If you're looking to save some money by renting or buying a garden apartment, it's not a bad idea. There are many advantages to this type of unit, but of course, there are also some drawbacks. In the interest of helping you make an informed decision, I decided to pick the brain of a real estate professional for all the pros and cons of garden apartments.
But, first, what's the difference between a garden apartment and a basement apartment? A lot of people—understandably—mix these two up.
According to StreetEasy, there are a couple of features that make up a true basement apartment: Half of the height of the apartment must be above street level, there must be a window in each room, ceilings must be at least seven feet high, and walls must be proofed against dampness and water.
Garden apartments, on the other hand, have less restrictive criteria: They're often located on the ground floor of a single-family townhouse or brownstone and usually have access to a backyard patio or garden. They're at ground level or partially below grade (street level) and are often one-bedroom units, according to StreetEasy. They also are typically set back from the street and thus offer residents a small front patio.
The pros of garden apartments:
They're great for night owls.
Garden units are perfect for people who work night shifts. "Your unit will be dark and quiet during the day so you can sleep soundly," says Alley Ballard, a real estate broker with @properties in Chicago, Illinois. Plus, because you can quietly come and go from your bottom-floor unit, you won't be disturbing others in the building with your irregular hours.
They have easy accessibility.
Because garden units are typically at or slightly below street level, you'll never have to worry about walking up and down flights of stairs. "Not only is this convenient for moving in and out, but it makes Costco shopping a lot easier," Ballard says.
They're great for pet owners.
Street-level accessibility is also ideal when your four-legged friend has to do its business. "If you have a dog that needs to go outside several times a day, it will save you a lot of flights up and down," Ballard says.
You'll save money.
The big pull for garden apartments? The savings, which Ballard says can be up to 30% over the same unit above ground. Likewise, rent for a garden apartment is also less expensive than above-grade units.
They're energy efficient.
Garden units regulate temperature well, which will save you money on your electric bill. Because heat rises, you'll stay cool on the bottom floor. "In the heat of the summer while your neighbors are sweating or running the A/C, you will be sitting pretty in your garden unit," Ballard says. In the winter, the lower ceilings and carpeting (frequently seen in these units) hold onto heat.
The cons of garden apartments:
They lack natural light.
If you live in a city where daylight is in short supply during the winter, you might want to steer clear of a garden unit. "They can be dark and dim without proper lighting," Ballard says. "Keep in mind, your plants might not fare so well, either."
You might feel some dampness.
If you live in an area prone to humidity, your garden apartment will attract dampness and moisture. "When you have moisture in your home, you can also be prone to pests and critters," Ballard says. "Be sure to take proper pest control precautions."
The views are not great.
In a garden apartment, the views out the window can leave a lot to be desired. "When people walk by, all you can see is their feet," says Ballard. Since people will be able to see into your unit from the street, consider investing in a good set of blinds or window treatments to protect your privacy.
They sell for less and appreciate slower.
If you're considering buying a unit—with eventual plans to sell it—keep in mind that garden units typically sell for less and appreciate (increase in value) slower than similarly sized, above-the-ground apartments. "There are fewer buyers out looking for garden units, so supply and demand drives the prices," Ballard says.