Buy Curious

On top of the world? The ups and, yes, downs of living on the highest floor

By Leah Hochbaum Rosner  | October 2, 2014 - 2:59PM

Love the views from high up, but don't know if you've got the budget to get you there? Urban Compass agent Keith Jacoby gives us the inside scoop on what buying a top-floor apartment really means in this week's Buy Curious.


I’m in the market for a two-bedroom, and my budget is $2 million. I want to get an apartment on the top floor, but how much more will I pay to be that high up? What other pros and cons do I need to consider?


Although there's no hard and fast rule for valuing apartments on the top floor, some brokers claim that every flight up adds about one percent to the price, while others say each floor adds between $5,000 and $10,000. To me, neither guideline takes into account all the variables you're probably considering in your search, like the differences between a condo and a co-op, the age and location of the building, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in a unit, and other amenities on offer. 

Also consider that the highest apartment in an elevator building will command a premium, while the highest apartment in a walk-up will probably be less desirable (and therefore possibly cheaper). Walk-ups tend to max out at six floors, while elevator buildings can go many times higher, sometimes bringing the added perk of great views, so it's never going to be an apples to apples comparison. 

Another issue to examine is the availability of top-floor apartments: if there aren't enough to satisfy the demand in the areas you're exploring, you may wind up paying more than expected. Also keep in mind that many top-floor apartments are penthouses, which technically means that they come with outdoor space and unique features or different layouts, which could also add to the price.

Of course, there are others pros and cons of choosing to live high in the sky:

The highs:

  1. It will keep you above the fray of your neighbors, meaning no high heels knocking above your head and no kids thump-thump-thumping at the most inopportune hours.
  2. You might get kickass views if the apartment is taller than surrounding buildings.
  3. Burglars tend to target lower-level apartments because they're more easily accessible, so it could be safer. 
  4. Some top-floor units have private use of their building’s roof deck. That’s a definite plus.

The lows:

  1. If your building's rooftop deck is shared, it may prove problematic (read: loud) when crowds gather up top for a celebration.
  2. Is the building old? If so, chances are that being on the top floor could leave you open to rooftop leaks or structural problems. In a condo, these are repairs that will probably come out of your wallet. With co-ops, all shareholders must take responsibility for the integrity of the building, but it still would not be a fun problem to have.
  3. The higher up you get, the windier it is, so if you have outdoor space, it may feel more like a wind tunnel than a safe haven.
  4. If you’re living on the top floor of a high-rise building, you’ll more than likely be completely and totally dependent on the elevators, so be prepared to wait for them each and every time you enter and exit the building. (This is especially important to keep in mind if you have a small child or a dog that has trouble waiting to use the potty.)

Does top-floor living sound good to you? 

Williamsburg two-bedroom/two-bathroom condo, $1.695 million: This penthouse at 80 Metropolitan Avenue between Kent and Wythe Avenues has a private terrace, 10-foot ceilings, a chef’s kitchen and hardwood floors. The five-story condo building offers a full-time doorman, a fitness center, a swimming pool, a media lounge, a roof terrace and a bike room.

East Village two-bedroom/two-bathroom co-op, $1.749 million: This seventh-floor two-bedroom at 808 Broadway between East 11th and East 12th Streets has bridge views, a kitchen with granite countertops, a master bedroom suite with custom closets and storage space. The pet-friendly elevator building has a live-in super, a shared courtyard and a bike room.  

Upper East Side two-bedroom/one-bathroom co-op, $899,000: With a windowed kitchen and a marble bathroom, this 14th-floor unit at 301 East 62nd Street at Second Avenue is another option for our buyer. The pre-war co-op building has an elevator, a live-in super, a full-time doorman and a landscaped roof deck. 

Financial District two-bedroom/two-bathroom co-op, $1,750,000: This 11th-floor penthouse apartment at 145 Nassau Street between Beekman and Spruce Streets boasts a raised living room, a dining area and bedrooms that are on different sides of the apartment to ensure maximum privacy. There are also high ceilings, honey-colored hardwood floors and in-unit laundry. The co-op building offers a landscaped rooftop and views of City Hall Park.

Upper West Side two-bedroom/one-and-a-half-bathroom co-op, $849,000: This fifth-floor walk-up at 24 West 83rd Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West has 10.5-foot ceilings, exposed brick, a wood-burning fireplace, hardwood floors and a sunken living room, and is spread over three levels. There’s also a private balcony with sliding glass doors off the living room as well as a private terrace off the upper level.


The ups and downs of sky-high living 

How much is a higher floor worth?

How to buy a NYC apartment

Buying, renovating or refinancing next year? 5 mortgage trends to watch in 2014 (sponsored)

7 questions to ask about the building before you buy an apartment there (sponsored)

Buy Curious is a weekly column in which NYC real estate brokers help buyers develop a realistic search strategy. Want some advice on your search? Send us your wish list.  

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