Need to Know: Buying a Ground Floor Apartment

  • Sapir Team
  • 12/30/21

On the plus side, these apartments are sometimes less expensive than units on higher floors, they can come with private outdoor spaces, and make more sense if you have babies in strollers, dogs, or mobility issues. They’ve also become popular recently since many come with private outdoor space: A backyard or deck can be very appealing, especially if you’re spending more time at home.

There are still some draw-backs to a ground floor unit: they are more prone to rodent problems, and could be prone to street level noise and less privacy from passers-by.

Now let’s discuss some of the main topics regarding ground floor apartments:

Is It a Best Bet in Terms of Value? 

A ground-floor apartment can offer buyers, especially in high-end buildings, a big discount, however it depends heavily on the building and the area. That said, we have seen discounts of $100-$200 per square foot in such apartments compared to their higher floor counterparts.

Building Maintenance 

Be sure to ask a few questions about how frequently the superintendent takes out the trash and recycling and find out if the building is taking preventative measures against bugs and mice. If the building isn’t being maintained well, your place will be the first stop for cockroaches, ants, other assorted creepy-crawlies, and any rodents that make their way into your building. Buying a ground-floor unit in a mid-size building (at least 20 units) gives you a better chance of having active management and maintenance on a daily basis tending to the trash and keeping the entryway and common areas clean, but you aren’t prepared to deal with pests, you should probably steer clear of a first-floor apartment.

How Will You Stay Warm When the Weather Turns Cold?

Heat rises and if the building has not been well insulated, keeping warm can become a task. In older buildings the ground floor was often for the service staff, storage, a kitchen, etc., and so heating it wasn’t important. That said, developers today are building new “intentional” ground-level units into new development condo buildings that are a lot more functional and have great flow, as well as multiple levels.

Will People Be Looking in the Windows?

Yes, you’ll definitely need to watch out for curious onlookers. If you live in a touristy area of the city, you can expect people to peek inside and check out your furniture, and you may need to leave your shades drawn for privacy. This will leave the apartment cooler and make you lose out on natural light. In some cases, a good trade off is to buy a unit at the back of the building. What you might sacrifice in natural light can be worth the privacy and quiet.

Are Break-Ins a Concern?

Sadly, safety can indeed be an issue with first-floor units, since they are the easiest access point. While there aren’t any real numbers that speak to a higher rate of crime for ground-floor homes, it’s something to take into consideration.

Will People Ring Your Doorbell More Often?

The answer is probably. The ground floor or basement re usually where the super lives, and so delivery people may try your bell to leave packages. You can always negate this by labeling your mailbox clearly…

Noise

Unfortunately, ground floor units tend to be louder than others. If your unit opens into the lobby you may hear the front door every time it opens or closes, the elevator bell as it arrives, and maybe even people talking in the lobby on their way in or out.

Units toward the back of the building will be more insulated from street noise and, depending on the layout, you may be less likely to hear neighbors opening and shutting the lobby door.

Flooding

With climate changes and the erratic weather New York has been having, many new construction condo buildings now have plans to lessen potential flooding. But not all developers put enough thought into worst-case scenarios during the building process. If you’re buying a property that is partially under grade, you should inquire as to whether there’s a plan in place for heavy downpours.

Pros to Buying a Ground Level Apartment

You may be a buyer who is choosing a smaller building, without a doorman or elevator, but maybe you have mobility issues, are older in years, or have young children or animals. Ground floor apartments, where you don’t have to climb lots of stairs, are definitely a good choice for you in that case.

Outdoor space is another huge potential perk. Not every ground-floor unit will have any, of course, but many will, giving you an instant oasis feel in a city of concrete.

Bonus: The “Maisonette”

You’re most likely to find a maisonette—French for “small house”—in older buildings in neighborhoods like the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, Washington Heights, the West Village, and Brownstone Brooklyn.

Such units typically have their own private street entrances, giving you more privacy, and usually have more than one floor. They also carry a bigger price tag. These units have a special appeal because the idea of having a duplex or triplex that feels more like a home than an apartment in the city, is something that touches people on a more personal level. Especially those of us raising families in Manhattan.