Has anyone "traded down" and not regretted it?
July 14, 2013 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I live in a pretty nice, large modern loft. It has all sorts of furnishings: new appliances, garbage disposal, in-unit washer and dryer, new bathroom, dish washer, underground parking. I'm thinking of moving into an older building that has charm, but none of these things. Will the lack of these luxuries make me go crazy? Has anyone done this, and not regretted it?

I realize this question comes off as incredibly snobby, but I'm worried I've become so accustomed to these things that doing with all of them, not just a few of them, and moving into a turn of the century building is going to slowly grate on me. Or perhaps I'll just roll with it and be okay.

There's no real financial reasons for me to do so, though I will be saving quite a bit and will be able to travel more. I always hear from friends who go the opposite direction, they never had a garage and love having a garage. They never had a dishwasher and they love having a dishwasher and can't live without it. They never had an in-unit washer dryer and will never go to the laundromat again. Part of me wonders if there's a certain aspirational nature to this, beyond it just being a convenience.

Has anyone done this? Part of me thinks the only item I will really miss is being able to do laundry whenever, I probably will end up buying more clothes and bedsheets as a result, but didn't know if I'd go crazy otherwise.
posted by geoff. to Home & Garden (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
As a data point, I moved from a place with most of those things to one with none of them, and I love my new apartment.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:37 AM on July 14, 2013

It's not a good feeling at first, but you end up getting used to it, and it's no big deal. Although I am ready to move back into a nicer place in a couple of weeks.
posted by SpringAquifer at 8:39 AM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I left an apartment in the midwest, with many of the amenities you mention for a smaller, more spartan unit in NYC. I don't remember having a big problem with doing my own dishes again and going to the laundromat, probably because there was so much else to adjust to.

I think if you have strong reasons to take the other apartment - and it sounds like you do - that will help you adjust. Even if it's frustrating at first, you can get used to it and in a few months you'll probably think nothing of it.
posted by bunderful at 8:39 AM on July 14, 2013

What is the motivation to move, if not financial? If the benefits outweigh the irritations, then go for it. Losing parking would be a difficult thing for me, but if I were moving into a city where I wouldn't have to drive anywhere on a daily basis would make that okay (and I'd ditch the car). So far, you've just said that the new place has "charm." Charm wears off pretty quickly, if it's not built into a larger reason why you're moving.
posted by xingcat at 8:40 AM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've lived in places that had all the things you mention, and also ones that don't. I care more about saving money overall than not once I find my baseline of acceptability. But you have to make sure you will be saving money overall, and enough that the loss in comfort is worth it - laundry will be more time and cost expensive; parking on the street means more chance of tickets/broken windows/stolen stereo/sun damage/frost-scraping. Dishes should actually cost you less financially though time-wise more. Frankly garbage disposals aren't that big a deal for me either way.

But you're not going to suffer or anything.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:44 AM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

For me the only dealbreakers are assigned parking if parking in your city is challenging; and laundry. Having to deal with coin laundry was more than an inconvenience, it could be a disaster with stuff like trying to get packed for trips, etc. And if your city has tricky parking, then parking tickets for people on the street is a fact of life and can be a really annoying revenue drain.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:47 AM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

The only thing I really missed was the dishwasher, and I REALLY missed it.
posted by SyraCarol at 8:48 AM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

You should prioritize which things are important to you. PRobably, not all of these amenities are equally important. For instance, in my last apartment search, I insisted on these things:

-gas stove
-full bathtub

and did not care about these:

-central air
-new appliances

So figure out what your bare minimum is for reasonable comfort, and you can probably find something with the charm you want but without all the bells and whistles you don't care about. For my money, laundry and dishwasher are the hardest things to live without. Laundry is by far the worst, because either sending it out or doing it yourself at the laundromat are big,big hassles. The dishwasher is a very big convenience, too. Uses less water than handwashing most often, gives you a place to store dirty dishes before you have accumulated enough to wash them, and keeps counters cleaner.
posted by Miko at 8:50 AM on July 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

You might consider whether you'll really be saving much money after the lifestyle adjustments that are required to make up for some of these amenities. For example, what is the likelihood that you'll get parking tickets? Is theft of items from cars a major worry for outside parking where you are? Will you eat more takeout if you have to do dishes by hand and can't just dump stuff down the disposal? Is the laundromat going to be such a pain that you drop off your laundry to have someone else do it?

