Is Walk-Up Life for You? What to Know about Living in a Walk-Up Apartment

By Kailey Walters on October 24, 2020

A walk-up apartment is an apartment located in a building that has no elevator — just stairs. At first, this sounds like a pretty bad deal. After all, no elevator means you have to carry all your groceries up the stairs every time you return from the grocery store. Plus, moving in all your furniture for the first time probably will be a tad more difficult than usual.

Knowing this, you might be wondering: What are some reasons someone would want to live in a walk-up apartment? Read on to find out the pros and cons and whether or not walk-up life could possibly be for you.

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You get a lot of exercise from walking up and down the stairs.

There’s no denying that walking up and down the stairs every day is going to force you to exercise more than usual. Whether or not you enjoy climbing stairs or getting more cardio into your regular routine, it’s always a good thing to be getting more exercise. And if you live on the top floor of your apartment building, you may even be climbing enough stairs every day to forgo the gym, depending on how much exercise you plan to get each day. As a result, living in a walk-up apartment can come with a lot of unintended health benefits — which is never a bad thing!

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Walk-up apartments are generally more affordable.

Since walk-up apartments are located in older buildings and don’t have the same luxury of elevators as newer buildings, they generally tend to be cheaper. If you’re not worried about the slight inconveniences that come with living there, and you’re mainly looking to save money on rent, then a walk-up apartment is a good option for you. It’s an extra bonus if you happen to score an apartment on the lower level of the building, meaning that you won’t even have to deal with the other inconveniences of lugging things up and down the stairs on a regular basis. That way, you can enjoy the affordability of the apartment and not be inconvenienced at the same time.

What’s more, renting a walk-up apartment could potentially be your ticket to moving into a somewhat pricier neighborhood that you may have had your heart set on. Maybe you wouldn’t have been able to afford the rent for a standard apartment in that area, but you can swing it for a walk-up apartment, which is definitely a great opportunity.

Walk-up apartments provide privacy.

Walk-up apartments are generally smaller than other apartment buildings, which means they have fewer tenants and more privacy. This is especially great if you’re the type of person who prefers a quiet environment and fewer neighbors, or if you prefer not to interact with too many other people in your nearby vicinity.

On the other hand, if you are the type of person who prefers to be in a large, active community, there may still be opportunities for you to interact with your neighbors as long as you are intentional about doing so. Your experience living in that apartment building is what you make it, after all.

Walking up and down stairs constantly can teach you discipline.

When you have absolutely no choice but to go up and down those stairs every day, you end up building some valuable character traits, believe it or not. For one thing, you become more disciplined because you know you have to make the journey to and from your apartment every day when you come and go, and there are no excuses to be made.

Knowing that you’ll have to go up and down many stairs can also help you be more efficient in some ways. For example, you can get into the habit of checking to make sure you have everything you need before you leave the apartment. That way, you won’t be at risk of forgetting something and then having to turn around and go back up the stairs to get it.

Walk-up apartments are good for homebodies.

If you are a homebody — as in, you prefer to stay at home most of the time — then a walk-up apartment is not a bad deal for you. Not wanting to go out too often means that you don’t have to trudge up and down the stairs every time you leave and come back to your apartment. What’s more, if you generally work remotely, you won’t have to leave your home very often to commute to and from work, either. Staying in most of the time will save you the trouble of climbing those stairs every single day.

Walk-up apartments have vintage charm.

Depending on where you decide to rent, but especially if it’s in New York City, many walk-up apartments have a particular vintage charm to them. This can definitely be a plus if you happen to appreciate old buildings, architecture, and interior decorations. In a walk-up apartment, you can expect, for example, original crown molding, black-and-white checkered floors in the kitchen and/or bathroom, oversized bay windows, and plenty of other unique, endearing details. So if vintage style is important to you when you’re choosing an apartment to live in, walk-up apartments are a great fit.


Walk-up apartments are not ideal for people who have difficulty going up and down stairs frequently.

