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What Is a Penthouse Apartment & How Do You Find One? [2024]

Trying to figure out what a penthouse apartment is? Get the scoop on the pros and cons to find out if penthouse apartments are for you.

Ah, the coveted penthouse suit! If you're looking to snag one yourself, you're in the right place. If your budget allows for sparkling views and luxury, why stop at just an upscale apartment? Give your wish list an upgrade and start touring your city’s best penthouses.

Here’s a complete rundown on what a penthouse is, their pros and cons, and how to find them.

Guide to Penthouses

What Is a Penthouse Apartment?

Penthouse apartments are luxury units on the top floor of an apartment building. They typically offer the very best views in the building, vaulted ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, and often a private entrance or elevator.

The higher floors of apartment complexes are often coveted, but penthouses are special because they occupy the highest space and therefore have unique layouts as well as opportunities for privacy. They are usually reserved and designed especially for those renters who never regard a price tag as an obstacle to having the very best.

What Is a Penthouse

How to Find Penthouse Apartments

Looking for an apartment will take some time and effort on your part. However, finding your dream penthouse apartment is well worth the effort. Here’s everything you need to know about how to find a penthouse apartment.

1. Start Your Search Early

The key to finding an awesome penthouse apartment is mastering your timing.

Start looking for apartments by determining your ideal move-in date, as everything else will be dependent on this date.

For a smooth transition to your new apartment, we recommend starting your penthouse search at least three to six months before your ideal move-in date, more than the two months we recommend for most apartments. Securing your dream penthouse can mean you find yourself on a long waitlist for months or even years in some cases.

What Is the Best Time of Year to Look for a Penthouse?

Penthouse prices tend to be fairly steady. For that reason, we recommend you start in the summer months when there is likely to be a larger selection of penthouses on the market. Keep in mind, however, that there will also be greater competition for them during that time. However, there's really no wrong time to search for a penthouse since there's a good chance you will have to wait for one anyway.

Know What You Are Looking For In A Penthouse

Although most penthouse apartments have impressive amenities, it’s still a good idea to start your search with your priorities in mind. Whether you’re looking for luxury amenities or you’re more interested in your penthouse’s layout and square footage, finding your dream home means limiting your search to units that meet these standards.

When searching for your penthouse, be sure to differentiate between in-unit and on-site amenities. For example, there’s a big difference between in-unit laundry and on-site laundry.

2. It Helps to Know Someone

We won't sugarcoat it for you - penthouse apartment hunting is greatly helped by having a connection to the place you want to move to. Don't get us wrong - it's certainly possible to find listings and apply directly. But because these communities can require more extensive background checks and references, it really does help to have a connection to the building you're interested in.

Penthouse searches, perhaps more than other apartment types, often rely on strong references and good connections. In lieu of that, however, here are several things you can do to demonstrate your value as a tenant:

  • Financial strength: Gather documents showcasing your financial stability, like recent pay stubs, bank statements, and investment portfolios. If you're self-employed, provide tax returns or contracts demonstrating consistent income. Exceeding the minimum income requirement by a significant margin is ideal.
  • Creditworthiness: Obtain a copy of your credit report and address any discrepancies. A strong credit score (ideally above 750) reassures landlords of your financial responsibility.
  • Personal references: If you lack traditional landlord references, consider providing references from employers, colleagues, or even professors who can vouch for your character and reliability.
  • Offer a larger deposit: Propose paying a higher security deposit, up to 6 months' rent, to mitigate the landlord's risk.

3. Search for Listings Online

These days, online apartment hunting through apartment listing platforms like the one you're on is the standard, which means starting your apartment hunt will require you to scour different online listing sites.

We’re here to make the hunt easy. Apartment List makes you the center of your apartment hunt. Whether you’re looking for furnished apartments or a pet-friendly penthouse, simply select those filters and we’ll deliver matching units right to you.

Saving time and finding your dream penthouse? It’s a win-win.

4. Set Up Apartment Tours

Once you’ve found a promising penthouse, don’t delay when it comes to scheduling a tour. This is especially true during the summer months, as you’ll be facing more competition for in-demand units.

Once you’ve set the tour, it’s important to prepare a list of questions to ask renting.

The answers to these questions will help you determine whether you want to move forward with the rental, as they should cover any relevant information about the unit.

Ask questions that cover the basics, such as how much rent costs, what in-unit amenities are included, and how parking is handled.

However, you should also ask additional questions that are relevant to your rental situation. For example, you might ask questions pertaining to furniture for rent or short-term lease.

Beyond questions, it’s important to assess the condition of the penthouse. You want to do your best to ensure that everything is in working order and whether it’s what you had in mind when you conceptualized your dream home.

5. Apply and Sign Your Lease

Done with the tour and ready to snap up the penthouse? Get started with the apartment application process!

Gather all the relevant documents and information to fill out your application. You may also have to set aside around $40 to cover an application fee.