Other than that, I don't think it's a big deal but I never had a car so I can't speak for the trouble and stress of parking.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:50 AM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Parking on the street may also cause your auto insurance premium to change.
posted by Miko at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2013

Parking is a major issue. I don't know your location, but check your potential neighborhood for availability and regulations. In SF it is not only difficult to find on-street parking you are almost always required to move your vehicle frequently, compounding the problem. Forgetting to do so becomes very expensive very quickly.

I, personally, don't use the dishwasher we have, but I would really dislike having to use a laundromat. Having to travel to do laundry, park and re-park, isn't fun. Laundromats are generally not that entertaining.

Grocery shopping and carrying back your purchases can be much more difficult when you have to park away from your place.

As said, above, charm becomes less important as you get used to living in a place. Convenience becomes more important, I think.
posted by uncaken at 8:52 AM on July 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

It all depends on what you can manage; everyone has their own dealbreakers.

Personally, I hate doing laundry more than anything and I would never live in an apartment/house that didn't have a washer/dryer. Yeah, sending laundry out is fine, but the convenience of being able to wash clothes and linens whenever I want makes my most hated chore a little more tolerable.

And I could live without a dishwasher and a garbage disposal. Some people couldn't. I probably couldn't live without parking, but that depends on what street parking is like at the new place, or if you can get by without having a car. Where's your grocery store at relative to the apartment? Can you get delivery?
posted by elsietheeel at 8:53 AM on July 14, 2013

We have frequently, but we move around a lot. Actually, we just moved from a REALLY nice place to a less-nice place (builder grade furnishings and countertops, no-name appliances, etc.), but just make sure whatever you're moving for is worth it. I mean, will "charm" make up for the fact that you have to hand wash your dishes forever? Or that you'll have to constantly wrestle with laundry?

I mean, everyone has deal breakers. I actually prefer going to the laundromat since I can sit and read for a few hours and get everything done rather than having to spend all of Saturday and part of Sunday worrying if the laundry is done, if we need to get a new load in, etc. I VASTLY prefer it to those small stackable washers/dryers since those mean pretty much every night is spent doing laundry in one form or another. But I know people that would rather die than give up their in-unit W/D.

Parking, however, is something to keep in consideration. The place we moved to most recently, we only get one spot for the unit and we have two cars, so one of us usually spends a fair amount of time roaming the parking lot looking for one of the Visitor spaces. It's already gotten kind of annoying, especially right after work when everyone's home and on weekends..
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:07 AM on July 14, 2013

I just traded "up" -- moved into a newly renovated apartment with adorable new bathroom, dishwasher, garbage disposal, laundry on the premises. It's great!

That said, I lived without all these things for years, and it was no big deal. I could easily go back with no problems.

I think a lot of this will depend on where you live, how standard the things you'll be giving up are, and whether there is infrastructure to get around them. For example without all the Mod Cons, I lived in New York. People don't expect to have those things. If you don't have laundry on site, there's always laundry drop off service. Hate hand-washing dishes? New York has a huge culture of takeout and a restaurant or two on every block. Crappy bathroom? That's what periodic trips to Spa Castle are for. No parking? Don't have a car, silly! I'm not sure it would be nearly as easy to live without all these nice new conveniences here in Los Angeles, where those forms of infrastructure don't exist (or at least not where I happen to live).
posted by Sara C. at 9:09 AM on July 14, 2013

You might find this NYT article interesting--not so much for the buy vs. rent calculus but for the exploration of what things in our living environment actually contribute to happiness.

For me it's 1) living somewhere I don't need a car 2) a dishwasher (but I wouldn't care so much about laundry or a disposal or granite countertops) 3) an easy commute to work. If I do end up somewhere where I need a car, I will NEVER go back to a place where it takes me 20 minutes to find a parking space that's a 10 minute walk to my home like I had in SF. The only reason that was bearable at the time was that I didn't need my car every day.

The other question is whether there will be things about the older place that you actively find irritating--a new bathroom is no big deal except that it means the shower definitely doesn't leak, for instance.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:17 AM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I live in a pretty nice, large modern loft. It has all sorts of furnishings: new appliances, garbage disposal, in-unit washer and dryer, new bathroom, dish washer, underground parking. I'm thinking of moving into an older building that has charm, but none of these things. Will the lack of these luxuries make me go crazy? Has anyone done this, and not regretted it?

We moved from a nice apartment with in-unit laundry that was properly vented and two indoor car spaces and so on to a private condo where things were not properly vented and had only one garage space. The pain in the neck in terms of schedule, etc. and a stolen car that these relatively minor changes caused is something I am glad to be rid of (having moved elsewhere).

