Apartment Rentals: Better to Live Upstairs or Downstairs?

apartment rentalsObviously the first thing most renters will do when looking for apartment rentals is seek out a suitable neighborhood. Location plainly matters when it comes to nesting. But how much weight should a renter put not only on where they live a city, but where they live in a building?

"I moved into a spectacular walkup," says Lisa Sanderson, a renter in Brooklyn, N.Y. "I was on the top floor and it was awesome...until it rained. Then it got a lot less awesome."

Sanderson learned that there can be perils to living in a penthouse.

"Top floor apartments run into problems because roof upkeep is not always foremost in a building manager's mind," explains Carter Moe, a foreman and building manager in Portland, Me. "And roofs are the most vulnerable part of a building."

But is living all the way at the bottom any better? The truth is, anyplace you live within a building has its own set of risks as well as its own set of benefits. Here are a few things to consider when deciding if you'd rather move all the way up or head all the way down.

Penthouses and Top-Floor Units


When you live on the top floor of a building, the only thing between you and Mother Nature are a few pieces of plywood. Roofs take a lot of heat -- not to mention rain, snow, sleet and anything else the seasons have to throw at it. So living directly beneath one can definitely lead to problems, namely leaks. Make sure you let your landlord or building manager know about problems as they arise, so that they can be dealt with in a timely fashion.

If your ceiling has been peppered with skylights, you may also want to consider that no matter how lovely they look, it can be hard to keep the drafts out and the leaks from leaking. Also frustrating is that top-floor units tend to be extra hot all year round.

"Heat rises," says Moe, "so the rest of the building is heating you apartment too -- that's on top of hot sunlight streaming in all year round."

And on top of everything else, top-floor units have the most stairs to climb if the elevator goes out. Of course, that's assuming you have an elevator.


On the other hand, we're talking about the top floor! You get your building's best views and your status points are certain to skyrocket. You are also the second-closest unit (after the first-floor apartment) to outdoor space. Even if you don't have a finished roof, chances are there is some way to sneak out onto it from your unit. So go ahead and enjoy it.

Top-floor units have the great pleasure of elevation from street noises; and with no one living above them, they are often the quietest units in the building.

Now that you mention it, what's a little leaky roof?

Basement Units


Basement apartments don't generally sound good, mostly because when most people think of a "basement" they think cold, dank and dark. It's true. Fundamentally, the biggest problem with living in the basement is that it's a basement.

"I think my record is six weeks keeping any plant alive," says Noah Green from her basement apartment in Chicago.

Not only are basement unit's dark, but they are also a flood risk. Rain flows down, gutters flow down and you live, well...down. So you want to make sure before you move in that everything is shored up as well as possible.


On the plus side, in the strangling heat of summer, a basement apartment usually remains comfortably cool all year round. Also, thanks to far less intrusive outside lighting, it is easier to sleep late on the weekends.

"I love my cozy cave," counters Green, a nurse. "I work a lot of nights, so it's perfect."

A basement unit offers you a lot of control over your environment, as well. From lights to sounds –- because you are on the bottom, chances are, at least from your neighbor's perspective, you can get away being as noisy as you want.

Anywhere Else

Just because you think you are safely ensconced in the middle of the building -- neither sky above nor earth below -- doesn't mean you won't run into problems. In fact, being sandwiched between two (or more) units means you might have other people's noises coming at you from 360 degrees. Similarly, you might find yourself ina neighbor's way.

And just because you think you are not at risk for leaks or floods, think again. Pipes can leak from unit to unit. Flaky neighbors can leave bath water running and flood their bathrooms -- inconveniently positioned above your grandmother's armoir.

But living among your neighbors, whether or not you are subject to the whims of shared piping, electrical wires and walls, can be a harmonious experience if you go in prepared -- and as long as you pay attention to the details before you sign the lease.

Want to know how to deal with other rental issues? Here are some AOL Real Estateguides that can help:
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