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Tales From the City

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They Hit the Jackpot

Once in a while, you time everything right. It was only nine years ago that cosmetic dentist Graziano Giglio and his periodontist wife, Ana, bought a 1,500-square-foot two-bedroom condo on 56th Street between First Avenue and Sutton Place, near their practice, for $296,000. That was 1994, which, in hindsight, turns out to have been the absolute bottom of the housing market. Three sons later, the couple needed additional space, and last April, their broker, Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy’s Eugenia Foxworth, put the condo on the market. Last April, of course, was the absolute top of the market. Foxworth priced the place at $850,000, way more than the Giglios would’ve asked. They were offered full price during the first open house. Looking back, Giglio—now living with his family in a 2,700-square-foot four-bedroom in the same building—says they probably could’ve gotten even more had they held out longer. “Eugenia called me later that week with bids for $950,000,” he says. “But we gave the people our word.”

He Waited Too Long

When Eric McLendon, a former WNBC sportscaster and current actor, first moved to New York from California in 1997, he thought seriously about buying in Harlem. Taking the advice of his broker, Corcoran’s Vie Wilson, McLendon looked at several townhouses near Mount Morris Park. But he ultimately walked away from a four-story, 3,600-square-foot townhouse priced at about $200,000. “I didn’t know much about Harlem,” he says. “I didn’t think gentrification was as strong as it is now.” (He bought on the Upper West Side, near Lincoln Center, instead.) Five years later, McLendon returned to the area, convinced that he’d missed out on something and realizing that rebuilding had most definitely taken root. He got his house—a four-story limestone, off Lenox Avenue a few blocks below 125th Street—but for $600,000. “The townhouses are jewels up here,” says McLendon. “And it’s much more neighborhoody than I thought. You can see the sky.” Of course, he wishes he’d figured that out in 1997. “Obviously. I could’ve gotten a better deal.”

They Lucked Out

Karyn Hodge, a computer consultant, and her fiancé wanted to buy a home in Fort Greene. “My son goes to school in Fort Greene, so we definitely wanted to be in that area,” says Hodge. But the couple kept getting shelled in bidding wars. “Every time we found a house we liked, we had to bid $150,000 more than it was worth because five other people from Manhattan with million-dollar bankrolls bid on the same house.” Last August, the pair lost a bid on a $995,000 Fort Greene townhouse on Carlton Avenue, and gave up. Ultimately, they paid $569,000 for a 6,000-square-foot, four-story, six-bedroom Dutch Colonial—in Bed-Stuy. It wasn’t their dream neighborhood, but “downgrading” turned out to have surprising rewards. They got a whole house to themselves; they paid half what they would in a fully gentrified area; and the sense of community was palpable. “The neighbors actually came out and greeted us when we first moved in. They threw a royal high-tea ceremony in the mansion across the street,” says Hodge, whose skepticism has turned into genuine boosterism. “You’d drive around all day looking for a parking spot in Fort Greene, but in Bed-Stuy, I actually get to park in front of my door every day.”

They Waited—and Won

When Jeffrey and Heller Goldberg’s twins were born in 2000, their family swelled to five—and outgrew their converted-three-bedroom rental on East End Avenue. The couple started spending weekends with the classifieds. Searching only within the districts allotted to P.S. 6 and P.S. 290, they ran across a 3,000-square-foot behemoth in July 2000. “It was an awkward four-bedroom with a monstrous terrace” at Lexington Avenue and 77th Street, says Jeffrey, a lawyer. “It just didn’t look good, and they were asking $1.6 million.” The Goldbergs took a pass and kept looking—without luck. “We saw other places, but I kept comparing it to that one. The other homes just didn’t have enough space,” says Jeffrey. At the end of 2001, the family caught a break: The place on 77th Street reappeared on the market, asking $1.3 million. This time, the couple jumped in and bargained hard—they won’t say exactly what they paid, but they’ll allow that it was about $1 million. Some of the savings are going toward improvements. “I had an architect see it, and we decided to knock down all of those walls and rebuild,” says Jeffrey. “And we made a home.”


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