If you struggle to go up and down stairs for whatever reason, a walk-up apartment is probably not the most ideal fit for you, your lifestyle, or your needs. For example, if you tend to have knee problems or back problems, you should avoid putting yourself in a situation where you would have to climb stairs often and potentially damage your body and your health. In addition, if you live with someone who is perhaps a bit older and not as mobile, it’s definitely not a good idea to rent a walk-up apartment because the stairs will make their life so much more unnecessarily difficult. If you fit any of the above situations — or you have something else, such as an injury — then you may want to steer clear of walk-ups.

Moving furniture becomes a hassle.

We all know that moving furniture is difficult enough on its own. Remove the presence of an elevator, and moving becomes one hundred times more complicated (especially if you happen to live on the top floor). Trying to move everything on your own is basically out of the question. Unless you happen to have a team of able-bodied and willing friends and family members to help you out, your best bet is probably to hire a moving company. Even this option is not always ideal, however; the moving company could potentially charge more than usual because of the extra work and difficulty involved in moving your stuff.

Another risk of moving furniture into a walk-up apartment is that your things could get scratched up and minorly damaged. This can be especially worrisome for delicate, large, and expensive items, such as your computer, TV, sofa, etc. because the stairwells are probably very narrow and difficult to pass through if you’re carrying a lot at once. As a result, a big downside to walk-up apartments is definitely the difficulty of moving furniture in and out.

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Nobody likes stairs.

Ask anyone, and the consensus will most likely be that no one likes stairs. Despite the fact that going up and down stairs on a regular basis can get you in shape and work wonders for your health, most people don’t want to do it every single day — especially if they live on the top floor of the building. So if you’re someone who really dislikes stairs, there’s no getting around it if you have a walk-up apartment. Plus, if you make it all the way downstairs and realize you’ve forgotten something in your apartment, you may end up wasting a lot of time going back up to retrieve it.

Walk-up apartments don’t have doorman service.

Unlike other standard apartment buildings, walk-up apartments don’t have doorman service — which means you have to pick up your packages yourself. That can be an extra hassle for you if you have a particularly heavy package. What’s more, delivery people who have to walk up all those stairs to your apartment will probably not be very happy about the journey they have to make — so it’s best that you acknowledge their hard work by tipping them generously every time.

Walk-up apartments are usually located in older buildings.

Since walk-up apartments are generally found in older buildings, they may present some other inconveniences. For example, they may have outdated utilities and amenities, which could certainly cause some headaches for you if one of your appliances breaks and you have to take it up with your landlord. The walls and floors in the walk-up apartment may also be extra thin and carry sound more easily than other newer apartment buildings, which could become annoying if you’re not a fan of hearing everything your next-door and downstairs neighbors are doing.

Storing your bike will be difficult.

If you own a bike, finding a place to store it could prove to be a challenge. After all, you’re not going to want to drag your bike up and down the stairs every time you want to go for a ride. And if you live in a big city like New York City, it’s usually not the safest or most secure idea to keep your bike on the street where others can easily steal it. Instead, find out if there are alternatives for storing your bike, such as at a bike self-storage unit somewhere nearby. It may become a hassle going to and from the storage unit every time you need your bike, but that’s when it becomes important to weigh your options. Would you rather lug your bike up several flights of stairs or travel outside of your apartment building to retrieve your bike? It’s all up to you and what you would rather deal with.

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How to handle the cons

There are a few things you can do to deal with the cons of living in a walk-up apartment.

Avoid making unnecessary trips downstairs.

For example, if you are an avid coffee drinker, you may be tempted to visit your local cafe or bodega for coffee on a daily basis. However, if that’s the only trip outside you need to make that day, you can save yourself the trouble by making your own coffee instead. Invest in a coffee maker, and you’ll be able to serve yourself coffee whenever you want. Plus, this tactic will help you save money.

Get a water filter.

Instead of lugging giant cases of water from the supermarket up the stairs, you can save time, money, and effort on water by investing in a Brita water filter. Using the filter will make drinking water so much more convenient and will become part of your regular routine. What’s more, you’ll be helping out the environment by not using up a ton of plastic bottles.

At the end of the day, it’s important to weigh all the pros and cons and make a decision based on what you think is right for you. You should also tour the walk-up apartment that you have your eye on so that you can see and feel out everything for yourself. Being there in person will probably give you a solid idea of what it might be like to live there. Happy apartment hunting!

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