Bagging the bona fide two-bedroom -- a midsize family home that falls between a converted one-bedroom and a classic six -- is as difficult as ever. Even during last fall's standstill, twos continued to sell easily. In large part, that's because buyers looking to upgrade to a second bedroom are usually doing so not by choice but because they have to: A baby's on the way or just arrived, or they've otherwise outgrown their current digs.
In October, Joyce Davis, a Manhattan dermatologist, and her husband, a cardiac surgeon, signed a contract on a 2,000-square-foot, fully renovated condo on Third Avenue in the Sixties for $1.8 million. "It seemed very strange. They had just found anthrax, and here I was buying an expensive apartment," says Davis. But the high-floor condo was exactly what these doctors ordered: It was in move-in condition, with huge closets and floor-to-ceiling views of the park and the 59th Street Bridge. "I was living in a lovely one-bedroom in Gramercy Park, so we wanted something that was worth the effort of moving," says Davis, who especially needed more living space for her 12-year-old stepson on the weekends.
The price is right: The best place to look for a two-bedroom is around First and East End Avenues in the Nineties. "I sold six 900-square-foot apartments in two weeks last January," says Insignia Douglas Elliman's Tristan Harper, whose deals all went to contract for $350,000 at 300 East 95th Street. "We priced them for the market," he says. While people often think of the East Nineties as a rental neighborhood, newer developments like the Waterford and the Chartwell House are luring home-buyers in the neighborhood.
Luca Marcato, chef-owner of Luca, a Northern Italian restaurant near Gracie Mansion, purchased an 1,100-square-foot condo for the asking price, $665,000, at the Chartwell House, on Second Avenue near 91st Street. "I couldn't find anything at a reasonable price," says Marcato. But the condo has lots of light -- a real plus for Marcato, his wife, and his 6-year-old son, who had lived in a dim rental for the past eight years. Its new construction, ten-year tax abatement, and proximity to the restaurant persuaded Marcato to sign fast, closing two years ago, before the building was complete. They moved in last November.
Farther afield: You can still find a reasonable two-bedroom in Hell's Kitchen -- or Clinton, as brokers now like to call it. Apartments in 24-hour-security buildings range from $625,000 to $800,000 but can almost certainly run about 25 percent less in older, non-doorman properties. "If you're talking about one of the converted co-op buildings or some of those residential hotels for actors, the price is probably a third less than that," says William B. May's Robert Clepper. Many displaced Battery Park City residents have relocated here recently. "It's a great location because it's still easy for them to get to work," says Clepper.
Over the ask: Upper West Side brokers have only one thing to say: Don't even ask about discounts. "There is no best bet. There are no deals here," says MLBKaye International's Warren Pearl. "A slightly weaker neighborhood would be below 14th Street, maybe a 5 percent decrease. But people who are looking for bargains aren't looking for 5 percent; they're looking for 20 and 25 percent, and those are not available," says Pearl. Prices for prewar 1,400-square-foot co-ops that range from $800,000 to $1.3 million on avenues excluding Central Park West and Riverside Drive (where the numbers climb into the $4 million range) haven't budged since last year.
Downtown: Traditionally, two-bedrooms are smaller, scarcer, and more expensive in lower Manhattan. If you're lucky enough to find a 1,000-square-foot two-bedroom in, say, Chelsea or the Village, be prepared to pay top dollar. "If there's a reduction in price at all, it's not a reduction but people desperate to sell," says Charles H. Greenthal's Lew Lydiard. JOY ARMSTRONG