Apartment vs. Condo vs. House: Which Is Best?

The birds are chirping, the snow is (hopefully) melting, and that can only mean one thing: the May-June rush to find housing is nearly upon us.

Leases are ending, jobs are changing, and if you’re like one of the countless people in need of a place to live, you’re probably trying to decide between your three options. Should you live in an apartment, a condo, or a house?

Renting Out an Apartment

Pros

Less permanent. Renting an apartment is perfect for the tenant who doesn’t know how long they’ll be in this location. Even if you’re on a year lease instead of month-by-month, you usually have the option to sublease if something comes up and you need to leave. Apartments offer a lot of flexibility.

Less upfront costs. Apartments typically come with an oven, fridge, and access to laundry. Not having to pay for these appliances is a huge money saver.

Less responsibility. Leaking sink? Broken heater? Your landlord will (or at least, they should) take care of it. This frees up a lot of costs that, as a homeowner, you would otherwise have to pay for.

No property taxes. The average homeowner pays nearly $2,300 a year in property taxes. In states like Illinois or California, property taxes are even higher.

Location. You’re more likely to find apartments in the heart of a city or downtown area than you are houses. Apartments are ideal for the renter who loves being near the hustle and bustle. 

Cons

No equity. Oftentimes, monthly rents are not that much different than a monthly mortgage payment. The difference is that with a house, you’re paying off a massive financial asset. Unlike an apartment, homeowners get something back for their money. 

More rules. Painting, pets, and even how you hang stuff up in your apartment all are subject to the landlord’s rules. There’s a lot less freedom in renting an apartment.

Buying a Condo

Pros

You own the unit. You can sell later on if you choose, you can potentially rent out this property down the road, you’re definitely getting more of your money’s worth and building equity.

Less work than a house. No need to worry about shoveling, replacing the roof, or getting new siding. That traditional “Saturdays are meant for yardwork” mentality that many homeowners maintain can be replaced with lounging on your balcony and sipping some coffee.

Potential for more amenities. Condo complexes often are in highly desirable locations. They also sometimes have amenities like workout rooms or swimming pools (things that would cost homeowners much more to install).

Cons

Less privacy than a home. Hopefully your neighbors are monks practicing an extended vow of silence and meditation, but the odds aren’t likely. Owning a condo still means you’ll have to share walls in most cases instead of having your own plot of land with a house.

Condo fees (and property taxes). Condo association fees are pricey — they range anywhere from $1,200 to $8,000 a year, on average.

Could be tougher to sell. Families, buyers looking for more space, or people wanting some distance from a city will likely lean towards getting a house than a condo. This isn’t to say selling a condo is impossible, but there might be limits on who’s in your buying demographic.

Buying a House

Pros

More freedom. Decorating, landscaping (unless you’re in an HOA), remodeling — the sky is practically the limit for how custom you’d like your home to be.

Equity. As soon as you start paying off your mortgage, you’re starting to build your equity. Owning a house (and making responsible, timely mortgage payments) also helps build your credit.

More space. Condos and apartments are less likely to come with yards. They also are typically surrounded by more tenants (and people in general). Houses have more space (both inside and outside) than apartments or condos.

Sometimes cheaper than renting. If your goal is to live in, say, the Chicago area, there’s a good chance that mortgage payments on a house will cost less than an apartment or condo — even if they’re smaller in square footage. 

This isn’t only true in cities, either. Mortgage payments usually aren’t that different from rental prices, but the difference is that one gives you equity and one does not.

Cons

More responsibility. We can’t stress this enough. Owning a house is a lot of work, a ton of maintenance, and if you’re not financially ready, it will sink you. Buying a house should only happen when you’re thinking long-term and have the foresight to take on the financial and laborious responsibility. Home ownership is highly rewarding, but not for nothing.

More permanent. If you’re planning on leaving your area and selling in the next few years, buying a house might not be the move. For one thing, many homeowners are subject to paying a capital gains tax if they sell before the 2-year ownership mark. 

Secondly, if there’s anything to be gleaned from 2020, it’s that anything can happen. The selling market can change pretty rapidly. If you’re dead set on moving in the next few years, owning a house will complicate things much more than leaving at the end of your apartment lease.

Finding a home and moving is stressful, but there’s some excitement in thinking about the future as well. If you’ve decided to keep renting for the time being, we wish you the best of luck. But if you’re ready to take the next step, look through our condos and houses for sale to find your dream home!

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