All rental properties, both houses and apartments, offer unique characteristics. Apartments are usually smaller and located in bustling neighborhoods, while houses are typically more tranquil and in relaxed communities.
Either could make the perfect home for renters, depending on their needs. So, if you’re in the process of finding your next home, you might be wondering which option makes the most sense for you. Below, we break down the pros and cons of each option, as well as how to make your next rental search easier.
Renting a house vs. renting an apartment: The main difference
There are many factors to consider when deciding between renting a house or renting an apartment. Houses tend to be more spacious (making them seem more family-friendly), but they can also be more expensive with higher maintenance.
By contrast, apartments tend to be less expensive. They could also come with unique in-building amenities like a gym, party rooms for tenants, or a convenience store on the ground floor. However, depending on their location and orientation, apartments could also offer less square footage or be noisier at certain hours of the day.
The neighborhood you’re considering and your budget are significant factors affecting both of these living options. In cities where the rental market is more competitive, prices might be on the higher end.
Renting a house: The pros and cons
Houses are generally an excellent option for those with pets as well as those seeking more space.
Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of a house rental:
Pros of renting a house
- More space: With a front yard, backyard, and maybe even some room on the sides, houses usually offer more space than apartments. And it’s not just the exteriors—you’ll also likely have more square footage spread across more rooms. For a growing family, that’s ideal—and even couples and singles can make use of the interior and exterior space for a home office, storage space, gym, and pet areas.
- More privacy: If you value your privacy and enjoy having a dedicated space to yourself, renting a house is a better option than renting an apartment. Most apartments have shared walls between units, which means you might end up hearing your neighbor—and them, you. Meanwhile, houses are usually several meters apart, often with fences for some much-needed privacy and security.
- Family living: A house is a good option if you have a growing family or plan to start one soon. Besides dedicated bedrooms for the kids, many parents love the extra outdoor area that a backyard offers—whether that’s for playtime for the kids or a patio for family and friends.
- Rent-to-own potential: In some cases, landlords might entertain a rent-to-own arrangement. This means if you enjoy living in the house immensely, you could decide to buy it later. This is especially useful if you can’t buy immediately and need more time to build your credit score.
- A place for pets: Houses typically have fewer pet restrictions since many of them come with backyards. However, if you’re planning on getting a house with a smaller backyard, the landlord might restrict the pet’s breed and size.
- Free parking: Most houses have a driveway, and some even have a garage. This means you’ll have at least enough space to park your car—and maybe that of a guest. With an apartment, you might be charged a monthly fee for a dedicated parking space, or need to find your own away from the building itself.
Cons of renting a house
- More expensive: Renting a house is generally more expensive than renting an apartment. This depends on your city, so it’s essential to look at the current rental market in the cities you’re considering.
- Larger space to keep clean: Houses also require more work and expenses than apartments. With more rooms and space, you can expect to spend additional money on cleaning supplies and might even need to hire a house cleaner. If you have a backyard, you’ll likely be responsible for mowing the lawn and plowing the driveway during the snowy months.
- More furniture: If you don’t have a lot of furniture, you’ll likely need to buy some to fill the empty rooms. However, you can cut costs by buying used or vintage furniture online.
- Less access to a maintenance crew: Apartment complexes often have on-site maintenance workers to help tenants fix things quickly. However, this might not be the case with a house since you’ll likely need to notify your landlord of problems, and they’ll then need to send someone out.
Renting an apartment: The pros and cons
Let’s take a look at the most significant advantages and disadvantages of renting an apartment.
Pros of renting an apartment
- Less maintenance: As mentioned earlier, apartment buildings often have staff, including maintenance and lawn workers, on-site—meaning there’s virtually no maintenance required for the tenant.
- More affordable: Depending on the location, apartment rentals are often cheaper than houses. If you’re on a tight budget, you could even consider renting an apartment studio, which generally costs a few hundred dollars less per month than a one-bedroom apartment.
