Which Amenities Matter Most?

In the New York City rental scene, apartments seem to fly off the market faster than you can call an Uber. That means you'll need to decide upfront what you're looking for not only in terms of space, location and budget, but also when it comes to amenities. Building services and features can add quite a bit to your monthly price tag, but not all of them will appeal to your particular needs and lifestyle. For example, a dog-washing station won't hold much appeal if you don't have a pet, and a swimming pool offers no allure for aquaphobes.

We advise sorting available amenities into buckets from "must-have" to "not interested," and doing a bit of research into how each apartment's amenity package is affecting the total rent. Not surprisingly, that impact can vary by the building's price point and neighborhood. For example, a recent report by Renthop shows a strong correlation between higher rent and in-unit laundry, doorman service and elevators in the city's most expensive neighborhoods. In less expensive areas, fitness centers are more significant rent drivers.

Each apartment building comes with its own unique set of features, and frankly, a large swath of inexpensive, but perfectly lovely, walk-up buildings offer no amenities at all. To help you evaluate the pros and cons of these facilities on your next rental journey, we've taken a closer look at today's offerings, from the commonplace to the truly unique.


The Usual

Buildings in the middle to upper price range typically offer pet-friendly, elevator accommodations with a live-in superintendent, a bike room and central laundry, at minimum. According to the Renthop report, the ability to forego stairs for the elevator ($120) and have a furry friend at home ($35) will add a total of $155 to your monthly tab. Or, to put it another way, you could get a free daily stair workout, save on pet food and pocket some savings by choosing a walk-up building that doesn't allow pets. As with every amenity, you'll want to do some due diligence to determine the real value. Is the laundry open 24 hours a day? How many machines are available? Are they in good condition?

Just above the minimum amenity menu, you'll likely see doorman service added to the list of offerings. And according to Renthop, the added ease and security of an attended lobby will add a whopping $260 to your rent. For that kind of outlay, you'll want to do some soul-searching. Do you need someone to sign for packages and rebuff unwanted visitors? Will the doorman service be 24/7 or part-time, and how does that jibe with your needs? In the end, you may have higher priorities than a friendly face at your door, and many more modern buildings are providing "virtual doorman" systems that allow you to control access remotely and securely stow packages without the expense of a human attendant.

The Upgrades

Just above the standard roster of amenities are what we call "the upgrades." These include everything from outdoor decks and gardens, to fitness centers, on-site parking garages, in-unit laundry and well-equipped playrooms.

Parking garages are a unique offering in the world of amenities in that their sheer presence might bump up your apartment rent, but to use said garage, you'll also be paying an additional parking fee. That's probably why the Renthop study shows a modest $50 effect on monthly costs and low correlation to high rents. Of course, if you have no car and no plans to buy one, you may want to skip a building that places a premium on the presence of parking. Similarly, playrooms offer no real advantage (save perhaps fewer rambunctious children in the hallways) for those renters without children.

With their minimal impact on overall rent, roof decks and common outdoor space are a boon even to those who use them infrequently. Fitness centers — valued at $90 a month by Renthop — are an excellent alternative to those paying a pricier gym membership, as long as the facilities aren't overly crowded or sparsely equipped. In our opinion, however, the crème de la crème upgraded amenity is in-unit laundry. Adding just $80 on average to your monthly costs, in-home laundry facilities are a lifesaver if you have an unexpected spill or wake up the night before your big presentation realizing your lucky shirt is in the hamper.

Once the cellar was accessible by demolishing part of the parlor floor, the team knew with a little excavation to add ceiling height, it would make an ideal English basement-style unit. And thus, the plan to create a luxurious two-family home took shape. Overall, the newly renovated house sits within the same footprint as the original structure. After the cellar excavation, a new concrete slab was poured, and the foundation was reinforced throughout. The rear portion of the third floor, which previously contained an unfinished attic, was reworked to accommodate a large roof deck above.

In fact, every facet of layout and design in the Ogden Avenue renovation was undertaken with an unwavering focus on maximizing the acclaimed outlooks and amplifying indoor-outdoor living.

The Unexpected

In the upper echelons of the heady New York City housing market, renters with deep pockets can expect to find an array of amenities bordering on outlandish. These features and services offer unprecedented ease and just the right amount of wow factor to keep ultra-luxury buildings occupied even if market conditions slump. These "unexpected" amenities are often found in homes with six-digit monthly rents and include hotel services like dry cleaning, housekeeping, room-service meals and private wine cellars. Full-floor aquatic centers with multiple pools, hot tubs, steam/sauna rooms and full-service day spas are common at this price point. 

Some buildings offer valet attended parking garages or even chauffeured vehicles. Parents on the go can look for stroller valets, and buildings that cater to the city's pampered pooches include pet washing stations, on-site dog runs and grooming services.

In the end, it's important to be flexible and smart in your search for the perfect apartment. With amenities, as with all major expenses, the key is to evaluate which will add value to your life and which just sound nice on paper.