In the Market

Kip Lenoir, a real-estate attorney, and his two brothers, Michael and Barry, a doctor and lawyer, respectively, are ready to sell the family home, a twenty-foot-wide four-level with a private backyard on a landmark block in Harlem near Mount Morris Park. They have been seeking a bid of about $2.5 million since March. So far, the offers have been closer to $2 million, but Kip and his brothers aren’t ready to drop their price.

“We thought our asking price was reasonable, but we haven’t had any offers yet that we feel are sufficient. We’ve seen the condominiums being gobbled up in this neighborhood—three-bedroom condos going for $2.5 million—so we’re looking in that range. If the offers are not forthcoming, we still have the option of renting the house out. The rental market is very strong. But we’ll give it another five or six months before we go that route. Some buyers probably fell off the market with the mortgage crisis, we understand that, but we’re still confident. For this particular property, we’re not concerned with the subprime market—the buyer for this sort of property probably isn’t going that route. Some areas are prime, and we just happen to be in one, quite frankly, so we’re not getting jittery. Sorry, am I the only optimistic one out there?”

Kristin Carbone, 35, and Michael St. John, 37, are Broadway actors; she’s understudying the title role in Mary Poppins, and he’s currently at work on a new musical for the New York Theatre Festival. They like the apartment they bought in Inwood seven years ago but are wondering, with a baby on the way, whether now is the time to cash out.

“When we bought our two-bedroom, not many people knew about Inwood. We felt like we were getting a great deal in an up-and-coming neighborhood, and today it’s almost quadrupled in value. Now, with me being pregnant and realizing that eventually we’re going to want more space, and knowing prices historically in New Jersey have been fairly high but right now they’re depressed a bit—it’s sort of forced us to look at where we are financially and what we’re going to need in the next couple of years. Dreaming about a child and preparing for one are two different things! You start thinking, Okay, where’s the desk gonna go, where’s the elliptical machine gonna go? It would be a challenge for us to stay in the city for much more than toddlerhood. You realize it’s time to start looking elsewhere, and the market might be in our favor, so let’s jump.

“For our asking price, which will probably be about $530,000, we can expect to easily afford a three-bedroom house with a decent-size yard near a commuter-rail line. We debated whether we could stay here another couple of years, but we don’t know that in a couple of years we’ll be able to buy the same size house for what our apartment is worth. We don’t think our apartment will go up much—we think we were at the top of the market about a year ago. And the Jersey market may go up a lot.”

Kristin Hart, 38, a librarian and writer, currently rents in Manhattan with her partner, Stephen Murphy, 51, a musician, and their son, Caleb, 5. She’s thinking it may be time to swoop in and grab a deal—Stephen’s not so sure.

“We’re trying to bottom-feed, to get into the cheapest possible apartment you can buy in Manhattan. We’ve been looking maybe four months. We don’t want to spend more than $300,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. It’s sort of revealing differences within our relationship—what we think we deserve and what we think we can afford, what we could do in terms of a renovation. You look at what you can get for that money, and it’s a dump. It’s like, who’s going to build those cabinets? Where’s the money going to come from? Does it make sense? With the maintenance and the taxes, are you really going to save money every month? And will the market go down?

“Maybe we should wait. I don’t think it’s going to go down much further, personally. I want to go for it, but Stephen thinks we can do better. I feel like there’s been a slight downturn or flattening in prices, especially at the very bottom, and that it’s eventually gonna start going up again. He thinks the places we could afford are dumps, and that we should keep looking until we find something better. I’m more nervous that an opportunity is slipping away. That this is a last chance to get in.”

A Look at the City’s Real Estate Market
A Neighborhood Vulnerability Analysis

In the Market