What Is a Convertible Apartment and Why Would I Want One?

published Sep 18, 2021
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Life in the city can be expensive. So stumbling upon an affordable option on your hunt for an apartment (one that even seems IG-worthy!) can feel like the ultimate find. Luckily, a convertible apartment is the perfect opportunity to capitalize on the perks of city life without the big city price tag — or at least not as big.

Convertible apartments are often found in large cities like Chicago and New York, where the demand for housing is high — along with the prices. For example, in Manhattan, the average rent is nearly $4,000 a month, and the average apartment size is 700 square feet. Increasingly limited housing options, coupled with a lack of space, often means renters have to get creative.

Convertible apartments allow for flexibility and the option to pay lower rent while still maintaining the feel of a one-bedroom — or larger — in a desirable location. 

What is a convertible apartment? 

A convertible apartment is essentially a studio that has a space specifically allocated for a bed. This type of apartment is larger than your typical studio but doesn’t quite have the square footage of a one-bedroom.

The sleeping area in a convertible apartment isn’t completely separate from the living space, but there is a clear designation that leaves some room for creativity. The sleeping area can be designated with an alcove, partial wall, separate room with a sliding door, or a hallway to create a buffer between the main living and sleeping spaces. 

Credit: Minette Hand

Is a convertible apartment the same as a flex apartment?

The terms convertible apartment and flex apartment are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are some subtle differences.

In flex apartments, a one-bedroom flex means that the apartment has one existing bedroom with the option of “flexing” to add a second. A two-bedroom flex means that there are two bedrooms with the option to add a third. Whereas, a one-bedroom convertible means that the apartment is a studio with the option to add a sleeping alcove. A two-bedroom convertible means that the apartment has one bedroom with the option to add a second sleeping area.

You might also see the term junior one-bedroom pop up in your search. This type of apartment falls midway between a one-bedroom convertible and a one-bedroom. It’s usually a smaller version of the building’s one-bedroom floor plan but without the bedroom door and sometimes without a window.

Understanding the subtle difference in terminology will save some hassle as you hunt for the perfect apartment.

How much does it cost to rent a convertible apartment?

The short — and frustratingly vague — answer to this question is: More than a studio, less than a one bedroom.

Because housing and rental markets vary widely depending on the city and current demand, the actual number is dependent on the area, the building, the local market, and more. As a ballpark, convertible apartments typically run about 5 percent less per month than a one-bedroom, but the actual price to rent or buy varies widely.

Ready to look for a convertible apartment? Here are some tips.

Because the terminology can get a little complex, these tips will help make the apartment search easier:

  • Make sure to look at the floor plans before scheduling a showing. This way you’ll understand the layout before entering the property.
  • Check with the landlord or leasing agent to understand the options you have when converting an apartment and what materials are allowed. For instance, temporary pressurized walls used to be the norm, but they fell out of favor after a tragic 2005 fire.
  • Some apartments are rented with the flex option in place while others revert to the original floor plan after tenants vacate. Ensure you know what you’ll be getting.