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Renting a Condo Vs. an Apartment in NYC

Jackie Maroney

Jackie Maroney

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When looking for a place to live in NYC, you will find yourself having to think long and hard about several options, such as where in the city to live, the amount of commute time to your current job, and maybeeven how to rent your own apartment in NYC.

The last thing you want to be faced with when looking for a new place to live in NYC is the confusing question of condo vs. apartment?

What is the definition of a condo or apartment and what are the differences, if any?


Renting a Condo Vs. an Apartment

  • A condominium is real property often manifested as an apartment unit in a building. Condos are usually individually owned by different owners. These owners can choose to let out their condos as rental properties.
  • An apartment is a rental unit in an entire building owned by one landlord.
  • Some of the advantages of living a condo include modern finishes, better amenities, and having a more individual relationship with your landlord.
  • Possible disadvantages of living in a condo may include dealing with an inexperienced landlord, extra fees, and delayed fixes to the unit.
  • Some potential advantages of living in an apartment are the tenant rights that come with having a professional landlord, streamlined application and rent payment procedure, and lease stability.
  • The cons of living in an apartment building may include identical finishes in every unit, a landlord that refuses to update appliances, and units tend to be on the smaller side.

What Is a Condo?

A condominium, otherwise known as a condo, is defined as a type of living space closely resembling that of an apartment, but a major difference is that a condo is an independently sold piece of real estate.

Each individual unit of the condominium is separately owned, as each owner receives a legal deed of the purchased unit.

Interestingly enough, this piece of real estate is essentially air rights as the condominium unit is actually air space contained within a real property.

Each owner is also allowed the right to sell, mortgage, etc. that specific unit while sharing common grounds, trash disposal, pools, etc. along with tenants of the other condos.

If you are renting a condo in New York, the owner has complete control to refuse or accept any application that comes their way, which makes the tenant/owner relationship a little more personal than that of living in an apartment.

While the landlord isn’t usually onsite like a Management Company, they are very responsive and may even reside in a different unit within the same building.

Read on: What's the Difference Between a Co-op and a Condo in NYC?

What is an Apartment?

An apartment is a rentable residential unit that is a part of one, or sometimes several, residential buildings.

Usually, there is only one owner or management company that is responsible for all of the maintenance and care of the units and grounds.

The property manager can typically be found onsite in the leasing or management office and can help answer any questions in regards to the lease, space, etc.

Read on: What's an NYC Apartment Complex?

How Does an Apartment Compare with a Condo?

While you may think that an apartment differs greatly from a condominium, they can be very much alike.

They can offer similar amenities such as manicured green spaces, shared walls, and maybe even a swimming pool or gym.

However, as much as they are similar, the one major factor is how they differ in ownership.

The Pros and Cons of Living in a Condo

A condo is basically a combination of an apartment and a house.

It shares similarities with apartment living in that most renters will be sharing a wall and live adjacent to other tenants.

If your apartment building is a high rise, you may have a family living above you, below you, or both.

Condominiums are typically managed by the Homeowner’s Association, or otherwise known as the HOA, yet each unit is owned by a separate individual.

You can either purchase a condo as a piece of real estate or rent one.

If you choose to rent, it is worth noting that the property owner will change from condo to condo.

What are the benefits of renting a condo in New York?

Creativity

Each unit is usually owned by a different individual, therefore, it is highly likely that you will be living in your own unique space.

It may also afford you the experience of living in a more exclusive building that renters are not often able to live in.

Modern finishes

Since the owner has a vested interest in the condo, it is more probable that the unit will have updated appliances as well as high-end designs and finishes.

These features may include perks such as hardwood floors, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, backsplash in the kitchen, and etc.

Potential Investment

If down the line, you decide that you want to own a piece of real estate, you may have a chance if the owner of your unit decides to sell.

It might also be good "practice" living in a condo unit and building for the real thing, once you are ready to own.

What are the cons of renting an apartment in New York?

HOA Fees

Most condos will require their tenants to pay monthly HOA fees.

Read through the lease carefully to see if you notice any terms such as “maintenance fees” or “common charges”.

If your lease does require HOA payments, check carefully to see what the cost is.

The average monthly HOA fees in NYC are approximately $1,500 a month in addition to rent.

This is usually why condos are considered more expensive than renting an apartment, especially in New York.

Since you’ll be paying rent to the landlord, you may not have the luxury to pay via an online portal.

Most landlords accept checks, but it is always that you ask them to advise on the best method of payment before signing the lease.

Maintenance

If a pipe bursts or something breaks, the response time relies heavily on the owner’s schedule.

If they are away on vacation, they may not be able to help you as quickly as you would like.

You may be held responsible for extra maintenance charges when an issue occurs.

Lack of stability

While you may have a chance at owning a piece of property by renting a condo; you can also lose your home in an instant.

Since generally, the landlord is the owner, if they decide, they can sell their unit, leaving you scrambling to find your next home.

Professionalism

Usually considered the stepping stone to homeownership for novices, that means that yes, you could be a tenant to an inexperienced landlord who has never rented anything before.

Rules and Regulations

Generally, the residential rules are set by the HOA, such as trash removal, trash that is stored outside your door, and picking up after your pet.

