Garden Level Apartment - The Definition, the Pros & the Cons


By Jana Freer

Jun 30, 2022

If you’ve been looking for rentals and come across listings for garden level apartments, you may be wondering exactly what is a garden level apartment, anyway? Are they apartments that come with an actual garden? How do I know if a garden apartment is right for me?

This article will tell you what you need to know about garden units, from the pros to the cons, so you can decide if this kind of apartment meets your needs.

What is a Garden Level Apartment?

Garden apartments are units generally located on the ground level in an urban area, partially below the street, between the basement and the first floor of a multi-family building. You’ll usually access a garden unit via a door with direct entry to the apartment either at street level or down two or three exterior stairs.

A garden apartment typically has a small front or back garden area or patio, hence the name. If you’re standing in a garden apartment or on the patio, your head will probably be about even with the sidewalk. So, think of a garden unit’s location as partially below grade, but not at basement level. Many brownstones and historic buildings across the United States have garden apartments. You may find them in some high-rise residential complexes across America, but this isn’t usually the case.

Garden level apartments are also referred to as:

  • Garden level apartments
  • Ground level apartments
  • Garden apartments
  • Garden units

Garden Level Apartments vs Basement Units

Many renters confuse garden apartments with basement units. Basement units are residences actually converted from a basement. Meanwhile, garden apartments are located above a basement, partially but not entirely below ground, essentially between a basement and the first floor of a building. Generally, garden units offer easy street access through a small private gate off the main entrance to the apartment complex. The gate typically leads to a private patio, where you’ll find the apartment’s front door. While basement apartments are also sunken from street level, they are, by definition, units converted from a basement, and they are not characterized by having access to private gardens or patios.

Pros of Garden Level Apartments

Below are some of the many reasons renters love garden level apartments:

Easy Access
Thanks to quick exterior access, you can come and go without disturbing others if you rent a garden apartment — this is especially helpful if you keep odd hours. Don’t want to haul your groceries (or furniture when moving in) up several flights of stairs? Garden units offer easy accessibility to your home. Landlords and property managers often promote garden level apartments based on the sense of adventure they bring. Renters who like city life and all it encompasses, such as nightlife, sociability, and walkable access to almost anything may find garden units appealing.

A Separate Entrance
With their separate entrance, ground level apartments may also appeal to renters who like to keep to themselves and don't wish to make chit-chat in building common areas.

Renters with pets may prefer a garden unit, so their furry friends have quick access to outdoor potty pads and other areas to take care of business. Walking dogs is easy, too, if you live in a garden unit just feet from the sidewalk. However, not all garden level apartments are dog or cat friendly. To find out if pets are allowed, filter your apartment search on our site accordingly, and check out our article on How to Find a Pet-Friendly Apartment.

Outdoor Space
A private garden or patio in a big city can be hard to come by, so if you want to feel like you’ve secured a treasure, consider a garden apartment. Garden-level units can be great if you like to read, sip coffee, and host small dinner parties outside. Love greenery? They don’t call these units garden apartments without reason. Garden level residences offer the benefit of a front or back patio that you can fill with plants. Many of these apartments sit at eye level with beautiful bushes and trees that are part of the complex or city’s landscaping.

Since garden apartments are generally on the smaller side, they're often more reasonably priced than other units. So, budget-conscious renters may want to consider the monetary advantages of living in a garden level apartment. Thinking about this kind of residence as cozy instead of cramped — and good for the bank account — may be what some renters need to convince themselves garden unit living offers the best value.

Cons of Garden Level Apartments

Garden units aren’t everyone’s first choice, so you’ll need to think about whether you can enjoy living in this type of apartment. Below are some cons of living in a garden level apartment.

The Hustle & Bustle of Passersby
Given the fact that garden units are located at or just below street level, your windows will likely give you a view of all the comings and goings outside your apartment (unless your unit happens to be at the back of the building). With the hustle and bustle of passersby can come extra noise.

Lack of Natural Light
Some renters think that garden level apartments are dungeon-like. This is certainly not always the case, as some garden units feature large windows and even have entry doors that let in natural light. Yet, diminished light can be a problem for many of these spaces. Garden level homes are often darker than first-floor units, but what some deem cave-like, others call cozy.

Limited Space
Garden apartments are typically on the smaller side, with just one bedroom, a modest kitchen, a single bathroom, and a tiny living room. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a garden apartment with a high ceiling. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to make the most of limited space, as noted in our article Storage Ideas for Small Apartments.

Security Concerns
Most garden apartments have bars or window locks on the window to secure the residence. However, you might have to closely monitor any furniture or belongings you place on a garden unit patio.

Poor Cell Reception
Some renters need to install a land phone line in their garden level apartment due to a lack of cell reception. This adds to monthly costs and can be inconvenient if you don’t want to give people two numbers.

Less Energy Efficiency
Garden apartments usually have thick walls, floors, and ceilings. So, some of these units stay warm during summer and cold during winter. When looking at a garden apartment, consider its amenities, or lack thereof, like fans and air-conditioning units. Think about your costs if you have to buy your own cooling equipment.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for easy access, a patio with greenery, and savings, garden apartments can be a great rental choice. These units also offer the advantages of being pet-friendly, thanks to private entrances. While garden level units aren't for everyone, these apartments have a lot to offer for the right renters.

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