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Pssst… Wanna buy a piece of the Brooklyn Bridge? The hype about Brooklyn real estate has been around for over 100 years.  But if your dream is to own a Brooklyn townhouse and not a share of the bridge, it is well within your reach.

These simple tips will make you a more savvy townhouse buyer.

1. Remember that Brooklyn is not Manhattan

Manhattan is a highly populated small island where space is at a premium.  Although Brooklyn is also located on an island, it is more than three times as big with a lower population density. Manhattan real estate is more than twice as expensive as in Brooklyn when measured by price per square foot, and astronomically more expensive when looking at townhouses.   If you shop for townhouses in Brooklyn with a Manhattan mindset you may end up paying too much or settling for too little space.

2. Don’t believe the inventory hype

If you listen to your average real estate agent, you might think that Brooklyn townhouses are disappearing like snow shovels in a snowstorm. But the simple fact is that there are plenty of townhouses in Brooklyn.  Townhouses account for about one-third of real estate sales in the borough, and more than 1,000 of them go on sale every few months.

That may be a problem for the 30,000 real estate agents fighting for the listings, but you are only buying one of them. Don’t feel rushed to buy or to overbid on a townhouse you are not crazy about.  Brooklyn is not running out of townhouses anytime soon, and with a little patience and a bit of compromise, you will find the right one for you at the right price.

3. Find your cool nabe

Here’s a news flash: nobody suffers from zip code envy in Brooklyn. Now more than ever you do not need to restrict yourself to the so-called prime neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope or Cobble Hill or to rush into overheated nabes like Williamsburg or Greenpoint.  Take some time to explore adjoining neighborhoods like Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Kensington or Ditmas Park. There are excellent values if you look further east and south, in classic neighborhoods like Flatbush, Midwood and Bay Ridge.

4. Don’t quit your day job

If you are a professional contractor, you can skip this tip.  But if you are not, you should look for a townhouse in move-in condition, preferably from an owner who has lived in the property for at least a few years.  The move-in condition does not mean renovated entirely, merely that the plumbing, electrical, roof, windows, and so on are working. Resist the temptation to buy a shell, even if the owner offers to renovate it for you unless you have very deep pockets and don’t mind living in a rental for the next few years.  Look for a townhouse that you can renovate on your schedule after you have had some time to live in it and see which renovations are a priority.  It almost goes without saying that you should have the property inspected by a licensed real estate inspector before signing a contract.

5. Get represented

If you call the listing agent for a townhouse, that agent should send you a New York State Disclosure Form that tells you that he or she solely represents the seller’s interests.  The listing agent is required to get the best deal for their client, the seller, not you, the buyer. The Disclosure Form also tells you that you have the right to have your agent, a buyer’s agent, to represent your interests.  You usually do not have to pay a fee for a buyer broker; traditionally all agents’ commissions are paid by the seller.  If you do not use a buyer broker, the entire commission (4-6% of the price) will go to the seller’s broker. Since that commission is built into the selling price that you are paying, you are losing the 2-3% that could help you negotiate a better deal.

6. Hold fast to your dreams

It may take you a few months or even a few years to find the Brooklyn townhouse that is right for you.  But don’t let the sellers or their agents distract you from the dream that first inspired you to buy a Brooklyn townhouse.  It may be something never mentioned in the listing agent’s description with no tangible dollar value. Maybe you want to grow your tomatoes, enjoy the morning sunrise or the sunset through your windows, or sit on your stoop every morning to drink your coffee and watch the neighbors go by.  If you stay true to your original vision, you are sure to find a place you can call home.


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