I like to weigh the pros and cons of different living situations based on an individual's need.
Why Live in an Apartment?
Apartment living is something that many believe everyone should experience, if only once. While you don't have some of the luxuries that you'd enjoy in your own home (a yard, for example), most apartments have perks of their own. These can include:
- Free water
- Free trash services
- A free on-site gym
- Included utilities such as a refrigerator, washer and dryer, etc.
- Quicker transit to work, school, and shopping
Some apartments are even leased as "all bills paid," meaning you have no electric bill to worry about, either. Don't count on this, though, as it is rare and typically found in lower-end apartment communities. No matter, having your own apartment can be either a positive experience or a negative one, and this often depends greatly on the choices you made (or didn't) prior to signing the lease. Whether you're looking for a small studio apartment or a three-bedroom townhouse, choosing what floor you'll be occupying for many months to come is crucial in making your experience a pleasant one.
In my own research, searching the internet for the good and bad sides of living high or lying low brought up many points to consider. The following are the 5 most common areas of concern that I discovered among the apartment-searching population, and this article will cover them in-depth:
- The electric bill
- Physical requirements
- The "view"
1. The Electric Bill
Many of those embarking on their first apartment adventure seem to neglect the fact that how high up you are can have a major effect on your light bill. Even more are unaware of the benefits you receive six months later.
Living on the first floor, despite all potential downsides, is crucial to many people for the following reason: cheap electricity. You can expect to have the cheapest light bill when you live at ground level, particularly in the summer. During the winter, however, your rates may spike, especially if the apartment isn't well insulated. On a cool spring/autumn day, you can save even more money by leaving the windows open when you're home and just letting the breeze flow through.
Being at the top has its perks, too. Unfortunately, cheaper electricity isn't one of them. Even on a cool breezy day like the one I mentioned above, opening your windows might not do much good when you're living closer to the clouds. The reason, of course, is that heat rises. This means your AC will have to work harder to keep you cool. However, this same principle will benefit you in the colder months as the heat from below will rise into your apartment, essentially forcing the folks below you to share the wealth.
Depending on where you live, there are typically more warm months than there are cool ones. This should be something to consider when deciding which floor you'll live on, as the price differences can be drastic. If you live in a climate-wacky area like myself, you should see if any of the available electric providers for your potential apartment offer "Level Billing," which simply estimates your usage and allows you to be roughly the same amount every month.
2. Physical Requirements
Are you sporting toned calves and a glistening six-pack? Do you get winded just by thinking about stairs? Are you someone who is physically active? Do you smoke? These are just some of the things that you might want to consider when choosing the level of your apartment. Maybe the idea of climbing dozens of stairs isn't even an issue. Perhaps you've thought about carrying up bags of groceries and how exhausting it might be if you have to make more than one trip. Even worse, you've shuttered at the idea of transferring all of your belongings (including the couch and large wooden desk) from a moving truck to your third-floor apartment. Whatever the case, this will differ greatly depending on where you choose to reside.
For someone who cringes at the idea of getting winded every day, this is ideal. Moving in is a breeze (so is moving out!), grocery shopping isn't something to be dreaded, and you never have to put off checking your mail or taking out the trash just because you're not in the mood to climb all those stairs. This is also ideal for people with breathing problems or physical limitations.
By far, the worst part of living at the top is moving. Whether you're moving in or out, hauling all those things that make your house a home up or down the stairs takes a real toll. Not to mention, your usual routine for grocery shopping can become altered to fit your "higher living" (you may limit the number of groceries you get at any given time so as to reduce how many trips up the stairs you'll need to take). That said, this shouldn't discourage someone in bad shape. Sure, you'll be out of breath each time you make it to your front door, but a little exercise never hurt anybody, right?
I can't stress enough that going up the stairs isn't going to ruin your life if you're not in the best shape, but the fact is that this really is an issue with many apartment-hunters. If you absolutely insist on avoiding stairs (or actually require it), you're only option is the first floor (unless, of course, your apartment complex has elevators!)
3. The "View"
While this is something that may seem trivial to those looking for an apartment, it should be considered. Why? Whatever you see when you look out the window isn't likely to change. This is the same thing you'll see every day, every month, until your lease expires and/or you choose to move. Do you want a ground level view that feels more like a house? Or do you prefer the tops of trees or the vast city scape?
