Smart Ways to Cut Your Utility Bills

​A big slice of the cost of owning a home is what you spend on energy. Average annual energy spending in the U.S. adds up to $1,472 for electricity, $416 for natural gas and $113 for fuel oil and other fuels, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey. (Your own expenses will vary depending on utility costs in your area, the size of your home and how heavily you use energy.)

The federal government encourages energy-efficient home improvements by offering tax credits for certain upgrades. For existing primary residences, putting in energy-efficient windows and doors, furnaces, air conditioners, insulation, water heaters, roofs and some other items qualifies you to take a tax credit of either 10% of the cost or specific amounts ranging from $50 to $300, depending on the improvement. The credit is currently set to expire at the end of 2021, and a lifetime cap of $500 applies to the total value of credits you can get in all tax years after 2005. (A credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax bill.)

You can snag a more lucrative tax credit for certain renewable-energy systems—including solar panels, small wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps—on new and existing residences, including second homes. Congress recently extended the tax break; now you can get a 26% credit for projects placed in service by the end of 2022, or 22% for projects placed in service in 2023.

Check for state and local incentives and rebates, too. Massachusetts homeowners, for example, can take a tax credit of $1,000 or 15% of the cost (whichever is smaller) for installing solar- or wind-energy systems. Some utility companies offer rebates for buying energy-efficient appliances and equipment or making other improvements. To see incentives available in your area, enter your zip code at www.dsireusa.org and www.energystar.gov/rebate-finder.

With Earth Day around the corner, now is a good time to take a look at how you can make your home more energy-efficient. We’ve listed several upgrades that qualify for a federal tax credit and can pay off over time in energy savings (as well as a few that don’t come with a tax break from Uncle Sam but still trim your energy bills; see below). Cost estimates and tax credit amounts include installation unless otherwise noted.

Before you get started, consider investing a few hundred dollars in a home energy audit, performed by a pro who will identify problem areas in your house and suggest fixes. With a blower door test, for example, a powerful fan set in an ex­terior door frame lowers air pressure inside the house, causing higher-pressure air outside to stream in through the house’s openings so the auditor can spot leaks. Auditors may also use infrared cameras, thermometers and furnace-efficiency meters to detect areas that need improvement. You can find a certified auditor in your area through the Residential Energy Services Network at www.hersindex.com. Your utility company may offer energy assessments or rebates for having one performed.

Insulation and air sealing

Cost: From a few hundred dollars for basic, do-it-yourself weather stripping and caulking to a few thousand dollars or more to upgrade insulation in your home.

Savings: An average 15% on heating and cooling costs—or an average 11% on total energy costs—for those who air seal their houses and add insulation in attics and crawl spaces or basements, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Tax credit: 10% of the cost of bulk insulation and air-sealing materials (installation costs are not eligible).

Ensuring that the inside of your home is protected from exterior cold air in the winter and warm air in the summer is one of the most cost-effective ways to save energy. That’s especially true in colder climates, although homes everywhere benefit from better insulation. “The more a house exchanges air with the outdoors, the less efficient it is,” says John Hensley, quality assurance director for consulting and inspection company Building Performance Solutions. Sealing and in­sulating your home may even allow you to invest in a smaller heating and air conditioning system when you upgrade it.

Adding weather stripping and caulk around window and door trims that are leaking air is a relatively easy and low-cost place to start. When it comes to larger sealing and insulation projects—for which you’ll likely want help from a contractor—focusing on the attic, which tends to have greater exposure to heat, cold and moisture than other parts of the house, often makes sense. Basements and crawl spaces are prime places to beef up insulation, too. And when you replace your roof and siding, you may want to add insulation over the roof sheathing or to your walls, says Jennifer Amann, buildings program director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Heating and air conditioning

Cost: About $5,000 to $12,000 to upgrade both heating and cooling systems, depending on the size and efficiency of the units.

Savings: Replacing a heat pump or air conditioner that is more than 10 years old with a high-efficiency unit can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs, according to Energy Star. Certified gas furnaces are up to 15% more energy-efficient than standard models and can save up to $85 a year in energy costs.

Tax credit: Up to $300 for qualifying central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps; up to $150 for qualifying gas, oil or propane furnaces and boilers.

If your heat pump or air conditioner is more than 10 years old, or if your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old, it may be coming due for a replacement. Along with choosing an energy-efficient unit, “one of the most important things is to make sure a contractor comes out and does a full assessment of your current equipment needs rather than just saying that you have a 4-ton system and need to replace it with a 4-ton system,” says Amann. To start, it’s possible that your current unit was not sized or installed properly. A professional should ensure that your new system is the appropriate size for the ductwork and refrigerant lines connected to it, says Hensley. And if you’ve made other upgrades that enhance your home’s efficiency, such as putting in new windows or adding insulation, that may affect the size of the equipment you need, too.

A professional can help guide you through the best options to update your heating and cooling system and whether switching from one type to another makes sense. You might want to consider replacing both your air conditioning and heating system with an air-source heat pump, which can produce significant energy savings. (We’re not talking about underground, geothermal heat pumps, which can cost $10,000 or more with installation.) Air-source heat pumps use the surrounding air to heat and cool your home, so they rely on electricity to move heat rather than to generate it, making them highly energy-efficient. Historically, such heat pumps have been best suited to warm and moderate climates. But thanks to advances in the technology, they’re becoming a more feasible option in areas where temperatures frequently dip below freezing. When an air-source heat pump replaces heating and cooling units in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, annual savings average $459 compared with electric resistance heaters and $948 compared with oil systems, according to Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships.

Windows

Cost: Replacing all of the windows in your home is one of the most expensive improvements on our list, but the savings on your energy bills and increased comfort make it worth serious consideration. Double-hung replacement windows with frames can range from $400 to $1,600 or more per window (including installation), depending on the brand and whether you choose vinyl or wood. Vinyl windows cost less and require less maintenance, and the frames can be filled with insulating foam.

