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How to Buy

A New York City Apartment

STEP 6: Shopping for the Right Apartment

When it comes to location in the building, look out for these troublespots

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Even within a building, the real estate maxim "location, location, location" holds true. Here's a quick tour of things to consider that may affect the value of an apartment and/or your enjoyment of it:

Ground floor: Be wary of noise from the street (if the apartment faces the street) and the lobby. Sound travels in two directions, so realize that people in the lobby can hear you too. Mechanical equipment in the basement can produce noise, vibrations and odors; a boiler beneath your apartment can keep your place uncomfortably warm; and if you have a garage downstairs, be prepared for gas fumes from idling cars.

Ground floor apartments typically have window bars for safety and can be quite dark, and if you're facing the street, you may be keeping your blinds drawn much of the day for privacy. Vermin coming up from the basement can also be problem.

On the bright side, ground floor apartments in the rear of the building might come with outdoor space. And ground floor apartments can be a bargain. In an elevator building, they typically sell for 10 to 20 percent less than a second floor unit and 15 to 25% less than units above the second floor. (The opposite is true in a walk-up building, where apartments nearest the street sell for the most money.) Common charges or maintenance charges, which typically increase with floor height, are also the lowest in the building. Parents of young, active children may also appreciate living on the ground floor as there are no downstairs neighbors to mind the noise of jumping feet and crashing toys.

Next to an elevator shaft or trash chute: Elevators can send vibrations into neighboring apartments. Noise is also sometimes a problem in the form of rattling elevator cables and the chatter of neighbors waiting for the elevator (who are also privy to sounds coming from your apartment).

Trash chutes can also produce vibrations and in newer buildings some residents complain they can hear trash as it falls down the shaft, as well as the slamming door of the compactor room as residents drop off their trash.

Photo Credit / One MiMA Tower

Directly below a roof or setback terrace: All roofs leak eventually, and it can take months or years to find a culprit. Living under a terrace or roofdeck--particularly an actively used one--can be noisy as well.

The tradeoff of living on a high floor (views, light) and not hearing noise from upstairs neighbors (or only occasionally if there is a terrace) may be worth the drawbacks. At a minimum though, get an inspector in to look for potential leaks and make sure your attorney hones in on the issue in his or her due diligence.

Down the hall from a community room or playroom: Foot traffic and noise from the room itself can be a problem.

Along an airshaft: You won't get much light shining through windows that border an airshaft and you will probably want to further obscure the view and potentially prying eyes with window treatments. However, air shafts can make lovely quiet neighbors; just make sure the neighboring buildings that share the shaft are residential. You don't want a restaurant dumping garbage into the shaftway next to you.

Adjacent to an upper-floor mechanical room: These rooms can house boilers, a/c equipment, pumps and other devices that can produce noise, heat, or vibrations.

Very, very high up:  Living on the 30th, 50th or 70th floor of a sleek high rise is a dream come true for many. But life is a little different when lived among the clouds, so go in with your eyes open by reading The Ups and Downs of Sky High Living.