- Added amenities: Apartment buildings often have several amenities, such as gyms, outdoor pools, laundry facilities, and workstations. The amenities you need will ultimately depend on your requirements, but most decent rentals come with some essential amenities, such as private parking and an alarm system.
- Close to convenience stores: Apartment buildings are often located in the city, close to entertainment centers and grocery stores. This means you can walk to many locations and can even save on gas.
Cons of renting an apartment
- Noisier: Since more residents live in an apartment building, chances are higher that you’ll have noisy neighbors.
- Less space: Apartment rentals often have a lower square footage. This means you will have less space to move around and will be more limited in terms of furnishings.
- Lack of parking: Some apartment complexes offer parking spaces as part of a rental. Others require a monthly fee for parking, which can be expensive, costing anywhere from $50 to $200. Then, there are other apartment buildings that don’t offer parking at all (especially those near city centers).
- Pet restrictions: Some apartment buildings have a “no-pet policy,” while others might have weight restrictions for pets.
How to decide whether you should rent a house or an apartment
When deciding between renting a house or an apartment, your choice mainly comes down to your budget and nonnegotiables. So as you decide, ask yourself what are the nice-to-have amenities and what are your must-haves.
- Budget: Budget is the No.1 consideration in the type of rental you choose. You need to know what you’re working with and, based on that, what you can reasonably afford. According to Manisha Thakor, director of Wealth Strategies for Women at the BAM Alliance, your rent shouldn’t be higher than a fourth of your take-home pay. So, if you take home $5,000 per month, your monthly rent shouldn’t be more than $1,250. Another way to determine your maximum rent is to ensure your annual gross salary (before taxes) is at least 40 times your monthly rent. So, if your yearly pay is $60,000, your monthly rent shouldn’t be more than $1,500.
- Nonnegotiables: Another way to determine whether you should rent a house or an apartment is to consider the deal breakers—these are your needs, the things you cannot budge on. For some, that’s a pet-friendly rental. For others, it’s the ability to walk or bike to work.
- Location: Is the apartment or house located close to your work? Does the area have good schools? Also, keep in mind that if you work in the city center, you might have access to more apartments than houses.
- Pets: Do you have large pets? Most houses have outdoor spaces, while apartments often allow only smaller pets, such as cats or small dogs.
- Space: How much space does your family need to live comfortably? And do you enjoy hosting gatherings at your property? A house might be the better option if you need space that can accommodate multiple people at once.
Tips for finding the perfect rental
Once you decide between a house and an apartment, you can search for the perfect rental. Here are some tips for finding a great rental that suits your budget and needs.
1. Search on a reputable rental site
There are several reputable sites you can use to search for houses or apartments to rent. Realtor.com, for example, allows you to filter your searches to suit your requirements. You can filter by location and property type, such as townhome, single-family home, apartment, or condo.
From there, you can filter by price, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and move-in date. Use additional filters if you need to ensure your rental matches what you’re looking for. They could include the following:
- Home size
- Whether pets are allowed
- Unit features
- Community features
Another benefit of searching for a property on a reputable listing site is that you won’t have to worry about falling victim to a rental scam.
2. Start apartment hunting in advance
Start your apartment or house search at least two months in advance. If you don’t, you risk not finding a rental in time for your move-out date.
On the other hand, you also shouldn’t start searching too early. Otherwise, another renter might snatch the property right up from under you.
3. Sign a longer lease for a discounted price
If you like a property but don’t quite have the budget for it, consider signing a lease agreement for a longer period, such as 15 months versus 12 months. Landlords will often be willing to reduce the rental price if a tenant signs for longer since they won’t have to go through the hassle of finding a new tenant every few months.
This is especially true if you rent to buy. It’s also a great option if you or someone in your family is enrolled in a local study program that’ll take a couple of years to complete.
Start searching for your dream rental
A house might be ideal if you require more space and privacy and can afford to pay a little bit extra. On the other hand, if you’re on a budget and don’t want to worry about too much maintenance, an apartment might be the better option.
By Alondra Segoviano, Realtor.com – December 4, 2023