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What Is an Efficiency Apartment? + How to Find One [2024]

CEO Khai Intela
Living in expensive cities like San Francisco or New York might require renting a smaller space, like efficiency apartments or studios. Efficiency apartments and studio apartments are similar but have a few key differences. Not...

Living in expensive cities like San Francisco or New York might require renting a smaller space, like efficiency apartments or studios. Efficiency apartments and studio apartments are similar but have a few key differences. Not sure which one is right for you? Continue for a breakdown of each along with insight into how to find one in an area you're interested in during your apartment search.

Finding an Efficiency Apartment

What Is an Efficiency Apartment?

Efficiency apartments are units with a single room containing a kitchenette, living room space, bedroom, and bathroom. Efficiency apartments are very similar to studios and the terms may be used interchangeably, but efficiency apartments are typically smaller than studios and come with fewer features. The bathrooms in efficiency apartments are often smaller than the bathrooms you'd find in studios. Instead of a bath and shower, you might just have a shower. You'll also likely have less counter space in your bathroom.

What Is an Efficiency Apartment What Is an Efficiency Apartment

What Is the Difference Between Efficiency Apartments and Studios?

Efficiency apartments are usually smaller and cheaper than studios, often have kitchenettes instead of kitchens, may lack certain other amenities such as storage options, and are best suited for a single tenant. Here’s an in-depth look at the differences between efficiency and studio apartments.

1. Apartment Size

The square footage of studio apartments is typically around 500-600 square feet. In some apartment buildings, you might find much larger studios with open-concept layouts and a large area. Efficiency apartments are almost always going to be a bit smaller than the standard studio.

2. Kitchen Size

Efficiency apartments are usually smaller than a studio because they have a smaller kitchen space. Many studios will feature a full-size, fully-functional kitchen. Studio kitchens will typically come equipped with your typical appliances and adequate counter space.

In an efficiency apartment, you'll likely find some variation of a kitchenette. A kitchenette is a smaller version of a kitchen that has fewer appliances. You’ll probably have things like a mini-fridge and a stovetop with only one or two burners. If cooking isn’t your thing, this setup might be fine for you. If you love cooking, an efficiency apartment wouldn't be your best bet. However, there are ways to optimize organization and make your small kitchen look bigger.

3. Price

Efficiency apartments tend to have slightly lower rents than studios, but the difference isn't too substantial. However, both studio and efficiency apartment renters benefit from lower decorating costs, furnishing costs, and utility bill costs. If you are on a tight budget, these savings might be crucial in your decision between efficiency and studio apartments. If the price difference is negligible, the location, apartment layout, and the apartment building should be your deciding factors.

4. Occupancy

In an efficiency apartment, you pretty much need to live alone. Living with a roommate is going to be extremely cramped. Unless you live a very minimalist lifestyle, it’s best to avoid that situation. In a larger studio, you could make living with a roommate work. It's certainly not ideal, but it's easier to set up a living space with the extra square footage available to you.

Efficiency Apartments vs. Studio Apartments Efficiency Apartments vs. Studio Apartments

How to Find Efficiency Apartments Near You

Efficiency apartments are generally found in converted homes or properties. As studio apartments can be found in nearly any property type, efficiency apartments are much harder to find than studio apartments. Fortunately, using Apartment List can help you whittle down your apartment options, so you can find a tiny apartment that best suits you.

Look for Studio Apartments

If you take our easy quiz to get matched with an apartment, make sure to select "studio" on the first question, which will include efficiencies as well. The price point you set will determine what kind of apartments you'll be shown, and if there are efficiencies in your price range and area, you'll be able to see them in your suggestions.

Search For-Rent-by-Owner Units

Efficiencies are often small rooms inside of homes, so you may have luck if you try our tips for finding for-rent-by-owner apartments.

Benefits of Living in an Efficiency Apartment

There are a few added benefits to living in the small space offered by an efficiency apartment. Don't let the small space scare you away before considering the benefits!

1. Location

Typically, efficiency apartments are located in cities’ downtown centers. If you are looking for an affordable apartment in the middle of a city, you should consider efficiency apartments. You may be able to afford a one-bedroom twenty minutes out of downtown. But if opting for a small apartment allows you to live in the heart of the city, the added benefits are huge. Walk to your favorite downtown spots instead of driving. Walk to the downtown office instead of commuting and sitting in traffic. If living in a lively part of town is your dream, living in a small apartment might get you there.

2. Saving Money

Living in an efficiency apartment could save you tons of money, as efficiency apartments are typically among the cheapest rental units. If you plan on living in a desirable location but have a tight budget, efficiency apartments are a nice affordable option. Rent is always the least expensive for these types of floorplans. Passing up a one-bedroom for an efficiency apartment can save you hundreds in rent. Beyond cheaper rent, you'll see even greater savings from living in a small apartment. You need less furniture, less decor, and will spend less on utilities. Before making a decision, be sure to factor in these savings.

Advantages of Efficiency Apartment Living Advantages of Efficiency Apartment Living

3. Less Space Means Less Clutter & Better Decor

Unfortunately, living in a small studio or efficiency apartment means you have less storage space. The lack of counter space and walk-in closet may be a dealbreaker for some. Others might see it as an opportunity to say goodbye to some of your useless belongings. Moreover, when you’re decorating your efficiency apartment, you’ll find that bolder items are a better pick than collecting knickknacks that end up looking more like clutter than decor.

4. Less to Clean

Can't stand cleaning? Efficiency apartments just may be your perfect match! Rent an apartment with a lot less space and you'll have a lot less to clean. Not only do you have less space to look after, but if you cut back on clothes that means less laundry as well!

Get Matched with an Efficiency Apartment Today

Let Apartment List help you find your next home. Just use the quiz above!

Efficiency Apartment FAQs

What is a Studio Apartment?

Studio apartments are essentially one combined room with a kitchen, bedroom, and living room located within the same space. While a one-bedroom apartment features a living room and bedroom, studio apartments combine the two. Studio apartment floor plans will always include a separate bathroom, either within the unit or a shared bathroom. While you likely won't have the real estate to entertain guests in a studio, it's a solid choice for a renter living alone.

What Appliances Are in an Efficiency Apartment?

Efficiencies distinguish themselves from studios primarily due to their lack of a full kitchen, which means that you may have very few appliances. Some efficiencies come with a mini refrigerator and a burner with one or two stovetops as well as a small sink. However, it's possible to find efficiencies without any major appliances, in which case, you may need to look into purchasing a mini fridge, toaster oven, and/or microwave.

How Do You Cook in an Efficiency Apartment?

Here are 7 options for cooking in an efficiency apartment:

  1. Toaster oven: Beyond toasting bread, you can also create baked goods and even roast flank steak or salmon.
  2. Air fryer: For everything you could fry in oil on your stovetop (only healthier!)
  3. Microwave: From boiling water to popcorn to baked potatoes, you can do just about anything in your microwave.
  4. Rice cookers: Rice cookers not only cook rice but they can also be used to steam veggies and meats for a full meal.
  5. Slow cooker: You can make anything from pot roast to pasta to delicious dips in your slow cooker with minimal effort.
  6. Hot plate: Can replace a stovetop to make almost anything on a griddle, including pancakes and sausage.
  7. Waffle maker: A small waffle maker can also make great paninis and "chaffles" (don't knock them till you try them!)

How Can I Make My Efficiency Apartment Look Bigger?

Here are some tips to make your efficiency apartment look bigger:

  1. Understand the space: Know how big certain approximations are.
  2. Hang curtains: To diffuse light and to make the room appear taller.
  3. Light-colored paint: Light-colored paint generally makes a room feel bigger.
  4. Divide the space into sections: Use the clever placement of furniture to create zones within the space.
  5. Hang mirrors: To create the feeling of a larger room.
  6. Use natural light: Natural light automatically makes a space feel more open.
  7. Utilize hidden storage: Use under-the-bed (and under-the-couch) storage options to hide away your items you don't use every day.
  8. Vertical stripes: Vertical stripes on your walls can make the room feel taller.

Now that you have a better understanding of efficiency apartments and how to find them, you'll be well-equipped to make the right decision for your living situation. Happy apartment hunting!