Buy Curious

6 charming NYC houses that won't cost you a fortune

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Love the quaint cobblestones and row houses of Washington Heights’ Sylvan Terrace—and want something just like it elsewhere in NYC? Compass agent Chad Maltby tells you where to look in this week’s Buy Curious.


I’ve been looking at Sylvan Terrace. The houses are not gigantic and they’re somewhat affordable (not $5 million-plus). Are there other places I should be considering for these kinds of houses—particularly in Brooklyn and Manhattan? I don’t have a townhouse/brownstone budget, but I’d love a house. They can be attached.


Built as a carriageway to the nearby Morris-Jumel mansion (which served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War), Sylvan Terrace connects St. Nicholas Avenue and Jumel Terrace between 160th and 161st streets in Washington Heights.

The charming cobblestone street features 20 wooden row houses that were restored to their original glory in the 1980s. According to Maltby, these homes do hit the market "every so often," and are generally priced between $1.2 and $2 million. 

In fact, there is currently one home for sale on the block. The five-bed, three-bath is asking $1.475 million.

“While there are a few of these mews-style streets left in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, most have been discovered and property values there are already quite high,” says Maltby. “That being said, I think you can still get the same scale house, for around or under $2 million that has charm, location and a little bit of history, as well.”

In Brooklyn, Maltby recommends looking into Windsor Terrace, Sunset Park and Greenpoint, where you can find a variety of townhomes, houses, and brownstones for between $1 million and $2 million, depending on condition.  

Sunset Park may not be as chic as, say, Park Slope, but Maltby says "what you lose in some major amenities, you’ll gain in easy access to express trains, and probably the biggest increase in property value due to its proximity to Industry City, the large retail/office campus being developed by Chelsea Market along Third Avenue."

Windsor Terrace offers some of the quaintness of Sylvan, but with more neighborhood services (restaurants and shops). And its location near Prospect Park means that more buyers will continue to relocate there from other, more expensive, Brooklyn neighborhoods. "If you are willing to do a renovation, consider Greenpoint as well, as there are a lot of single-family homes in need of TLC," he says. "The neighborhood’s Polish roots give it an authentically old New York vibe, and the waterfront is getting some major development money so property values will continue to rise.” 

As far as Manhattan goes, Maltby suggests looking to Central Harlem, where you're likely to find houses in historic districts like Striver’s Row and Mount Morris Park. He says properties there will be reminiscent of Sylvan, "but on a slightly larger scale. The continued development of the area (Whole Foods is slated to open on 125th Street this year) means you will have to spend upwards of $2 million and maybe more if you want something renovated, but it will hold value and appreciate as the neighborhood continues to grow.” 

And last but not least, says Maltby reminds buyers to not overlook Queens. "Astoria, Sunnyside, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst are incredibly convenient to midtown, offer a variety of house options, are incredibly safe and have great food and shopping!”

Here are some houses you might like:

Forest Hills four-bedroom, three-bath house, $1,199,000: Located at 100-04 Ascan Avenue between Kessel Street and Metropolitan Avenue, this semi-attached four-bedroom, three-bath brick home has hardwood floors, a large entry foyer, an oversized living/dining area, a full-sized eat-in kitchen with stainless steel appliances, a patio, a backyard and a finished basement with a separate entrance.

Central Harlem townhouse, $2,500,000: This 4,200-square-foot four-story brownstone at 206 West 137th Street between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Seventh Avenue has six bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths, and is move-in ready.

Clinton Hill townhouse, $1,999,000: This 3,000-square-foot four-story brownstone at 155 Willoughby Avenue between Washington Avenue and Hall Street has six bedrooms, two-bathrooms and is in need of a complete gut renovation, but includes such charming original details as moldings, mantels and pocket doors.

Prospect Heights townhouse, $2,700,000: This single-family townhouse at 716 Dean Street between Underhill and Vanderbilt Avenues has three bedrooms, two-and-a-half-bathrooms, and has been completely renovated. There’s a large living/dining area, an open kitchen with stainless steel appliances, floor-to-ceiling windows, a deck, a yard, and a private garage.


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