The Real.Est List
Dear Ms. Demeanor: My neighbor refuses to sell me her apartment. Suggestions?
Our two-bedroom, two-bath seemed enormous when we moved in as newlyweds. We are now a family of four and bursting at the seams. Buying a bigger apartment in the city is too expensive--either we buy the one-bedroom next door and combine, or we move to Long Island and I definitely do not want to move to Long Island.
We offered our neighbor, an elderly single woman, 10% over market but she refuses to sell. HELP! Any thoughts or suggestions?
Crowded in Clinton
In 'When Harry Met Sally," Harry was not far off when he spoke about the wisdom of combining the obituraries with the real estate section. Often the first question that comes to mind if not lips when a neighbor in the building dies is, "Which floor/line?" Merging abodes with the studio/one-bedroom/two-bedroom next door ("If only... then we can stay in the city/school district/etc.") is many a New Yorker's Holy Grail.
An above-market offer is a good starting point, but the value of one's home is not determined by the market if one does not wish or need to sell it. Did your neighbor grow up there, raise a child there, lose a spouse there? Moving is a horribly stressful undertaking even when you want to move - can you really blame anyone for wanting to stay put?
That said, I have heard and seen it all when it comes to what people will do for that 500 square feet next door when initially spurned: Offer a newly renovated better-or-equivalent apartment in the same building, persuade the doorman or super to plead/push their case, and other less savory maneuvers that boil down to harassment, such as blowing smoke through vents and phoning in unwarranted noise complaints and other types of complaints. I am certain you know what I think of these latter approaches.
Why not simply sit down with your neighbor, explain your situation, and see what - if anything - it would take for her to move? Be respectful of her answer and her choice to stay or go, as frustrating as it may be for you and your family.
Ms. Demeanor is channeled by a longtime Manhattan vertical dweller and real-estate voyeur who writes under the pen name Jamie Lauren Sutton. She is here to commiserate, calm and correct. Please email your quandaries to email@example.com and put "Dear Ms. Demeanor" in the subject line.