Apartment types

What is a Walk-Up Apartment and Why You Should Rent One

Rob Whiting
Boom Team

In many big cities in the United States, space is such a premium. In fact, most Americans have reported that rent is their biggest monthly expense, with the average monthly rent at around $1,470. In New York City, it is a lot higher, with the average rent hovering at around $2,900. The most expensive average rent is in Manhattan, where the average rent is a whopping $3,475 per month! Can you imagine paying out this much every time your landlord comes around?

For most people, this is a huge chunk out of their monthly budget, and it is not practical to pay such high prices. This is why many new yorkers opt for walk-up apartments.

What is a Walk-Up Apartment?

Walk up NYC

As the name suggests, a walk-up apartment is a residential space that is located in buildings that have no elevators. Walk-up apartment buildings generally have 2-6 floors, although there are some buildings that have more floors. In Greenwich Village, for example, there are some of the highest walk-up buildings in NYC, with some of them featuring seven floors!

For buildings with higher walk-up floors, the lower floors are typically commercial establishments such as restaurants, boutiques, or gyms so that the residents are incentivized to live in these buildings.

Walk-up apartments are usually studio-type apartments, although there are also single-bedroom or multi-bedroom apartments. You can generally find walk-up apartments in older parts of New York such as Manhattan and Queens.

If you’re looking for affordable walk-up apartments and you want to have a wide variety of choices, you can check out Cobble Hill and Park Slope. However, if you have a bigger budget and you want to get a walk-up apartment in Manhattan, the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side are great choices.

How Much Does a Walk-Up Apartment Cost?

In general, a walk-up apartment costs less compared to other types of residential options, whether in New York or in other big cities. The difference is around a few hundred dollars less per month, usually around $400 for a one-bedroom apartment.

The main reason for the drastic difference in price is the availability of doormen. In most buildings with elevators, you will usually find a doorman stationed at the entrance. These doormen are salaried, and if they belong to a union, they also have benefits. Their salaries are rolled into the cost of renting, which means that the residents pay a premium for the benefits of having doormen, such as parcel delivery and added security. Furthermore, since walk-up apartment buildings do not have elevators, there is no need for upkeep and maintenance costs.

Due to the huge difference in the monthly rental cost, many people who move to big cities for the first time seek out available walk-up apartments for their first housing option. For young professionals and families, a walk-up apartment is an affordable way to live in these big cities.

Pros of a Walk-Up Apartment

Aside from the lower monthly rental cost, walk-up apartments have several other pros. Here are some of the pros that you can enjoy with a walk-up apartment:


Since most walk-up apartments are located in older buildings, you can expect a level of vintage charm in the architecture of the building. Many of them have unique features that you won’t find in newer apartments, such as original crown molding and oversized bay windows.

Tightly-knit Community

As many walk-up apartments are in smaller buildings with anywhere from 4 to 40 apartment units, you can expect fewer tenants. If you’re lucky enough to find friendly tenants, you can quickly make connections with the other people living in your building. Alternatively, you can keep your business to yourself more easily if you value your privacy.


With a walk-up apartment, getting daily exercise will become part of your regular routine. Even if you don’t have time to hit the gym, you will be getting a lot of cardio simply by walking up and down the stairs to your apartment.

Closer to Small Businesses

Since many walk-up apartment buildings are usually found in residential neighborhoods, you can expect to find a variety of privately-owned businesses. You will be able to support local small businesses and have a direct impact on creating a thriving economy. What’s more, you’ll be able to make personal connections with the owners of these businesses! Can you imagine how great it would be to live in an area where your local barista knows exactly what kind of coffee you like, and where the local laundromat owner greets you by name every time you walk in?

NYC walk up small business

Things to Consider When Getting a Walk-Up Apartment

While there are many pros to choosing walk-up apartments, there is no denying that the logistics of one isn’t necessarily a good fit for everyone. The main thing that you have to consider is that you’ll be trading in a cheaper monthly rent for conveniences such as getting parcels delivered to your door and the ease of getting to your apartment.

Another thing that you have to consider is the ease of going up and down the stairs on a regular basis. For older people and people with mobility problems, getting to and from their apartments can be a challenge.

Here are other things that you should consider before getting a walk-up apartment:

Your Daily Commute to Work

If your work commute is far from your apartment, you should factor that in before getting a walk-up apartment. Consider how tired you would be every day when you’re coming home from work; would you still have the energy to walk up flights of stairs to get to your apartment? Moreover, can you imagine doing this every day?

Storage Space

Taking a bike to work is not only great for the environment, but it’s also great for your wallet! Plus, you won’t be at the mercy of public transportation especially during rush hour. Try to see if there is a storage option for your bike in the walk-up building. Otherwise, you also have to factor in having to bring your bike up multiple flights of stairs.

Walk Up Bike

Groceries, Laundry, and Other Deliveries

Since you won’t have a doorman to deliver your parcels and other items to your door (or at least receive them at the lobby of your building), you should also consider how willing you would be to bring up your purchases by yourself. This can be doubly difficult if you have small children or elderly people living with you. It can be tiring and tedious to make multiple trips to bring everything to your walk-up apartment.

For door-to-door delivery services such as Amazon or Grubhub, you should also consider what the delivery guys will be going through to be able to bring your purchases to your door. Since they’ll be doing a bulk of the legwork, you might want to think about adding a tip every time they make a delivery to your walk-up apartment.


You’re probably going to have people over now and then, so you also need to consider the comfort and convenience of your guests. Will your guests be willing or able to climb up multiple flights of stairs every time they want to visit you in your walk-up apartment?

Utilities and Amenities

Finally, you should also consider the utilities and amenities in the building. As mentioned before, many walk-up apartments are found in older buildings which means that there is a good chance that the utilities and amenities have not been updated for a long time.

You should focus on two things: water and heating. These two utilities are essential especially if you are living in New York where winters can be brutal! Does the water in your walk-up apartment have sufficient pressure and come out at an acceptable temperature? Does the heating work equally through your whole living space?

Make sure to check these things before you move in. You can ask other tenants for their feedback to get an honest appraisal of what it’s like to live in a particular building.

Is a Walk-Up Apartment Right for You?

Walk-up apartments are an excellent choice for people who are looking for a cheap living option in big cities. However, you need to do some research before moving into one; don’t let a cheap price tag blind you to problems that you may encounter down the road! 

Ultimately, you need to find a balance between convenience and saving money in finding the best apartment for you.

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