Posted in: Condos, Buying a home

What’s the difference between a condo, loft and apartment?

homebuyers researching the difference between a condo, loft and townhome

A condo, also known as a condominium, is a private residential unit that is surrounded by commonly-owned areas. An apartment complex is owned by an individual or group that rents apartment units to tenants for a period of time agreed upon in a lease. A loft is a large, open, adaptable space that has been converted for residential use. Lofts can be apartments or condos, depending on the ownership structure.

Let’s take a closer look at loft vs condo vs apartment so you can make a confident decision regarding the type of home that is right for you.


Condo owners have the freedom to make decisions within the space they own. Typical changes that condo owners make include:

  • Painting the interior walls
  • Replacing appliances
  • Changing the flooring

Although individuals that live in condos have creative and legal ownership over their unit, their personal space is surrounded by areas that are jointly owned.

Because the shared spaces don’t have a single owner, condo residents pay monthly fees to their homeowners’ association (HOA), an organization that is responsible for maintaining the condo complex and common areas such as hallways, fitness facilities and security systems. Special condo rules or regulations are also enforced by the HOA.


You don’t have any ownership when renting an apartment. You pay rent to the owner which allows you to live in the space for the time specified in your lease. When you have satisfied your lease and move out of an apartment, you have no further ties to the apartment and no portion of your rental fees are returned to you.

There is likely a damage deposit required to cover the cost of any damage done during your rental such as ripped carpet, holes in the walls, significant stains, broken cabinets, etc. It is also likely that the owner of the complex has rules regarding wall hangings, changing appliances and remodeling.

Outwardly, condos and apartments can appear very similar. The difference between a condo and an apartment is how they are owned and managed:

  • An apartment complex is owned by an individual or group that rents apartment units to tenants for a period of time agreed upon in a lease.
  • Condos are sold to individuals who have complete ownership of their condo units, and the condo complex is overseen by the HOA.

Think condo life might be right for you? Start your condo search across Minnesota and western Wisconsin.


Lofts are large, open, adaptable spaces that have been converted for residential use. Many lofts have exposed fixtures, huge natural light sources and flexible layouts with minimal walls. These apartment-like units are typically, but not always, found in urban settings.

There is not necessarily a difference between a loft and a condo. Lofts can be apartments or condos — meaning they can be available for purchase or for rent. In recent years, old warehouses, factories and mills have been rezoned as apartments and condos in Minneapolis, St. Paul and other towns with a history of industry.

You’ll have to do a bit of research to buy and live in one of these unique units, but you can start by looking at available condos in the North Loop, downtown St. Paul and in northeast Minneapolis — where lofts are commonly found.

What about a townhome?

Townhome and condo owners alike pay monthly fees toward general maintenance and upkeep of common areas, and they have ownership over their personal housing units. The distinction between a townhome versus a condo lies in the boundaries of ownership.

As we explained, a condo owner can expect to have ownership over the elements that are found solely within the interior walls of their unit.

In a townhome:

  • Ownership typically includes the housing unit and the ground beneath the unit.
  • In many townhouse properties, the owner also has control over exterior components like the roof, driveway and yard.

Where are townhomes typically located?

Because the plot of land below the townhome is usually the owner’s property, townhouses are often constructed in suburban areas and other high-demand locations where lots and land are readily available. Check out available townhomes in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

What are the benefits of living in a condo or a townhouse?

A condo may be the best purchase for you if:

  • You’re community focused. Condo entrances may be shared and condo units are often in close proximity. Whether you wave hello to your neighbor while picking up the mail or get to know a fellow resident in the elevator, condo living can provide an instant sense of community that other types of housing can’t.
  • You want to explore a variety of styles. Another exciting condo trait is that they come in all shapes and sizes. Unlike townhouses (which are typically constructed as a series of units linked together by common walls), you will be able to search through a variety of architectural styles ranging from skyrise units to renovated old mansions to detached, single-level properties.
  • You like low-maintenance living. When living in a condo, you won’t typically be responsible for mowing the lawn, shoveling the walkways or vacuuming the shared property spaces.

Meanwhile, a townhouse could be right choice if:

  • You want to have a bit of green space. Most townhouses will have a small yard that you can call your own. Whether you want that picket fence vibe or a backyard fit for grilling, townhouses offer the outdoor lawn that condos typically can’t.
  • You want a dedicated entrance, but don’t mind living in close proximity. Many townhome communities have shared amenities and even shared walls, so you may meet fellow residents at the pool or clubhouse, or as you enter and exit your property — but you typically won’t share an elevator ride or garage with anyone.

Key points and next steps

Committing to a property is filled with choices. Do you prefer a community-oriented condo? An apartment with a renewable lease? A townhome with a yard to call your own? Or a quirky loft with the original brick as a focal point?

A REALTOR® can help match you with the property that best fits your needs. To get in touch with an expert, reach out to Edina Realty’s customer care team who can answer your questions and connect you to an expert to help with your next steps.

Additional resources to consider:

What is a condo?
11 questions every condo buyer should ask
Resale value of a condo vs. a detached house
Buy a condo, house or town house as your first home?

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