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Introducing The Buyers (Uptown Edition)

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A little while back, we asked the good folks in our audience 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. Today, we introduce the first of The Buyers, a family focused (at this point, anyway) on buying in Morningside Heights or vicinity. Away we go.

We are a family of three who live in the Philadelphia suburbs and are planning a move to New York, but not immediately. We are, however, planning on buying in the next few months.

The reason for our move? Our son, who is 15, is mentally disabled, will lose educational services when he turns 21, at which point he will, G-d willing, be able to move into a group home. As Orthodox Jews, there is little or nothing available for us outside of New York, so we will need to establish a New York residency.

The reason for buying soon? Our present suburban 3-bedroom house is fully paid for, and we are in the position where we can invest some money into a property in New York that can be rented until we move. I've run some preliminary rate of return calculations that indicate an after-tax rate of return for a smaller Manhattan coop or condo of between 6% and 10% over the next 5-6 years, depending on the specific situation and assumptions. That is better than many other investments.

How deep are we into looking now? We've just started. I am using StreetEasy (as well as Curbed's list of brokers) to identify possible properties. One specific requirement we have is that it must be possible to rent the property from the time of purchase, which knocks out many (but not all) coops. I am considering that, as well as minimum square footage (675-700) and maximum price ($650,000) to screen properties. In addition, I'm using PropertyShark and ACRIS to identify hidden problems or overpriced properties, and (invaluable!) Google StreetView to look around the neighborhood. Once I get properties narrowed down, then it's the time to come to New York to look at them in the flesh.

Where are we looking? For now, mostly Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, and a little north of there. We are West Side people, not East Side people or downtown hipsters. If we can't find anything we want that we can afford, then we'll cast our net wider. If so, it could include the East Side, midtown, or possibly brownstone Brooklyn.
Then, if that doesn't work, maybe back to the suburbs, with lower Westchester the preferred area. Jersey is out because it doesn't give us New York residency.

Next: The locations for the search are narrowed, creeping north.