Single-Family Home vs. an Apartment: Which Rental Is Best For You?

When you’re looking for the perfect home for you and your family, one of the first decisions to make is whether to rent a single-family home vs. an apartment. A single-family home is a detached building with no common walls, its own entrance and its own yard or lot. An apartment is a rental space within a larger building that has other units; you’ll have common walls and may share utilities and amenities with other renters. Knowing which type of home you’re looking for can help narrow down your options so you can simplify your housing search.

We’ve broken down the key factors to consider when you’re deciding between a single-family home vs. an apartment. Read on for a more detailed breakdown. Weigh the ones that are most important to you to help you make the best choice for where to live. Keep in mind the pros and cons may be different based on your neighborhood or area you’re looking to live in.

Privacy

Single-Family Homes

  • More privacy since they tend to not have shared walls
  • Some have private, fenced yards, which allows you to do as you please (and make more noise)
Home with a fenced yard for privacy.
Home with a fenced yard for privacy.

Apartments

  • Less privacy since walls and common areas (such as hallways or courtyards) are shared. You might be kept awake by a neighbor’s loud music or feel annoyed when a crowd of children starts shrieking and splashing in the pool while you’re trying to sunbathe in peace

Outdoor Space

Single-Family Homes

  • More likely to have private yards
  • You might be responsible for mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges in a single-family home vs. an apartment

Apartments

  • No private yard all to yourself, but you’ll probably find plenty of other amenities not typically found in a single-family home vs. an apartment, like tennis courts, fitness centers, community clubhouses and swimming pools that you and your guests can access
  • No maintenance is required on your part
An apartment community with a swimming pool.

Storage space

Single-Family Homes

  • There is usually more storage space in a single-family home vs. an apartment
  • Depending on location, some may have garages, attics or basements where you can stash your stuff, in addition to indoor closets
Master bedroom with a spacious walk-in closet.
Master bedroom with a spacious walk-in closet.

Apartments

  • Some communities offer residents access to storage units or shared storage in the basement of the building
  • Additional storage may cost extra and won’t provide as much space as a garage or attic in a single-family home
  • Newer apartments may have more closet space than older single-family homes, which often have tiny closets

Parking spaces

Single-Family Homes

  • More likely to have driveways or garages, so you’re guaranteed a place to park
  • There’s generally space for more than one vehicle
  • More apt to feature suitable parking spots for large vehicles, such as campers or mobile homes, that you can’t park on the street

Apartments

  • May or may not include parking spaces, and you might have to pay for a spot
  • An apartment community with limited guest parking can make it hard for friends and family to visit
  • When apartments do offer parking, it’s generally covered or indoor parking. You may even get secure parking with gates or guards
An apartment complex parking lot.

Pet-friendly

Single-Family Homes

  • If you have a large dog or you own more than one pet, you’re more likely to be welcomed here
  • An independent landlord may be more flexible about pets than the property manager of an apartment community (especially if he or she is a pet lover)
  • If the home has a fenced yard, your pet has room to roam freely, with plenty of space to run, sniff and explore
A single-family home's yard with a dog freely running.

Apartments

  • When they do allow pets, the size, breed or number of animals you can have tend to be limited, such as restricting dogs to 20 pounds or less
  • Some complexes have dog parks with special pet amenities like wash stations and on-site dog parks
  • Your dog will also have to interact with other dogs in the complex, so making sure he or she can handle that is key

Child-friendly

Single-Family Homes

  • Generally offer children more indoor space, and with no shared walls, children can make more noise without causing any rifts with the neighbors
  • Single-family homes with yards also offer children room to run and play outdoors, especially if the yard has a fence to keep them safe

Apartments

  • Can be confining for young children and stressful for their parents since there’s limited space
  • Kids generally have to restrict playing and making noise to avoid bothering the neighbors
  • Tend to have kid-friendly amenities like playgrounds and pools
Apartment complex caters to children with a playground.
This apartment complex caters to children since it has a playground.

