The Perfect Property

The Quirks Of Buildings With Character: 3 Considerations When Renting A Historic Downtown Apartment

by Zachary Thompson

Finding a historic apartment in the heart of downtown is the dream of many renters. They want to live in a home with character that's within walking distance of their favorite city spots.

But older buildings may have some quirks that renters don't expect, especially if they've always lived in more modern buildings. Here are 3 main concerns you might have when renting an historic apartment in a bustling urban setting:


In many cases, older apartments were built with thick walls and sturdy materials. These apartments may be very noise-proof due to this superior construction when compared to more recently-built apartment dwellings.

In some cases, an older apartment may be less soundproof than a newer one if the developers of the younger complex used good soundproofing and insulation between units. More expansive apartment suites may also give some noise protection no matter the age.

When shopping for historic apartments, note the upkeep on each building's exterior and interior. Are walls and ceilings crack-proof, and are windows properly fitted and maintained? These factors will help reduce noise.

Kitchen amenities

Many older apartments were not built with the best kitchen layouts. Some may be cramped and lack room for prep space and additional appliances.

If you love to cook, be certain to inspect the kitchen to determine if it will meet your needs. Find out if you can switch appliances or add new features to the kitchen.

Also check the energy-efficiency of the appliances, including the refrigerator and stove. Find out if necessities like exhaust fans and smoke detectors are present and functioning properly.

Heating and cooling

Note the type of heating and cooling system that is installed in a historic apartment building. There may be a central boiler delivering radiant heat, or the owner may have upgraded the apartment with an energy-efficient HVAC system. Historic buildings may have any of a variety of systems depending on their ages and locations.

If you are responsible for paying for utilities, your heating and cooling bills will be impacted by the type of system used. Your comfort will also be affected.

Try to find current residents who live on the same floor and ask them about their experiences and expenses in the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Ask about the reliability of the heating or cooling as well as inquiring politely about the effectiveness and cost in their units.

Some issues can be corrected if you truly love an older apartment. For example, noise-blocking curtains will cut down on street sounds, and thermal curtains will add insulation to drafty windows. Portable food-preparation appliances, rolling prep carts and wall storage will make a tiny kitchen more functional.

Historic downtown apartments can be a delight for renters, but be aware of the limitations before you sign that lease.