The Hidden Advantages of Renting Apartments in Older Buildings

published Jun 14, 2021
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If you’ve ever found yourself marveling at the transom windows or pocket shutters on older homes, you’re not alone. Truth be told, there’s nothing quite as charming as a time-honored property that highlights an eye-catching point in architectural history.

In the U.S., vintage apartments account for an increasing share of the rental housing market. And while popular for their classic architecture and storied pasts, these older buildings can offer a variety of other benefits to the country’s growing number of renters.

They’re bigger than today’s units.

According to Mathew Moxness, real estate expert and founder of Crescendo Equity, one advantage is size. “Units in older buildings, constructed before today’s steep competition for land, tend to have more generous floor plans compared to those built in recent years,” he says. And the data confirms it: research from RCLCO Real Estate Advisors reveals that new apartments in the U.S. are, on average, approximately 100 square feet smaller than those built in the 2000s. 

Older buildings have better “bones.” 

Another appealing feature of older buildings is that they have great guts. “Older buildings are often built better and feel more solid,” Moxness says. “They’re also more likely to have concrete floors and framing, which is not always the case in newer builds because it’s just too expensive.”

In addition to being safer, more durable, and more energy-efficient than stick framing, concrete is also naturally soundproof, saving you from the all-too-familiar fate of being woken up on a Saturday morning by your neighbor’s vacuum.

You’ll get more bang for your buck renting in an older building.

According to an analysis of New York neighborhoods by RentHop, the older an apartment is, the cheaper the monthly rent tends to be. Their findings indicate that a 50-year-old building is, on average, $300 cheaper per month than a new building, translating to savings of around 10 to 12 percent. 

And if have your heart set on a particular neighborhood, an older building might be your best bet. “Since new units usually generate more interest on the rental market, older buildings can end up being less competitive in a low vacancy market,” says Moxness. “And their locations are often more desirable.”

But don’t forget to ask lots of questions.

Even if you’re getting some serious love-at-first-sight vibes from an apartment, Moxness says renters should always exercise caution when touring an older building and ask plenty of questions before signing a lease agreement.

“If the unit is in the basement, check for moisture and ants,” says Moxness. “You can also ask how the building is heated, which could affect your utility costs and comfort, and whether there is a washer and dryer on the premises.”

Additionally, if you’re touring a building that was constructed before the 1980s, renters should ask about asbestos, which can be found in cement, drywall, plaster, roofing, and even paint, and can increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma.