The Real.Est List
Inside Story: Our new construction fairytale
(Ed.'s note: We don't usually hear from people who are thrilled with their new construction experience, so when we heard this one, we had to post it.)
Last summer, my husband and I bought a car for the first time since living in New York City. After the first week of dealing with the alternate-side-parking situation in our Prospect Heights neighborhood, we thought we should look for a new rental in a building that had a garage attached to it.
My husband asked his boss—who lives in our area—if he knew of a place, and his boss said, “Why rent again? You should buy something. I think you can afford it.”
We were surprised. We didn’t think we could afford to buy, but I said, “Let’s meet with a real-estate agent and go to a couple of places.” On July 26, 2010, we saw the first apartment: a condo in a new building in a “changing” neighborhood on the border of Boerum Hill and Downtown Brooklyn.
I was in awe. I loved it immediately. Someone else might have had trepidation about buying in an area that was transitioning, but we already knew Brooklyn and the various neighborhoods pretty well, and we were sure it would be great.
We went to the agent’s office and she crunched the numbers. When she said we could afford to put in an offer, we couldn’t believe it. It was an amazement to us that we were able—with our tiny amount of savings and income—to buy a home. When we put in the offer, I had just finished grad school and wasn’t working yet, so we were living on ONE less-than-$100K income. We bought as big and “high up” as we could at the time, though, knowing that our income would be increasing soon.
The government gave us an FHA loan and we only had to put down five percent. That was a big help. Our common charges are about $550 per month, and we have a 15-year tax abatement. We did our due diligence and looked at a couple of other condos in new buildings but the space we got here for what we had to spend was the best deal: It’s 712 square feet, a one-plus bedroom.
As first-time home buyers, we were super freaked out by the process, and super impatient. But on October 23, 2010—three months after seeing the place for the first time—we moved in. We were completely ecstatic. We still are! I mean, I rented in New York for ten years, living in seven different apartments. I hate moving, but it was hard to find a comfy rental. There were roommate changes, then my husband and I moved in together.... We had a lot of great places, but there was always something: rodents, crappy construction, no space. We always had nice landlords, but some of them were too relaxed; one guy we were friendly with took six months to fix a bad ceiling leak in our place.
Because of our bad past experiences, we definitely wanted to move into a brand-new building. I’m one of those people who is anal about cleaning; when my house is in order, I feel like my life is in order. I’ve lived in a lot of older places where I’d clean and clean but the place never looked clean. Especially our last apartment: The floorboards were lifting up, and there was all of this crap coming out of places.... No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep it nice and tidy. I wanted a new apartment that was clean and easy to clean. Our building was so new, in fact, that we were the tenth owners to move in.
Another great thing about new buildings is the amenities. Ours has a great lobby, a second-floor common area, a gym, a roof deck, a laundry room and a billiards room with big-screen TVs. We were just amazed at the building’s amenities. They’re not something we’ve been accustomed to in other apartments, so we never really expected to have them. There’s a lot of staff in the building, too: several 24-hour doormen, plus various porters and maintenance guys. Having someone around to fix things and pick up our recyclables for us is just weird.
And yes, we have taken advantage of all the amenities—especially the gym. We use that three to four times a week. My husband and his friends use the billiards room during the winter months; they watch games and play pool. We use the roof deck weekly in the nicer months.
We weren't aware of some of the problems that can happen when you buy into a new building, like construction defects, and so far we haven't experienced any. Also, the street outside our main entrance is turning into a nice gentrified street. There’s a nice grocery store on the corner, and another rental high-rise building just opened nearby.
The other street we’re on definitely has the old-time “Downtown Brooklyn” feel, though. It’s desolate at nighttime. Also, Social Services and a few other city agencies are on the next block, which brings in the clientele that goes to those places. Mostly, I don’t mind it. I like the Brooklyn feel. But there are a lot of people who are very poor in the neighborhood, and I’m walking into this beautiful building.... There have been comments a couple of times, like, “That’s where the rich white people live.” It feels weird to hear that, because we’re not rich, and not everybody in the building is white.
But you know what? I kind of feel silly myself that we live here! And lucky. It’s so nice to be settled and have a certain stability. Buying this apartment in this neighborhood was definitely the best decision we ever made.