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When buying an apartment in NYC, we often believe that bigger is better. But that may not always be the case for building size. Smaller “boutique” buildings have much to offer the right person. Boutique buildings provide a more intimate setting, a building board that gets things done faster, and a feeling of exclusivity. But with that also comes a few downsides, such as potentially higher monthly costs and fewer people willing to volunteer for the board. Pros and cons depend on what your priorities are. Some people disavow them, while others are willing to pay top dollar to live in a smaller building. Are they suitable for you?
That is what we will discuss. By the end, you should have a firm idea of whether a boutique building is the right fit for you to call home.
What We Mean by “Boutique Building”What We Mean by “Boutique Building”
First, let’s point out that” boutique building” doesn’t have a clear definition. It typically donates a high-end luxury building with fewer units than usual. But how many units that should be is where it gets tricky. Some insist it can only have ten or fewer units. Others say it can be a building with up to 20 apartments. Others say anything with 30 or 50 apartment units can still be considered a boutique building. There is no consensus on this, though most would agree that anything above 50 units stretches the definition.
Whatever the exact number of units, the key phrase is boutique. Boutique often suggests the building is exclusive, luxurious, and typically built to a higher standard. Any building worthy of being called a boutique should be unique. Ultimately, it’s up to each buyer to determine whether a building is a boutique building. Don’t rely on what the marketing says; get out there and make your judgments.
Pros of Owning an Apartment in a Boutique BuildingPros of Owning an Apartment in a Boutique Building
They tend to be more intimate.They tend to be more intimate.
With fewer neighbors, you can expect things to feel more intimate in a boutique building. Something that almost everyone is happy with. Fewer neighbors mean a chance to get to know them better and potentially form close friendships. There’s a higher sense of neighborliness than you may find in a larger building. However, there is also a darker side to this. Problematic neighbors with which you do not get along. However, you tend to run into more people in the lobby and elevators in larger buildings.
They are easier from a logistical standpoint.They are easier from a logistical standpoint.
If you live on the middle or higher floors of a tall residential building, getting to and from the front entrance can be challenging. Those few minutes you spend each day waiting for an elevator to arrive can add up over time. It is even worse when you carry stuff to or from your apartment, especially if it requires multiple trips. This will be far less of an issue in a smaller building.
The building’s board can get things done faster.The building’s board can get things done faster.
One of the problems with larger buildings is that the gears can turn a bit slow when a problem needs fixing. A larger board means more time spent discussing matters than doing something about them. Older buildings, in particular, can have a lot of bureaucratic red tape that frustrates attempts at reform. If they’re well managed, smaller buildings can be quicker and more efficient when problems need solving.
They come with a sense of exclusivity.They come with a sense of exclusivity.
There are limited units so that some boutique buildings can be highly exclusive. There is a sense of prestige to owning one, so you’ll probably have little trouble finding a buyer if you ever choose to sell. Another upside is that their rarity can lead to high valuations. This is especially true if your boutique is in a coveted or historic neighborhood like the West Village or Meatpacking District. Also, chances are you’ll be the only listing in the building when you do sell, meaning little to no competition from your neighbors.
Cons of Owning an Apartment in a Boutique BuildingCons of Owning an Apartment in a Boutique Building
Monthly building costs may be higher.Monthly building costs may be higher.
Common charges (for condos) and maintenance fees (for co-ops) tend to be higher than average in boutique buildings. Since fewer residents, they cannot share monthly expenses as widely. This can mean a larger bill for any special assessments needed and voted on.
Fewer people volunteer for the board.Fewer people volunteer for the board.
Fewer residents also mean fewer potential volunteers for the building board. Since being on the board is an unpaid and voluntary position, it can be hard to find enough competent and honest people willing to do it. This can be a real problem, especially in a high-end luxury boutique condominium where owners are presumably busy with their jobs.
They usually have fewer amenities.They usually have fewer amenities.
Smaller boutique buildings typically offer fewer amenities. The smaller number of residents makes it difficult to justify the maintenance costs, say, an indoor pool or spa. However, you can find such amenities and smaller buildings with small basement gyms and common gardens. In more luxurious boutique buildings, door attendants, concierges, and on-site laundry rooms are common.
The Verdict: Are Boutiques Right for You?The Verdict: Are Boutiques Right for You?
As you can see, many fair arguments exist for and against living in a boutique building. They are certainly not for everyone, and their higher costs can often make them prohibitively expensive for all but the wealthiest buyers. On the flip side, walk-up boutique buildings typically have lower common charges with no amenities and are less expensive to purchase. When well managed and everyone gets along, they can be great homes to live in. But when not well managed, and everyone is at each other’s throats, they can be like descending into a new circle of unpleasantness.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
Choosing a home in a boutique building requires due diligence. Ensure you are represented by a buyer’s agent who knows what to look for in selecting a suitable building for your new home. Pay close attention to how the building is kept and managed and who the residents might be. Do they mostly keep to themselves or throw weekday parties? Does the building have a history of litigation? How do the residents perceive the board’s management? Every boutique building is different; after choosing a building and reaching an accepted offer, review the building financials and house rules and have your attorney review the board minutes to determine if yours is a good choice.