If you have a pet, make sure to check with the condo you would be potentially renting with as the rules may vary from unit to unit

The Pros and Cons of Renting an Apartment

Renting an apartment is pretty simple.

Usually, a deposit is required to be paid upfront which is typically the one month's worth of payment upfront.

After the deposit has been paid, the renter will need to make monthly payments based on the terms of the lease.

Unlike condos, apartment suites cannot usually be purchased.

There is usually one owner/manager which is typically a type of corporation but can be managed by a management company instead of the property owner directly.

What are the benefits of living in an NYC apartment?

Stability

If you are looking for stability, you may prefer an apartment as they usually cannot be purchased, so you don’t have to worry about the owner selling.

Professionalism

There is usually a property manager or management company onsite to handle any tenant requests, leasing questions, maintenance issues, etc.

This makes it easy and convenient when needing to ask an urgent question or drop off rent.

Since there is management onsite, there is generally round the clock maintenance in case there is an emergency, leak, tripped breaker, etc.

Also, in case there is a leak or other issue, maintenance is usually included in the rent. Work orders are usually requested via the apartment’s online portal.

Easy rent payments

Most apartments have a website where monthly payments can easily be made without having to send a check.

Also, you can normally drop your rent check off at the Management/Leasing Office.

Amenities

While apartments may generally offer fewer amenities than condos, they may still offer some incentives such as dog parks, a swimming pool, tennis courts, laundry room, and/or a gym.

Pets

While many landlords may not allow pets in their apartments, there may be a loophole for tenants looking for a way to beat the system.

In New York City, the pet law includes an exception where if the tenant openly keeps a pet in the building for three months, your landlord finds out or should have, and your landlord decides to not enforce the no-pet law, you get to keep the pet even if there is a no-pet rule in your building.

Even though it may seem like it, this policy isn’t in place to inspire mischievous tenants.

Instead, it is actually in place to help protect the tenant in case their landlord decides to evict them over a non-related issue but blames it on them owning a pet even after the landlord may have acknowledged it in the past.

Read on: The Best Places to Live in New York with a Dog.

What are the cons of renting an NYC apartment?

Lack of creativity

If originality is what you’re looking for, then you will be disappointed when renting an apartment.

All apartment units in a residential building usually have the same designs, appliances, etc. so in order for your suite to stand out, you will need to be extra creative.

Also, if you’re planning on painting the walls, hanging any heavy items, or doing any kind of permanent decorating, think again.

Outdated appliances

Because of this, there is less chance that you will be renting a modern, updated unit and more of a chance that you may be stuck with outdated appliances.

Unfortunately, if you are stuck with some less than appealing appliances, cabinets, tiles, etc. there is little to nothing you can do in order to change the visual appeal.

The only thing that can be guaranteed is that the item will be repaired or replaced if broken.

Size

Apartments are typically smaller than condos. In NYC, the average size of an apartment is approximately 850 square feet.

The next largest size apartment in the competitive market is around 700 sq ft.

Utilities

Usually, utilities are not included with your monthly rent payments and monthly charges in NYC are usually around $100-$150.

Pets

If you plan on moving into an apartment with your pets, make sure to check with your broker or with any prospective landlords before signing the lease so that you can expedite your search.

A lot of landlords ban pets in their apartments because they see it as a potentially open door to liability issues such as property damage or if the pet bites another person or pet.

Also, a lot of people are allergic to certain types of pets, so some apartments may choose to eliminate this risk altogether.

If your landlord does allow tenants to have pets, they usually will require a pet agreement to be signed, which may or may not be included in your lease.

Depending on the apartment, the landlord may also have special requests for your pet such as spaying/neutering your pets, that you pick up after your pet, all canines must be leased when in public areas, etc.

Enforced Rules

The property management company of the building can enforce rules as they deem necessary, which applies to all of the tenants in all of the units.

Such enforced rules can include:

  • Following the lease
  • Timely monthly payments
  • Not disrupting the peace
  • Keeping both the interior and the exterior fairly clean
  • Proper trash disposal

Who is an apartment best for?

Apartments are a great option for tenants looking for a temporary place to live with less responsibility. They are also best for families as there is much less of a chance of having to relocate than if living in a condo.

Who is a condo best for?

Condominiums are best for those looking to get their feet wet with owning a piece of real estate.

Besides being an investment, you’ll also be able to build equity as well as reap the tax benefits that come along with owning property.

The Bottom Line

The answer to the condo vs. apartment question depends on the tenant renting and what their expectations, wants, and needs are.

Apartments offer the convenience and professionalism of having Property Management onsite to handle any questions, issues, rent payments, etc.

If you have an issue with the staff or need to escalate an issue, there is a chain of command which may make it easier than only having to deal with one person.

On the other hand, those looking for a more laid back arrangement, more options to decorate, and more personal experience with the landlord, may find living in a condominium to be the best choice for them.

It is also a great segue for those looking to enter the world of real estate or home ownership.

Make sure to asses your wants and needs and to heavily weigh your options when choosing which type of housing is the best for you and/or your family.

Discuss what everyone’s expectations are when it comes to living quarters, and see which choice would best help satisfy most of those wishes.

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