Condos and apartments share a lot in common. Each is a type of residential building where more than one person normally lives. However, if you are weighing them as options for your next move, there are a lot of differences in both building set-up and financial arrangement.
You can rent either, but you normally own a condominium, while you lease and pay rent to an owner of an apartment. In this way, a condo is similar to a single-family home. You usually get a mortgage loan that pays for your purchase of the condo and you resell it in the same way as well. When you pay on the loan, you build more equity. When you live in an apartment, your monthly rent payments gain you no ownership rights to the property.
The design and look of condo units and apartments are often very similar. However, you can renovate, repair, paint and otherwise improve the look and feel of your condo just as you would a house. With an apartment, you cannot typically paint rooms or make other significant changes without checking with the landlord. When considering the two options, you have to weigh your interests in fixing up the place to suit your particular tastes.
When you own a condo unit in a building you have much more authority in the decisions that affect your property. Condos typically have association boards or committees that manage the building and make important decisions on building renovations or repairs. You have a voice either by joining the board or participating in meetings. Condo owners pay quarterly or annual dues to support the building. As an apartment tenant, you have little to no authority over your living space. You can make requests of the landlord, but you are usually at his mercy.
While the basic lifestyle can be similar between a condo and apartment, New Hampshire real estate agent Jim Miller notes that buying a condo carries important psychological rewards. He indicates that people often feel a sense of accomplishment moving up from apartment renting to owning a condo. People more often compare the pride of condo ownership with that of buying a home, whereas apartment renting is a common starting point for young adults.
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