Why Can’t I Find a Property That Accommodates All of My “Must Have” List?
My parents put up with 10 years of dance recitals, which if you’ve spent 5 minutes with me, you would not be surprised to hear that my ballet skills are grim. To squash any residual guilt I have for making my folks biannually sit through a 6-hour ordeal of nonstop amateur children’s dance routines set to various Elton John ballads only then to further stomach an agonizing 2-minutes of watching their own flesh-and-blood struggle to tap in sync while wearing full hooker make-up, I’d like to think they snuck vodka in via Dunkin’ Donuts cups.
Now some dreams of mine were easier to reign in. Like when I wanted to be an Egyptologist, which Rick swiftly dismantled noting I would last one day in the Middle East before being trafficked. However with dance, they let me follow that questionable arrow, but pushed me to spend more time exploring contact sports, seeing that by the age of 5, I was already exhibiting the competitive aggression of a blood-thirsty Spartan.
The conundrum of marrying a buyer’s wish-list to their purchasing power is the same delicate balance of being realistic, harping opportunistic resale, consciously coming to terms with trade-offs, yet not totally squashing the glimmering excitement that comes with homeownership.
Because the market is ever changing and the sentiment of “home” is so specific to the individual, today we’ll go through a handful of trade-offs most buyers find themselves facing in the confines of the New York City market.
The ask: “I want a full service building but want to keep carrying costs low and be in a cute, neighborhood with character and small shops”
The issue: So there’s two things about full-service doorman buildings you have to consider. One, these buildings don’t exist in every neighborhood. In order to absorb the high carrying cost of a full staff, amenities, elevators, etc, the building must have a fair number of units. These larger buildings can’t pop up in the middle of places like the West Village, where Landmark Commission has not only capped air rights to 6 stories and most buildings are historically not allowed to be changed. You’ll find these full service buildings in “newer” neighborhoods (new as of 1950), being FiDi, Midtown, Flatiron/Chelsea, large pockets of the UWS/UES. New York’s most historically preserved neighborhoods – the blocks lining Central Park, the villages, Soho, Nolita, the LES – have largely remained pre-war walk-up buildings so to live there, you often trade off the luxuries of full-service. Also, full-service wildly inflates carrying costs. If you truly want a doorman, porter, super, roof, elevators, gym…you will pay for your portion of funding all of those amenities and that will be reflected in your maintenance.
The ask: “I want a gut renovated, turn-key apartment but I also want a deal and don’t want to go to the top of my budget”
The issue: With any brand-new, gut-renovated space, you can assume the seller recently put a fair amount of money into the unit, most likely to list, furthermore sell, at a higher price. Seeing their apartment has been completely renovated, these sellers have less of a reason to concede to people coming in under ask because the discounts aren’t justified in their minds. Trust me, sellers are entirely aware of the “problem areas” of their apartments if there are any. Any listing agent will make a seller aware of such; example, if a kitchen needs a gut-renovation, the listing price with either reflect that or a realistic seller will factor the cost of a necessary renovation a buyer is inheriting into how far they’ll drop from ask. If you’re looking at a turn-key listing at the top of/slightly out of your budget, do not expect the seller to drop their price significantly.
The ask: “I want a condo because I want all the other flexibilities of condo ownership but I only want to live in [insert a neighborhood that is predominately coop]”
The issue: Some neighborhoods in the city are just predominately only coops and there’s no changing that. Coops are the original form of ownership in New York so the more established neighborhoods are going to overwhelmingly be Coops. This includes the villages, the UES, the UWS, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Fort Greene. Many of these tightly knit, majority-primary-resident neighborhoods prefer coops due to their being less transient, with more reliable neighbors. So if you’re hellbent on living in an area like Park Slope, you should cozy up to the reality of purchasing a coop.
The ask: “I absolutely need private outdoor space”
The issue: First off, only a small percent of apartments in New York have private outdoor space, so this is a hugely limiting factor and there’s a premium on the price tag for such. If you want private outdoor space but you want the character of a walk-up brownstone, private outdoor space means 1st floor/basement units (to get the garden) or 5th floor walk ups (to get the roof). In the larger, full-service buildings, outdoor space usually comes in the form of a balcony (unless you’re buying the penthouse unit) and more often than not, you will sacrifice a bit of common living space for that outdoor space. While it is absolutely fine to make private outdoor space a must, it’s important to understand what that means for the rest of the product and the price.
The ask: “I want the apartment to be soaked in sunlight but I don’t want to walk-up more than 2 flights and I want to be in the Villages and keep my common charges low”
The issue: Light is another one of those intangible amenities you either pay for or accept what it takes to get it. Obviously, to get light, you have to be on a higher floor. With a walk-up building, yes…that means you have to do some stairs every day to get to the sunnier apartments. For elevator buildings, since there’s no physical labor for the higher floors, the price tag goes up exponentially for apartments with light, and better yet, views. Natural light and open views are amenities you just cannot make up for, so while you pay for them with the purchase, they’re incredible elements to have for resale.
The ask: “I want low maintenance but I want to be in [insert a neighborhood that has notoriously high property taxes – Brooklyn Heights, Tribeca, Upper West Side, Upper East Side, etc]”
The issue: For most of us who grew up in suburbs, zones in New York function the same way. Zones cut up the city and property taxes vary across these zones. However, zone dictate what public school children in that zone attend, cover the maintenance of the parks, general cleaning and maintenance of the neighborhood, and also capital improvements for the zone in general. School zones are incredibly important to a lot of parents; the better school tend to be in the higher taxed neighborhoods and that premiere schooling comes with a cost. Also for park facing properties, like those along Central Park and Gramercy Park, property taxes will rise to account for such. There’s a reason why Brooklyn Heights is so picturesque yet has some of the highest taxes in Brooklyn; the attention paid to maintenance of the neighborhood is much higher than other areas, yet it comes at a price.