Per Barron's Dictionary of RealEstate Terms; Condominuim is a system of ownership of individual units in a multi unit structure, combined with joint ownership of commonly used property.
An Apartment is a dwelling unit within a multifamily structure, generally provided as rental housing.
It really is just about the same thing except for the ownership connotation and the joint ownership of the common areas.
Not to confuse the issue but condos are a form of PUD (Planned Unit Development) where the developer has certain responsibilities to the purchaser required by the State including setting up a home owners association.
For real estate, a condo is a unit in a building where the owner owns his/her unit in full with air space rights. Said owner also owns a percentage of the common areas of the building. There can be anywhere from 1 other owner to hundreds.
A unit in a co-operative building is called an apartment because it is not a condominium. The owner owns shares (like stock) in the total building and his/her unit is his/her designated living space. Common areas are co-owned with others in the complex as well.
Both a condo and a co-op apartment can be sold by the owner of the unit. In a co-op, even though it is shares that are owned, for all intents and purposes, one owns one's unit.
In a rental building, each unit is also called an apartment. The difference is there is no ownership of the unit. A lease is usually required and the renter pays a monthly payment to the owner. He/she cannot sell his/her unit.
Hope that helps!
My guess is that in this case, apartment=TIC or Tenancy in Common.
A unit that is in a building that has not yet been "subdivided" would be an apartment. Whereas, if the building has been subdivided that unit is a condo.
6 unit building contains 6 apartments for sale.
If the buiding has been "condo-ized" or subdivided, then it has 6 condos for sale. If the building has not, it has 6 apartments for sale as TIC interests. (If the building is being sold as an "income-property," the apartments are still apartments.)
I hope this makes sense. We use legal descriptions of ownership styles (such as TIC) as legal descriptions of the actual property. That's not exactly accuarate but it is the jargon of our local San Francisco real estate market.
I assume your friend has a good agent representing her that she can ask these questions? If not, please send her to one of us! :)
I've got a lot of good first time SF home buyer info on my blog so check that out.
Danielle Lazier, Zephyr Real Estate
San Francisco Realtor
danielle (at) sfhotlist.com
But you said a friend was buying property above. So I would think they have heard of both a co-op complex or apartments for sale and a condo complex. Not having anything to do with rental property any longer. The apartment was converted through the city so they could sell off units.
Hope that helps!
I believe the meaning has changed over time and varies by location. Shaban's answer is more in line with how the dictionary defines "apartment".
However, as far as the customs I've been exposed to, the most common distinction between the two are: an apartment is rented while a condominium is owned.
Someone from somewhere else with different customs may define them differently.
Sorry it's not more cut & dry.