Lessons from a $300k apartment worth $400k two years later

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In a thoughtful, fascinating post on stirring up our guilty real-estate bubble nostalgia, a first-time co-op buyer explains how he (or she) won the real estate lottery with the 2009 purchase of a modest $300k Soho co-op that now appears to be worth $400k.

It's an astonishing increase for a tiny one-bedroom apartment in a no-frills elevator building. But the account is made even more riveting by the owner's detailed post-mortem on what motivated the choice of that apartment in the first place.

Much of it had to do with a belief in buying "the worst unit in a great area.... I still really believe this. A lot of things have happened on my street and in my general area that have probably served to increase the value of my apartment - things that I couldn't have forecasted two years ago, and some that I saw coming down the pipeline. A good example of taking advantage of this right now might be buying a unit near the future Second Avenue subway line in the 70s."

So is it time to cash out? What once seemed like a no-brainer decision has become complicated by attachment and experience.

"Part of me thinks I should sell now, because my equity appreciation would be ridiculous. But I really like living here. It's got really reasonable carrying costs. I have painted my walls and hung my art. I also did not estimate the dread with which I would face the prospect of having to rent again, threatened with having to move every year or two years. I underestimated the attachment that I'd have to having furniture that is customized for the space, and this is somewhat pointing to inertia on my part."

"Ultimately," the co-op owner advises, "what I've learned from these past two years is that there are a billion factors you can't ever control for in the $$ department. So make sure that whether you buy or rent, you can easily afford it and by extension, you walk into your home every day and you're happy to be there. I hated our rental apartment, even though it was in an ultra-luxury building with the nicest staff on earth and all of the amenities I could have hoped for. For example, I hated the faucets, but I never would have put the extra $600 into "someone else's faucet," like I did with my own. It's irrational, I know, but at least I understand that's part of my psyche."


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