Depending on what it is exactly you're looking for, this can be a hit or a miss, depending greatly on the area as well as which direction most of the windows face. Many first floor dwellers will likely have a view of the parking lot (exciting, right?), but some will be lucky enough to land a specific unit whose windows face a back yard or courtyard. Having a place on ground level also means your apartment will look and feel more like an independent house.
The beauty of living at the top is that when it comes to the view, it's difficult to go wrong. Even if you're facing the parking lot, it can't be seen without walking up to the window and looking down, right? You might be treated to a lush green view of trees, a clear view of the city, or an unrestricted view of the sky. When it comes to what you'll be looking at for months or years to come, few will argue that what you see out of a top-floor unit almost always trumps the rest.
This comes down to preference. However, if you're a night owl or sunlight hater, your blinds might be closed most of the time, anyway.
Let's be honest: No one ever expects to be the victim of burglary, but the fact of the matter is that it does happen. Sure, you might feel safer in an apartment seeing as there are so many neighbors nearby, but many would-be thieves see an apartment unit as an easier target thanks to the lesser chance of you having a security system installed. Which floors are more at risk? Read on.
This is a no-brainer. Sure, you might not have to walk up all those flights of stairs, but when thieves are scouting an apartment complex, they tend to choose the easiest target: the first floor. Your front door, patio door, and windows are all possible entries into your home. Plus, moving the goods from your apartment into a vehicle and fleeing the scene is a lot easier if the unit is on ground level.
Chances are, the only entries into your apartment will be the front door and maybe a window or two. Everything else should be well above the ground and safe from a criminal (unless he's really tall...or Spider-Man). However, you should never assume you are invincible to a burglary. Just because you're higher up doesn't mean a criminal has common sense. He's already stupid for robbing someone, whose to say he's not stupid enough to rob an apartment on the top floor?
A close friend of mine lived in a second-floor apartment, and yes, she was robbed. It can happen to anyone. While it is less likely to happen to an apartment that is higher above the ground, you should be sure to pick a safe area when apartment-hunting. It's also a good idea to get to know your neighbors (they'll spot someone who isn't you entering your home) and always secure all possible entries. It doesn't hurt to leave a light on, either. Finally, "Renter's Insurance" is a must. It's affordable and it will make things seem a little less infuriating if you're a victim.
One of the unfortunate drawbacks of apartment life is that it is nearly impossible to escape some noise. When you take dozens of people and cram them into one small area, there is bound to be some late night screaming. However, there are some things to consider before you make the move, and it's just not the noise other people make.
Footsteps. Fallen objects. Running water. You name it, you're bound to hear it when you live on the bottom floor, and there's not much you can do about it. Even if you live below the most light-footed person on earth, you can expect to hear it every time they take a shower or flush the toilet. This is because plumbing generally runs through the walls in apartments, so any used water will make its way down (passing through your walls in the process). On the bright side, you can stomp until your feet turn red. No one lives below you, so you'll never have to worry about how much noise you make.
One of the biggest benefits (and one of the most common reasons) that people choose to live on the top floor is because they just can't handle hearing every little thing their upstairs neighbor does. On the top floor, you'll never have to worry about that. No plumbing sounds, no heavy footsteps, no children playing basketball in their kitchen (at least, that's what it always sounds like). However, you'll want to be cautious when renting anything above the first floor if you have children. No one likes a noisy neighbor.
One thing to keep in mind is that, once again, you're never safe from noise in an apartment complex. At the very least, you'll hear children outside. In a worst case scenario, the people living next door will always be fighting or have an uncontrollable infant or pet. To minimize noise, check to see if any apartments you are interested in have units on a corner with only one common wall with a neighbor.
So, What's It Going to Be?
In the end, it will all boil down to your needs and your preferences. It is the opinion of the author of this article that the top floor is the way to go. However, I cannot insist you feel the same way as I know many people who are just as content on the bottom floor. It really is up to you.
You may have noticed that this article did not mention apartments that are neither bottom or top, but in the middle. Why? Basically, add all the faults of living at the top and remove all the perks of living at the bottom and you've got your answer.
Hopefully, this article has helped shed just a little light on this thing that you have obviously been wondering. I urge you to continue researching online, read reviews of any potential locations you're considering, and always ask to take a tour. Enjoy the search (it's an adventure!) and enjoy your new home!