The older you get the less you want to waste time on nonsense.
posted by rr at 9:24 AM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

My apartment doesn't have this stuff and to me, the time spent on driving around looking for parking, schlepping laundry up and down 3 flights of stairs, and endless dishes is just a ridiculous time suck. And that's when the laundry machines are working. But yeah, everyone feels differently about it.

My advice is to stop using your parking and appliances for as long as you can and see how it makes you feel. It's the only way for you to find out short of taking the plunge.
posted by bleep at 9:28 AM on July 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

I miss the large jacuzzi bathtub in my old home every single day.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:30 AM on July 14, 2013

Is it possible for you to buy a washing machine (washer-dryers are unreliable in my experience) or dishwasher? Perhaps arrange with the landlord to deduct the cost from your rent and just leave them behind when you move?
posted by epo at 9:45 AM on July 14, 2013

Why not give it a whirl? Save a ton, do a ton of traveling, and then if you find you're missing the modern amenities, find yourself a new luxe apartment.

When you're an old guy, I don't think you'll be saying to yourself, "Damn, I really regret giving up that garbage disposal, and trekking to Nepal instead!" (You know what I mean.) Have some adventures!

(I live in a turn of the century place, with all the annoyances that go along with it, and I love saving buckets of money, and not having to fuss with appliances, and being able to travel.)
posted by nacho fries at 9:49 AM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I spend a lot of time alternating between a place like you describe and one like you're moving to. The two things that are the most vexing are the lack of a dishwasher, and the lack of central air (may be more of an issue in mid-atlantic summer). The other thing that I wouldn't want to permanently give up is the open plan kitchen layout in the modern place. I don't really do laundry there but there is a washer/dryer in the basement and that is fine; going to a laundromat would be a different story. Appliances, garbage disposal, updated bathroom, I find don't matter that much to me. In fact, the stove there is ancient, but is gas (as opposed to electric) so is probably better overall.

One more thing though, not exactly on your list, is that there are a lot of smallish things that go along with "charm" / turn-of-the-century construction that you may not fully appreciate. My last place also had "charm", even though it had been relatively updated in terms of appliances etc., and I still traded up. A fuller list of what in my experience accompanies charm includes: insects, mice, lack of decent insulation, historically mandated single pane windows, mysterious old building smells that come and go regardless of what you do, messed up electrical wiring (I had the front half of my old apartment go dead because it was accidentally wired into a basement apartment that had its power shut off; it was also overall extremely sensitive to surges), dysfunctional doorbells (small, but actually somewhat important), weirdnesses with other retrofitted wiring / ducting, greater chance of mold problems, older heating systems, kitchen so old that it will never be truly clean.
posted by advil at 9:53 AM on July 14, 2013 [9 favorites]

Two things you might want to consider about old buildings are: acoustics and electrical outlets. My particular unit is quiet and private, but in other units in my building, you can hear EVERYTHING the neighbors are doing.

And sometimes old buildings have far fewer electrical outlets than modern ones. Not an issue for me, but something to factor in.
posted by nacho fries at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2013

I used to live in a very nicely restored Storybook house with central a/c, whirlpool tub, etc.. And now I live in a raw loft with no central heat or a/c, no bathtub, and not much in the way of storage. Love it, hope I never move again.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:34 AM on July 14, 2013

I moved from a big old house that I shared that had All The Things into my own apartment which had many fewer things. To me the huge deal was having my own space and I would have lived in a box under the highway at that point to get away from my roommate and neighbor situation. Doing laundry up the street is a headache, but I've got a routine. Doing dishes by hand is meditative. I miss having a really deep bathtub but mine is fine. My place is quiet and dark. My old place wasn't. My new place doesn't have a lot of grounded outlets (and no guestroom) which are about the only things that are problematic from my perspective. To me they're all just "different" spaces not necessarily better/worse. Putting everything along a continuum where you're further along towards something (what?) is part of a mindset that will make this sort of thing more problematic than it needs to be. I think you will be fine.
posted by jessamyn at 10:49 AM on July 14, 2013

My wife and I and our golden retriever moved from our wonderful 1917 Craftsman bungalow with all the amenities to a 30' sailboat. Best decision we ever made.

