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High-Rise Apartment: Is it Right for You?

Being high up has its perks, as well as its drawbacks.

[Updated: Feb 04, 2021 ] May 22, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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Many people aren't used to living up in the clouds until they actually try it. If you're moving to a city, you may be looking to rent or even buy an apartment in a high-rise building. Here, we'll review the pros and cons of going that route.

What is a high-rise apartment?

If you've ever walked around a city and noticed a plethora of tall buildings, you've probably seen a high-rise apartment building. The definition of a high-rise building can vary from place to place, but in the U.S., it's generally defined as a building with seven stories or more, or 75 feet high or more, as per the National Fire Protection Association.

Of course, in a city like New York, a seven-story building could actually be considered a low-rise apartment building. That's because it's common to find residential buildings with 20 or 30 floors -- or more. On the other hand, in a smaller city, a building with seven floors may be the tallest building for miles around.

Benefits of living in or buying a high-rise apartment

Whether you're looking to rent an apartment, buy one to live in, or purchase one as a real estate investment, a high-rise unit is one worth considering for these reasons:

  • Great views: If you're going to move to a city, you might as well enjoy the sights of it from your own living space. With a high-rise, you'll have an opportunity to take in the action of city life without having to leave your apartment. And if you're near a park or historic feature, you may have a clear line of sight to it out your window. This especially holds true if you live on a higher floor in your building. And if your building has a rooftop deck, even better.
  • Location: High-rise apartments can generally be found in prime city locations, whether that means being downtown near shops and restaurants or in business districts that see a lot of action. You’ll appreciate that proximity if it means being closer to work or nightlife.
  • Onsite amenities: Though high-rise apartments aren't always luxury apartments, the two tend to overlap. As such, you may be privy to a host of great amenities, depending on the apartment complex you move to. Many high-rise buildings have a doorman on site, solid security systems, and a fitness center.
  • Less street noise: Though you might appreciate the hustle and bustle of being in a city, chances are, you'll enjoy it less at night when you're trying to sleep. The benefit of living on a higher floor is that you'll be further removed from some of the noise you'd be subject to on a lower floor. That's especially helpful if you have young children who go to bed on the early side or if you have a dog who’s easily agitated when other dogs pass by.
  • Great resale value: People who appreciate city life tend to enjoy the experience of living in a high-rise building. That could work to your advantage should you decide to buy a unit in a high-rise and then sell it sometime down the road. And if you're buying a high-rise apartment in a new construction building, you may be privy to different floor plans that allow you to maximize your views. The result? Top dollar when you go to sell.

Drawbacks of living in or buying a high-rise apartment

On the other hand, renting or buying a high-rise apartment isn't all rosy. Here are some of the downsides you might encounter:

  • Less space: High-rise apartment complexes generally involve packing a lot of people into smaller spaces. Granted, this isn't always the case, and it's a general symptom of living in an apartment in general, but in some cities, units in high-rise buildings can feel claustrophobic.
  • Higher cost: In many cities, high-rises are considered a luxury. That means you'll generally pay a premium to buy or rent one. You may find that you get more space for your money if you buy or rent in a smaller building.
  • Less outdoor access: When you live 20 stories up in the air, it can be hard to find an apartment with a balcony. And even if your high-rise apartment does have a balcony, you may find that wind conditions make it difficult to use or enjoy. (To be fair, though, it’s common for high-rise buildings to come with a rooftop deck that gives you outdoor access -- but you’ll need to share that space with other building residents.)
  • Less convenience getting in and out: Living in a high-rise makes you heavily reliant on an elevator. And that could translate into spending lots of time waiting for one each time you need to enter or exit your home. Imagine you have a dog who needs to be walked four or five times a day. Suddenly, a five-minute stroll could take 15 when you factor in waiting for the elevator. And if your elevator breaks, best of luck to you -- climbing 18 flights of stairs to get home may constitute a great workout, but it's less fun when you're carrying bags of groceries or a baby.

Is a high-rise apartment right for you?

If you're looking to rent an apartment in a city, a high-rise could offer a great living experience. And if you're looking to become a property owner, a high-rise could constitute a smart investment.

That said, not all high-rises are created equal. Before you sign a lease or purchase agreement, do some research. Talk to other building residents, if possible, and ask about their experiences. Is the property management team reliable? Does the elevator tend to go out a lot? These are the questions you'll want to ask before committing.

Also, consider your budget. You may find that you can score more affordable housing in a low-rise building than in a high-rise. And even if you can swing a high-rise financially, an apartment in a smaller building could offer you more living space.

Finally, think about how you feel about being far off the ground. Some people find the notion unsettling. Others, especially those who are used to city life, prefer to be up high. Ultimately, you'll need to go with your gut and see what you're most comfortable with.

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