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CompsWatch: Upper Manhattan's downward slide

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On StreetEasy.com, there's a spirited argument over the merits (or lack thereof) of living in far upper Manhattan. A few people think Washington Heights is a good solution for families looking for space, although some limit the "acceptable" area to Hudson Heights, and another predicts a future of private school tuition. One says he did not realize how much he disliked the area until he left: "For me it was when we moved out of the area that I really realized what a poor quality of life we had. Sure it was wonderful in our large (cheap), bright, wonderfully furnished two bedroom....but who wants to stay in all the time?" And a real estate broker advises potential buyers be "very discerning" and in possession of a 10+-year time horizon.

Knowing that emerging markets are often the most affected by real estate downturns, we decided to take a look and see how the market has fared in the northern reaches of the borough, particularly in the "nicest" area, Hudson Heights.  Overall, the market seems weaker than the Manhattan market as a whole.

Here are a few examples:

  • Apt. 3I at 360 Cabrini Boulevard is a rather small, straight studio with a renovated kitchen and a newly renovated bathroom. It is located in an art-deco coop building and carries a low monthly maintenance of $388. Listed in May of this year for $279,000, it has been reduced to its current asking price of $199,000... 20% below the $249,000 it last traded at in April of 2006.
  • 730 Ft. Washington Avenue is in the prime area West of Broadway just below the Cloisters. Apartment 3N--a 1,400 square foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op with hardwood floors and an updated kitchen--closed in November for $530,000, 23% below the $692,000 5N sold for at the top of the market in May 2008, and only slightly above the $510,000 5N fetched in February 2005.
  • At first glance, this one-bedroom co-op at 143-53 Bennett Avenue--also located west of Broadway--fared better than its two neighbors above. Apt. #2N was first listed in March for $319,000, and closed in November for $306,000, approximately 5% more than the $290,000 it sold for in March of 2006. But the sellers recently fully renovated the kitchen, more than eliminating any gain in sales price.

It's hard to tell whether or not these prices indicate a bottom for the area, but like the broker who posted on StreetEasy, we would advise caution when searching for a home up north.

 

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