High-Rise, Low-Rise or House: What Type of Home is Best for You?

in Renter Life

Moving to a new type of environment can yield unwelcome surprises, especially as a renter dealing with landlords and fellow neighbors. Prepare yourself with the facts to determine whether renting a house versus an apartment is the better option for you. 

When considering various apartments, narrow your search by deciding whether a high rise or low rise best suits your lifestyle.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in a High Rise Apartment 

low-angle photography of building

Benefits of a High Rise Apartment 

Though there are plenty of exceptions, high rise complexes are more likely to offer the following:

  • Built-in amenities. Renters who can afford a nicer high rise complex will find plenty of enticing onsite benefits. Examples include pet grooming stations, demonstration kitchens, BBQ grilling areas, co-working spaces, swimming pools, community gardens, and even retailers like salons or coffee shops. 
  • 24-security at the front door. This limits the likelihood of outsiders breaking into your unit or package theft. What’s more, many buildings have extensive video surveillance systems. 
  • Handicap accessible layout. Unlike many low rise counterparts, high rise buildings provide elevators in addition to stairs. Plus, you’re more likely to find ramps and wider hallways to further accommodate those in wheelchairs.  
  • Cheaper utilities. Many buildings offer free WiFi and may cover additional utilities. Plus, because you’ll live in an overall smaller space, expect to pay less for electricity and gas than if you lived in a house.
  • Structured opportunities for socializing. The shared areas present opportunities for friendly interactions with neighbors. However, some apartment complexes take this concept one step further by offering happy hours, live musical performances, and continental breakfasts. 
  • Operated by a professional management company with a dedicated maintenance team. Generally speaking, it should be fairly easy to call a hotline to have a maintenance professional assess any damage. 

There are plenty of exceptions, but the large number of tenants in the high-rise will yield more online reviews. With some quick Googling, it should be fairly easy to determine whether the building provides a positive customer service experience. 

Downsides of a High Rise Apartment

When evaluating the unit and building, keep an eye out for the following:

  • Elevator congestion. Expect to suffer through cramped elevator rides or the occasional long wait, especially if you work traditional hours. Germaphobes, beware!
  • You are surrounded by strangers. You’ll hear your neighbors’ loud music and household fighting, and they’ll hear yours as well. If someone sets off the fire alarm with their burnt grilled cheese, you and everyone else will have to evacuate. There will be a revolving door of new faces. Don’t be surprised if you encounter AirBNB guests wandering lost down your halls. With the number of strangers living nearby, there may be an elevated risk of theft by fellow tenants. 
  • Building-wide restrictions. To help mitigate conflict between nearby residents, some buildings impose regulations, such as no smoking, limits on pet ownership, and “quiet hours.” When deciding to move into a high-rise, make sure to review the full list of policies and determine whether these will be a hindrance to your lifestyle.
  • Higher rental costs. Though access to cool features like gyms and movie theaters may be complimentary, it certainly doesn’t come cheap! The inflated rent may be well worth it if you regularly use the additives, but be honest with yourself prior to signing the dotted line. Are you someone who will frequent the indoor pool or rooftop terrace? Or will you quickly grow bored of the novelty?
  • Limited geographic options. High rise apartment buildings are quite common in high-demand areas conveniently close to business hubs, entertainment, and public transportation. However, if you prefer the laid back vibe of a residential neighborhood, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a high rise option. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in a Low Rise Apartment 

brown concrete brick building during daytime

Benefits of a Low Rise Apartment 

Take note, low-rise apartment buildings come in many sizes; larger complexes may share more in common than the high-rises described above than their smaller counterparts. For this reason, the pros and cons below will apply predominantly to buildings with significantly less units. 