Savings: Replacing single-pane windows with Energy Star–certified windows can save you from about $100 to nearly $600 in household energy bills a year for an average-size home, according to estimates by D&R International, an environmental consulting firm.

Tax credit: 10% of the cost of any Energy Star–certified windows (not including installation), up to $200. Energy Star skylights and doors are also eligible for a 10% credit.

Look for the Energy Star label, which means that the products meet the energy-saving criteria set by the Environmental Protection Agency. In the case of windows and doors, the key performance parameters are U-factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC), according to Enesta Jones, senior press officer for the EPA. U-factor is a measure of heat flow through the product (insulating power), and SHGC is a measure of the amount of heat from the sun that will pass through a window. Skylights, or tubular daylighting devices, which gather sunlight at the roof and transmit it down into the home through a diffusing lens, use the same technology as energy-efficient windows, and they naturally light your home.

All Energy Star windows, doors and skylights save energy (and help the environment), but the standards vary by region. Windows that meet the Energy Star specification in the southern U.S. generally cost less than windows that meet the standard in the northern U.S., which require more-expensive glass. To find your zone, go to www.energystar.gov and search for “climate zone.”

Water heaters

Cost: From about $1,000 to $2,000 to install a tank heater; up to $5,000 for a tankless heater.

Savings: An Energy Star gas storage water heater uses 10% less energy than a standard model, and a family of four can save hundreds of dollars in energy costs over its lifetime, according to Energy Star. With an electric heat pump water heater, a family of four can save as much as $3,750.

Tax credit: Up to $300 for qualifying gas, oil, propane or electric heat pump water heaters.

Heating water uses a significant amount of energy in many homes—an average 12% of residential energy consumption, according to Energy Star. In most climates, it’s the second-highest component of residential energy bills, after heating and air conditioning, and in mild climates it may be the biggest energy user, says Amann.

New gas water heaters are considerably more efficient than past versions and may save you about $25 per month when you replace an older model, says Hensley. And tankless water heaters are worth a look, although their up-front costs are higher than tank heaters. They heat water on demand instead of regularly warming it in a tank, which means they can be about 24% to 34% more efficient than conventional tank heaters, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

You may see substantial energy savings by switching to a heat pump for water heating. “If you’re in a home with an electric resistance water heater, in almost all situations a heat pump water heater will be a beneficial investment for you,” says Amann. They typically cost at least $1,200 without installation, compared with as little as a few hundred dollars for a standard electric heater. But they use about one-third of the electricity, she says. Because a heat pump uses the air surrounding it to heat water, you can’t put it in a tight space, such as a small closet. But it should be a viable option in most homes.  

Roofing

Cost: About $120 to $150 or more per 100 square feet for asphalt shingles. Metal roofing may cost $200 to $900 per 100 square feet. With installation, total costs may run $5,000 to $15,000 or more.

Savings: About 7% to 15% of total cooling costs, according to the Cool Roof Rating Council.  

Tax credit: 10% of the cost of certified metal and asphalt roofs with pigmented coatings or cooling granules to reduce heat gain (installation costs aren’t eligible).

“Cool roofs” reflect sunlight more effectively than standard roofs, cutting down on heat absorption and potentially lowering surface temperatures by 50 degrees or more. Energy Star–certified roof products may reduce peak cooling demand by 10% to 15% in the hottest months. On the downside, cool roofs can increase heating costs in the winter, although “this annual heating penalty is usually small compared with the annual cooling savings, because roofs in cold climates tend to receive much less sunlight in winter than in summer,” according to the Cool Roof Rating Council. Using cool materials often makes the most economic sense if you have a flat roof because of how heat is distributed underneath it in your home.

White roofs are the most reflective, providing the greatest potential for energy savings. But you may be able to find qualifying materials in darker, more traditional colors. Asphalt roofs cost less than metal roofs, but metal is more durable, potentially lasting for decades longer than asphalt roofs.

Solar panels

Cost: An average $2.81 per watt, according to Energy­Sage. Many homeowners install a system of about 8 kilowatts, for a total of $22,480 before tax credits and other incentives.

Savings: As much as 100% of the cost of your electric bills. Recouping the cost of installing solar power in savings on your energy bills typically takes anywhere from five to 12 years.

Tax credit: 26% for solar projects placed in service by the end of 2022 or 22% for projects placed in service in 2023.

Harnessing the sun’s rays to power your home has become a more appealing prospect thanks to falling prices for solar panels, as well as tax credits and other breaks that take a significant chunk out of the bill. The 26% federal tax credit would cut the $22,480 average price for installing an 8-kilowatt system down to $16,635, and your state, locality or utility company may offer more incentives.

In deciding whether and how to install solar panels, you have a few major considerations, says Vikram Aggarwal, CEO and founder of EnergySage, an online marketplace where homeowners can collect bids from solar-energy installers. First, you need somewhere to put the panels—most homeowners install them on their roof, but those with plenty of land may put them in their backyard. If you want to place panels on your roof, it must have enough space to accommodate them and receive adequate sunlight, with minimal blockage from trees or buildings. Panels are typically installed on the south-facing side of a roof.

You also have to evaluate the size of the system you’ll need, based on your electricity consumption. Generally, you can get by with a smaller system in a sunny climate than you can for a similar home in areas that receive less sunlight. Energy­Sage has a calculator to help you judge how large of a system you may need and how much you could save by installing solar panels.

Overall costs will typically be lowest and savings highest with a solar-power system you purchase outright. With a lease, you host a solar-power system and send the solar company a fixed monthly payment. With a power purchase agreement (PPA), you pay the company for the electricity that the system you host generates. A lease or PPA may have no up-front cost for you, but you don’t get the tax credit because you don’t own the system.

