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Should You Live in a Penthouse Apartment?

There are pros and cons to living in luxury.

[Updated: Mar 03, 2021 ] Apr 10, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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Whether you're looking to buy a home or rent one, finding the right home is crucial. But if you have a healthy budget, it could pay to look at a penthouse apartment. Here, we'll explore the pros and cons of renting or buying a penthouse so you can decide whether it's the right choice for you.

What is a penthouse apartment?

When most of us think of penthouse apartments, we picture the top-floor unit of a building. But actually, the term "penthouse" has evolved to refer to any luxury apartment whose layout and amenities are different from others in the same building.

Some common features you might find in a penthouse apartment include:

  • More living space than other units in the building.
  • High ceilings.
  • Open floor plans.
  • A fully equipped kitchen with high-end appliances and a built-in dining area.
  • A spacious living room or dining room.
  • An oversized master bedroom with its own bathroom.
  • A private outdoor space, whether it be a balcony, terrace, or rooftop deck.
  • Direct elevator access (meaning an elevator opens up right into the apartment).

A luxury penthouse apartment can also vary in size. Some buildings feature penthouses that are three-bedroom apartments while others may be larger or smaller.

Benefits of living in a penthouse apartment

Much of the time, people who look at penthouse apartments seek to buy them, not rent. That's because the cost to rent one, especially in a large city, can be downright exorbitant. Granted, buying a luxury penthouse is a costly endeavor, too, but many people who have the finances to swing a penthouse would rather make the investment than throw their money away on rent. As such, this discussion is largely geared toward those looking to buy.

With that in mind, here are some benefits of opting for a penthouse:

1. Extra space and perks

Penthouse apartments are synonymous with luxury and indulgence, and if you've worked hard all your life to be successful, buying (or renting) a penthouse is a nice way to reward yourself with an upgraded style of living. The high-end kitchen you find in a penthouse, for example, may not be available anywhere else in the building you're looking at. And in some cases, buying a penthouse means getting a duplex apartment, which makes it easier to spread out as a family.

2. Peace and quiet

Penthouse apartments that are located on the top floor of a building offer one thing it's hard to find in a city: less noise. When you live on the top floor, you don't have to worry about the sound of upstairs neighbors stomping around overhead at all hours of the night.

3. Spectacular views

Again, this perk assumes we're talking about the classic penthouse setup -- a top-floor unit. But if that's the case, living in a penthouse could mean being privy to spectacular views on a regular basis.

4. Outdoor access

When you live in an apartment building, snagging your own private outdoor space can be challenging. Penthouse apartments often come with an outdoor component, which makes life less claustrophobic.

5. Higher resale value

Penthouse apartments aren't as plentiful as regular apartments. In the right real estate market, that could translate to major resale value when you decide to list yours.

Disadvantages of living in a penthouse apartment

Clearly, there's much to be gained by living in a penthouse. But here are a few drawbacks you should be aware of as well.

1. Higher cost

Penthouse apartments tend to cost a lot more to buy or rent than other apartments in the same building. That may not be an issue if you're truly loaded, but if not, the premium you pay might give you access to a few extra features, but not so many that it's worth the extra money.

For example, your apartment may come with a private balcony that's nice to have, whereas others in the building may not. But if you're not even going to use that balcony for a third of the year when the weather is cold, and the rest of the amenities you get are comparable to those offered in other apartments, then the higher price tag may not be worth it.

2. The potential for more damage

The following point applies to top-floor penthouses only, but it's one you shouldn't gloss over: Being right below the roof of a building has its drawbacks. If there's a leak, your home will take the brunt of the damage. And in some cases, the cost to repair that damage may fall on you, not the building -- it depends on the terms of your contract. As such, you could face higher homeowners insurance costs when you buy a penthouse (though if you're able to afford a penthouse to begin with, the cost of your policy may not be as concerning as the hassle of dealing with repairs).

3. Outdoor spaces that aren't really usable

One major benefit of living in a penthouse is having access to a balcony. But if you live in a high-rise building and your penthouse is on the top floor, you may not get to use that space too often because of one thing: wind. This may not be an issue if you're on the seventh or eighth floor of a building, but if you're on the 40th floor, it could prove problematic.

4. Limited inventory

Penthouse apartments are harder to find than standard apartments. If you have your heart set on a penthouse, you may need to wait longer than you'd like to close on a purchase or sign a lease.

5. Too much luxury

If you're the modest type, you may find that a penthouse apartment doesn't align with your taste. There's also the stigma of living in a penthouse -- since they tend to be luxurious and cost a lot of money, your friends or colleagues may start treating you differently once they learn you've purchased or rented one.

Is a penthouse apartment right for you?

If you're in the position to even be contemplating a penthouse apartment, it means you're probably pretty well-off. But even if that's the case, there may be other things you want to spend your money on, whether it's travel, your kids' education, or other real estate investments. As such, think about whether the amenities offered by a penthouse are worth the price tag involved.

On the other hand, there's something to be said for the prestige of living in a penthouse. If that's something that's important to you, there's nothing wrong with going after it -- you've earned it.

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