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The Enviables

They’ve bought and sold, over and over, timing the market perfectly. Three true tales of strategy and luck.


The Novogratzes  

In the mad real-estate world we occupy, everyone seems to know one New Yorker who has a better grip on the system than seems possible—or at least has had the roulette wheel come up on the right number several times in a row. The property owners on these pages have worked their equity to its absolute limit, buying and selling and buying again, riding boom and bust like surfers. All three now live in flat-out jealousy-inducing situations, and all three can cite good choices, fearless market aggression, and great good fortune. And as E.B. White once wrote, nobody should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.

Started with $45,000

1996: BUY
The Novogratzes want to buy a condemned townhouse on West 19th Street. Banks won’t write them a loan, because it’s so far gone; they offer $45,000 to the owner to kick off a rent-to-own arrangement, and start bringing the place up to code. That allows them to get a mortgage for $450,000.

1998: BUY
Renovation done, the couple rents out the top three floors (to Suzanne Vega!) for $16,000 a month. They pack their family into the basement apartment and use their $60,000 savings as a down payment on a condemned building at 22 Thompson Street and an empty lot next door for $560,000.

2003: SELL/BUY
The couple have tapped into the equity on the Chelsea house (appraised at $2.8 million), borrowing $1 million to rebuild 22 Thompson and move in. Now they sell it for $3.9 million, and will use the proceeds to buy four run-down buildings on Centre Market Place for $5.3 million.

2004–2006: SELL
The first to be renovated are 4 and 5 Centre Market; they sell No. 4 for $5.9 million and move into No. 5. Soon after, they sell the house at 24 Thompson for $7 million, allowing them to begin…

Early 2007: BUY
…planning an 8,000-square-foot house on West Street, on the site of a former garage, bought for $4.3 million.

TODAY: The West Street house is in the works, they still own 5 Centre Market Place, and they just sold the Chelsea place that started it all for $5.9 million.

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