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The Buyers Uptown: Narrowing The Nabes

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Recently, we asked readers to contact us if they (a) happened to be in the market for real estate in NYC; and (b) cared to chronicle their experience for Curbed. Last week, we introduced the first of The Buyers, a family focused (at this point, anyway) on buying in Morningside Heights or vicinity. Herewith, their next report.

During the week, we narrowed down our choice of location (at least for initial looking) to Washington Heights/Hamilton Heights, basically along or near Riverside Drive in the 140s-150s. Here are our reasons:

1) We can get much more square footage for our money. There are one or two bedroom units in the 900-1000 sq. ft. range in doorman buildings in our target area for the same price as 600-700 sq. ft. units in brownstone or non-doorman buildings in the Upper West Side, our original target of choice.

2) The area likely has more upside potential. If Columbia completes its northward expansion as planned, it should help push interest northward. Also, especially west of Broadway, there are many distinctive prewar buildings as well as an attractive infrastructure (Riverside Park, Audubon Terrace, Fairway, etc.) that make it ripe for further gentrification. Once a Starbucks appears in the 150s, I'll be certain.

3) There are more condo units available. Since we want to rent the unit for a few years before we actually move, we find ourselves shut out of all but a few coop buildings. There are several condo conversions in our target area that appear to meet our other needs.

4) And a last personal reason. My great-grandparents were the parents of seven children including my grandmother. When my great-grandfather was able financially, he moved to an apartment on Riverside Drive near 100th St. that could accommodate the whole family. Since then, his "big apartment on Riverside Dr." has been the stuff of family legend. I may be looking 50 blocks north and for five fewer rooms, but in a way, it's a return to my roots.

There are obviously a few (more than a few?) disadvantages and risks:

1) The area is fairly distant from a synagogue. The closest one to the south is 126th St., and the closest to the north is 179th St. This is walkable, but walking home on Friday night could be dicey (see #2).

2) We have lingering concerns about crime in the area. I checked the precinct crime rates and found that property crime rates are some of the lowest in Manhattan, but violent crime, though much lower than in prior years, is still significantly higher than the Upper West Side.

3) The area might not gentrify as we hope. If there is a downward or flat trend in New York as a whole, this area will probably suffer more than the established areas. My personal opinion is that there are likely to be a few slow years but that the long-term trend is up, and we are not flippers. Also, I've tracked the selling prices in one building we're interested in, and they seem to have been flat or declining slightly for the last couple of years after rising in prior years. This could indicate that they could be ready to rise again soon.

What are we going to do next? Look!
· Introducing The Buyers: Uptown Edition [Curbed]