Important Things That You Didn’t Know About Elevators

You may have fantasized of living in an elevator building if you’ve ever assisted a friend with moving furniture into a walk-up or dragged bulky grocery bags up multiple flights of stairs while the handles left ever-deeper indentations on your palms. Along with dishwashers and in-unit laundry, elevators are undoubtedly one of the city’s most coveted conveniences, but they also come with their own unique set of costs and occasionally, difficulties. (Especially if you happen to be attached to the notion of a functional “door close” button.)

The following is a comprehensive reference to everything you need to know about elevators in NYC apartment buildings, from cost to what to do if yours unexpectedly breaks down:

How much more will you shell out?

You may generally anticipate to pay extra for the convenience of an elevator building in both sales and rentals, but how much more depends on a number of variables, including the building’s location, quality, and other facilities. For instance, the asking price will increase dramatically if the building has a doorman, albeit this isn’t always related to the lift part suppliers. (According to Douglas Elliman’s March 2017 rental report, the rent in Manhattan for a building with a doorman was $3,700, while the rent in a building without a doorman was $2,895)

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According to Jonathan Miller, the Miller Samuel appraiser who wrote the Elliman reports, “When you have an elevator, you’re including a bigger number of people who would be interested [in the apartment], whether it’s a rental or a purchase.” According to Miller, an elevator often adds more value to an apartment’s pricing and becomes more necessary as it is located on a higher floor. According to Miller, the value per level increases when you live in an elevator building as opposed to a walk-up, when the value per floor decreases. “They truly do affect pricing in an up and down manner.”

When comparing a low-rise walk-up building to a comparable building with an elevator (but no doorman), Miller notes that while there is no clear standard for how much an elevator will increase the price, “simply the elevator might add a 10 to 15 percent difference in value for a rental.”

According to Zachary Elias of DJK Residential, “buildings with elevators bear a pricing range in between full service/doorman buildings and walk-ups.” You could be thinking, “My budget is better than a walk-up, but not nearly a doorman,” when you see this first amenity. Elias believes that although there is no predetermined amount an elevator will always enhance value, “you might be seeing apartments where in a walk-up, it’s $3,000/month, in a doorman building, it’s $5,000/month, and in a building with only an elevator, it might be $4,000/month.”

How frequently have elevators been “out of order” and how well-maintained are they?

No one wants to move into a building only to discover that the elevator breaks down every two months and that the administration is slow to handle repairs. Of course, an elevator is only as desirable as it is functioning.

Buyers may find it easier to obtain this information since, as you and your attorney conduct due diligence by reviewing the building’s financials and meeting minutes before closing, any problems with elevator maintenance should be discovered. This will give you both an idea of how frequently the elevator causes issues and whether any upgrades are likely necessary. According to Daren Herzberg of Corcoran, “If you’re buying, to start off, your worries are the same quality of life concerns that renters have.” “There are how many elevators? How often has it been falling? What occurs when an elevator malfunctions, and how fast are they fixed? What’s the age of the elevators? Has there been a revision?”

Beyond just being convenient, an elevator’s age and maintenance history may have a significant impact on your purchase decision. If you’re buying, Herzberg advises finding out whether or not there are plans to modernize or replace the elevator and how much it would cost. If you’re purchasing in a smaller building, you’ll need to be prepared for that evaluation because elevator replacement costs range from $25,000 to $50,000 per floor.

Finding out about a building’s elevator system as a renter is a little difficult, so word of mouth might be your best option. Being a renter is “a crap shoot,” adds Elias, “since you rarely see anything defined in the lease and the broker likely has no idea when the elevator was installed or last serviced.”

To find out if other tenants have frequently complained about the elevators being out of service, it doesn’t harm to ask the landlord or management company. You may also look up your building’s history of complaints on the Department of Buildings website. Similar to this, by entering the location into the Buildings Information system, you will have the ability to view the building’s elevator records and inspection history, among other things (per city requirements, elevators must be inspected once and tested twice every year).

