Real EstateWhat is an Efficiency Apartment?

What is an Efficiency Apartment?

Efficiency apartments, sometimes called bachelor apartments, are small apartments designed similar to a hotel suite. They’re commonly found in the heart of dense cities like New York, NY or Los Angeles, CA, and have become popular more widely as short-term rental options or as a mother-in-law suite. But are they a good fit for you? This article will help you understand whether an efficiency apartment fits you and your lifestyle.

A scaled down apartment

What is an efficiency apartment?

An efficiency apartment consists of one room that lacks designated areas. In most efficiency apartments, the living room also functions as the bedroom through a pull-out couch, Murphy bed, or lofted sleeping area. It offers a three-quarter bathroom, usually consisting of a shower stall, toilet, and small vanity. 

The kitchen space in an efficiency apartment is almost always constructed as a kitchenette — similar to a kitchen in a hotel room. The kitchenette usually features a mini-fridge, small sink, a two-burner cooktop, and either a microwave or toaster oven. Counter space is limited and there is typically no room for a workbench or island. 

But don’t let their size fool you. Efficiency apartments come in a full range of quality and prices. You can find them as reconfigurations of larger apartments in older buildings or newly built luxury apartment buildings. 

What’s a typical efficiency apartment floor plan?

Though the actual floor plan will vary, the main thing to understand about an efficiency apartment is that it is made up of a single, smaller room. For the most part, you’re cooking where you eat and eating where you sleep. If you’ve spent time in a dorm room or a hotel suite, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. 

The bathroom is the only room with a door in an efficiency apartment. It has a small shower stall, a toilet, and a small sink. There may also be a small vanity or medicine cabinet. 

Often, the kitchenette is placed on one wall of the room — or in the entry hallway if you have one — without any separation from the main living space. Depending on the apartment size, your needs, and furniture choices, there are two strategies for laying out your efficiency:

  • With convertible spaces where one piece of furniture transforms into another as needed. For example, a pullout couch becomes a bed, a dining table becomes a work table, etc.
  • With small designated spaces by forgoing another room. For example, the main living area is only set up as a bedroom with a workspace.

Most people use a combination of the two, and it often takes people some time to figure out what works best for them. 

What’s the difference between an efficiency apartment and a studio?

A lot can differ between a studio and an efficiency, but the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably— or in some ways used to draw more attention to a listing. What one person may call an efficiency apartment is what another person may call a studio. A location’s tastes and norms can influence how an apartment is designated. 

Below are the key differences between a studio and an efficiency apartment.  

Feature Studio Efficiency
Size 400 to 700 square feet generally, but can be larger or smaller. Less than 400 square feet generally.
Layout Often has small designated areas for sleeping, cooking, working, etc Areas are not separate but transform based on function, e.g. a murphy bed turns the living room into a bedroom
Kitchen Offers an apartment-sized kitchen with standard features, (e.g. half to full stove with oven, full-sized refrigerator), small counter space, and possibly a wall separating it from the main living area. Usually offers only a kitchenette with alternatives to standard features (e.g. two burner stove, microwave oven, mini fridge) and is incorporated into the main living area.
Bathroom Full size or smaller bathroom with or without a bathtub. Three-quarter bathroom with a shower stall only.
Storage Often features one or two closets. May or may not offer a closet.
Occupancy Can be suitable for a couple or a pair of roommates if the space is large enough and the two live together well. Ideal for one person or a couple who prefers a minimalist lifestyle.
Cost Generally about 5% less than a one-bedroom apartment, but sometimes much less or even more depending on location, features, etc. Generally more than 5% off a one-bedroom apartment, but varies depending on location, features, etc.

A small living room

The pros and cons of an efficiency apartment

Pros of an efficiency apartment 

Easier upkeep
When you live minimally, you have less housework. A small footprint means less floor for cleaning, fewer pieces of furniture to dust, and fewer spots that catch clutter. 

Creative living space
For some people, living in a small space gets the creative juices flowing. Arranging your life to fit into an efficiency apartment takes some real problem-solving skills. And the time you save not doing housework can be better spent pursuing goals, dreams, or other leisurely activities. 

One of the reasons these apartments are created is due to increased demand in an area. They are often in ideal locations for nightlife or work life, and they’re often serviced by prime public transportation. They might also feature excellent views. 

