clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

From Renting On the UWS to Buying in Harlem

New, 7 comments

If reading The Hunt stokes your deepest hopes that someday everything in life could work out, then you, too, are obsessed with the New York Times Sunday Real Estate section. Join us as we venture into the depths of this weekend's installment.

Siobhan Briley was living on the Upper West Side in a rental with "an ancient bathroom, a noisy upstairs neighbor and a tiny kitchen that didn’t allow her to watch television while cooking" for which she paid $2,550 a month. After realizing that buying wasn't totally out of her reach, she decided that looking in Harlem was her best bet to get to get the space she wanted within her budget. After getting her feet wet by checking out some properties in the area, she finally found the ideal fit.

She saw an adorable alcove studio of about 400 square feet with a large deck on the fifth floor of a walk-up at West 73rd Street, near Amsterdam Avenue. The co-op’s price was $399,000. “But I had to really consider whether I could squeeze my entire life into a place as small as that with two dogs, even though I loved it,” Ms. Briley said. Besides, she takes part in triathlons and couldn’t imagine hauling a bicycle up five flights. And then there was the problem of the down payment.

Nevertheless, the place got her thinking seriously about buying.

Her neighbor across the hall was Robert Turcotte, an independent broker. She asked him for advice.

Mr. Turcotte suggested that she hunt in Harlem, where she might find prices more affordable.

Ms. Briley, thoroughly unfamiliar with Harlem, walked around the neighborhood and realized, “I felt at home there.”

She hoped to find a two-bedroom, with the extra room for “my desk and my bikes and the dog bed and stuff I don’t use all the time that clutters everything up,” she said. Her budget was up to $650,000, an amount she soon realized was too low for a two-bedroom.

She immediately fell for the Fitzgerald, a prewar conversion on West 117th Street, where a one-bedroom had around 1,100 square feet and a closet where she could store her bicycles.

But Mr. Turcotte had advised her not to take the first place she saw. And she concluded that, at $670,000, the place was too expensive.

She saw several units at P. S. 90 on West 148th Street, a 1906 Collegiate Gothic-style school abandoned for decades and recently converted into a 75-unit condominium. “I loved that place, but did not want to live that far north,” she said.

Ultimately, she chose an 835-square-foot one bedroom with an open kitchen and a balcony at Windows on 123, a new building on West 123rd Street. She was impressed by the quality of construction, and the price — $520,000, with monthly charges in the low $600s. Her down payment was 3.5 percent, or just over $18,000.

· 'Just Looking' Changes Her Tune [NYT]