Buying an Apartment in New York

Buying an Apartment in New York

One Single Woman’s Struggle to Make the Right Decision

By Nicole Alper

When Marie finally decided to buy an apartment, she breathed a sigh of relief. The back and forth–should I? shouldn’t I?–had wracked her otherwise decisive mind for months. But now, with the paperwork finally falling into place, Marie was joining the ranks of homeowners in New York City–one of the most expensive cities in the world.

A single woman, who moved from her native Dublin six years ago, Marie no longer wanted to be a member of the throw-rent-away-every-month-possibly-for-the-rest-of-your-life club. She wanted to accumulate assets.

As a trader on Wall Street, Marie was savvy to the financial advantages of owning her own place: significant tax deductions, diversifying her investments, and, most importantly, no longer throwing away money on rent.

Even still, she wasn’t 100% sold on the idea. Then she was forced to move out of her shared apartment and began paying twice the rent on an apartment half the size. So the decision to buy was made-but where?

Real estate prices in Manhattan are outrageous–even neighborhoods such as the East Village, once known for being funky (and reasonably priced)–were becoming less and less affordable. And in the trendy downtown areas of the West Village and Soho, prices were at an all-time-high. Not to mention that along Riverside Boulevard, Trump developments were sending prices as high as the high rises.

Marie settled on the Upper West Side-an attractive family-oriented neighborhood, with plenty of restaurants, cafes, even a few nightclubs, and only a few blocks away from the city’s much-loved oasis, Central Park.

Next on the agenda was determining what kind of building to target. Buildings, Louise discovered, fall into roughly two categories: condo and co-op. Buying a condo is an outright purchase of property in a building. The unit belongs to you. Condo prices are usually a bit more expensive, but banks prefer them and therefore sometimes offer buyers better rates. A co-op appeals to buyers who like to control their neighbors. When you buy a co-op, you purchase shares of a co-operation. You hold the property lease to the unit, but you are really purchasing shares–not the unit itself. Prices tend to be a bit lower than condos, but there are many restrictions ranging from a Board of Directors that has the power to approve (or reject) all sales to strict limitations on subletting.

Marie opted for a condo–an avenue with far fewer hurdles and limitations.

As she began looking, another pressing issue was lurking at the back of her mind: money. When someone is considering property in one of the most expensive cities in the world, she needs an “I-won’t-go-a-bit-over-x” amount to narrow the choices. Marie had such a number. It was $450,000. But it wasn’t long before she realized what $450,000 got her. Nothing. At least nothing she wanted to call home.

So Marie, as about 60% of first-time home-seekers do, according to Bellmarc Realty agent Svjetlana Kabalin, upped her maximum. To $600,000. Sound daunting? She too thought of what that amount could get her somewhere–almost anywhere–else in the United States. But she loved New York, and she wanted to be a homeowner.

After looking at close to 100 apartments, Marie found one she loved.

The building was part of a trio of luxury buildings–featuring a 24-hour concierge, dry cleaning service, maintenance crew available for everything from changing a light bulb to moving furniture, and magnificent views. The building was perfectly located in her target neighborhood on the Upper West side, safe, and-most miraculously–a great investment.

On March 2, 2000 Marie moved into her new apartment on the 22nd floor, overlooking the lights and bustle of Broadway. As she and I sat on her hard wood floor, gazing out on the hundreds of other apartment windows, wondering which were owned, which merely rented, I thought to myself, “Maybe it’s time for me as well.”

Since then, I’ve been looking. Whether I actually make the leap depends, I suppose, on whether I find two things: the perfect apartment, and the courage to make it mine.

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