If a thief were to break into an apartment in a doorman building, what would he steal?
The flat TV is bolted to the wall, and costs $1000 to purchase new.
One can watch TV on a computer or phone, anyway.
The CD’s and DVD’s are all either in the Cloud or on a hard drive, and Pandora is free, and Spotify is free online.
YouTube is also free for music videos.
Books are on a Kindle.
Art can’t exactly hop off the wall and out of a doorman building.
Perhaps jewelry, perhaps a laptop, purse, or pair of shoes?
If that thief were to roam through a subdivision of single-family homes, would he find substantially more material?
that current pleasures are captured less in stuff than in experience, and it may follow that houses, with garages and attics and many rooms for accumulation,
nesters than the vitality of their neighborhoods.
Today’s apartment is less and less about things,
with more emphasis on space and convenience.
Increasingly, it is compatible with
comfort, not limited by
Priorities seem to have shifted toward an appreciation of the negative (empty)
space, light, views, openness – the experience of the space more than the practicality of it.
Yes, people need bedrooms, a certain number of baths, but the loftiness of Downtown living has moved Uptown, creating real constraints on what can be achieved with the current housing stock.
Let’s call it the Suburban Effect, as nothing is
about an interest in gracious and spacious
– that focus simply hasn’t been as central to City living, in recent history.
And the Suburban Effect is
just as much about Baby Boomers moving into the City or back into the City as about
children of their generation,
who have taken their experience growing up and moved it to New York City.
Complemented by technology integrating every part of our lives and creating incredible convenience and efficiency, this suburban creep pushes into the City at a time when City living has never been better.
As I think of it, this Effect can be seen and felt in a number of ways.
First, there is a blurring line between the lives of the suburbs and the City, created by Baby Boomers moving back into the City full-time or part-time.
Much of the experience of suburban living, and perhaps a little of the fantasy of it, has moved into NYC with these empty nesters snapping up City apartments and townhouses.
The recent $47mm Downtown listing brokers (including my colleague) went so far as to agree that people want to “replicate suburban living in the city.”
Meanwhile, Baby Boomer kids (Gen X, Baby Busters, etc.) also are working to recreate childhood homes without leaving the City,
to varying degrees of size and success.
We can see this desire in the layouts and finishes popular right now in new development.
A statistic I am in some ways surprised to see: there is a net loss of 238,000 children in NYC, putting the City very low on the list of cities with kids.
This sounds like something from another time – I mean, walk down the street anywhere in the City – and this statistic is saying that New York is a “kiddie desert”?
The article from Bloomberg that cites this makes me question everything else I am hearing about the demand for public and private schools in the City, the waiting lists for public schools such as PS 199, where “zoned” children can’t get into their neighborhood school.
Or private school – is the demand for spots artificial?
It would not appear so.
But, if I accept the number, then we’ll look at it as a second part of this Suburban Effect, the flip side, with both
empty nesters and growing
young families vying for a diminishing number of larger apartments.
Two generations are competing, and the Baby Boomers often are winning, using these large apartments as slightly smaller
replications of the homes that they owned outside of New York.
Of course, we’re simplifying things a bit here.
Some young families can’t rise to the prices of these apartments,
and some just won’t pay for them.
Some buyers, of course, must want a real backyard, a great public school system, a larger space, and the real conveniences of suburban living.
Third, older cooperative housing stock is
leaving much to be desired in this quest for “open space,” despite many apartments
offering much to satisfy
the needs of both groups.
From the looks of it, from statistics of what’s on the market, and given that 70% of the housing stock is still cooperatives, it would appear that co-ops will continue to provide the canvas for much City living, whether people like it or not.
But in the desirability game, condos are winning: whether because the older layouts are no longer simpatico with the wants of today’s buyer, or the board rules are archaic, or the cost and headache of renovating older apartments outweighs the cost of more expensive new condominiums built to revised and updated sensibilities.
We’ll use some examples of a couple of new developments that I saw recently, 252 East 57th Street and 210 West 77th Street, to illustrate:
These apartments emphasize the experience of city living over the experience of the accumulation of stuff.
These are homes for Thanksgiving, and cooking it, not watching the parade and the game on big screens. These are homes with double ovens, closets for suburban-sized Costco trips, and
huge 100-bottle Miele wine refrigerators – stocked for entertaining and family dinners.
They have combined living and dining rooms –
Great Rooms, to be
sure; lots of building staff for small unit count; parking spaces and/or a porte-a-cochere to make arrival and departure that much easier.
Here are incredibly posh kitchens, as much trophy items as functional ones – directly lifted from the suburbs.
Will they see as much action as the restaurants I see packed across the City every night?
Color me skeptical.
Across the City, inventory year over year is still down about 3% (August 2014 – 4,440 vs. August 2013 – 4,538), despite new properties hitting the market.
Some markets are slightly more active,
the Upper West Side, where inventory is
up nearly 5% (660 apartments in August 2014 vs. 605 in 2013),
but I chalk these
to overpricing more than to anything else, and to very small sample sizes (it’s only 55 more apartments on the UWS,
Still, buyers are paying top prices
and calling for the same changes, so their power is leveraged
insisting that every apartment satiate the urge for home. New development is modeling units in this image, and co-ops, which have the
historic benefits of exclusivity and tradition, must also maintain their curb appeal – refreshed lobbies and halls,
and such – while modernizing, with
and opened layouts, and options to combine and refresh.
Is it possible that these suburbs-to-City buyers, both retirees and young families who would have nestled elsewhere, in another time,
will push out the normal City folk?
Let me know what you think!