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Should You Rent a Walk-Up Apartment?

[Updated: Jul 15, 2020 ] Feb 12, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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When Tara Levine moved to New York City last year, she wanted an apartment that was close to restaurants, shops, and public transportation, and one that wasn't the size of a box. The problem? She could only swing about $2,000 a month, and with the average one-bedroom costing almost $1,000 more, her options were limited.

It was for that reason that she chose to entertain the idea of a walk-up apartment despite initially limiting her search to buildings with elevators. Sure enough, after a few weeks of looking, she found a decent-size rental she could actually afford -- at a price of having to trek up and down five flights of stairs every time she came and went.

If you're looking to rent an apartment, you may be toying with the idea of a walk-up. But is that the right decision for you?

Pros of renting a walk-up

Walk-up apartments are less desirable than those offering elevator access. As such, you'll generally pay less rent for a walk-up than you will for a similarly sized unit in an elevator building. And if you're looking to rent in a neighborhood that's generally outside your price range, a walk-up could be your ticket to the zip code or area you have your heart set on.

Another perk of renting a walk-up? More exercise. Levine admittedly used to get breathless walking up those stairs several times a day. Now, they're a piece of cake, and she's convinced she's dropped a few pounds by virtue of that setup alone.

Cons of renting a walk-up

Despite the ability to get more square footage for your money, walk-up apartments do have their drawbacks. For one thing, everyday life can quickly become a hassle when you have multiple flights of stairs to grapple with. Forgot your hat on a cold winter's day? You may not have the time or energy to run back up to retrieve it.

Remember, a walk-up may be no big deal when you're not carrying anything other than a backpack, purse, or small bag of groceries. But when you've done a large load of shopping, hauling multiple bags up those stairs, or having to make more than one trip, can be downright painful. Furthermore, if your apartment itself doesn't contain a washer and dryer, prepare to curse under your breath (or out loud) just a bit as you lug laundry baskets up and down multiple flights of stairs.

Another thing: Moving into a walk-up is a pain. If you're hiring movers, it'll be their problem to contend with, but you'll generally be charged a premium, which will eat into your rent-related savings. And if you're enlisting the help of friends to move into that apartment, prepare to reward them generously -- or perhaps pay their chiropractor bills after the fact.

Is a walk-up apartment right for you?

There's the potential for serious savings when you rent a walk-up, and in some cases, you may not mind the inconvenience of dealing with stairs. If you have young kids -- particularly those you still need to carry in your arms -- then it's probably not a good idea. But otherwise, just accept what you're signing up for, make the best of it, and enjoy the financial perks at hand.

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