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Why moving within your current apartment could save you time and money

Frank MacPherson, Jenna Bramble MacPherson and their dog, Chase, headed two floors down when they moved in 2014. (Jason Hornick for Express)

Jenna Bramble MacPherson and Frank MacPherson’s story is a familiar one. In 2012, they lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Crystal City. One wedding, two years, a dog and a lot more stuff later, they realized they needed more space. “It was the easiest move we’ve ever had,” Jenna says. “It took less than two hours.”

Why so easy? Because Jenna, 28, and Frank, 34, who both work in marketing in Alexandria, were merely moving to a two-bedroom apartment two floors below them in the same building.

Switching units in the same complex has its benefits and drawbacks, but on the whole, it can be more convenient and cheaper than a regular move.

The MacPhersons had several reasons to stay. “We were having trouble finding something that really met all of our criteria,” Jenna says. “We loved the neighborhood, we loved Crystal City, we loved the location of our building.”

Plus, their dog, Chase, was familiar with the neighborhood, which was helpful for walk time.

Over time, residents build a relationship with the concierge or building manager, says Matthew Carcone, a business development manager with Gordon James Realty. “That’s also an important thing to a lot of tenants.” This was the case for Jenna and Frank, who had a great rapport with their building’s concierge.

It was also a motivator for Michael McGee, 32, who works in financial services and, along with his roommate, moved apartments in Courtland Towers in Arlington a few years ago.

“We really liked the building, we liked the location,” he says. “We had a good relationship with the property manager in the apartment building, and that kind of helped.”

Staying in your building also allows you the opportunity to scope out the best floor plans and locations and be the first to see the available units, says Grace Langham, vice president of boutique property management firm Nest. Plus, the moving process itself is simplified. Transferring floors won’t require a truck, and you probably won’t need professional movers, either. There’s no need to go outside — good news if you’re moving in the winter. It also doesn’t call for as many packing materials, as Jenna and Frank found out.

“I got a couple of weird looks when I had a shopping cart full of dishes and my clothes,” Jenna says.

As for Frank, he simply took full drawers out of his dresser and carried them down to the new apartment. The couple also reused the same boxes throughout the process.

McGee had a similar experience. He utilized his building’s bellhop cart to move most of his things, and for the bigger items, he got creative. He, too, got stares, he says, when he “put plastic on the feet of the couch and slid it down the hallway.”

McGee and the MacPhersons both recommend negotiating an overlap of at least a few days between your move-out and move-in dates. The more overlap time, the more you can spread out the moving process.

Aside from the funds saved by forgoing traditional packing materials and movers, tenants can also negotiate lower or waived fees.

“A lot of buildings have move-in fees and oftentimes, if the tenant is moving in the same building, they’ll waive that fee,” Carcone says.

This was the case for Jenna and Frank.

“They waived the move-in fee, they waived the application fee, they waived all the prelim fees,” Frank says.

But don’t assume you won’t have to pay a move-in fee, cautions Langham, who says buildings could still charge the fee for doing an inspection or putting up elevator pads. She recommends that tenants fully educate themselves on the building’s policies, and be prepared to negotiate if you want to save some more money.

Staying in your building, while convenient, can be limiting, too. Your move might be an upgrade, space-wise, but won’t come with any new amenities or features that you’d get in a move to a new building. That’s why Carcone recommends making sure it’s still a smart decision, financially.

“The most important thing for tenants is to understand the market trends, looking at the comparable units out there and understanding what that apartment should run for,” Carcone says.

He suggests looking up apartments on Trulia or Zillow to educate yourself on pricing.

Plus, while you know the building’s floor plans, management and policies, you can’t always predict your neighbors. Moving to another unit, “you may get yourself into a situation with a louder neighbor,” Langham says. So try to talk to the outgoing tenant if possible to get the scoop on your surroundings.

Once you’ve done your research, if you decide to move within the same building, convincing friends to help should be much easier. Jenna and Frank’s friends were initially hesitant to help them move, citing dinner plans. Once the friends found out the move was just two floors down, they were much more eager to help. And they still made it to dinner on time.

More about D.C. renting:

Can you grow pot in your D.C. apartment? It depends on who you ask.

Renting an aged apartment comes with vintage problems — and perks

3 tips to become a better renter in 2016