Alternatively, you can finance a solar system with a loan. Tapping a home-equity line of credit (recent average rate for a $30,000 line of credit: 4.73%, according to Bankrate) is often a good option. Or you may be able to obtain a solar loan through your installer or from a bank or credit union. Online lender LightStream recently offered rates ranging from 3.99% to 14.49% for a term of 24 to 36 months for a solar loan of $10,000 to $24,999, or 6.99% to 16.29% for a term of 73 months to 84 months.

Solar renewable-energy certificates, or SRECs, allow homeowners in some areas—including Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.—to sell the energy their solar power systems generate to utility companies. Each 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity your system produces is one SREC, and each SREC may be worth anywhere from about $10 or $20 up to a few hundred dollars.

Is a wind turbine right for you?

The potential for wind power isn’t limited to the massive wind farms scattered across the U.S. plains or the clusters of windmills in farmers’ fields. In fact, the federal government offers a tax credit of 26% through 2022 (dropping to 22% in 2023) for those who install a small wind turbine at their residence. But unless you have a lot of land, consistent winds and significant cash to invest, a wind-energy system probably doesn’t make sense.

Generally, you need at least one to two acres of clear land to put up a wind turbine. It should be placed upwind of buildings and trees and stand at least 30 feet higher than any object within 300 feet of it, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Many towers are at least 80 to 100 feet tall. That may be a problem if your community has zoning requirements that restrict the height of structures on residential properties. Your region should have average wind speeds of at least 10 miles per hour to power a turbine.

For a turbine that can produce 10 kilowatts of power—which could supply enough energy for a 2,500-square-foot house that uses about 2,000 kilowatts of electricity per month—you may pay upward of $50,000 before tax breaks or rebates.

Other ways to trim your energy bill

These environmentally friendly products don’t qualify for a federal tax break, but check EnergyStar.gov or your utility provider for rebates.

Light bulbs. Although compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can initially cost a little more than standard light bulbs—typically about $2 more for each CFL and $4 more for LEDs—they ultimately save you money because you spend less on your energy bill. They also last longer than incandescent light bulbs. The Department of Energy says that households that replace incandescent bulbs in the five most-used fixtures with Energy Star bulbs can save $75 annually.

Energy Star appliances. Energy Star–rated appliances are another great way to reduce your energy bill. For example, using soil sensors, improved water filtration and more-efficient jets, the latest Energy Star dishwashers (ranging from about $700 to $2,000) will save, on average, 3,870 gallons of water over their lifetime. A list of the most-efficient Energy Star appliances is at http://energystar.gov/most-efficient.

Power strips. Even electronics that are turned off use electricity when they are plugged in, typically accounting for as much as 10% of your electric bill, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. A power strip ($10 to $15) lets you easily turn off appliances plugged into it, reducing “vampire” energy usage. Smart power strips, such as timer power strips or motion-sensor power strips, can automatically turn off outlets.

Programmable thermostat. Smart therm­ostats, such as the Google Nest and Ecobee, which cost about $130 to $250 (check your energy company for rebates), let you control and schedule your heating and cooling settings using voice control or via an app. Many smart thermostats also come with motion sensors to help optimize your energy use. If you don’t want to tie your thermostat to your Wi-Fi (some homeowners have reported being hacked), you can also realize savings with a simple programmable model (about $20 to $150).

Home energy monitor. To get a bead on your home’s energy use, try a home energy monitor. It will provide details on your energy usage and recommendations on how to save. Some energy monitors, such as the Sense energy monitor, also allow you to monitor energy production of solar panels. Cost: $299.

Source: kiplinger.com

With Florida’s Luxury Market Sizzling, Here Are the State’s 10 Most Expensive Homes>

As the cold weather continues in most of the nation, temperatures in Florida are sizzling—and so is the real estate market.

It’s difficult to keep up with the dizzying pace of high-dollar deals in the Sunshine State.

To recap February thus far: Only a month after landing on the market for $140 million, a brand-new Palm Beach mansion wound up selling for $122.7 million. The golf legend Greg Norman’s cool compound on Jupiter Island recently listed for $60 million and has already landed an offer. David Tepper, the owner of the Carolina Panthers, just spent $73 million on a brand-new mansion—also in Palm Beach.

Big money has migrated south, and Florida’s luxury market is off to a blistering start in 2021.

With multimillion-dollar mansions flying off the market, we wanted to take stock of what’s left at the top end of Florida real estate. And we have great news: For deep-pocketed buyers still on the sidelines, there are plenty of other opportunities to shine.

Plenty of mansions with enormous price tags are still out there. Slather on the SPF 50 and have a look at the 10 priciest places currently available in Florida.

Price: $115 million

Known as Gemini, this giant, 62,200-square-foot compound has both Atlantic Ocean and Lake Worth frontage, with 360-degree waterfront views. It’s been languishing on the market for years and was once listed for as much as $195 million back in 2016.

Built in 2002, it has plenty of space, with 33 bedrooms, 38 full bathrooms, and 14 half-bathrooms.

The main house has 12 bedrooms, each of the four cottages on the beach has two bedrooms, another house has seven, and of course there are guest and staff houses.

For fun, owners and guests can choose a bottle of wine from the wine cellar, swim in the pool, putt on the PGA standard golf area, hit some balls on the tennis court, play basketball, work out in the gym, or relax in the spa.

To relax, you can stroll through the botanical gardens, which feature 1,500 species of tropical plants.

2000 S. Ocean Blvd, Manalapan, FL
2000 S. Ocean Blvd, Manalapan, FL

realtor.com

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Price: $110 million

Built in 2003, this 28,399-square-foot Mediterranean mansion on Billionaires’ Row has seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and six half-bathrooms.

It sits on 2 acres right on the ocean, with an ivy-covered, cloistered courtyard surrounding the pool.

1341 S. Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL
1341 S. Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL

realtor.com

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Price: $95 million

If you want a bit more space, how about your own island? Known as Pumpkin Key, the 26-acre island sits in Card Sound Bay in the Florida Keys, near Key Largo.

It’s a short helicopter ride away from Miami and a brief boat ride to shore.

Right now, there’s a 5,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home on the island, which was built in 1985. It has loads of entertaining space, with an indoor-outdoor feel and a huge pool.

There are also two caretaker’s cottages and a dock master’s apartment near a 20-slip marina that can handle megayachts.

The island’s landscape is lush, and there’s room for several more homes. Tennis courts in the center of the island also serve as a helipad.

10 Cannon Pt, Key Largo, FL
10 Cannon Pt, Key Largo, FL

realtor.com

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Price: $84 million

Completed this year, this brand-new, 18,000-square-foot mansion also sits on Billionaires’ Row.

Inspired by the homes in Bermuda, this estate offers 175 feet of direct oceanfront. It has seven bedrooms with ocean views, as well as two kitchens and oversize living spaces.

The lower level has a wine cellar with room for 4,000 bottles, a home theater, and a fitness center. Guests can stay in the two-bedroom guesthouse.

901 N Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL
901 N Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL

realtor.com

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Price: $78.5 million

This 7,686-square-foot contemporary home is on a large lot at the tip of Palm Beach, with views of Palm Beach Inlet.

Built in 2020, the seven-bedroom home has water views of both the ocean and the inlet. Outside is an infinity pool along with tons of outdoor patio space.

Inside, luxe amenities include a theater room, a sauna, and gym—all with a modern feel.

149 E. Inlet Dr, Palm Beach, FL
149 E. Inlet Dr, Palm Beach, FL

realtor.com

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Price: $56 million

Never lived in, this 17,190-square-foot home was completed in 2019. The two-story contemporary residence has an abundance of natural light, with doors that open to allow for cross breezes and indoor-outdoor living.

Dubbed Lago-a-Lago, the six-bedroom house is being offered fully furnished. For aquatic aficionados, there are docks in both the front and back yard.

520 Island Dr, Palm Beach, FL
520 Island Dr, Palm Beach, FL

realtor.com

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Price: $49.9 million

Sitting on a V-shaped point on Biscayne Bay, this nearly 19,000-square-foot house, finished in 2018, has a dazzling modern design and views of the open ocean and downtown Miami.

Walls of glass showcase the views and allow for a seamless transition between indoors and outdoors. The highlight of the outdoor space is a gorgeous glass mosaic pool with an artistic pattern.

The eight bedrooms include a master suite with a grand entrance, a custom dressing room, and a spa bathroom.

The boat dock is 140 feet long and can accommodate a megayacht of up to 200 feet. Meanwhile, the captain of your yacht can enjoy the captain’s quarters.

41 Arvida Pkwy, Coral Gables, FL
41 Arvida Pkwy, Coral Gables, FL

realtor.com

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Price: $49.5 million

Nestled among the stark white modern homes on Palm Beach’s Billionaires’ Row is La Salona—a mansion built in 1928.

With its 19,434 square feet of living space on almost an acre, this Mediterranean beauty has belonged to the same owner for three decades.

The house boasts 16 bedrooms and includes a three-bedroom apartment on the first floor and another three-bedroom apartment on the second floor.

172 S. Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL
172 S. Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL

realtor.com

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Price: $48.5 million

Surrounded by 674 species of trees and plants, this 13,465-square-foot estate measures 2.38 acres.

Built in 2007, the two-story home has 245 feet of waterfront and direct access to Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. And of course, the private dock can handle a large yacht.

Inside, the 12 bedrooms and nine full bathrooms each have unique design features. The compound also has its own chapel, wine cellar, and home theater.

8901 Arvida Ln, Coral Gables, FL
8901 Arvida Ln, Coral Gables, FL

realtor.com

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Price: $46.75 million

The ocean is the backyard at this 17,370-square-foot Mediterranean estate. Built in 1991, the seven-bedroom home offers a master bedroom on the main floor and plenty of living space.

The interior is ornate, with plenty of Old World charm, combined with modern conveniences.

It’s located in the exclusive Seminole Landing neighborhood, and could potentially be subdivided to allow for the development of a family compound or additional structures.

12210 Banyan Rd, North Palm Beach, FL
12210 Banyan Rd, North Palm Beach, FL

realtor.com

Source: realtor.com

Penthouse Apartments: Everything You Need to Know

Picture a large, bustling city complete with taxi cabs, crowds of people and skyscrapers. Now imagine taking an elevator to the top floor of a high-rise apartment or condominium building and entering the most luxurious unit in the building. There are no other apartment units on either side, only impressive views of the city below. You’ve entered the penthouse apartment.

What is a penthouse?

Penthouse apartment with modern decor in shades of gray and brown with a city in the background.Penthouse apartment with modern decor in shades of gray and brown with a city in the background.

A penthouse is a unit located on the top floor of the building. It’s usually the most luxurious, spacious and expensive unit in the building with the most amenities. A penthouse apartment can have vaulted ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and striking city views.

In addition to these features, penthouses will also have more square footage, top-of-the-line appliances and other features that are not included in other units in the building. Penthouses are generally the nicest rental available and include everything you could ever imagine yourself wanting or needing in a home.

Before penthouses became the most expensive type of rental units, they were originally the space that live-in servants occupied. The word “penthouse” refers to a smaller house located on the roof of a building. Nowadays, penthouses are a symbol of status and prestige. If you can afford to live in the penthouse apartment, you’re part of a select crowd of people.

How much is a penthouse?

Because penthouses are the best unit in the building with the most space, nicest features and best views, the price tag matches. According to data, penthouses can cost 5 to 15 percent more per square foot compared to other units in the same building.

Penthouse prices depend on location, as well. For example, penthouse apartments in New York will be more expensive than penthouse apartments in smaller, less populated cities.

To give you a taste of the prices though, penthouse apartments in New York can cost anywhere from $75,000 to $125,000 or more per month!

