From Harlem to Jersey City: Becoming an owner and cutting monthly expenses in half

By Kelly Kreth  |
January 5, 2021 - 12:30PM

A New Yorker pays $789,000 for three bedrooms and three baths and 2,500 square feet in Jersey City.


New Yorker Manuel Neto was fed up with the noise and garbage outside his apartment building in Harlem, where he lived on the first floor. He decided to take advantage of record low mortgage rates and buy in a new construction building in Jersey City. Now he has double the space and has cut his monthly expenses in half. Here is his story. 

After renting for four years in Harlem with my partner and Willow, my four-year-old toy poodle, we decided it was time for a change, not just in neighborhood, but also time to own our own place. My apartment in Harlem was a two-bedroom, two-bath unit with 1,100 square feet. There was a lot to love, including having a washer/dryer in the apartment—but there was also a lot to hate, starting with the location. 

Every weekend there would be drunk people right outside my window being loud at 3 a.m. Sometimes there was screaming, other times it was fighting. Since my apartment was on the first floor facing the street, there was no way to block the noise. The weekend also brought a lot of garbage to the streets. 

[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Transitions” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to move from one New York City neighborhood to another—or outside the city. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]

Still, the location was convenient: It's super close to main express train lines—the 2 and 3 trains were right across the street from me, and the 1 a few blocks away. Whole Foods was across the street, and there were bars and restaurants everywhere. Also, people in Harlem are typically super friendly and welcoming. I enjoyed the varieties of cultures and influences from other countries. 

One of the best parts of living in Harlem was the food! Ordering in was never an issue—there were so many choices. As far as restaurants go, Silvia’s, Harlem Shake and Red Rooster were my top go-tos—always!

Socializing was easy and I loved going to the Apollo Theater and the Harlem Stage or even just walking in the park nearby. 

I work in the analytics and data science field, with a focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning and commuted to the Financial District. The subway ride would take about 45 minutes to an hour. I knew when I began looking for a new place that I wanted a shorter commute as well as a large space in a good building. 

I searched Zillow for properties in my price range, and I enlisted the help of Elina Harrison, an agent at Triplemint, to help me find a new place. Mortgage rates are historically low, so buying was not only an option for me, but depending on where I bought, I could drop my monthly costs by half, have more space, a shorter commute, and even have my own backyard! During the pandemic having outdoor space was definitely a plus! 

After seeing about 30 places with Elina, I gravitated towards New Jersey—Jersey City specifically. The area is vibrant, growing, and has everything I want. 

And the apartment I bought really has it all: Three bedrooms and three bathrooms with a washer/dryer. It’s also really big: 2,500 square feet on two floors. I paid $789,000, and it turns out my Harlem rent was double my current mortgage! And because it is new construction, no one has ever lived in my unit. 

Transportation-wise, I’m all set. I even have a garage. I don’t have a car—yet, but in 2021 look out! I am right by all bus lines, trains, and the light rail, although I am not commuting to work right now because of the pandemic. I can be in Times Square in less than 15 minutes and in the Financial District in 30!  

The move itself was definitely different in the sense that we were far more cautious because of the pandemic. But we, along with our wonderful moving company, were sure to take every precaution to ensure safety of staff and ourselves. 

I’ve only occupied the unit for under two months, so I haven’t gotten to explore too much. We are being cautious because of Covid-19 restrictions, so none of our friends have come over to see the new place. I do have fantastic neighbors though, who have stopped by (while maintaining proper social distancing) and brought cookies and a bottle of champagne. And someone else brought my package that had been mistakenly delivered to them! I really thought that only happens in the movies. I’m so looking forward to more people getting vaccinated so we can all socialize together. 

We’ve mostly just been ordering grocery and home supplies from Amazon and ordering in from Jade Wok in the neighborhood. Their shrimp with broccoli is amazing. We also love Suave Sabor for Brazilian food or their burgers. We live right by Central Avenue, so we have access to lots of stores although our long-time habit is to buy in bulk online and that hasn’t changed much. 

While we plan to stay a long time, prices here are rising really fast, which means if I want to sell it later on, it's almost a guaranteed profit. My only regret is I should have bought sooner.



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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