Flat, Apartment, Or Condo: What Are The Differences?
If you’ve been searching for a property in Malaysia, you’ve probably noticed the strange relationship between the naming of a flat, an apartment, or a condominium.
These descriptions all cover stratified property in some form of a building complex, yet the terms often seem to apply to different properties in Malaysia.
The question of an apartment vs condo is a particularly interesting topic for homebuyers, and can highlight some key differences that might be relevant to your property search.
So, let’s dive in and explore the differences between apartment and condominium properties, with some insight on flats thrown in for added educational appeal!
Use of the terms condominium vs apartment vs flat
‘Apartment’ is a term that’s widely used around the world to describe a self-contained unit in a strata-titled property.
It’s probably popularised by its use in the United States, with the widespread appeal of pop culture making it an easily recognised term around the world.
It’s very likely that people just want to understand how all those characters on the Friends TV series could afford such a huge apartment in New York City!
Interestingly, from a Malaysian perspective, what is widely called an apartment in the US (and now Malaysia), is more commonly called a flat in British English.
While the word apartment is creeping in to some usage in the UK, the term ‘flat’ is still widely used to cover all such stratified property types.
In Malaysia, flat is a term which tends to be more commonly used to describe affordable housing at the lower price ranges, particularly relating to public housing.
Apartment, on the other hand, is a word which had previously been used as an overall term for stratified properties in Malaysia, until the word condominium made its challenge for the title.
A condominium is now widely seen as a luxury property which offers much more facilities and appealing characteristics than your average apartment. The term ‘condo’ is almost like a helpful marketing tool to show off the fancy nature of the property.
The term apartment is now commonly used to refer to more middle-value properties, those that are still accessible to many income groups, but lacking the comprehensive facilities (and price tag) of a condominium.
So with the word play out of the way, let’s take a proper dive into the particulars of each of these property types.
Condominiums in Malaysia today tend to be defined by luxury. They make up a large share of the stunning new launch properties you find emerging in desirable or up-and-coming areas of Malaysia’s urban centres.
Sky Meridien @ Sentul East is a great example of a modern Malaysian condominium, with extensive multi-sport facilities, recreational areas, multi-tier security, and integrated design concept built for connectivity. Prices start at RM397,000.
While prices for property can be influenced by a range of key factors, that almost-RM400,000 price tag is a good affordable baseline price for a luxury condominium.
Prices can go lower, but it’s rare to find price tags for a condo for sale at less than RM300,000-RM500,000, and starting prices are often much higher, particularly in desirable addresses located close to hotspot areas.
Luxury condo prices are a place where the sky knows no limit, with the most luxurious condominiums going for hundreds of millions of Ringgit!
The easiest way to define the question of condominium vs apartment is around the cost and available facilities, both of which are undoubtedly connected.
Affordable apartments in less competitive areas in Malaysia can be listed for asking prices as low as RM35,000-RM100,000, significantly less than the benchmark price for even the cheapest condominium.
These properties often have limited facilities onsite, as well as lacking the extensive integrated public and social spaces of the more upmarket condo complexes.
Apartments cover a wide range of property values and types however, providing an important opportunity for homeowners from a diverse range of income groups.
PR1MA @ Kajang is one great example of an accessible apartment building which offers a mainstream type of Malaysia’s urban property market.
It offers simple facilities such as a swimming pool, basketball court, and playground, alongside a relatively affordable opening price point at RM290,000-RM363,000.
As we’ve discussed earlier, the question of condo vs apartment is sometimes just a matter of word preference.
For that reason, you can often find luxurious apartments that overlap heavily with what you might expect of a condo, particularly in the lucrative area of serviced apartments.
We take a more in-depth look at the utility rates and land status of a serviced apartment, among others, here!
A flat in Malaysia usually refers to the more economical end of the market, providing a unit that’s accessible to those from the low-income and middle-income groups.
With that push for affordable homes being a real drive in the national property market, it therefore makes flats an essential part of the country’s property ecosystem.
Once again, it’s worth pointing out that there’s no single guaranteed rule on what makes a flat defined as such, and neither is there any hard and fast rule for an apartment or a condo.