The pros of living in a penthouse apartment

Long white couch in a penthouse apartment with art and a TV on the walls with an outside deck that looks towards a city skyline.Long white couch in a penthouse apartment with art and a TV on the walls with an outside deck that looks towards a city skyline.

So, we’ve illustrated what a penthouse apartment is, now let’s dive into the pros of living in a penthouse.

Amazing views

There is no denying that when you have a penthouse apartment, you’ll have amazing views of the city. From the top floor, you’ll see the skyline, the twinkling lights of buildings and the surrounding landscape for miles on end. Penthouses usually have lots of windows, so you can sit on your couch and look out at the city from the comfort of your own home. You’ll have the view that tourists pay for when they visit your hometown.

Luxurious living space

Penthouses come equipped with several amenities that most people only dream of. From vaulted ceilings that make the room feel larger than it is to high-end appliances that look nice and function well, your penthouse apartment will feel upscale and beautiful — and that’s because it is. When you pay penthouse prices, you’re paying for a luxurious living space.

Privacy

When you live in a big, busy city, you often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of people everywhere you go. Living in a penthouse, you have more privacy than the average person. You can ride the elevator to the top floor, avoid noisy neighbors and escape the loud city. Penthouses offer an added level of privacy, which is a perk for many people who wish to live in a big city but have some quiet alone time, too.

Status and prestige

Another perk of renting a penthouse apartment is the status and prestige that comes with it. Penthouses have a ring to them — people know the status associated with the word penthouse. So, if you’re looking to impress others with your home, penthouses can do just that.

Additional amenities and services

If you live in a penthouse apartment, you’ll likely get additional services and amenities included in the price of rent. These can include an apartment concierge, a private entrance, a separate elevator and additional security features. This is an appealing perk if you need added security or discretion in the place you call home.

The cons of living in a penthouse apartment

Dark couch in a dark penthouse apartment at night with a cityscape in the background.Dark couch in a dark penthouse apartment at night with a cityscape in the background.

While there are several pros to living in a penthouse, there are some negative aspects to consider, as well. Here are a few cons to penthouse living.

Cost

The price of a penthouse is a downside — even if you can afford the monthly rent. You’ll need to consider if you want to pay that much per month and if that’s where you want your money to go.

Rent is pricier, and so are utilities. Because penthouses are on the top floor, you’re going to have more direct sunlight which can spike the cost of air conditioning in the summer. Likewise, with all the glass from the floor-to-ceiling windows, it can get chilly in the winter months and you’ll need to run the heating unit more often to keep warm.

Some of the pros of a penthouse — location, windows, views — can themselves be a con and add cost to the already expensive price of rent. If you are considering a penthouse apartment, think how much it’s going to cost to rent and pay utilities each month.

Availability

Penthouses are hard to come by because they are popular with the rich and famous. If you’re interested in renting a penthouse, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for openings and hop on the opportunity when it comes available. This is frustrating if you’re looking to rent now and there are not many options currently available.

Noisy rooftop

While the penthouse is the topmost apartment unit, several buildings have rooftop features like gardens, bars and pools. You may have to deal with a noisy rooftop scene even though you have a penthouse apartment. Also, a lot of utility equipment is stored on the top floor, so you may deal with noise from that, as well.

How to find a penthouse for rent

If you’ve decided that renting a penthouse apartment is right for you, then you can start your search immediately. Determine which city you want to live in, how much you can afford in monthly rent and what features the penthouse needs to include and you’re well on your way to renting a luxurious penthouse with amazing views.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

$16.9M French Provincial Mansion Near NOLA Is Louisiana’s Most Expensive Home

Now on the market for $16,895,000, a mansion built to the most exacting specifications has achieved the distinction of being Louisiana’s most expensive home.

Owned by Shane Guidry, CEO of Harvey Gulf International Marine, and his wife, Holly, the house on Northline Street in Metairie, LA, just outside New Orleans, is a 15,230-square-foot French Provincial masterpiece.

“It took him three years to design and build this, and they used the most high-end products in this house that you may ever come across,” says the listing manager, Peggy Bruce, who is working with the listing agent, Shaun McCarthy.

“It’s an outstanding home. When you think of luxury, this is what that entails,” she says.

For starters, to make sure there was enough marble for the ground floor and that all the marble matched, the Guidrys bought the entire quarry in Italy.

“It’s 24-by-24 marble flooring that is just luxurious. The veins are just beautiful, and it all just kind of flows together, because it all came from one quarry,” says Bruce.

Exterior
Exterior

Nola Real Estate Marketing and Photography

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Entry

Nola Real Estate Marketing and Photography

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Entry

Nola Real Estate Marketing and Photography

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Interior

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Quite apart from its ultra-sleek appearance, the marble flooring is heated in the first floor master bedroom and bathroom.

“In the master bathroom, it’s a walk-in shower, and there’s a clawfoot soaking tub in the front of the shower,” Bruce says. “The walk-in has two entrances and four shower-heads. It’s got hand-carved mosaic tile in the shower.”

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Watch: This Ghirardelli Family Home Is a Feast for the Eyes

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In the master closet and elsewhere in the home, the cabinet hardware is solid silver.

“It’s tremendous. Everything was hand-milled and hand-carved—custom-done,” she says.

The enormous kitchen offers an array of custom cabinetry, a chandelier, and a large island with plenty of room for seating.

Kitchen
Kitchen

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Kitchen
Kitchen

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Kitchen and dining area

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The mansion in the town’s Metairie Club Gardens neighborhood has a total of six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and four half-bathrooms, all with tall ceilings. In the entry, the ceilings are 24 feet high.

“It’s dramatic,” Bruce says, adding that the owners purchased many antique fixtures in Europe and brought them back, rewired them, and included them in their design.

“You go into a lot of homes that look like this on the outside, and you expect the inside to be a little gaudy,” she says. “This is so tastefully done. It is beautifully appointed. Everything just flows perfectly.”

