Oct 16, 2007


In just about any other part of the world you would become a social leper instantly if you discussed the size of your home or how much rent you pay with someone you had just met at a party. In New York City it’s considered small talk.

Like most New Yorkers I am obsessed with real estate. For the non New Yorkers reading, please indulge me while I justify this neurosis.

Despite the real estate boom and construction of new high rises in almost every neighborhood supply continues to dramatically outstrip demand with no signs of abating. It’s always been tough to find and afford a decent place to live in NYC but this point in time has to be the worst. If you aren’t one of the lucky few to find an apartment through word of mouth expect to pay extortion-like fees to a real estate broker for a rental in even a not so prime building and/or location--15% of the annual rent is the norm. You’ll also be competing for that hovel with many others who choose to live here and suck it up.

And if you are in a position to buy you’ll have to jump through arcane hoops to get the approval of a co-op board no matter how deep your pockets. Cooperative apartments make up the majority of the city’s residential housing stock for sale and the boards that rule them pretty much demand what they want and get it. A board, for example, may require that you be employed at the same job for three years. Never mind that you may have spent 10 years at a lucrative job only to leave for a better one in the last year. No dice.

It’s also typical for a co-op to require two years minimum in liquid assets equal to the annual maintenance and mortgage payments after you’ve shelled out the down payment and closing costs. Many require more. With maintenance on the low end averaging $1 per square foot and the price of the average co-op at about $1,000 per square foot, you do the math.

For a good read on the real estate scene and other idiosyncrasies of New York City and its natives check out Curbed where you can learn how crime pays in Williamsburg, where the above photo was taken, or Upper East Side neighborhood blog 78thand2nd where the travails of a racey dry cleaner are revealed. Meanwhile, The Gowanus Lounge chronicles the “Musings and Photos about Life and Real Estate Development in Post-Industrial Brooklyn and New York City.”

Tomorrow morning Escape From New York brings you bullet proof Cadillacs in Taipei.

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