If you’re on the hunt for the perfect apartment in New York City, there are some essential features you should consider before making a purchase. Whether it’s a fixer-upper or move-in ready, a condo or co-op apartment that lacks the right services and amenities will likely never fit the bill and leave you wishing for a different pad to call home.
Everyone has a different idea of what the perfect home should look and feel like. Some New Yorkers dream of living over a great Chinese takeaway while others want to live in a renovated warehouse. Whatever your real estate dream, you need to consider the neighborhood businesses and hotspots in the area before you sign a lease. You’ll be thrilled you did when you need a bag of Cheetos at six in the morning or cough syrup in the middle of the night.
Ask most any New Yorker what they give up to live in the Big Apple, and you’ll probably get a laundry list. Most amenities our suburban neighbors take for granted are downright luxuries for us NYC residents. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to find conveniences like a doorman, washer/dryer, or private outdoor space –– all offered in a single apartment. For this reason, we often narrow our wish list and come up with one or two amenities that we prefer not to live without.
What New Yorkers Can’t Live Without
I polled a group of longtime New Yorkers and introduced the following scenario –– They would live in a third-floor co-op apartment in Manhattan with the option of one amenity: a doorman, private backyard or terrace, dishwasher, washer/dryer in the NYC apartment, gym in the building, or pool in the building. I found it interesting how people’s priorities differ, and an amenity about which you would expect most individuals to care little ended up being the one feature they chose.
For me, I’d have a tough time choosing between the washer/dryer and the outdoor space. Currently, I’m one of the select few co-op owners with a washer/dryer unit in my apartment, so schlepping to a laundromat would be a pretty harsh lifestyle change. But then I think, if I were fortunate enough to have the option of living with a killer private outdoor space –– especially since I own a 75-pound dog –– I’d take it. Who doesn’t crave an outdoor area in New York City?
The people I asked didn’t have any issue deciding. They were absolute in their choice for that one must-have amenity. Read on to see what New Yorkers want and need.
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The greatest asset for an apartment in New York City is location, location, and location: a factor that’s so important, it comes in threes. Not only does a great location in the city to ensure your property value stays up, but it also means you’ll have a safe, walkable neighborhood to call home.
Look for homes near parks and trendy shops and restaurants on quiet streets. It’s also important to consider the quality of the neighborhood schools and the amenities in the apartment building. These features attract high-value buyers.
Most co-op and condo apartments in New York City were built at the turn of the last century, which means they have historic charm, but also low ceilings. Low ceilings spell trouble for an apartment’s resale value because they put off a cramped vibe that pretty much any buyer would notice.
During the apartment hunting process, if you come across a property with low ceilings, make sure you do two things: listen for your upstairs neighbors and have the measurements of the tallest furniture you own on hand.
Lower means louder especially when the ceiling is low; which anything under seven and a half feet is; then sounds like upstairs footsteps and shuffling will be amplified. Also, if your tallest piece of furniture almost touches the ceiling, your apartment will look cramped no matter what you do.
If you’re an NYC local, then chances are you don’t have a car. Keep this in mind when buying an apartment and remember, the closer you are to public transportation, the better. A bus stop is excellent, but a subway station is ideal. In terms of proximity, a subway station within a few blocks of your potential apartment is a great feature that is a huge time saver if you ride it often and will also raise the property’s value.
Layout plays a significant role when hunting for the perfect pad, but many apartment shoppers overlook storage space when looking at the big picture. If you’re walking through an empty apartment, you should try to visualize the condo with your belongings in it.
Does it have enough storage space to fit your life? If not, you might want to keep searching. A lack of storage space translates to a cramped, cluttered apartment, which will take away from the apartment’s overall livability.
“I would say outdoor space. It was a pre-requisite for my apartment, and I would feel claustrophobic without it.” –H.H., 18 years a New Yorker
A washer/dryer in my apartment would be huge. Otherwise, I’d send out my laundry because it’s such a hassle. –N.S., 12 years a New Yorker.
That’s easy…a washer/dryer. –S.M., Lenox Hill, 15 years a New Yorker
I’d love to have a gym in my building so I wouldn’t have to walk home all sweaty after a workout. –M.S., 24 years a New Yorker
A doorman is something I use every day to receive packages and perform other tasks, so I think I’d choose a door attendant, over most anything else. M.J., eight years a New Yorker.
Oddly enough, no one cared much about a dishwasher. Perhaps that’s because many New Yorkers dine out or order delivery, so they keep cooking to a minimum.
If you could select one apartment luxury, what would you choose?
“I would say an indoor pool because I can’t get to one. And in the winter, I wouldn’t want to go out in the cold and go to a pool. I love to swim, and I’d walk up and down 20 flights if I had a pool in my building.” E.L., six years a New Yorker
If you’re a non-smoker, then you should put smoke-free housing at the top of your list. An apartment building with smoking tenants not only means you’ll live in a second-hand smoke environment, but your clothes and furnishings will begin to absorb the smell over time as well.
So, double-check with your real estate agent to make sure the apartment and building are smoke-free before scheduling a walk-through. After all, a non-smoking building means the apartment’s property value has nowhere to go but up.
By keeping in mind the tips above, you can rest assured your new New York City apartment will meet your expectations.
A 24/7 Convenience Store
A convenience store is just that — convenient. Many thoughts go into picking out the perfect neighborhood, and while the biggies are undoubtedly notable, some people forget about the small but essential details. You should look for a place with a convenience store no more than a block or two away from your home. You never know when you might need a case of Red Bull, a bag of chips, or a small sewing kit. You certainly don’t want to take the bus or subway for such small purchases.
Similarly, easy access to cough drops, headache medicine, and bandages is imperative. Pharmacies are likewise crucial for picking up prescriptions, and they’re also helpful if you run out of cosmetics or soda. You may not find a place near a hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic, but your local pharmacist is an enormously adequate substitute.
A Good Grocery Store
Unfortunately, convenience stores and pharmacies won’t cut it for all groceries, and there’s nothing worse than trying to cart your bags on the bus, the train, or even in a cab. If you scout out an apartment that has a grocery store or market within walking distance, you can get fresh produce anytime you like. You may also want to look for a local butcher or an organic market.
Amazing Pizza Place
Pizza is practically the signature dish of New York City. Although there are fantastic restaurants dotted all over the city, nothing beats a New York-style slice. Every neighborhood has a spectacular pizza place. Get close to yours, and you can fulfill your cravings for good sauce and gooey cheese when you want.
A Great Bar
The quintessential neighborhood bar is another hotspot. You need a place where you can gather with your friends and local buddies. This is the place where you’ll go to unwind, watch the game, catch up with your pals, and watch the neighborhood go by.
That being said, you might consider different locales. It all depends on what’s important to you. You might want a neighborhood with a fantastic bookstore, the kind that encourages you to get comfy on a couch and read the day away. Another option is the hot coffee shop. You might not get a La Colombe, but the city overflows with local cafes and coffee shops that all promise the best cup and phenomenal pastries.
The perfect neighborhood is different for everyone, so it’s ultimately up to you. As you hunt for your new digs, think about the things you can’t live without — the nonnegotiable details. What do you need to have near your apartment?