Home theater
Home theater

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Home theater
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Many of the home’s features are connected to automated technology, and can be controlled via a mobile device or remote, including the home theater.

Bruce explains that it has leather seats for 15 people and includes a digital ceiling that can be set either to clouds, or to the night sky, with twinkling stars.

Spa
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There’s also a full spa with a massage room, wet and dry saunas, and hair and nail stations.

Canine friends can enjoy an indoor dog home and washing station.

Outdoor space
Outdoor space

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Outdoor space
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Outdoor space
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Outdoor kitchen
Outdoor kitchen

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Outside, there’s a large outdoor kitchen, along with a petite pool.

“It’s a cocktail pool”—a small pool with steps, Bruce explains. “It’s not very deep at all. It’s really for just lounging and sipping cocktails or just kind of cooling off if it’s a hot summer night or summer day.”

In addition to the three-car garage, there’s room to park a variety of vehicles on the half-acre property.

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The owners purchased the land in 2011 for $1.2 million, and Bruce says they poured at least $15 million into building this dream home. But times change, and the family is moving out of town to pursue other interests.

“I think the perfect buyer for this home is someone that values being in the New Orleans area and understands what went into this house—because it is a hefty price,” Bruce says.

The pool of buyers looking for this type of home in the New Orleans area is not large, and Bruce says the future owner might be someone from out of town.

“Beyoncé put a play on this house a few years back, and the owner wasn’t interested in selling at that time,” she says. “We have tried to reach out to Beyoncé using some connections we have, but haven’t received a response yet.”

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Bedroom

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Living space

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Wine room

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Living space

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  • For more photos and details, check out the full listing.
  • Homes for sale in Metairie, LA
  • Learn more about Metairie, LA

Source: realtor.com

Top Sales: Waterfront stunners were the must-have homes in January

Trophy homes sold like hotcakes to close out 2020, but Southern California’s luxury market was a bit quieter in the new year. January saw some surprising sales in unexpected places, with a home in Corona del Mar selling for more than any property in the Platinum Triangle of Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills and Bel-Air.

Here’s a closer look at the priciest deals that went down last month in Southern California.

$25.37 million — Santa Barbara

For the second straight month, Santa Barbara County had Southern California’s most expensive home sale. This one belonged to Mark Mitchell, a managing partner of Lorient Capital, who found a buyer after the home was on the market for nearly a year.

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Designed by the Warner Group of Montecito, the impressive estate spans 3.7 acres in Hope Ranch, a ritzy equestrian community overlooking the ocean. The property is perched on a knoll and descends to 204 feet of water frontage.

Expansive, chandelier-topped living spaces feature walls of glass that take in the Pacific. Amenities include a movie theater and three built-in saltwater aquariums.

In addition to the 10,000-square-foot mansion, there’s a swimming pool, spa, tennis court and guest unit set among rose gardens and palm trees.

$23.5 million — Malibu

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There’s fame in the floorboards of this ultra-stylish, all-black home on the beach in Malibu. It was once owned by action star Jason Statham, who sold it last year to Morphe co-founder Chris Tawil; he flipped it last month for a $5-million profit.

Statham is known for his striking taste in homes, and this one is no different. The bold, black exterior gives way to chic common spaces covered in white oak. A wall of logs frames a brick fireplace in the living room. There are two kitchens — in the main house and guesthouse — four bedrooms and four bathrooms.

Angled French doors open to multiple decks and patios that hover above the beach.

$21.5 million — Malibu

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A short walk down the sand from Statham’s former place leads to January’s third-priciest property. Records show it was bought by a limited liability company tied to Ken Moelis, the billionaire banker who founded Moelis & Co.

The Mediterranean-style home makes the most of its quarter-acre lot with a gated courtyard in front and a spacious wood deck out back. Upstairs, the primary suite boasts a view of the ocean from a private balcony.

The 4,600-square-foot home has an open floor plan with a sleek kitchen and living room with a fireplace. The dining area tacks on a wall of wine storage.

$16.65 million — Corona del Mar

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A new abode found its first owner last month when a modern mansion in the Newport Beach neighborhood of Corona del Mar traded hands for $16.65 million, making it one of the community’s most costly sales in recent memory.

The dramatic mansion was marketed with a long list of designer elements and amenities, as well as a lifestyle: It incorporates the Darwin Premier Wellness Ecosystem, a sensor-monitoring platform that handles air filtration, water purification and circadian lighting.

A sculptural helix staircase navigates the floor plan, descending to a lounge with a garden wall, billiards room, wine cellar and wet bar. Out back, a 900-square-foot terrace adds a reflecting pool.

$15.75 million — Montecito

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The largest home on the list, this French country manor spans more than 12,000 square feet, with the Santa Ynez Mountains above and the Pacific Ocean below. It had been waffling on and off the market for the last two years, originally listing for $22.45 million in 2019, records show.

Recently renovated and expanded, the walled and gated estate sits on 4.5 acres and includes a guest suite, pool house, tennis court, multiple stables and water features such as a saltwater pool, stream and koi pond surrounded by vegetable gardens and citrus groves.

Inside, formal living spaces feature wainscoting, molding, custom fireplaces and beamed ceilings. Most rooms open to the outdoors, including the primary suite, dining area, kitchen, living room and gym.

Source: latimes.com

The 10 Worst Climate Disasters in U.S. History

Woman outside her ruined home after a natural disaster or fire
Vlad Teodor / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on Porch.

One impact of climate change is that the number and severity of climate-related disasters is on the rise.

With the warming of the planet, several factors combine to make extreme weather more common.

Higher temperatures are more likely to produce heat waves and drought conditions, which increase the likelihood of wildfires. Warmer air can hold more water vapor, which leads to wetter storms, and with them, more flooding. Increased heat and evaporation have also combined to make tropical cyclones more common and more severe in recent years.