  • Generally cheaper than a house or high-rise unit. When occupying an apartment in a low-rise building, you only pay for the space you need. This spares you from the excess of a house or the pricey amenities of a high-rise.
  • More privacy and quiet than a high-rise. There are plenty of exceptions to this rule but, generally speaking, a smaller structure will mean your apartment is not surrounded on all sides. For example, you could occupy an entire floor and share the building with only a few other units. What’s more, you may have your own entrance, limiting neighborly interactions. 
  • Cheaper utilities. As with the high-rise, your limited space typically means you’ll spend less on gas and electricity versus renting a house. However, it’s unlikely WiFi will be included.
  • Geographic flexibility. As mentioned above, low rise apartments are fluid, taking whatever shape their surroundings require. You can find them nestled above storefronts, spread out across a grassy suburban plot of land, and carved out from an old beachside manor. Point being, renters open to apartments without high rise amenities have the freedom to choose the neighborhood best suited to their lifestyle. 

Disadvantages of a Low Rise Apartment 

  • Getting timely maintenance could be trickier. Your property may be managed by a company that operates dozens of different complexes. Alternatively, it could be owned by one person on top of their regular job. Regardless, you may find it harder to get quick service, as the dedicated maintenance team will be stretched across multiple buildings. There are many dedicated, reputable landlords of low-rise apartments, but it may be harder to find up-to-date online reviews to verify their quality of service. 
  • Less added amenities. Much less low-rise buildings have gyms and pools, and almost none offer 24/7 front-desk security. 

Bottom Line — Which Type of Apartment is Better?

In the battle of a high rise apartment compared to its low rise alternative, there is no objective winner. It ultimately comes down to personal preference. It’d be wise to consider the price disparity and reflect on how much value you’d receive from the amenities; if you would continue to regularly attend your spin class, would you receive your money’s worth from the complex’s gym equipment? How much time would you spend hanging out in that ritzy lobby or on the rooftop deck? If in doubt, tour high rises and low rises to get a better feel for both.

When comparing renting a house versus an apartment, the latter is more likely to appeal to singles or young couples without children. If you put a premium on convenience rather than floor space, opt for an apartment. 

Advantages of Renting a House 

  • The most amount of space. Both low-rise and high-rise apartment dwellers will have to contend with less floor space. But not with a house! You won’t have to choose between setting-up your cat tree or book shelves, since your can to do both. 
  • More privacy and quiet than an apartment. You will only share the building with your family or chosen roommates. You’ll be spared from sharing a wall with a crying baby or smelling your neighbors’ cooking. 
  • Allows you to test-drive home ownership. For apartment renters, the leap to first-time house ownership can be jarring. Renting a house provides a glimpse into whether you can handle the added responsibilities. What’s more, it enables potential-buyers to try living in a specific neighborhood without the commitment of a mortgage. 

Disadvantages of Renting a House

  • Potentially slower maintenance. Most rented houses are owned by individuals rather than companies, some who outsource their responsibilities to an outside management team. These teams run the gamut from consummate professionals to negligent and deceptive. Either way, you’re going to have a hard time looking up reviews online to read about tenants past experiences. However, it’s not impossible. Learn tips in the article Should You Background Check Your Landlord as a Renter? 
  • Higher utilities than if living in an apartment. Chances are that all utilities will fall entirely under your name. What’s more, larger spaces require increased energy usage to keep it the right temperature, driving up your energy bills.
  • A house has more responsibilities than an apartment. Unlike with home ownership, you don’t have to pay for house repairs. However, regular maintenance will fall on your shoulders. This includes shoveling snow from the sidewalk, mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, and cleaning an overall larger space. Busy professionals may find this overwhelming.  
  • Geographically restrictive. Those wanting to rent a house will have limited options near busy hubs and densely populated cities. Their best bet would be to search within residential neighborhoods, potentially increasing the need for a car. 
  • Increased potential that the house could be sold with you still in it. An apartment building is designed for one thing: to rent out tenants. However, it’s not uncommon for landlords renting out a house to sell the property to a new owner who intends to live there themselves. In this scenario, you may need to move out before you’re ready. What’s more, during the selling process, expect to be encouraged to leave at inconvenient times so strangers can scrutinize your home.

white and brown house during daytime

Bottom Line — Is a House Better Than an Apartment?

Young professionals who value accessibility to work and nightlife are better off renting a smaller space in a popular hub. However, adults seeking a quieter lifestyle will appreciate the ample room and independence that comes with renting a house. 

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