is often owned by one person, a huge corporation, or a company.
What about a condominium? A condo is a dwelling unit within a multi-unit complex- just like an apartment. However, unlike an apartment building, each unit in a condominium building is owned by a different person and governed by an HOA (Homeowners Association).
For instance, if a condominium complex has ten condos, the chances are that each of those condos is owned by a different person. Of course, it’s possible to have several of those units owned by one landlord. But, generally speaking, each of the ten condos will probably be owned by a different person.
The main difference between a condo and an apartment is the type of ownership. But why does it matter to you how a particular condominium is owned?
2. Communication with the Owners
When you rent an apartment, you’ll be dealing with an onsite property management company for all issues regarding your apartment. The apartment rental office is responsible for showing, renting, collecting the rent, and dealing with renters’ complaints. This means that you’ll seldom meet the actual owner of the complex.
This matters a lot because most apartment rental companies have very strict (sometimes frustrating) requirements. One requirement that often shuts out most would-be renters is the 3x the rent rule. Essentially, this means that you need to have a monthly income of three times the monthly rent. What’s even more frustrating is that most of these managers aren’t interested in savings- only income.
When it comes to renting a condominium, you’ll most likely be dealing with the actual owner, who may have more flexible lease requirements.
3. Type of Insurance Required
Though not required by law, the condominium association will require you to purchase H06 insurance when buying a condo. On the other hand, renting an apartment requires purchasing a renter’s insurance. The difference between HO6 insurance and renters insurance is the coverage.
Both renters and HO6 insurance policies cover any losses incurred inside of the unit. However, in addition to covering personal belongings, HO6 insurance also includes fixtures, appliances, and improvements that make your unit more functional but aren’t covered by the condo master policy.
Simply put, an HO6 insurance policy will be relatively more expensive than a renter’s insurance because it covers your personal belongings and other improvements.
Pros and Cons of Condo Living
1. It’s Cheaper than a House
Perhaps the best advantage of buying a condo is that it will be significantly cheaper than a free-standing house. This is partly because it’s smaller in square footage and doesn’t include any land.
The money-saving attributes of a condo versus a single-family house extend to insurance costs too. Condo insurance will be comparatively cheaper than homeowners insurance because you’re only responsible for your unit’s interior.
2. Maintenance-Free Lifestyle
One of the biggest nightmares of owning a home is the high-maintenance relationship. If you travel a lot, are busy with work, or simply hate the idea of maintaining your lawn and garden, snow removal, and cleaning the gutters and drains, then you’ll love living in a condo.
Sure, condos require maintenance. But there is someone else to take care of it so that you can focus on other things. These charges are typically added to your HOA fees and maybe relatively high or low, depending on the amenities provided by the complex.
3. Onsite Luxury Amenities
Another reason you’d choose a condo over a single-family house is the number of amenities that come with it.
Obviously, the types of amenities will vary from complex to complex depending on their location and target market. Also, keep in mind that the types of amenities provided will significantly impact your condo fees. That’s why it’s essential to work closely with a realtor who understands your personal values.
A few must-have and good-to-have amenities to consider when condo shopping include:
- 24/7 security
- A swimming pool
- A fitness and wellness gym
- Outdoor spaces
- Study hall
- Rooftop deck
- Car wash
1. It’s Multi-Family Living
Condo owners share walls, and this may be a problem for some. Depending on your unit’s position, you may have neighbors below or above you or even on all sides. That’s to say, you’ll probably be hearing most of their celebrations, arguments, and playlists. Of course, this also depends on how the units are designed and the materials used.
This may be personal, but if you’re looking for a quiet and private place to age in, a condo may not be your best option.
2. HOA Fees
Living in a condominium means you’ll be charged by the HOA to cover recurring expenses, such as security, insurance, landscaping, maintenance, garbage collection, pool cleaning, and managing the property.
Condo HOA fees vary drastically across cities and depending on the property and the amenities offered. If you live in California, expect to pay an average fee of $200 to $400 per month on top of your mortgage and insurance payments.
3. HOA Restrictive Rules
Lastly, remember that living in a condo means accepting to play by the HOA’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R). Similar to single-family home HOAs, condominium buildings have management organizations that stipulate and enforce rules that must be adhered to by everyone in the community.
These rules may relate anything from the type and number of pets you can own to the number of guests you’re allowed every day.
Depending on how you look at them, HOA rules maybe, at best, a necessary evil or a key element in maintaining the value of the community. Either way, don’t forget to ask your agent about everything regarding the association’s rules and regulations before living in a condominium.