The financial consequences of these trends are enormous. Loss of life, property damage, infrastructure failures and business interruptions are some of the widely felt direct consequences when more intense natural disasters occur.

In the U.S., the costs associated with so-called billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events — those in which total damages exceeded $1 billion in today’s dollars — have grown sharply over the last decade, from a five-year annual average of $29.2 billion in 2010 to $121.4 billion in 2020.

Apart from direct damages, even the threat of weather disasters can have financial impacts. Property values in vulnerable areas may shift downward as severe weather disasters become more likely. Insurers can charge higher rates or make coverage harder to obtain for properties that could be at risk. And property owners may find themselves paying a premium for structures that are resistant to weather-related damage.

To find the worst disasters, researchers analyzed data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and ranked events based on their estimated cost in 2020 dollars.

Following is the list of the worst climate disasters in U.S. history.

10. U.S. drought/heatwave

Hot sun
aapsky / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: 2012
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $34.5 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $30 billion
  • Number of deaths: 123
  • Most impacted area: Midwest and West

High temperatures and low moisture brought on the most severe drought the U.S. had seen in decades during the summer of 2012. Drought conditions and more than two months of heat waves were directly responsible for more than 100 deaths and billions in economic losses due to failed harvests for crops like corn and soybeans.

9. Hurricane Ike

Hurricane Ike causing flooding in Florida
forestpath / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: September 2008
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $36.9 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $30 billion
  • Number of deaths: 112
  • Most impacted area: Texas

After hitting Cuba as a Category 4 storm several days earlier, Hurricane Ike made landfall as a Category 2 storm near Galveston, Texas, on Sept. 13, 2008.

Ike damaged or destroyed more than 75% of the homes in Galveston and brought widespread damage elsewhere in eastern Texas. Damage totaled $30 billion.

8. Midwest flooding

Flooding
Brymer / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: Summer 1993
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $38.1 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $21 billion
  • Number of deaths: 48
  • Most impacted area: Midwest

The Midwest experienced unusually high precipitation from rain and snow in 1992 and the first half of 1993.

As a result, parts of the Upper Mississippi River were at flood levels for almost 200 days in some locations, while the Missouri River basin experienced flood levels for nearly 100 days.

The ongoing floods destroyed tens of thousands of homes and inundated millions of acres of farmland.

7. U.S. drought/heatwave

high temperatures
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: Summer 1988
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $45 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $20 billion
  • Number of deaths: 454
  • Most impacted area: Midwest, West, Southeast

As the worst drought the U.S. had seen since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the drought of 1988 covered nearly half of the United States at its peak, and continued as late as 1990 in some locations.

The persistent hot, dry conditions led to billions of dollars in losses from crops and livestock, along with wildfires in Yellowstone National Park that burned nearly 800,000 acres.

6. Hurricane Andrew

Homes destroyed by Hurricane Andrew
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  • Date: August 1992
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $50.8 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $27 billion
  • Number of deaths: 61
  • Most impacted area: Florida and Louisiana

The 1992 Atlantic hurricane season’s first major storm was one of the most powerful on record. Andrew is only one of four hurricanes ever to make landfall in the U.S. as a Category 5 storm, with winds reaching nearly 174 miles per hour.

The storm ripped through southern Florida before re-emerging in the Gulf of Mexico and making a second landfall on the Louisiana coast several days later, causing more than $27 billion in damage.

5. Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma flooding in Florida
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  • Date: September 2017
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $52.5 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $50 billion
  • Number of deaths: 97
  • Most impacted area: Florida and South Carolina

2017’s hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season remains the costliest on record, and Hurricane Irma is one of the major reasons why.

After making landfall as a Category 4, Irma carved a path northward through the heart of Florida and into the southeastern U.S., bringing coastal flooding to Georgia and South Carolina as well. The storm’s damage totaled $50 billion.

4. Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane
Harvepino / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: October 2012
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $74.8 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $65 billion
  • Number of deaths: 159
  • Most impacted area: New York and New Jersey

At more than 900 miles in diameter, Hurricane (or Superstorm) Sandy was felt in 24 states, but Sandy is most remembered for its damage to the Mid-Atlantic region. After following a path north along the Atlantic coast, Sandy made an unusual westward turn into New York and New Jersey before merging with another storm system. Flooding and storm damage in New York City and other major East Coast metros contributed to Sandy’s $65 billion in damage.

3. Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria damage in Puerto Rico
Sheryl Chapman / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: September 2017
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $94.5 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $90 billion
  • Number of deaths: 2,981
  • Most impacted area: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Another one of 2017’s major hurricanes, Hurricane Maria brought catastrophic damage to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

With the region still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Irma from two weeks prior, Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 4 storm.

Storm surge, heavy rains, and high winds leveled neighborhoods and destroyed much of Puerto Rico’s power grid, causing $90 billion in damage and nearly 3,000 deaths.

2. Hurricane Harvey

storm
AMFPhotography / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: August 2017
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $131.3 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $125 billion
  • Number of deaths: 89
  • Most impacted area: Texas

The costliest of the storms from the catastrophic 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Harvey also holds the distinction of being the wettest tropical cyclone on record.

Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, but it was the storm’s prolonged stall over Houston and the Gulf Coast that made Harvey so expensive.

Over several days, Harvey dropped more than 5 feet of rain in some locations, causing floods that produced $125 billion in damage.

1. Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina flooding damage
Stratos Brilakis / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: August 2005
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $170 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $125 billion
  • Number of deaths: 1,833
  • Most impacted area: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama

Hurricane Katrina is perhaps remembered more for the infamously mismanaged government response than for the damage of the storm itself, but Katrina brought widespread devastation to the Gulf Coast. After reaching Category 5 strength in the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina eventually made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 3. Storm surge and heavy rains led to catastrophic failures in New Orleans’ flood protection infrastructure, leaving most of the city underwater for weeks. At $170 billion in 2020 dollars, Katrina remains the most expensive climate disaster in U.S. history.

