Condo and Apartment, What’s the Difference?

It is easy to feel a bit dazed and confused after a day of viewing potential new homes. After multiple viewings, they can all start to look the same. But have you ever wondered what the difference is between an apartment and a condo? They look exactly the same! If you have, you’re right. They are aesthetically no different from one another. The difference between an apartment and a condo is purely legal.

Condos and apartments are essentially both apartments that are part of a bigger building. Where a condo differs from an apartment is in terms of ownership. Condos are apartments sold individually to different owners. The same building in its entirety could be owned by one person and the apartments inside rented (but not owned!) to separate people.

A condo is typically defined as a group of houses that are individually owned on one piece of land. When you own a condo, you don’t own the land it is built on but instead you buy the air containing the borders of your condo. You can find out precisely what these borders are in the declaration document.

When you own a condo you are buying a piece of real estate with access to communal areas such as hallways, elevators and gardens. You can find out exactly what these common areas are in a document called the master deed. These common areas are managed by the home owners association that elects a board to deal with the daily running of the condo. This board will represent the building as a whole and will act on the general will of the owners. The board will decide upon the rules and regulations of the condo including pet ownership, maintenance money for the upkeep of communal areas and external decorating restrictions. If you are unsure what the rules and regulations of you condo are they can usually be found through a search engine if you type on the name of your condo association.

Detached condos are also available whereby individual houses are separately owned but the grounds including gardens, courtyards etc are not looked after by the homeowners. In this situation home owners have a greater say in the outside looks of housing. Restrictions are put in place in order to keep streets looking uniform. Detached condos, however, are very rare in Bangkok due to its basis as a high-rise city and also because of a lack of development space.

The concept of condo ownership can also apply to other building types including offices, shops, and hotels although this is also very rare with businesses preferring to make independent stylistic decisions and have a greater flexibility in the daily running of their business space.

Condos and Townhouses – What’s the Difference?

There is a lot of confusion about the differences between condominiums and townhouses. They share many similarities, and this seems to be the source of this confusion. Even amongst real estate professionals we often hear more opinions than facts.

So, let’s start by clarifying, condominiums or condos are a type of real estate ownership. A townhouse is an actual style of building.

A condominium is best described as “the concept of ownership of a single unit of air space within a multi-unit dwelling, along with co- ownership of any common amenities (recreation centers, pools, etc… ) and common areas of the structures and land among all unit owners.”

Townhouses are generally attached structures of 2 or more stories with common walls. These are a version of the old “Brownstones or “Row Houses” made popular on the east coast.

Similarities:

Townhouse ownership means you own the structure along with any associated land. So the owner of a townhouse can have absolute ownership, like a single family home.

Here’s where things get a little confusing. It is not unusual to have “condominium ownership” of a townhouse. In other words, the structure is a “townhouse” while the ownership is “condominium”.

Differences:

Ownership and common areas are the primary differences between condos and townhouses. You can actually have absolute ownership of a townhouse as well as the land (yard) associated with it. In a Condominium you only own the “air-space” inside of your particular unit.

The owners of a condominium development each own an equal share of the “General Common Elements”. This includes the structural elements of the building roof, walls, halls, clubhouse, pool, etc…

In a townhouse community, any common elements are deeded to the Home Owners Association (HOA). The townhouse owners are a part of the HOA but don’t own an interest in these elements.

“Limited Common Elements” are where we see a departure between townhomes and condos. Limited Common Elements are only seen in condo ownership. These are things that are intended for the use on the individual unit owners. Parking spaces, garages, balconies and patios are examples of Limited Common Elements. Although these are owned by all of the unit owners, they are limited to the use of specific owner/s.

In a townhouse the balcony and garage are actually owned by the townhouse owner. The exception to this would be if a “townhouse” style home is owned as a “condominium”.

Summary:

Both condos and townhouses are what is known as “Common Interest Communities”. A “Common Interest Community” is one where common real estate is maintained through assessments and dues.

Because of the Common Interest Community designation, we see a lot of confusion. The easiest way to remember the differences is this, a condominium is a form of real estate ownership and a townhouse is an architectural style.