Your milage may vary.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:57 AM on July 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

As others are saying, I think it's very dependent on a lot of things. I've lived in areas where not having assigned parking would have been a nightmare (and was a nightmare when we had 2 cars and only one spot), but that's the biggest potential dealbreaker for me. Laundry isn't such a big deal, and I don't mind doing dishes by hand. In complexes I've lived in where there was on-site laundry, with the big places with tons of machines other tenants weren't too considerate with getting their stuff out of the machines after they were done, the machines broke down all the time and management was lax on fixing it, and all the machines were single load. In smaller places, there were only one or two machines for the building, so having a lot of laundry would take an extraordinary amount of time, assuming you could get in the machines in the first place. I've never had an in-unit washer/dryer, but at least going to the laundromat you can get all your stuff DONE in a couple hours, no matter how much you have.

I really enjoyed living in a turn-of-the-century place for my last apartment, but it was mostly because of the neighborhood, and I'd easily make that trade-off again over living in a giant complex.
posted by LionIndex at 11:34 AM on July 14, 2013

I did this - I moved from a nice luxury apartment in the suburbs to a smaller, barebones pre-war apartment in a great neighborhood in the city.

It was an adjustment, yes. My building has a washer/dryer room in the basement so that's something. I've learned to tolerate doing dishes by hand - like humboldt23 said, it becomes kind of meditative. The biggest issue for us is parking - I gave up my car but my boyfriend still has his and it can be a pain on weekend nights due to our location. My second biggest issue is lack of central AC, but I'm combating swampy DC summers with two window units and it's not terrible. I miss my old unit a lot on 90+ degree days, though.

That being said, wouldn't trade it. I love my neighborhood and I love my old building with its big windows and creaky floors.
posted by kerning at 11:45 AM on July 14, 2013

If you have a professional wardrobe using a laundromat isn't going to cut it and you're going to have to spend the money to get your clothing dry cleaned or washed for you by a service (can't tell if you're a woman but if so this goes double). I could live without most things, and do, but I couldn't deal with having to use a laundromat again without massive hassle as half my clothes are cold wash, hang to dry etc.
posted by fshgrl at 12:31 PM on July 14, 2013

If the shift is from in-unit to in-building laundry, then I think it's no problem at all. But if there's no laundry facilities in the building at all...

Having to schlep my dirty clothes out of the building to a laundromat, while a good way to stay connected with the rest of the humanity (I honestly love the dudes, often times backpackers, who stand in their boxers while doing the rest of their clothing), makes me an unintentional crusty punk, albeit it one who finally finished that urban homesteading paperback I borrowed from a friend while waiting for her comforter to finish drying.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:32 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm MeMailing you.
posted by epj at 1:35 PM on July 14, 2013

I am significantly grumpier about doing laundry without an in-unit washer and dryer. It's just so much more of a pain-- less efficient, jerks who move your laundry around and drop your favorite socks irretrievably behind the washers, and you've already created new laundry by the time you're done because you have to be wearing publicly acceptable clothes.

I would think twice about giving up that particular amenity without a compelling reason.
posted by charmcityblues at 2:07 PM on July 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

It really depends on your personality. I don't like large modern apartment complexes and I would never live in one because I find them unattractive, although I can see the appeal objectively. I live in a very charming, beautiful old building and while I'd LOVE to have in-unit laundry, it's not worth it for ME to give up what I consider huge aesthetic benefits of my large, restored deco apartment for a W/D (note: we have laundry in the building but I send most of mine out).

I did move from a charming shithole with no dishwasher and street parking to a charming non-shithole with parking and a dishwasher, though, and I don't think I could go to no dishwasher, because dish-washing is my least favorite chore and I cook a lot. Parking is totally TOTALLY dependent on where you live. I have a garage here, but my last apartment had ample street parking, so it was no big. So, it really does depend on a LOT of factors and also on your personality. Charm is my #1 amenity, but it's not the case for everyone.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:36 PM on July 14, 2013

I always thought I wouild love a smaller less expensive place until I got one and the bathrooms were all close together...somehow having to listen to someone else flush made me crazy....and I moved as soon as I could....so take all those comments about charming into account....
posted by OhSusannah at 4:50 PM on July 14, 2013

I shifted from my private home with all of those amenities you listed, into a 1950s apartment building. Basic ancient fridge and stove, and on -site laundry. I no longer have a car, and go everywhere by bus or foot - yay grad school.

I miss the dishwasher: I love to cook, hate the dishes, and doing it by hand winds up with a huge post-event pile. But that's my own personal issue with doing dishes; just means that I have to keep it "together" and clean while cooking - you may or may not feel the same about dishes.

