Four Amenities You Should Pay For (and Three You Shouldn't)
In New York (and nationwide!) apartments and apartment buildings come with an amazing array of amenities. From gyms and pools to private balconies, buildings have come a long way. Improvements in plumbing and electrical wiring allow landlords to put heavy water- and electricity-drawing conveniences like washers/dryers and dishwashers directly into apartments.
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We love awesome amenities. They’re totally cool, and they’re great for boasting to your friends. Not surprisingly, landlords often charge extra for them, either directly or indirectly (through increasing the rent). Some amenities can really improve your life – but some aren’t worth it. Here are our thoughts about each.
Amenities worth paying extra for:
(1) Dishwasher. Common to modern buildings with new plumbing and electrical wiring, dishwashers forestall roommate conflict and avoid bug problems. Whether you have the standard 24” version (big enough for 12-14 place settings) or the compact 18” version (big enough for 6-8 place settings), having a dishwasher means the dishes can get cleaned without a struggle. (Someone does still have to load it, though.) They also have the added benefit of being a handy place to store clean dishes and flatware.
A note about energy usage in New York: In-apartment amenities like dishwashers can really spike your energy bill, so pay attention to your usage. In particular check whether your energy costs vary at different times of day; if they do, try to run your dishwasher (or other appliance) during times when energy is cheapest.
Con Edison is responsible for power delivery in New York; you deal with them to set up electric or gas when you move in and to cancel when you move out. They have a special program, called PowerMove, where if you sign up for energy service from an energy service company (or “ESCO”) other than Con Ed you will get a one-time 7% discount for the first two months of your new service with that ESCO. Don’t forget to sign up!
(2) Garbage Disposal. Did you know that in-sink garbage disposals have been legal in New York City since 1997? They were banned in the 1970’s over concerns that food (or other things) disposed of down the drain would wreak havoc on the city’s sewer lines. The city tested that theory in 1997 by giving out 200 in-sink units on a 21-month trial basis, and when that didn’t destroy the sewers the city lifted the ban.
Disposals are great for limiting solid food waste (which diminishes the number of trash runs you need to make), and are an equally great way to create awful urban legends. Nevertheless garbage disposals are still uncommon in New York, though many newer buildings have them.
(3) In-building laundry facilities. Not to be confused with in-unit washer/dryer (more on that below), having a laundry room allows you to do your laundry whenever it’s convenient for you. If you work long (or odd) hours this is a huge benefit. You may have to start hoarding quarters, or just buying them by the roll at the nearest bank branch, but it’s a small price to pay. Plus it’s a great way to meet your neighbors!
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Make sure that you obey proper laundry-room etiquette. There’s nothing worse than forgetting your wet clothes and finding them hours later in a pile on the floor in the corner. Here’s a small primer.
(4) A view of something cool. You’ll pay extra for this depending on what view you rent. A Manhattan skyline view makes for an expensive apartment, even in Brooklyn or Queens. (Not sure? Go have a look!) But you don’t need to rent an apartment with a view of something iconic or extra-special. What you really need is a view that makes you smile when you look at it. With some luck, you can find one that won’t cost an arm and a leg.
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Bonus: Proximity to a subway. Sounds obvious, but apartments that are very convenient to a subway line are expensive, and for good reason; being near a subway line (especially a well-trafficked one like the 1/2/3, 4/5/6 or B/D/F/V) greatly increases your flexibility.
Amenities that may not be worth the extra:
(1) Gym/workout facility. If your rent includes access to a free or very cheap gym, definitely use it! However, a free or very cheap gym is unlikely to have on-site supervision, classes, or new or well-functioning equipment. Buildings that have expensive gyms may invest more in equipment, maintenance or staff, but those gyms are unlikely to be as good as or better than purpose-built and operated gyms and you may have to pay a monthly fee to use them in addition to higher rent. If you live in Manhattan (and, increasingly, Brooklyn and Queens), it’s very likely that there is a good gym near where you live. Bottom line: don’t pay a big rent premium or an additional monthly fee for your in-house gym; pay for a real gym instead.
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(2) In-apartment washer/dryer, if it’s less than full-size. To be clear, having laundry on the premises is important. But having it in your apartment may not be worth the premium that you’ll pay in rent. Small washer/dryers, or “combo washer/dryers” that wash and dry in the same unit, have extremely small capacities and (often) mediocre performance. While they may be energy-efficient to run, you’ll have to run them more often to get your laundry done.
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There are exceptions here – in particular, if you have a small child it’s great to also have a washer/dryer in-unit no matter the size. Also, a full-size washer/dryer fixes the performance issues (though you’ll certainly pay a rent premium for it).
(3) Private outdoor space. Everyone wants outdoor space – it’s great for parties! It’s an awesome respite! – but outdoor space can require a lot of maintenance and is subject to substantial additional regulatory restrictions. Having a lot of outdoor space can also mean a much smaller apartment. And New York winters are not always, shall we say, so temperate.
Seen an apartment with great amenities recently? Tell us about it! We’d love to hear from you, and if it’s especially awesome we’ll put it up on our blog!
Psyched to start your search for a new home? Go here!
Maybe you’re wondering when the best time is to start looking for a new place? (Hint: you’re in it!) Here are the best times of year to start searching.