Once you have everything you need, including identification, rental history details, financial details, references, and a good idea of your credit score, you can get started.

Be sure to fill out your application completely. Once you have submitted your application, you should hear back within 72 hours, although that timeline may vary.

If you are approved for the penthouse — congrats! You’ll need to take time to review your lease agreement before signing it.

Ask your landlord or property manager any questions you may have and don’t be afraid to voice concerns about clauses you don’t understand. It’s essential to know exactly what you are agreeing to.

Once you’ve signed it, you’re all set!

Penthouse Hunting 101 A Step-by-Step Guide

Pros of Penthouse Apartments

There are plenty of pros that come with penthouse apartments, starting with the views.

1. Endless Beautiful Views

If views are on your priority list, you can’t go wrong with penthouse apartments. They usually offer the very best in the building. They’re also more likely to offer floor-to-ceiling windows in multiple rooms and an expansive balcony. The views will usually be fully maximized.

2. Spacious Layouts With Luxury Touches

Renters craving more space should check out penthouses for their spaciousness and trend-setting, luxury touches. Although townhouses also offer space, penthouses take it a step further. They often feature fireplaces, dens, walk-in closets, and oversized balconies.

Because rent is typically higher in penthouse apartments than any other unit, you’re also more likely to enjoy the latest upgrades. Property managers know luxury renters want all the flourishes. Those can include stainless steel appliances, updated bathrooms, Jacuzzi tubs, walk-in showers, and more.

3. Extra Privacy

Penthouses offer more privacy than any other unit in a building. You’re usually the only apartment on the top floor. You can often enjoy exclusive elevator access. Most penthouse apartments come with a special key or code to reach the top floor that’s all for you.

4. Penthouse Status

There’s a certain status that comes with living in penthouse apartments. You’ll be the go-to spot for hosting and entertaining friends and family, for better or for worse.

Advantages of Penthouse Living

Cons of Penthouse Apartments

Before you make up your mind about penthouse apartments, make sure you think through the drawbacks, starting with the cost.

1. Luxury Comes at a Cost

Despite all of the fantastic pros of reaching elite penthouse apartment status, there are some downsides to living the good life. According to Realtor, penthouse apartments are usually 5-15% more expensive than other units in the same building.

You’re paying a premium price tag for extra space and better views. However, you may find that a penthouse apartment stretches your budget too far.

2. Long Elevator Rides

Penthouse apartments include the longest elevator rides with multiple stops along the way. That may not sound like a big deal, unless you live a busy life and need to come and go frequently. Long elevator rides can also get old when carrying groceries and walking your dog regularly.

3. Potentially Noisy Rooftop Amenities

Penthouse apartments may enjoy top floor status, but there might be more going on above you than you realized. Luxury apartment complexes may feature rooftop amenities that are just overhead. Pools and community spaces may get loud during weekends and community gatherings. Make sure to ask about the noise level in your penthouse apartment before signing the lease.

4. Weather Can Be Harsh

The views may be spectacular in penthouse apartments. However, the higher up you are, the harsher the weather.

Top-floor dwellers can endure hot summers and cold winters. Harsher conditions may lead to higher utility bills as you run your AC or heater more frequently.

5. Penthouses Are Hard to Find

If you have your heart set on renting a penthouse apartment, you may find options are limited. Apartment complexes usually have just one or two penthouse units to choose from. The smaller market for penthouse apartments drives up the demand, competition, and rent.

6. “Penthouse” Can Have Different Meanings

Traditionally, most penthouse apartments are the premier unit on the top floor. However, some areas like New York City may call three or four apartments on the same floor a penthouse. In some buildings, penthouses can be situated on multiple floors and may include exclusive amenities and terraces.

While this isn't necessarily a con to penthouse living, it's something to know before starting your apartment hunt.

Disadvantages of Penthouse Living

Is a Penthouse Apartment for Me?

Penthouse apartments are the perfect choice for anyone looking for fantastic views, luxury amenities, and the best unit in the complex.

However, they also come with a significantly higher price tag and some drawbacks. Weigh your options and what you value most in your living situation before you sign your next lease.

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Dr. Katherine Blake
Dr. Katherine Blake is a content editor with Apartment List, where she helps ensure our renter and rental management content is fresh and informed by the latest data. Read More
Tristian Brown
Tristian Brown is a Senior Content Marketing Associate at Apartment List, where he manages high-quality content that helps modern renters find the perfect home. He brings an immense wealth of knowledge to the team, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and European Management from the University of San Diego and EM Strasbourg Business School. Read More
Susan Finch
Susan is an accomplished freelance writer whose passion for rental real estate, travel, and digital marketing has been the driving force behind her nearly 15-year career. Throughout her professional journey, Susan has become a seasoned veteran in creating compelling and informative content focused on the tenant/landlord relationship. Read More
Davina Ward
Davina G. Ward is an esteemed journalist and expert on the apartment rental market. Read More

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