The lowest priced flats on PropertyGuru today cover the RM25,000-RM35,000 range, overlapping significantly with the lowest prices for apartments.
Flats tend to have very limited facilities compared to the luxurious condominiums shining out like beacons across the cityscape of cities like Kuala Lumpur.
The upper price limit for flats tends to be much lower than for other apartment types, with a limited number of more expensive flats reaching prices of around RM1 million.
The differences between all three types
Now that we’ve gotten everything down for you to try and differentiate between the three types, we leave you with a table that further simplifies it for you:
Very affordable homes, limited or no facilities
Affordable or accessible middle-class properties, range of facilities, broad price range.
Extensive facilities and integrated design, high starting price, affluent communities.
Low asking prices
RM25,000 – RM35,000
RM35,000 – RM100,000
RM300,000 – RM500,000
High asking prices
Is a condo better than an apartment?
“Better” is a very subjective term, especially in the case of property. Whether or not one is better than the other, depends on so many factors.
How much budget can you allocate? What’s important to you/your family?
As strata-type properties, condos and apartments both require you to abide by community rules given the shared facilities such as carparks and gyms.
A condo’s strengths lie in its added perks. Think additional security, extra facilities and better built-ups. Depending on the condo, the community may also be more peaceful. Apartments on the other hand, typically pale in comparison.
Is a condo better in that sense? Yes, but it comes in line with the price tag. If you can do without the sky deck, jacuzzi pool and various sports courts – it’s a small price to pay.
Remember not to hold on to the stereotypical definitions too strongly, as condos and apartments come in a wide spectrum!
Things to consider when choosing between the three
Between flats, apartments and condos, it’s no question that condominiums rule the hierarchy when it comes to the question of amenities and facilities.
For condos, facilities like community halls, pools, playgrounds and gyms are typically the bare minimum. Many of the upscale condos come with much more than that.
For those with an active lifestyle, think jogging/cycling tracks, boxing rings and various sports courts.
AraGreens Residences in Ara Damansara even comes with a futsal court, skate park and rock-climbing wall!
Apartments may have such facilities too, but typically are a tier or two down in terms of variety and quality. Flats may not be equipped with any entertainment-themed facilities at all.
Often, homebuyers are starstruck by the fancy facilities, but never take full advantage of them once having moved in. It can be helpful to decide beforehand what facilities you’re truly willing to pay for, and decide which properties to view from there.
In your decision-making process, do remember that parking lots and lifts are part of the facilities too.
2) Safety and security
One of the biggest differences between flats, apartments and condos are the safety features.
With condos, you can expect a higher standard of safety and security. Many condos are equipped with access cards, security camera surveillance and security guards. Registering guests can be rather cumbersome as well, but that’s the price to pay for security.
Flats typically have security guards as well, but little else. Apartments lie on the midline between the two. With a little research, you’ll easily be able to find apartments with just as much security as condos.
In the battle of the high-rises (serviced apartments excluded), it’s safe to say that you get what you pay for.
As mentioned above, extravagant condos can go into the hundreds of millions. Flats are typically priced within the RM30,000 – RM500,000 range.
Apartments have a wider spectrum, starting from RM30K+ to the millions as well.
Which is best for you: Condo, Apartment, or Flat?
Now that you know the differences between condos, apartments and flats – the next step in narrowing down the property best suited for you is deciding what exactly you’re looking for.
Most potential homebuyers typically already have a mental list. All other factors aside, a simplified version may look something like this:
“I’m looking for a low-density, peaceful high-rise under RM800,000 with a kiddy’s pool for my son’s swimming lessons. I usually have guests over every week, so an access card would be too troublesome for me. The property should also have ample guest parking as well as a minimum of 3 parking spaces for my family’s 3 cars.”
With that in mind, an apartment might suffice – but a little digging has to be done to find one that is low-density with a peaceful residential community, plus extra parking space to boot.
Families with a slightly higher budget would benefit from the extensive facilities and security condominiums provide, while single working adults or couples may find an apartment sufficient.