'When buying my first property, I was cautioned by my realtor: "Either you buy very high, or buy very low - don't buy in-between." This saying suggests that - whilst most people acknowledge higher floors are better - there are unique merits to ground-floor living as well. Merits that, in the eyes of my former (and very experienced) realtor, make ground-floor units possibly better than mid-level units. Having lived in both HDB and condo ground floor units, here are the little but important things that people overlook:
Pros of ground floor living
- Cheaper and sometimes less competition
- More interaction and communal spirit (HDB)
- No need to use the lift
- No need to run back up when you forget things
- May come with a patio area
- No waiting for the management to clean the outside areas
1. Cheaper and sometimes less competition
Ground floor units tend to be cheaper. The exact price difference varies between projects, but it's generally expected that the higher you go, the more expensive the price per square foot (barring uncommon pricing strategies, such as "all floors same price" sales promotions).
Consider, for instance, a 678 sq. ft. unit that transacted at Terra Hill, on Feb 25 this year. The ground floor unit (#01-01) sold for $1.88 million. On the same day, a similar-sized unit located just three floors higher (#04-01) sold for $1.91 million.
Given the slight difference in view and acoustics (just three storeys), that's around $10,000 more for each floor up. Is that worth it? The answer is subjective, but for low-lying developments perhaps that incremental gain isn't really as appealing.
Add to this, there are usually fewer buyers competing for ground floor units than there are buyers competing for top floor units. You're more likely to get what you want if you've settled for the ground floor.
2. More interaction and communal spirit (HDB)
In my lifetime I've lived on both upper and lower floors of HDB flats, and I generally prefer the lower floors. The upper floors tend to be quieter (often eerily so), whereas the lower floors have just the right amount of noise.
The muffled sounds of cars leaving, or schoolchildren walking past the bus stop, are enough to gently wake you. You'll also feel more surrounded and connected to the community - in fact, we tended to close only the front gate and leave the door open. On the ground floor, that facilitates communication with friends and neighbours walking by.
If you have children, keep in mind their friends are more likely to swing by and call for them on the ground floor than if you're living on the 20th storey.
(That is, I'm assuming children still go out and play. I suppose if all their friends are Xbox screen names, this won't matter).
3. No need to use the lift
If you cycle often, you may enjoy the fact that you no longer need to cram your bike into the lift and look apologetic to everyone on every floor.
That aside lifts sometimes break down. And while these events are hopefully rare, they can cause massive disruptions when they do happen. When I lived on the 11th floor of a condo, for instance, a lift breakdown at midnight left a family member stranded downstairs - and it was four in the morning before she could get back home.
(And before you ask why stranded people don't just walk up, consider if your 70+ year old parents, grandparents, etc. are the ones stuck downstairs. Do you really want to put them through that?)
Also, you will not enjoy a lift breakdown when you've already waited 40 minutes for your food delivery, are hungry enough to eat your houseplants, and the delivery is cancelled because the lifts are down (or delayed because the whole block is stuck with using one lift).
4. No need to run back up when you forget things
This is my favourite thing about ground-floor living: when I forget my phone, and keys, or need to check if the stove is still on, I can run in and get it done in seconds. I can literally stand outside a window, and holler for someone to toss my wallet, keys, etc. out to me.
On a higher floor, I'd have to stand like a goon in front of the lift, go upstairs, and then wait for the lift down again.
It's a small thing, but true home comfort is an accumulation of these many small perks.
5. May come with a patio area or higher ceiling
Again, this isn't true for all projects. But some condo units will include a Private Enclosed Space (PES), such as a patio or back porch, for the ground floor units. Some homeowners enjoy this more than a balcony, as the unit feels like it naturally extends into landscaped gardens.
Patio areas also make for a safer play space in general, if you have children running around. It's preferable to a balcony they can potentially climb on, and it could provide some greenery without the need for wasteful planter box space.
Some developments also do have a higher floor for the ground floor units (in addition to the top floor), this sometimes could be high enough to build a mezzanine area too.
6. No waiting for the management to clean the outside areas
Are you a stickler for clean windows? Do you hate seeing bird poop and other filth gunk up your air-con ledge? If this sort of thing gets to you - and you loathe waiting for the slowcoach property manager to fix it - then live on the ground floor.
I can freely go outside and clean my windows, without having to break laws and dangle off a high floor. It's even possible to walk around back and access the air-con ledge*, and clean out some of the accumulated gunk.
Simply put, being on the ground floor sometimes means you can clean things on the outside, without waiting for a team on a scaffold to do it for you.
*May not be possible for all condos, even on the ground floor
Cons of ground floor living
- It's not for the noise sensitive
- Pest issues are gross
- Sometimes there's no extra barrier for pets
- Your windows are within easy reach
1. It's not for the noise sensitive
This varies between projects; but from experience, there's no denying that a ground-floor unit is noisier. Wherever possible I try to avoid stacks near the main entry points of the development, or facing the roads, when picking a ground-floor unit.
Another overlooked issue is misbehaving residents. Living on the ground floor, I have been woken up at four or five in the morning by returning clubbers or KTV regulars laughing, chatting, mutilating Mandopop songs, etc. After all in most projects, everyone in your block - whichever floor they live on - passes by your unit first on the way up.
If you're a stickler for silence, pick a higher floor.
2. Pest issues are gross
Roaches, lizards, mosquitoes, etc. can be found on almost every floor; but they're more abundant on the ground floor.
I also suspect (but I have no proof) that mosquito breeding is more likely on the lower floors. In both cases when I've received NEA warnings, they were when living in a ground floor unit and a landed unit respectively. It's never happened while I've lived on a higher floor.
Fewer pest issues here?
For ground-floor units with garden or patio access, you do have to learn to tolerate snails, slugs, centipedes, etc. This is one reason I dislike ground floor units when pets are involved: your dog or cat is more likely to eat something they shouldn't.
That's speaking from real experience. I've had to deal with the aftermath of a dog that ate half a frog, and I'm still traumatised. It wouldn't have happened had we not been living on the ground floor. Pet owners, you've been warned.
3. Sometimes there's no extra barrier for pets
With most condos (but not HDB flats), the stairwells are behind closed doors. So if your dog or cat darts out the front door, there isn't anywhere for them to run (unless they remarkably find a way to operate the lift or open the door to the stairwell).
However, if you live on the ground floor, there's sometimes no lobby, door, or other barriers between the ground floor unit and the great outdoors. This means your pet can dart out the front door, and out into the wider development; following which you'll be chasing them all around the project (even worse, they can run onto the main road or into the car park).
So if you do live on the ground floor, you may need to take extra precautions against your pet running out.
4. Your windows are within easy reach
Do you know how I mentioned you can easily go outside and clean your windows?
The downside is you'll probably need to do it more often too. Your windows are more likely to be smacked by basketballs, footballs, or other recreational projectiles. In the condo where I live, ground floor units had to petition for a new law, preventing ball games in some common areas.
It doesn't help that in many projects, you're not allowed to modify the windows or place certain types of grilles over them. Whether this turns out to be a serious problem, however, boils down to how stringent your condo security gets.
Overall though, I do feel - from experience - that ground-floor units are quite underrated, and many agents exaggerate the "problems" that they have. The only time I would completely rule them out is if they're too near the road or noisy facilities, and I'm less inclined to ground floors when pets are in the picture.
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This article was first published in Stackedhomes.