When you’re looking for the perfect apartment, you might have a list of what you can’t live without, whether it’s natural light, brand-new appliances, or plenty of space for your pet. However, before you start browsing your target city and neighborhood, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what type of apartment best fits your lifestyle and budget.
When it comes to the different types of apartments available on the market, there are three main ways that realtors and other companies describe apartments:
- Apartment size and layout
- Building type
- Apartment amenities and location in the building
What’s the difference between a studio apartment and a loft? A duplex apartment and a maisonette? From fully furnished apartments to an unfurnished one-bedroom, we’ve put together a guide to understanding the types of apartments on the market.
When you’re looking for an apartment, one of the first considerations is how much space you need (and can afford). If you split your time between cities or you’re living a minimalist lifestyle, you may need much less space than someone with a Great Dane or a family of three. The following descriptors refer to different kinds of apartments and their layouts.
A studio apartment is a space with one room and a bathroom.
The single room is therefore a kitchen, living room, and bedroom all in one. In some geographic areas, a studio is called an “efficiency.” And indeed, studio apartments are efficient—they cost less to heat and power than other units due to their small size.
If you don’t need tons of space, studios are an excellent apartment option. Just make sure you have all the kitchen equipment you need, being that some studios only have a kitchenette rather than an oven and full-sized refrigerator.
You may also see some specific varieties of studios on the market:
- A micro-apartment is a studio with less than 300 sq ft of space.
- An alcove studio is a studio that has an alcove or “nook” that can serve as a separate bedroom. These studios often have an L-shaped layout. Although the bedroom isn’t separated from the living room by a wall, it offers a bit more privacy and spaciousness.
- A convertible studio has enough space so that a renter can create a temporary wall between the bedroom and living room (by using a bookshelf or hiring contractors).
A loft apartment is a studio without spatial constraints. Lofts are also one-room housing options with a single bathroom. They’re usually found in converted industrial buildings, and therefore have the following features:
- High ceilings
- A full-sized kitchen
- Plenty of square footage
- Opportunities to create distinct rooms with partitions, walls, etc.
Depending on its layout and size, lofts can be good options for a single person, a couple, or even roommates willing to create walls and partitions. If your dream apartment features tons of open, airy space, lofts might be the ideal layout.
A one-bedroom apartment usually has three distinct rooms: a living room, a separate kitchen, and a bedroom. It should also have a full bathroom.
A junior 4 is somewhere between a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom apartment. It has four rooms (besides the bathroom): a kitchen, a living room, a bedroom, and another office space. These apartments cannot legally be rented as two bedrooms, often because the office doesn’t have its own window.
A two-bedroom has four rooms like the above, but the difference is that both bedrooms have windows. These can be great for roommates, or the second room can be used as anything from an office to a playroom for children.
A railroad apartment can have anywhere from 2-4 rooms. Also called a shotgun-style apartment, these apartments are one long column of rooms: you enter the first room, walk straight back to the kitchen, and walk even further back to another room.
If you’re living with roommates, consider whether you can live with someone walking through your bedroom to get to the kitchen every morning.
Once you’ve decided how much space you need and what layout best suits you, you can begin to look into building type(s). You may want to live in a large building so you can take advantage of apartment amenities like roof space, a communal area, and a building gym. Or perhaps you’d rather know your neighbors and enjoy the rustic charm of a smaller building.
Understand the following terms to gain a better sense of your apartment’s building type.
Low-rise and Mid-rise Apartments
Small apartment buildings may have anywhere from 2-9 floors. A low-rise has 2-5 floors (and may only have a few units), while a mid-rise building can have up to 9 floors and in some cases dozens of tenants.
Perks of low-rise and mid-rise buildings include:
- Easier access to the street and green space
- Located in more residential neighborhoods
- Offer more peace and quiet, as there are fewer tenants
In contrast, high-rise buildings have ten or more floors, mostly filled with tenants (although the building could also have commercial space on the first floor or two). In a high-rise, you’ll encounter your neighbors in the hallways, on the elevator, and in the laundry room.
These buildings tend to be louder and more bustling, but they come with added amenities.
These can include:
- Fitness equipment
- A garage
- Laundry room
- Children’s playroom
Some luxury high-rises may have additional amenities such as climbing walls, pools, yoga studios, movie screening rooms, pet sitting services, and more.
A duplex is one-half of a house that has been divided into two. As a duplex renter, you share a wall with your neighbors. However, you should have your own entrance. In a duplex, you can enjoy all the perks of living in a house at a slightly lower cost.
Townhouses are rows of (nearly) identical, multi-floor apartment units that share walls. Like duplex renters, townhouse residents share a wall (or two) of their homes with neighbors.
Now that you understand common building types, we can decode terms like “walkup” and “garden apartment” that don’t refer to an apartment’s size and layout, but rather where it is in a particular building or what amenities it comes with.
Get familiar with the following types of apartment styles to find your perfect fit.
Do apartments come furnished? Well, it depends on the renter. A furnished apartment comes with furniture and essentials. It should include the following:
- A bed and mattress
- Curtains for privacy in all windows that are visible from the street or other buildings
- Shower curtain
- Seating in the kitchen and living room areas
- Tables and side tables
- Kitchen appliances
- Dishware and utensils
That way, you’re comfortable in the apartment from day one and don’t have to worry about buying expensive furniture to fit the space.
Furnished apartments are available in buildings of all types and layouts. Whether you’re looking for a perfectly designed studio or a gorgeous loft apartment, a furnished property is a great way to lower your moving expenses (now and in the future).
A garden apartment is any basement or ground-floor apartment with direct access to a garden or patio space. Depending on the building layout, this apartment type could be a studio, a 2-bedroom, or any other size.
Garden apartments are most frequently found in low-rise buildings.
A walkup is an apartment that must be accessed via stairs (rather than by elevator). You could find yourself living in a second-floor walkup or a fifth-floor walkup. Most high-rise buildings have elevators, so walkups are often found in low- and mid-rise buildings.
A penthouse is traditionally the top-floor apartment of a mid-rise or high-rise building. A penthouse apartment usually:
- Is spacious, and one of the largest units in a given building
- Has a great view
- Has extra amenities (roof access, private entrance, etc.)
According to Realtor, penthouses are 5% to 15% more expensive than other units in the building. And in some cases, retailers may advertise other luxury apartments with special amenities like outdoor space as penthouse apartments, even if they aren’t on the top floor.
A maisonette is a two-story apartment inside a larger building, generally with its own entrance. Because of the extra space and the private entrance, maisonettes are considered luxury apartments. They can be found in high-rise or low-rise buildings.
A condominium is a unit within a mid-rise or high-rise building that is owned by its residents. Generally, every unit in the building is a condo (i.e., they are owned rather than rented).
A co-op doesn’t refer to a type of building, but rather an ownership structure. A co-op is a building owned by a resident-operated corporation. Individual residents own shares of the corporation that correspond to the size of their apartment (but they do not actually own their specific unit).
A co-op owner can live in an apartment of any size, and in a building of any type.
Finding the Perfect Apartment
Understanding the different apartment and building types is just the first step in finding the perfect apartment. After that, it’s important to ask the right questions so you find a unit that isn’t only the right size but also has the right amount of light, amenities, and accessibility. After all, you’ll be there for a year, and there’s nothing worse than finding a serious problem halfway through your rental period.
Of course, there’s always the option to rent a furnished apartment with Landing. With flexible leases and luxury furnishing, you can test the waters with various different apartment types until you find the one that fits you perfectly. Peruse our listings in your city of choice today!
If you need some help finding the perfect apartment, check out our expert apartment hunting tips so you can find your dream place in no time at all.