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It's a key decision in the apartment-buying process, and one that divides New Yorkers of all stripes: to have a doorman or not to have a doorman. In this week’s Buy Curious, Bond New York agent Jason Hernandez lays out the pros and cons of purchasing in a doorman building.
THE WISH LIST:
I’m planning to buy my first apartment, and I’m trying to narrow down what I’m looking for. What are the benefits of buying in a doorman building versus a non-doorman building? How much more will it cost me? And will the property value hold up better?
Whether you buy an apartment in an attended building or not involves two separate but related sets of concerns, the first having to do with the cold, hard numbers, and the second having to do with your lifestyle, and whether you’ll actually benefit from the services doormen offer.
The cost of a doorman
First, the cost: you’ll typically pay 12 percent more for an apartment in a building with an attended lobby versus one without a doorman, according to a 2006 study by Jonathan Miller, president of appraisal firm Miller Samuel.
These days, that means paying about $850 to $1,000 per square foot for a doorman co-op in Manhattan, which translates to between $531,000 and $625,000 for the average 625-square-foot one-bedroom, according to On-Line Residential, a broker listings database. If you’re looking for a condo—which won’t come with the stringent application process or restrictions on subletting and other rules that most co-ops have—then expect to pay $1,100 to $1,300 per square foot, or between $687,500 and $812,500 for a one-bedroom.
A non-doorman co-op is going to be in the $1,000 per square foot range, or $625,000 for the same one-bedroom, while a non-doorman condo would fetch somewhere in the $1,300 per square foot range, or $812,500. However, many condo buildings without doormen are lofts or otherwise larger-than-average apartments, many of them downtown or on the West Side, which may not be what you're looking for in a starter home.
Along with paying more upfront, you’ll also spend more each month on maintenance fees or common charges to cover the salaries and benefits of the doormen in your building (though monthly fees also vary based on amenities, building repairs, the number of units, and other factors). Still, for a non-doorman building, you’re likely to save about 20 percent a month. (And remember that management companies employ superintendents to care for the building, so don’t assume that a non-doorman building means no staff of any kind.)
Also, few people take into account the cost of holiday tipping, which can run you $25 to $100 or more per person (depending on your personal financial situation as well as your relationship with the staff member). Buildings with 24-hour doormen typically employ three people to man the desk round-the-clock.
The value proposition
Whether your co-op or condo holds its value will depend more on the apartment itself—how well you take care of it, the desirability of the location and other factors—rather than on the presence of building staff. However, having a perk like a doorman means you’ll likely broaden the scope of buyers who are interested in your place, which may make it easier to sell.
Of course, don’t forget that this apartment is not merely an investment but also a place you’ll call home. For that reason, consider whether having a doorman fits the way you live:
- Do you tend to make considerable purchases (or do your grocery shopping) online? Doormen can sign for your packages and hold them until you come home.
- Do you feel warm and fuzzy seeing a friendly face in the lobby? Or would you rather skip the tortured small talk?
- Are you embarrassed if the doormen catch you coming home at 3 a.m., clothes askew and mascara smeared? A non-doorman building is a better fit if your primary concern is privacy.
- On the other hand, if you're focused on safety, a doorman will provide security, letting in only building residents and approved guests.
- For more pros and cons of doormen, see here.
Sold on doorman living?
Lenox Hill one-bedroom/one-bathroom co-op, $519,000: This south-facing one-bedroom at 405 East 63rd Street between First and York Avenues has a bedroom with room for a king-sized bed. Priced at $519,000, with monthly fees of $1,466, the co-op is in a building with a doorman, live-in super, roof deck, bike room and garage. Co-purchasing and guarantors are permitted on a case-by-case basis.
Chelsea one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo, $999,900: This apartment at 555 West 23rd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues has a washer/dryer and large closets in a building with a 24-hour doorman and concierge, live-in super, on-site dry cleaning, a package room and a health club. The asking price is $999,900, and you’ll pay $1,252 a month in fees.
Kips Bay one-bedroom/one-bathroom condo, $725,000: Located at 250 East 30th Street between Second and Third Avenues, this one-bedroom condo has motorized window treatments and a windowed kitchen. The building has a full-time doorman, a gym and a private residents lounge. Carrying charges are $1,614 a month.
Rather live in a non-doorman building?
Murray Hill/Kips Bay one-bedroom/one-bathroom co-op, $485,000: This one-bedroom triplex at 160 East 26th Street between Third and Lexington Avenues has a monthly maintenance of $1,083. Co-purchasing, gifting and guarantors are allowed.
West Village one-bedroom/one-bathroom co-op, $989,000: Located at 259 West Fourth Street between Perry and Charles Streets, this top-floor walk-up co-op has nine-foot ceilings and hardwood floors. The co-op building has rooftop access, is pet-friendly and allows sublets. Monthly charges for this $989,000 unit are $1,045.