For all of you New Yorkers on here you can sympathize with the high rental rates. One way to get more “bang for your buck” in the city is to look into flex or convertible apartments. Let’s talk about those.
So, as we do, let’s talk Real Estate, let’s talk CONVERTIBLE APARTMENTS…
WHAT IS A FLEX (CONVERTIBLE) APARTMENT?
A convertible apartment allows the tenant to convert an existing room (i.e. a living room, dining area, or even a large bedroom) into an additional room or bedroom. These rooms are converted using “flex” walls and are typically built fairly easily on site. The walls are primarily either pressurized walls which become a permanent fixture to the unit OR shoji walls which are almost like a sliding door. The pressurized walls better resemble a true wall and offer more privacy therefore they are often more popular.
Installing a flex wall is a common way to share space and save a few dollars on your monthly rent. My husband actually lived in a one bedroom flex when he first moved to the city. The unit was already set up as a flex before they moved in. While they did not have much living room space, they both had huge bedrooms! They both worked a lot so this worked out well for them.
HOW MUCH DO THESE WALLS COST TO INSTALL?
We have found a wide range here but on average, you are looking to pay anywhere from $800-$10,000 to hire a contractor to install these in NYC.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO INSTALL?!
Only a couple of hours!
SOUNDS AMAZING AND TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. WHAT IS THE CATCH?!
The city is cracking down on these. Often times they want permits pulled and plans drawn before any work is done.
WHAT IF MY BUILDING DOES NOT ALLOW PRESSURIZED WALLS?! DO I HAVE ANY OTHER OPTIONS TO CREATE AN ADDITIONAL ROOM?!
Sometimes shoji walls are permitted where pressurized walls are not. This is primarily because they are removable! One might also consider space dividers or bookshelves to help create an additional bedroom. This is typically as long as the “wall” does not extend all the way to the ceiling.
WHERE CAN I FIND THESE CONVERTIBLE APARTMENTS?!
They are often advertised in the listings online! For example, if you see an advertisement for a listing that says “FLEX 3 BED AVAILABLE” that often means that this is a 2 bedroom apartment that can be or has already has been converted into a 3 bedroom.
THESE CONVERTIBLE UNITS ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT TO FIND LARGELY DUE TO LIABILITY ISSUES. IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO CONVERT YOUR UNIT IT IS IMPORTANT TO EXPLORE THE FOLLOWING BEFORE SIGNING ANY LEASE OR PURCHASE AGREEMENTS.
(1) Confirm with ALL parties including the Management Company, building’s superintendent and the building’s board (if applicable) that flex walls, more specifically pressurized walls if you are looking for something more private, are in fact allowed to be installed.
(2) In order to gain approval to convert a unit before renting or buying it is helpful to have an idea of where you plan to add walls and the contractor you plan to work with. If you plan to add a bedroom, the bedroom must meet the NYC Housing Authority’s legal definition: in a one- or two-bedroom unit, the room will need to occupy at least 80 square feet of floor space and have at least one regulation-size window.
OTHER ITEMS TO CONSIDER WHEN LOOKING AT A CONVERTIBLE UNIT.
What are your priorities with this new wall? Do you prefer a sound proof room or natural light? If you prioritize quietness, you would consider installing a pressurized wall. If having natural light is more important to you than you might consider installing a sliding shoji wall. Another perk of installing a shoji wall vs a pressurized wall – the shoji wall can move around with you! They are removable, whereas a pressurized wall becomes a permanent fixture.
(2) Return on Investment
If you are an owner, will this wall add value to your unit? If you are a renter who is willing to pay for this expense, is this cost of the wall a better financial decision than looking for a bigger unit?
HAVE YOU EVER GONE THROUGH THE PROCESS OF INSTALLING A FLEX WALL TO YOUR UNIT?! HOW WAS IT?! WERE THERE ANY HARDSHIPS OR DRAWBACKS TO THE PROCESS?!
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Me – this is based on my own personal experience!