I Lived in a Run-Down High Rise for Two Years. Here’s What I Learned

Lived in a Run-Down High Rise

Broken elevators, sleeping guards, and questionable stores along the ground floor: these are things you’d expect to see in run-down high rises in the city. While you’re not wrong, there’s actually more too it than just that.

During my later college years, I had to stay in such a place. Its exterior painting was worn out and, standing next to newer, shinier buildings, it looked like an eyesore along the road my university was in. There was also a negative opinion about the place among the students, each with their own horror story to share about living in that building.

I studied in a private university that had no dormitories for students who lived far away, and I found it more difficult to commute to my parents’ house to the uni each day. There were affordable places scattered around the vicinity, but at the time, my parents only allowed me to stay in places that were directly next to the university grounds because they felt anything farther was unsafe.

That didn’t leave me with a lot of options, since a lot of the ads of students looking for roommates had rates that were higher than the budget my parents allowed me. So, after briefly living in a decent building for six months, I moved out because it didn’t have Wi-Fi or other amenities I needed to study. And then I found the perfect place with everything I needed in the budget my parents could afford, but it was in the run-down apartment. With no other option, I accepted. And in the year that I lived in that building, I learned a lot of things that has helped me choose the apartment I live in today.

It’s just a failed real estate business, not a monster house.

People need to stop thinking that a run-down building is probably haunted, run-down by ghosts, or was the victim of gangs and criminals in the area, because it’s not the nightmare many people claim it to be. It’s not a monster house, it’s just the result of poor planning and management, resulting in disrepair.

failed real estate businessYou won’t find the rich and famous living in my college high-rise, but apparently, back when it opened, each unit cost more than the average unit price in the city. And no one complained, because its features (now shrouded with low-quality lighting and low-quality cleaning staff) were worth the added money.

The walls were sturdy, and apart from the front doors banging down the hall, I never had horror stories about loud neighbors – and my neighbor was a guitarist. Compared to one of my friends who lived in the newer, upscale high-rises, she could hear her neighbor partying because the walls were much thinner. And according to my roommate, unlike the condo I used to stay in that featured much more sophisticated hallways, I never experienced a brownout longer than a minute because the building had generators ready for any emergency.

Be patient. Really, really, really patient.

The drawback of a run-down high-rise is that you get what you pay for, so expect the necessities, but don’t expect the red carpet (or at least, don’t expect the red carpet to be clean). At one point, I experienced getting trapped in the elevator and when guards finally noticed, nothing was done to repair the elevator because, in most cases, it was operating just fine.

A lot of the staff are paid minimum wage, so don’t always expect service with a smile. Don’t expect broken light fixtures in your hallway to get fixed within the day or the garbage chute to smell nice. You aren’t paying for fast service, you’re paying for a roof over your head and the basic amenities your building provides. And if you’re used to being waited on and having people attend to your every whim, then you better be willing to pay for much more.

You’re probably not living next to a criminal.

run-down high risesThe same way you would be offended if your neighbor assumed you were a shady person, too. When you buy or rent a unit in a run-down building, you do so because you can’t afford to do the same in a much more expensive place. It’s more likely that your neighbor also has the same reason for being there, and less likely because they’re a criminal on the run.

Don’t believe Hollywood when they show a scene of the protagonist walking down a dilapidated hallway and hearing all kinds of questionable sounds. Back then, all I could hear were people chatting, people laughing, and people doing what you’d pretty much expect them to do inside their home. My neighbors were fellow students, professors, and honest people who were kind enough to greet me a good morning. Don’t be scared of people living in such buildings because, following that same line of thinking, would you really want people to say the same about you?

You’re saving on rent, but what about utilities?

Be careful about the utility’s expenses; just because your rent is low doesn’t mean your living expenses are going to stay low. When I lived in a costlier condo high-rise next door, the rent was higher, but the rates were so low that, divided between me and my two roommates, I only had to pay $15 a month for electricity. But when I moved to the run-down building, which used commercial electricity rates on both commercial and residential tenants, my new roommates and I paid much more for the utilities.

If all else fails, be willing to spend more.

living in run-down high risesLiving in a run-down building isn’t for everyone.But it has to be one of your choices if you’re looking for affordable living in expensive cities. Beneath the old paint and ugly reception hall is a place you can call your home – if only temporarily.

If you’re not willing to set foot on a sketchy-looking building, at least be prepared to spend more. There are a lot of people who demand high-quality penthouses by their city’s business district and then complaining when their realtor takes them to places they cannot afford. Unless you’re willing to shell out for luxury, expect to live in a building with less amenities and hospitable staff.

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