Property management

Single-Family Homes

  • Often have individual landlords who may lack experience in the role. They aren’t always responsive to phone calls and may be reluctant to pay for professional repairs
  • Unless the landlord is handy with a tool kit, you could have to deal with an amateur repair job. Or you could spend weeks without hot water or a working shower while the landlord looks for a repair person

Apartments

  • More likely to be managed by experienced landlords or professional property management companies
  • You can generally expect a quick response to any problem, with repairs handled efficiently and capably
  • Since they oversee all of the residents in the building, apartment property managers can also help resolve any disputes you may have with neighbors

Community environment

Single-Family Homes

  • More likely to be in suburban areas that tend to be family-oriented
  • There will probably be fewer amenities within walking distance and fewer choices for entertainment or nightlife for a single-family home vs. an apartment
  • If you rent a single-family home in a community with a homeowner’s association (HOA), you’ll need to follow the rules of the HOA. These may not allow certain things, such as large gatherings on the front lawn

Apartments

  • Tend to be in metropolitan, higher-density locations
  • More likely to be within walking distance of shops, restaurants and services
  • Generally closer to public transportation and offer more nearby entertainment and nightlife
  • May also attract more young people and singles
  • It’s easier to make friends and interact with others in common spaces
Residents enjoy a game night in common space.
Residents enjoy a game night in common space.

Costs

Single-Family Homes

  • Renting a single-family home is generally more expensive than renting an apartment of the same size
  • Add-on expenses, such as paying to maintain the yard, can also increase your costs
  • Renting an older single-family home can be cheaper than renting a newer apartment with the latest amenities

Apartments

  • Generally less expensive than single-family homes of the same size
  • However, an apartment that is newer or luxurious with a lot of amenities, such as a rooftop garden, swimming pool and on-site gym may result in higher costs than a single-family home
  • Shared utilities in apartments may reduce your utility costs compared to those in a single-family home

Safety and Security

Single-Family Homes

  • Lack the security features of apartments, such as keyed entry or a doorman on staff
  • Ground-floor access and multiple doors provide easier access for intruders than apartments
  • Since you’re not sharing the home with strangers, you don’t have to worry about other tenants letting a suspicious person into your building

Apartments

  • May have security features such as keyed entry, security cameras or a doorman
  • With only one entry and fewer windows, it’s more difficult for intruders to break-in, especially if you’re on a higher floor
  • Careless neighbors could leave the lobby door open or let a stranger into the building
Entrance into a building that requires a key card for access.
Entrance into a building that requires a key card for access.

Entertaining Guests

Single-Family Homes

  • Combined outdoor and indoor space offers plenty of options for big parties and events
  • Neighbors are less likely to complain about noise
  • Single-family homes typically offer plenty of parking for guests on a driveway and within the neighborhood
Backyard dinner party at a single-family home.
Backyard dinner party at a single-family home.

Apartments

  • Limited space for entertaining in your apartment
  • Neighbors are more likely to complain about noise since walls are shared
  • Can be difficult for guests to find parking, especially in an urban neighborhood
  • Community spaces such as pools or clubhouses can offer event space, but other residents may want to use the space at the same time

Laundry Access

Single-Family Homes

  • Many offer instant access to a washer and dryer in the home or garage
  • If the home isn’t equipped with a washer and dryer, you’ll have to buy your own appliances or go to the laundromat

Apartments

  • If the building has a laundry room, you won’t have to buy a washer and dryer
  • Traveling back and forth to the laundry room to check on laundry or waiting for it to finish is time-consuming
  • Isolated laundry rooms may feel unsafe
Laundry facility in an apartment complex.

Personalization options

Single-Family Homes

  • When renting a single-family home, individual landlords are often more lenient about changing the look and décor of your rental, such as painting the walls or hanging new window coverings

Apartments

  • Complexes generally prefer to keep all the units in the community as uniform as possible

Making the right choice

When choosing your new single-family home or apartment, it’s important to keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule. For example, sometimes apartments have more square footage than homes in the same area. Get all the facts about any property you’re considering so you can compare different rental properties accurately. Then, assess the pros and cons of each option to decide which is best for you — and to find the right rental home faster.

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