I miss my laundry area: however, having at least on-site laundry is quite manageable. I can ride down in the elevator (which you should probably consider an amenity in a multistory building carrying huge laundry piles), throw my stuff in, and the people are decent enough to leave my clothes alone while drying/washing. I can't imagine schlepping the week's worth of laundry and bedding to the laundromat in my area.

Exceptionally old appliances: I would NEVER have been willing to accept such energy-wasting pieces in any other apartment, except for the fact that my place is all inclusive: they cover my heat, hydro and water. Otherwise, there goes your meagre savings to the hydro company.

As always, beware the built aspect. I would look for a place with concrete walls. This old joint is built like a bunker - rarely hear anyone in all 11 floors.
Heating here is electric - again, I would NEVER have rented here if it weren't inclusive. Too old, inefficient systems. If you have the big steel radiative heat units (done with hot water), or natural gas, that might be worth footing the bill. Likewise, the old windows do a lousy job of keeping cost down in the winter - have to seal with plastic... and even then, they are lousy.

So upshot - if the rent is all inclusive and it is STILL a good price, might be worth renting an old place with old heating and old appliances; if you are keeping the car, go to the laundromat if you like, otherwise you will really want in-building laundry, IMO.
posted by NorthernAutumn at 1:38 AM on July 15, 2013

The new place should offer you enough compensating factors that you are willing to give up some of the conveniences but there are caveats. Make sure the structure is sound and the heating, plumbing and air conditioning are well-maintained. Like you, I am not comfortable without the ability to do my laundry on my own schedule without having to go out. But, for example, I don't need a dishwasher because I have trained myself never to walk away from a dirty dish.

I suspect the real trick is to know what matters most to you. I had to find out by trial and error but for me what's important is, first of all, location. Next, how the space feels--it needs to have a certain distinguishing charm, some outdoor space, nice windows, privacy, quiet. All those things are very important to me. Then, from living in differently equipped places, I learned I really need the following: laundry facilities, good refrigerator, gas cookstove, and as soon as I could afford it, I found I really needed that second bedroom and bath.
posted by Anitanola at 2:16 AM on July 15, 2013

I think for each of these, it depends how much you rely upon them. I've had dishwashers and not had them. I like having a dishwasher, but as long as I keep on top of washing dishes, I've never found it essential to have one.

My most recent move was a "trade-down" by most conventional standards. I moved from a 2500 square foot house with a large yard and garden to a 1500 square foot condo. Losing the yard was a trade-down, but a good one for me. I was finding that caring for a lawn and garden wasn't enjoyable for me, and I prefer spending my weekends travelling or exercising than doing yardwork. I also have more disposable income as a result of the "trade-down".

Underground parking is nice in the winter - probably not as big of a deal when it's above freezing. Personally, I don't think I'd ever want to give up having an in-unit washer and dryer, but if you can see yourself developing a routine with laundry, or being able to wash most things by hand and hang-drying, then it might not be that big of a deal. I'd say to think carefully about each luxury you'd give up and what you'll do in place of it. If it seems like a big hassle, then you'll want to make sure you'll always have the luxury. If the non-luxury routine isn't that hard, then you may as well get rid of it.
posted by Kurichina at 8:06 AM on July 15, 2013

My parents moved into a building with shared laundry and they don't mind it. I live in a building with shared laundry and my wish list for our next place is in-unit laundry. My boyfriend hates lugging his stuff and too often that means he asks for 'help' and I wind up doing it. Central air would also be nice. We have recurring leakage issues with our window unit and building management has been slow to address it. I am emptying bins of water out from underneath it every morning, yuck!

That said, this place was an upgrade for me in some ways. I don't much care about the parking (I don't drive; the car is the boy's and he is the one who deals with it) and while the dishwasher can be handy (especially if we have people over!) I could live without it. I think the boy cannot though. And I also think that most of the modern buildings in my city tend to be built with smaller units. We could never have the space we do, for the price we pay, in a modern building. I suspect we'll stay here until we are ready to buy or rent a house.
posted by JoannaC at 8:55 AM on July 15, 2013

No dishwasher would be the only dealbreaker for me, but we cook at home a lot and both of us hate doing dishes (especially me). In-unit washer and dryer is nice but not a big deal as long as you have laundry in the building, unless you do a ton of laundry all the time.
posted by pravit at 6:45 PM on July 15, 2013

Response by poster: I'm giving this a go! I've set up a reminder to update this thread around Christmas time after I've had a chance to move in and process everything. If I can't answer I'll send an email to the mods to update. Thanks guys!
posted by geoff. at 9:09 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

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