The Market

DUMBO is apparently packed with illegal 2-bedrooms

By Virginia K. Smith  | June 10, 2015 - 1:15PM

DUMBO may be one of the city's priciest neighborhoods, but if you're on the hunt for a two-bedroom in the area, you've got bigger problems than potentially bankrupting yourself (and living with constant train noise). A number of the so-called "two-bedrooms" on the market in the neighborhood may be in violation of city regulations, as Crain's New York reports in its most recent issue after combing through listings in the area.

While two-bedrooms in the area can command up to 40 percent more than one-bedrooms, loads of listings there don't live up to city regulations requiring that room have "access to outside light and air through a window, air shaft or skylight" that legally qualify a space as a bedroom. (This requirement is the reason you'll see extra rooms in an apartment marketed as "home offices" rather than actual bedrooms.) 

Though this type of fudging is rampant in listings throughout the city, Crain's notes that it's particularly prominent in formerly industrial neighborhoods like DUMBO, where industrial lofts are often chopped up in, shall we say, "creative" ways to make livable apartments. (Logic would then dictate that apartment hunters should be on the lookout for this in Bushwick, too.)

"Everyone does it, I can show you listings up the wazoo," as one anonymous "real estate insider" told the paper, and indeed, Crain's found heavyweights like Douglas Elliman, Southeby's, Halstead and Core all with listings in violation of the rules. With the practice so widespread, even brokers inclined to stick to the letter of the law are often forced to play along in order to keep their listings competitive.

But is this really hurting anyone? These laws were originally designed to protect residents of tenements from living in airless rooms, but presumably the buyer of a multi-million-dollar condo would understand what they're getting into—and at some point actually see the apartment before buying it.

As with any apartment search, the key is knowing what you're getting into—and what exactly it is you'll have on your hands when it comes time to sell. Who knows, that illegal second bedroom could be a blessing in disguise—or at least an opportunity to haggle.


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