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Apartment Complexes vs. Buildings: Exploring the Differences

You've come across the terms "apartment complex" and "apartment building" while browsing through rental listings, and you might have wondered about the distinction between the two. In this article, we will unravel the dissimilarities and...

You've come across the terms "apartment complex" and "apartment building" while browsing through rental listings, and you might have wondered about the distinction between the two. In this article, we will unravel the dissimilarities and help you understand which option suits you best. Let's dive in!

Understanding Apartment Complexes

What is an Apartment Complex?

Apartment complexes are a collection of apartment buildings that are owned and managed by the same property manager or landlord. These complexes can vary in size, ranging from large metropolitan structures to smaller, house-like buildings. Despite their differences, all the buildings in a complex form a unified community.

Apartment complexes often have on-site staff, including property managers and attendants who handle maintenance and daily operations. These communities are designed to provide a sense of belonging, with additional features such as a clubhouse, fitness center, swimming pool, and parking garages. In some cases, apartment complexes consist of private apartments or condos that can be rented out, but they may also come with HOA fees that can affect your overall rent. High-rise buildings in the city or sprawling properties with multiple units are commonly categorized as apartment complexes.

What's the Difference Between Apartment Complexes vs. Buildings?

An apartment building, as the name suggests, refers to a set of apartments within a single construction. On the other hand, an apartment complex comprises multiple buildings owned by the same landlord or property manager. Compared to single buildings, complexes are larger and often equipped with additional amenities. Let's take a closer look at the differences:

Apartment Complex:

  • Managed by Property Managers
  • Functions as a community
  • Owners can rent out individual units
  • Can be high-rise buildings or sprawling properties with multiple units

Apartment Building:

  • Consists of a single construction
  • May have fewer community amenities
  • Comprises several buildings within a complex

Apartment complex building in suburban area Image: Apartment complex building in a suburban area.

Pros and Cons of an Apartment Complex

To determine whether an apartment complex is the right choice for you, it's essential to weigh its pros and cons. Let's explore some key factors:

Sense of Community and Belonging

Living in an apartment complex offers a strong sense of community and belonging. If you enjoy socializing, communal spaces within the complex provide ample opportunities to interact with fellow residents. Additionally, some apartment complexes organize tenant events, such as holiday parties, fostering a friendly atmosphere. Depending on the complex's staffing, amenities like fitness centers may be accessible 24/7, allowing you to engage with your community at any time.

More Community Amenities

If you value community amenities like pools, tennis courts, or dog parks, apartment complexes are worth considering. These complexes are often built on spacious plots of land, allowing for sizable outdoor facilities. You'll find pools, clubhouses, and performance spaces at the heart of many apartment complexes, providing a well-rounded living experience.


Security is a significant advantage of living in an apartment complex. With staff to monitor guests and packages, apartment complexes offer a heightened level of safety. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you've misplaced your keys, having staff on-site can be a lifesaver. The communal nature of these complexes also ensures that more people are present in shared areas like fitness centers, enhancing safety through numbers.

Apartment building exterior, residential house facade Image: Apartment building exterior, residential house facade.

Neighbors Are More Involved

In an apartment complex, neighbors tend to be more involved in each other's lives. Whether it's casual conversations by the poolside or catching up in the hallway, you'll often find opportunities to interact with your neighbors. While this can be a positive aspect, it's important to note that it may also lead to occasional gossip or unwarranted involvement in your personal affairs.

More Rules

Apartment complexes generally have more rules in place to maintain order and the proper use of amenities. Most rules are common sense, such as cleaning equipment after using the fitness center. However, it's worth considering that tensions can arise when neighbors disregard these rules, potentially creating a less harmonious living environment.

European residential complex of apartment buildings Image: European residential complex of apartment buildings.

Find the Perfect Apartment Complex

Before embarking on your apartment hunt, create a wish list of the amenities and features you desire in your new home. This will help you narrow down your options and find the perfect apartment complex that aligns with your preferences. Are you ready to find your new place? Take Apartment List's easy quiz to get matched with the ideal complex today!

In conclusion, while the terms "apartment complex" and "apartment building" are often used interchangeably, there are key differences to consider. By understanding these distinctions and evaluating the pros and cons, you can make an informed decision that meets your housing needs and lifestyle preferences. Happy apartment hunting!