Though you’ll encounter a wide range of prices, efficiency apartments are usually the least expensive option within its area and with similar features and amenities. An efficient apartment in the heart of downtown may be more expensive than a one-bedroom apartment in an outer neighborhood, but it will be much less expensive than a one-bedroom in the same vicinity. 

Wide range of features
Efficiency apartments can be found in different types of buildings, with a range of building amenities such as gyms, coworking offices, rooftop lounges, and pools. These units may also offer dishwashers, in-unit laundry, and more. It can be a way to find affordable luxury housing for people who want it.

Cons of an efficiency apartment 

Tight quarters for sharing
If you like hosting, you should look for a building that offers areas outside the apartment for having larger gatherings. A lounge, game room, or rooftop deck may be available at a luxury apartment complex. Otherwise, you’ll need creative solutions for hosting in your small space.

Clutters easily
Though tidying up can be so much faster in a small apartment, making a mess takes less time. If an efficiency size would be a significant act of downsizing for you, you’d probably benefit from working with a professional cleaner or organizer.

Lots of home organization challenges
Though it may be an exercise in creativity, figuring out how to organize your small living space takes time and energy due to the lack of built-in storage options and limited space. For some, those challenges aren’t worth it. 

No separation
If you work from home, having your office in the same place that you sleep can pose issues. Having your kitchen where all your stuff is located can also make it difficult to keep smells from cooking out of your clothes and linens. 

What should I consider before renting an efficiency apartment?

There are plenty of considerations to keep in mind when deciding if an efficiency is right for you. Here are the questions we think are most pertinent:

  • Is it in the location you most desire, or does it provide access to something very important to you?
  • Do you enjoy home organization?
  • Do you have minimal belongings or do you want to downsize your home?
  • Do you do minimal home cooking? 
  • Does the apartment offer amenities that you will use?
  • Do you have multifunctional furniture?
  • Do you travel a lot or plan to use the apartment as a home away from home?
  • How much time do you spend at home?

No two efficiency apartments are the same, so be sure to consider the unique features and drawbacks of a listing before you decide.

A bedroom with desk

How do I find efficiency apartments?

Most efficiency apartments are found in major metropolitan areas where the housing supply is low. They are often situated near some type of attraction— a theater district, beach, or industry district. You’re less likely to find them, or will find fewer of them, in outer neighborhoods, suburbs, and rural areas. 

To find an efficiency apartment for rent, you can use keywords to make your search easier. The two main search terms are “efficiency” and “bachelor apartment.” You can also try adjusting your filters to see apartments that are under 500 square feet. 

Are utilities typically included in efficiency apartments?

Utilities are sometimes included as part of the rent for an efficiency apartment. It all depends on the way the landlord is managing the property. If the unit is in a luxury building, internet or cable may be offered. Older apartment buildings with boilers typically cover heating costs. Take a close look at the listing and read the fine print in your lease to understand how much of the utilities are covered

How many people can live in an efficiency apartment?

Efficiency apartments are designed with one person in mind. They offer the size and functionality of a dorm room. While dorms may be appropriate for students, they don’t always work for professionals. So, for nearly all renters, sharing an efficiency apartment with a roommate isn’t practical, especially if you are someone who prefers personal space.

However, a minimalist couple who doesn’t work from home could be happy sharing an efficiency apartment. If the apartment fits their needs, there’s no major reason not to take the apartment. 

Are efficiency apartments the smallest type of apartment?

The smallest apartment is usually called a micro-apartment. These are under 350 square feet and can be considered a type of efficiency apartment. Next up are efficiency apartments above 350 square feet, followed by the studio apartment, which are generally between 400 and 700 square feet. Remember, studios use designated spaces in their design through the use of walls, windows, or partial walls. 

Next up we have the loft studio, which is an industrial space that’s been modified and renovated into an apartment. These became very popular during a previous housing shortage, and they typically feature large open floor plans and high ceilings. You can find loft studios as small as 500 square feet or 2,000 square feet or more.

Rounding out our list of small residences is a one-bedroom apartment. Again, these range in size from 500 square feet to more than 2,000 square feet. It all depends on the unit itself. But you should know that a large one-bedroom is hard to find in high-value areas. Most of the time, landlords convert these into two or even three-bedroom units.

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