Methodology and detailed findings

A man studies financial data at his computer
NicoElNino / Shutterstock.com

To determine which climate disasters were the worst in U.S. history, researchers analyzed data from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information’s (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2021) report. Weather events were ranked according to their CPI-adjusted estimated cost (adjusted to 2020 dollars).

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Your Complete Buckhead, Atlanta Neighborhood Guide

This Atlanta neighborhood has something for everyone.

Only seven miles north of downtown Atlanta, you’ll find the thriving business district of Buckhead. The neighborhood is home to one of the wealthiest ZIP Codes in the country and several Fortune 500 companies. You can find some of the finest brands at Phipps Plaza, Lenox Mall and Buckhead Village District for those that enjoy luxury shopping. The neighborhood’s name comes from a meeting point on Paces Ferry Road that displayed a Buck’s Head, caught by a local hunter.

Keep on reading to learn more about this swanky neighborhood and see if it fits your lifestyle.

Where is Buckhead in Atlanta?

Buckhead Atlanta is located north of Midtown and borders other residential neighborhoods like Brookhaven and Sandy Springs. You can access Buckhead via State Route 400, which often causes long gridlocks during rush hour. You’ll find more entertainment and dining options between Peachtree Road and Roswell Road.

Buckhead has a few ZIP Codes including 30327, 30305, 30326 and 30342.

buckhead atlanta map

Source: Rent.com

Despite being one of the most expensive Atlanta neighborhoods, Buckhead still has a few apartments that hover around the city’s average rent. However, once you’re a resident of the area, you can take advantage of its walkability and amenities like niche gyms and luxury shopping.

  • Studio average rent: $1,694
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,966
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,836

Living in Buckhead

Like any other neighborhood in Atlanta, Buckhead has its personality. If you’re a young professional looking for active nightlife, workout studios, luxury shopping and apartments with fancy on-site amenities, this is a good fit for you. It’s also a central commercial hub in Atlanta, offering multiple employment opportunities to residents.

Demographics

Buckhead sees the full spectrum of demographics, with young professionals making up the most significant percentage, followed by older families and retirees in the residential areas. Since the mid-1950s, Buckhead has earned its spot as one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Atlanta and the U.S.

highway and marta train in buckhead atlanta ga

Transportation

Buckhead is serviced by two MARTA stops, Buckhead and Lenox. It also has access to several commuter lines from nearby counties like Gwinnett and Cobb, plus MARTA’s bus lines. Buckhead is primarily car-driven, but the newly-built Peachtree Road bike lane provides a haven for bike riders.

  • Walk score: 64
  • Bike score: 34
  • Transit score: 41

Safety

Before moving anywhere, safety makes the top for priorities. Buckhead is a relatively safe neighborhood. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the number of serious reported crimes in the community has decreased 11 percent.

Recreation

Green spaces like Sara J. Gonzalez Park, the first park named after a Latinx leader in Georgia, and the Blue Heron Nature Preserve offer plenty of opportunities to spend the day outdoors and enjoy Atlanta’s mild weather. At Blue Heron, you can find various trails and even a turtle sanctuary for the family to enjoy.

Entertainment

Buckhead Theatre is the place for all concerts, stand-up comedy and plays when it comes to entertainment. But if you’re looking for nightlife, Atlanta staples Havana Club, Tongue & Groove and Rose Bar are all accessible from MARTA. Those looking for more of a college scene, head over to the Buckhead Strip to stop by the Red Door Tavern and Buckhead Saloon.

Large mansion with a staircase leading down into a very green garden.

10 things to do in Buckhead

While Buckhead is primarily a business district, it still has plenty going on after hours. From local history and brunch to comedy and nightlife, Buckhead entertains its residents on the weekends.

  1. The Atlanta History Center dives deep into the city’s rich history with essential roles in the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. Recently, the Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama relocated from Grant Park to the museum.
  2. While it has changed names more times than locals can count, the Buckhead Theatre is a great spot to see the latest bands in rock, pop and hip hop genres. The venue can hold less than 2,000 attendees, so it’s more intimate than most.
  3. The historic Swan House functions as a gallery, venue and small museum. It’s known for its Italian and English styles incorporated into the architecture and was prominently featured in the Hunger Games movies.
  4. The Punchline Comedy Club is one of the longest-running comedy clubs in Atlanta. Comedy legends like Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy have graced the stage of this intimate club. These days, you can see emerging and established talent take the stage and make you laugh so hard you cry.
  5. The Buckhead Village District draws you in with luxury brands like Hermes and Spanx, but you stay for excellent food like Shake Shack and The Southern Gentleman.
  6. Chef Ford Fry’s King + Duke should top your list of dining options in Buckhead. This restaurant uses locally-sourced food to cook over wood in homage to the old school characters it’s named after.
  7. Charlie Loudermilk Park sits in the very spot where Henry Irby’s General Store sat at the beginning of the 20th century. Irby is known as the founding father of Buckhead.
  8. Legoland in Phipps Plaza features a 4D movie theatre, hundreds of toy displays and two rides. Kids love it, and there’s plenty for adults to do during the monthly adult-only night.
  9. The Atlanta Tech Village is the country’s fourth-largest tech hub. The building is full of startups at different growth stages, so the building functions as office space and a learning hub due to its dynamic programming and accelerator.
  10. Chastain Memorial Park, with over 260 acres of paths and green spaces, offers a great spot to get away from Buckhead’s concrete jungle. You’ll find a community pool, a horse park, tennis courts and a famed concert amphitheater.

Finding an apartment in Buckhead

It’s no surprise that most new Atlanta residents select Buckhead as their first neighborhood to live in. It’s close to everything and most high-rise apartment buildings come with live, work and play amenities.

Ready to embark on your new apartment hunt in Buckhead? Find your next apartment here.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments. We pulled our data in February 2021, and it goes back for one year. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

Source: rent.com