Out and About: Before buying, fall in love with the nabe


A Central Park block in the mid 90s.

An extraordinarily wise and experienced real estate professional–okay, Paul Purcell is a founder of Charles Rutenberg Realty, with which I’m affiliated–once said this to a seller whose apartment we were pricing:

You’ve got to like the apartment, but you’ve got to love the neighborhood.

Honestly, I’d never considered that criterion with quite so much emphasis.  When I think of it, however, the notion of which part of the city appeals to a buyer naturally has to come first.  (With me, it was one factor on which I have been willing to compromise, having lived in neighborhoods as diverse as Washington Heights and Gramercy Park, among several others.)

But I get it.

We all know that there are uptown people, downtown people, East Side people, West Side people, Chelsea people and East Village people.  (As for the Village People, that’s whole ‘nother thing.)  We can stereotype them, celebrate them, model them or mock them.

Consciously or not, many of us see ourselves reflected by our neighborhoods.  Other variables than the personalities and culture of the residents do, of course, come into the mix whether it’s proximity to nightlife, food shopping, desirable schools, transportation or parks, among a wide spectrum of additional characteristics.

Such are the underpinnings of price variation.  There are “good” blocks in “good” neighborhoods, pretty ones, busy ones, unappealing ones and some that are perceived as unsafe.

Park blocks command a premium, no matter where the most popular parks are situated.  How else to explain prices that tend to be higher between, for example, Columbus Avenue and Central Park West on the Upper West Side and those between Madison and Fifth avenues on the Upper East Side.

I was reminded of the disparity not long ago when I visited a charmingly renovated second-floor apartment in a 1930 townhouse in the block pictured above.

A combination of two units, the co-op was up a flight of stairs, boasted kind of a great room (albeit a small one) with top-end open kitchen, dining area, sitting area, a decorative fireplace and views of a veritable bamboo forest below.  At one end was a small offshoot that would function well as a child’s bedroom, home office, den or even a somewhat cramped dining room.  At the other end of this floor-through were a stylish bath and the master bedroom, which overlooks the quiet tree-lined block.

Listed at $1.025 million with monthly maintenance of $1,131, this place received a full-price accepted offer in about a month.  The buyer didn’t even attempt to negotiate the price down below $1 million to avoid the mansion tax.

Only the buyer knows for certain why she sprang for the apartment, but the listing broker says it captivated her, that and its location on a park block not far from a subway station, Whole Foods and a host of additional neighborhood amenities.

Other properties listed by various brokers and seen recently:

  • In the low 60s at Broadway, a stunningly overpriced one-bedroom apartment of no distinction with views, but not sun, blocked at some distance by a large building to the south.   With a decently improved bath and pass-through kitchen, this 714-sf condo in a full-service tellingly 1971 building has going for it merely the location in Lincoln Square.  The $899,000 asking price, down from $950,000 in July, with real estate taxes and common charges totaling $1,329, boggles the mind.  
  • Welcome to grandma’s apartment, complete with china cabinet and knitted afghan throw draped on a living room chair that also boasts a needlepoint pillow.  This 1,400-sf co-op in a distinguished white-glove building near the Museum of Natural History in a low 80’s park block does have excellent bones, including two vintage full baths off its two bedrooms, walk-in closets and well proportioned rooms.  While expensively updated–Viking and Sub-Zero–the kitchen is an eyesore. Lacking open exposures and much light from either the south or west, the unit is listed at $1.599 million with maintenance per month of $1,782 and probably will sell for around $1.45 million.  
  • An 825-sf one-bedroom co-op in the 90s off Central Park West.  The kitchen has what seem to be decades-old cabinets and sink plus worn butcher-block countertops and even more battered flooring.  Although the living room confronts a brick wall, the view from the corner bedroom is fine–and essential for insomniacs.  This place is listed at an appropriate $559,000 with maintenance of $1,094 a month.
  • In Greenwich Village close to Union Square, a sleek 1,966-sf sponsor unit that has three bedrooms and two and a half baths.  On a a high floor of an impersonal and sprawling 1964 building that doesn’t match the co-op’s quality, the apartment features a stylish top-end open kitchen, through-wall air conditioning, a 700-sf terrace, excellent views in three directions and plenty of closets.  But even at a reduced $2.575 million with monthly maintenance of $2,943, the price is wrong.
  • An appealingly combined co-op with two bedrooms at either end of the unit, two full baths, an actual laundry room, expansive renovated kitchen open to a dining room and bamboo floors.  In the very low 70s halfway between Riverside and Central parks, the apartment does need a modest amount of cosmetic improvement.  With the notable liability of its $3,188 monthly maintenance and the post-war building’s lack of distinction, this 1,351-sf residence has a fair price of $1.25 million.  
  • In the low 100s between Broadway and Riverside Drive, a half-decent one-bedroom apartment in a 1924 pet-friendly, doorman building.  The bath has been slightly improved, the kitchen has been inexpensively redone, there is plenty of closet space and all the exposures are into a courtyard.  But this estate sale is well priced at $395,000 with maintenance per month of $728.

Subscribe by Email

Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201

Web site


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s