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Adie Kriegstein on Townhouse Investing


There seems to be a growing return to the chic, gilded lifestyle that used to go hand in hand with owning a private home in the City.  Recently, as apartment prices have skyrocketed, especially in condo pricing, many people are starting to consider owning a townhouse.  The New York Times even reported on this trend recently writing, “Welcome to the new Gilded Age. As more families choose to stay in New York City to raise their children, much of the urban fabric has transformed into scenes more closely resembling suburbia. For the truly wealthy, this is translating into a clamor to live in gigantic private homes. And when the record for the most expensive house ever sold in New York City is just $53 million, the nearly $100 million that many new luxury condominiums are asking makes these mansions seem like a relative bargain. The demand for stand-alone mansions is also being driven by the rare opportunity they offer buyers for complete privacy and autonomy.”

This popular lifestyle is back and en vogue. Buyers are realizing that it’s actually a bargain to purchase a townhouse compared to purchasing a similar-sized apartment.  The demand for standalone mansions is on the rise and sales and prices are rising quickly so now is the time to hop on this trend.


I recently sold a townhouse in which I represented a family who had been transferred to New York City for work.  They were leaving their 9,000-square-foot home in Vancouver, which they had recently finished renovating, and wanted not only space, but a true ‘home’ with a garden outside for their three boys to enjoy.  This family did want to live in a vertical community, but  have complete privacy and live a similar lifestyle to the one they had been living prior to being uprooted to the City.  After securing them a temporary triplex rental in a townhouse on the Upper West Side, we began the search for a more permanent home.  We started the search looking at all their options including condos, coops, and townhouses, but it quickly became apparent that even though apartment living was an option, it wasn’t for this family and that a townhouse was going to present the best value compared to apartments, specifically condos in the area.  Once we narrowed their search to townhouses they had further considerations to consider: single or multi-family homes and the only multi-homes to be considered where those with no rent controlled or stabilized tenants (not an easy find).  Ultimately, homes that were already configured as single family cost a couple million dollars more than multi-family homes in the same neighborhood, and all needed work.  We started looking for cheapest purchase, in the best location, with the most potential.  And there were not many homes out there!

It took only a few days of showings with my clients to come across a true diamond in the rough.  Built in 1900 by renowned architect Clarence True, this 5-story, 7-unit home is nestled on West 77th Street between the tiny block of Broadway and West End Avenue across from where Collegiate was located.

The home, located in the heart of the Upper West Side, offered my clients exactly what they wanted: the opportunity to create a stunning, luxurious single family home.  The most unique features of this home is that while it is landmarked, there are additional air rights available in which they can expand the home one or two stories upward and add an elevator, both of which they plan to do.  Further, because the entire block and most of the immediate area is landmarked, the views are endless and in tact in most directions.  There is a church across the street and since the front windows are mostly bay windows, you also can see east and west along 77th Street.  From the back, there are other townhouses so there is a lot of greenery and sky as well.  You can also see southwards a few blocks easily.

Ultimately the potential and location of a home provided them with the best return on their investment.  They paid just over $1,000[per-square-foot and given the time and effort of the future renovation, they will easy make back the money they put into it ten fold.