Another plausible assumption is that an elevator’s quality will correspond to how well-maintained the rest of the building is. According to Chip Nyborg, president of Tristate Elevator, “if you’re going to rent in a building, look around—check out the basement, see if there are bugs all over by the rubbish.” “You will then have a clear understanding of what the landlord is doing. I can tell I have a good, tough super [and management] if I walk into a building and everything is spit-shined polished. Those are all warning signals if I enter and it’s awful.”

As with most things, if you can swing it, you’ll usually learn the whole truth directly from the residents (or building personnel). The best course of action for a renter, in Herzberg’s opinion, is to visit the building and start asking around. “Wait for a resident to come out if there isn’t a doorman.”

Do all the inhabitants have access to the elevators, or does it become crowded during peak hours?

You might also want to get a sense of how well the elevators will work in your daily life, such as whether there are lengthy delays at busy periods of the day, in addition to safety and quality of maintenance. Herzberg advises stopping by in the morning or evening to inquire about the frequency of the delivery.

“You might want to think about living on a lower floor if you’re particularly sensitive to elevator problems and wait times.” (Herzberg advises waiting for an elevator to pass by if the apartment you’re interested in is located next to the elevator to see whether the noise it makes is excessive and potentially disturbing. He explains that if it’s older, it might bang and produce noise.)

There is no established rule of thumb for how many elevators a building should have, but you can anticipate that newer buildings will have more elevators than older ones, according to Elias.

When moving in, are there any limitations on using the elevator?

Management frequently places restrictions on the usage of an elevator during moves, particularly if a building has just one (for instance, requiring them to take place during pre-determined hours that are likely to cause the least disruption for existing residents). Thomas Usztoke of Douglas Elliman Property Management recommends, “Find out if there’s any required advance scheduling, what days and hours moves are permitted, if there’s any fees, and whether you’ll be sharing the elevator with someone else moving in [at the same time].”

According to Herzberg, a building may occasionally include a freight elevator and mandate that you utilize it exclusively for your relocation. Later on, if the standard elevator is out for maintenance, a freight elevator will also be useful. Get a good understanding of how tenants move in and out if there is only one elevator, advises Herzberg. This will help you not just on moving day but also later on if you need to utilize the elevator when new residents are settling into the building.

Although it’s unlikely that this will be a deal-breaker, it will give you a sense of how stringent the building’s regulations are generally and how much you might be inconvenienced when it’s time for someone else to move in.

What options do you have if the elevators are broken?

Another situation where the responses from owners versus renters are very different.

You won’t have to pay any extra money to fix an elevator in a rental property, but you might have less influence over the management if you try to get repairs done sooner. (You’ll probably find it difficult to receive a straight response in advance regarding how swiftly management typically responds to these problems.) As we’ve previously mentioned, it helps to work together with your neighbors and you can also file an anonymous complaint on 311 to ask the city to send an inspector if management is slack about fixing a broken elevator in a rental. Though it may seem like more work than you’re willing to undertake, just consider how much simpler it will be to carry your most recent Trader Joe’s purchase upstairs and into the refrigerator.

When the main elevator breaks down, “many buildings offer a service elevator as an option, but for those who don’t, occasionally a rent and/or maintenance credit is offered,” adds Elias. “If the work really puts the tenants out for a lengthy amount of time.”

In addition to being inconvenient, elevator repairs may also need an expensive assessment on the part of the owner. For example, Elias explains that in a co-op, “it is the collective’s responsibility to pay such activities [as repairs] and if the reserve funds can’t cover it, the shareholders need to contribute.” As stated previously, throughout the due diligence process, your attorney should gain an understanding of the likelihood that the elevator would require repairs and whether or not the building has the appropriate reserve cash to pay such an expense. You don’t want to receive an expensive surprise down the road.

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