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Old New York

Old new yorkThe good news is that Greenwich Village is extraordinarily unique. The bad news is, if you want a piece of its history, good luck. The housing stock is very limited. And if you are like I am and attracted to row houses, the selection of available units is even more limited. Over the decades, I have from time to time looked at apartments to buy but rarely found anything I really liked and if I did, the cost was extremely high.

I am forever asked why I am a renter and have not purchased a home after living in New York for over 40 years. The market in New York City is very different from anywhere else. There are over 2 million apartments for rent in the city with 65% rent regulated in some way. These regulations provide for below market rents and are a strong disincentive to move. The longer you remain in a regulated apartment, the greater the spread between your rent and the open market non-regulated places becomes - it is not uncommon for the difference to be 100% or more.

This anomaly in pricing just exacerbates the problem - tenants never move with a resultant lesser supply and higher prices for the free market apartments, whether rentals or purchases. If you are fortunate enough to rent an apartment in an historic building, it is unlikely you will ever find a place like it at any price, for rent or sale. In my own building, 3 out of four residents have lived in their apartments for over 30 years. Often, rentals in regulated apartments are no more than the cost of maintenance fees on a similar unit for sale. So why buy? Many analyses have been done demonstrating that in New York City, it can be more prudent to rent than to buy.

The 1830 Greek Revival townhouse at 23 Washington Square North has not been available for sale for half a century. It can be yours, however, the asking price is $25 million dollars. The size is 8,528 square feet or a cost of $2,931 per square foot. There are only 7 apartments on 5 floors. Do the math and you will see the problem - if this building were converted to units for sale, the cost per apartment including carrying charges would be stratospheric. Many buildings like this will often sell to one individual who will convert it to a single family home.

The rentals in this property illustrate what happens in this marketplace. A one bedroom was asking $4,775/month with the penthouse for $8,900 in 2010 and $12,500 per month in 2011. If you would like to get the flavor of what a parlor floor can look like in this type of historic building, see my photos here on the interior of number 24 next door, which one reader described as "real estate porn."

By day or night, looking out or peering in, the extraordinary historic charm is available in this rare window of opportunity to own a piece of old New York's Washington Square. Spare $25 million anyone?

Source: newyorkdailyphoto

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