The Market

CompsQueen: Why I will never buy in the East Village

By A. Ready  | September 20, 2010 - 9:21AM

Over the past 25 years, while buying and selling two apartments and renting well over 10, I have visited hundreds of New York City listings (thousands, actually, if you include online viewing) looking for a place to call home.  Thankfully in the last 15 or so years I've only moved three times, but I've nonetheless continued to look.  

My search has taken me from the Upper West Side to FiDi (when it just had a few available low-priced units in the shadow of AIG and the "Raging Bull"), from Forest Hills to Riverdale, from Park Slope to B'burg.  And yet I have visited less than 10 apartments in my favorite neighborhood, the East Village.  

I have concluded that while I may continue to eat many meals in the East Village, I will never buy an apartment there. Here's why:

  1. Inventory.  As in there is none.  A search on StreetEasy shows 130 active listings, for a neighborhood spanning from 14th to 23rd Streets** and from 4th Avenue/Bowery to the FDR.  Sutton Place, on the other hand, which only includes the area from 53rd to 59th Streets, and from 2nd Avenue to the FDR, has 402 active listings.  Chelsea, a larger area than Sutton Place, but generally considered more desirable than the East Village, has 437 active listings.
  2. Size matters.  I have no need for a palace, but I have a teen-aged daughter.  Two bedrooms are a must.  Applying that criteria, the number of units available in my preferred locale decreases to 44. In Sutton Place, it’s a much more robust 123.  Even Chelsea has 107 two-bedroom units actively on the market.   And, having a teen in the house--especially a girl--it would be quite difficult to transition from two bathrooms to merely one.   The number of two-bedroom units available in the East Village with at least 1.5 bathrooms?  24.  Sutton Place?  119.  Chelsea?  90.
  3. Price.  The East Village is expensive.  Due to the limited inventory, you will not get much for your dollar (or Euro).  The median asking price per square foot  is $966.  In Sutton Place, it is $883.   Chelsea, a neighborhood that has been popular and heavily traded for well over a decade has higher asking prices, with the median at $1140.  This unit at 170 Second Avenue is asking almost $200 per square foot more than the median asking price, which is similar to Chelsea asking prices.  It is in a well-regarded building, with reasonable maintenance.  But it is still $1,650,000 for a two-bedroom with only one bathroom. This unit may reflect aspirational pricing, or it may very well be a reflection of the lack of family-sized apartments in the neighborhood, particularly pre-war.  No thanks, I’ll continue to rent.
  4. Resale.  Personally, I can tolerate quite a bit (half the apartment below ground?  Maybe.  Walk-up?  Good exercise).  But the resale market is not as tolerant.  If a unit in the East Village doesn’t seem hugely expensive, there is almost always a reason, and it is nothing to hang your resale on.

For me, it makes more sense to continue living near the East Village--enjoying what it has to offer but declining to pay what the market thinks its apartments are worth.

**Correction:  CompsQueen clearly was projecting her wishful thinking on the neighborhood boundaries, extending the East Village boundaries north to include her current abode, rather than south from 14th Street to Houston, where they really belong.  The numbers, otherwise, remain the same.

CompsQueen is a weekly column that aims to demystify the vast amount of sales and rental information available to modern observers of the New York City real estate market.  Writer-editor A. Ready is a former database designer and complex litigation manager who has been obsessed with NYC real estate for more than two decades.

See all CompsQueen here.

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