Buy Curious

Buy Curious: Is $500k enough for this couple to buy a doorman 1-bed near Columbia U. for their daughter?

By Leah Hochbaum Rosner  | October 10, 2013 - 10:36AM

This week, Buy Curious guest broker and uptown expert Mark Landrey of Douglas Elliman Real Estate counsels a couple on the finer points of purchasing a Columbia-area pad for their Ivy League-bound daughter. 


We want to buy an apartment for our daughter who’s about to start a PhD program at Columbia University. We’re looking for a studio or 1-bedroom in a doorman building that’s close to campus (ideally walking distance).

We’d like to keep it around $400k, but would go as high as $500k for the right place. Depending on whether she decides to stay in the city, we may need to sell it within the next four or five years.”


A studio or even a 1-bedroom for under $500,000 in the Columbia area certainly seems like a reasonable request. However, the inventory is very low in the Manhattan real estate market at this time, resulting in an all-around uptick in prices.

Another issue you’re going to face is your proposed ownership structure. You indicated that you want to buy an apartment “for your daughter.” If your intent is to buy something in your names (or an LLC, corporate name, etc.), you will need to focus your search on condominiums only (which is tough considering that the bulk of the inventory in the Columbia area is co-ops).

This would also be true if you want to hold the unit as an investment for some time after your daughter leaves. Most co-ops bar investors from purchasing units and limit the time period you can sublet the unit--and your daughter will be considered a tenant if she is not an owner named on the stock and lease.

Finally, if you can be a little creative and have your daughter’s name on the stock and lease along with yours, there are some co-ops that will allow you to co-purchase the unit, thereby allowing your daughter live there. Be sure to take into account that you will be subject to their sublet policy if you decide to hold it as an investment after she leaves. If this is an option, you will find that you are able to get more for your dollar and also increase the potential number of units to choose from.

Here’s a condo listing that meets all your needs:

  • Manhattan Valley 1-bedroom/1-bathroom condo, $495,000:  I searched a number of sites for listings between 110th and 123rd Streets that were under $500k and this place (at 300 W. 110th St. and Cathedral Pkwy.) was the only condo studio or 1-bedroom on the market in your price range that I could find. There’s a 24-hour doorman, and it’s walking distance to campus.

If you’re willing to drop down under 110th Street, you have additional options:

  • Manhattan Valley 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom condo, $435,000: This spacious pre-war condo at 200 W. 109th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam is still pretty close to Columbia and within the $500k absolute cap, but it only has a part-time doorman (6 p.m.-3 a.m.).
  • Upper West Side studio/1-bathroom condop, $429,000: This studio at 250 W. 89th St. (and Broadway) is outside the immediate Columbia vicinity. However, it’s in the highly desirable Upper West Side neighborhood, has a doorman, and is a quick subway trip (or a slightly longer walk) to campus.

If you are willing to consider a co-op, this listing could work:

  • Upper West Side studio/1-bathroom co-op, $425,000:  Although this doorman building is also farther away from Columbia than you’d like, this Riverside Drive co-op between 93rd and 94th is noteworthy in that it does not require board approval. However, you might be limited on renting it once your daughter leaves.

Here are some co-ops that might allow you to co-purchase with your daughter:

  • Morningside Heights 1-bedroom/1-bathroom co-op, $450,000: This recently upgraded 1-bedroom at 395 Riverside Dr. and 112th St. is steps from Columbia, boasts a round-the-clock doorman, and most importantly, the co-op board has approved parents buying with children in the past.
  • Morningside Heights 1-bedroom/1-bathroom co-op, $459,000: There’s no doorman at this 1-bedroom co-op at 528 W. 111th between Broadway and Amsterdam, but it’s a real 1-bedroom in your price range and it’s very close to school.
  • Upper West Side studio/1-bathroom co-op, $349,000: This affordable studio at 235 W. 102nd St. between Broadway and West End is a little farther from the university than you might like, but it’s still a short subway/bus ride away (and is only a block from the 1 train), and it’s in a full-service building with a doorman.
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