Owning Within Reach - A Personal Tale of Breaking out of the Rent Cycle
Posted on November 9, 2016

Bohemia Blog by Agent Sandy Rosa

picture3About 4 years ago I did the unthinkable. The unimaginable! Probably the most foolish thing I have ever done in my 15 years of living in NYC. I let go of my rent-stabilized, traditional pre-war 1 bedroom TOP-floor apartment. If any of you out there live under noisy neighbors or in a building with poor soundproofing; you understand how precious a top floor apartment can be. I’ll save the whole sob story of why, for another time. The point of this story is how it all got me to a co-op in Riverdale.

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Being thrust into the NYC rental market about a year after letting the apartment go, I had a rude awakening. I moved in to my rent-stabilized apartment in 2006 for $1200 a month! By the time I moved out in 2013 my rent was only $1550. It re-rented in no time at $1750 to the new tenant! When I started looking again in 2013 you were lucky to find a $1750 1 bed apartment on the market that came close to what I had before: big open layout, rent stabilization, eat-in kitchen, elevator & laundry in building, a quiet tree-lined block, wonderfully maintained and 1 block to the A express!

picture2Pressed for time, my husband and I finally decided on a new apartment. We didn’t love it, but we figured we’d stick it out a year or two while looking for a more permanent option; somewhere we could call home for at least 3-5 years (I hate moving).

Well, this thrust us back (yet again) in to the NYC rental market in early 2015. Rents were moving up in areas previously known as “affordable” and, to top it off, areas previously known for having large pre-war size apartments were starting to see a trend of “chopped up” apartments. If there was a large pre- war 1 bedroom vacant, landlords would find a way to chop it up in to a two bedroom. Not only were we losing traditional pre-war 1 beds, those 1 beds were now 2 beds and priced according to room count. The pre-war 1 beds that weren’t sent to the chopping block also saw a spike in rent. I believe, to date, as a Real Estate agent, one of the requests I hear most often is- “ I want a traditional, big Pre-war 1 bedroom apartment and I’ll pay up to $ for it.” Regardless of neighbor- hood, those are usually the needles in the haystack - and when you find them they go quick.

All this being said- we decided on a budget, and that we wouldn’t be too picky about exact loca- tion (I had been spoiled living 1 block from the subway entrance all those years). When we hit the pavement to look for 1 bedrooms of at least 700 sf, we weren’t able to find much around our budget and the ones that came close were nowhere near 700 sf. At this point, I was a real es- tate agent of about a few months and I took a sales seminar breaking down how mortgages were calculated, tax savings of owning, etc. After doing some math I came home and told my husband, “if we can find a co-op somewhere for under $ with a monthly maintenance of under $, we could own for LESS than renting any of these 1 bedrooms we are seeing in our price point.

He laughed. I laughed. My husband responded “Where are we going to find something like that in NYC?!” “I know, I know,” I responded (a girl can dream).The next morning I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and using our Real Estate listing services, punched in our max purchase amount to see if ANYTHING would magically pop up which was still convenient to my office in Manhattan and his job in Westchester. AND IT DID! The magical place was Riverdale, in the Bronx. And not just 1 listing. A few. And these looked big and some looked nice and updated. We decided we had nothing to lose and I started making appointments to see some of these options.

The second we started exploring Riverdale, we loved it. It was quaint. It was clean. It was still accessible to the 1 train and street parking looked manageable (which was not the case in our previous Manhattan neighborhood). Most notably- the apartments were big and the buildings were well maintained. When we crunched the numbers on the units we were falling in love with, we noticed that not only were they in our monthly budget, we would be coming in below budget. These apartments were night and day from what we were seeing in Upper Manhattan for LESS than what we would be paying in rent.

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Fast forward, and we’ve been in Riverdale for a little over a year now and couldn’t be happier. Our only regret? Not buying sooner!

Now, Riverdale isn’t for everyone. Your Tinder options will be a bit slimmer than Manhattan. Your Seamless options will be thinner as well, and your walk to the 1 train will keep your Fitbit busy for a solid 10-15 minutes. But, on the flip side - you OWN, you’re building equity, and you never have to fear a rent increase that will force you out of your apartment ever again (another common reason I hear from folks looking for new apartments is that the rent renewal came in and they just can’t do the increase).

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Worried about the transition from a Manhattan lifestyle? Central Riverdale (more specifically) is very walkable. Walk to the grocery store, drug store, restaurants, bars, post office, dry cleaner and still have a favorite corner deli (aka bodega) nearby! You could easily go car-less in this part of Riverdale. Have a car? Street Parking is manageable and many buildings have on-site parking.

If I haven't convince you yet, just take a look at some of the bullet points that I have compiled.

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- The median price for a 1 bedroom co-op in Riverdale is currently around $180k. That is not a typo. Need a two bed? You won’t have trouble finding great options under $300k!

- Apartments do tend to be on the market a bit longer than Manhattan so if you don’t have a stomach for the incredibly fast paced Manhattan Market (and some other boroughs now as well) then the Riverdale market might be a great place to start

- Numerous Real Estate Publications/Blogs have listed Riverdale as the #1 neighborhood for a first time homebuyer in NYC this year!

- Tree-lined Streets, Parks, and Greenery

- Central Riverdale is about a 10-15 minute walk to the 1 subway train

- Metro North Stations in Riverdale and neighboring Spuyten Duyvil

- BXM1 & BXM2 Express buses that zip you down to the UES, Midtown East, UWS & Midtown West

Riverdale is doable. Why stay stuck in the NYC Rent cycle when you CAN own?

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