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Where to Find the Best ‘Starter’ Apartments in Manhattan

Recently, the New York Times wrote about how an aspect of the current American housing crisis is the shortage of starter homes across the country. The rising cost of land, sharp increases in the cost of building materials, fees imposed by different cities and local ordinances—some of which require new homes that are built to offer two car garages—have led builders to realize the only way that they can profit is by building a single, luxury home. In the past, many smaller starter houses would have been built instead.

Contrary to what some might assume, here in Manhattan—a borough known for its high cost of living—apartments that are the equivalent of starter homes do in fact exist, especially in Upper Manhattan.

Even though many New Yorkers consider neighborhoods north of 125th Street to be "out of sight, out of mind," there are one hundred blocks more of Manhattan north of 125th Street, which accounts for just a bit less than a third of the length of the city. And because Upper Manhattan tends to be much narrower than other parts of the island, different subway lines are much more likely to be very close to any uptown apartment. One way to save is to purchase a home in a walk up. There are coop apartments in buildings without elevators in Washington Heights that were built around 1900 to the same high standard as larger elevator buildings of the era. Here are two bedroom apartments in the same coop (that does not have income restrictions), The Roger Morris Apartments, that sold for $445,000 earlier in 2022.

Not far from the Roger Morris, a full-service, 24-hour doorman elevator building, the Riviera on 157th Street and Riverside Drive has an active listing for a sunny, renovated two-bedroom for $749,000. (Slideshow below)

In Inwood, a nature-filled neighborhood near the tip of northern Manhattan—also home to the last virgin forest on Manhattan Island—similar starter units can be found.

Many Inwood locals enjoy kayaking on the Hudson River through the Inwood Canoe Club.

Inwood boasts many deco units which tend to be spacious. Developers flocked to the neighborhood in the early 1930’s, seeing opportunity when the A train opened a station at 207th and Broadway in 1932. Across the street from Inwood Hill Park, 91 Payson Avenue has a fantastic Art Deco lobby with pink-striped, black terrazzo marble floors. This spacious two bedroom is going for $545,000.

62 Park Terrace is part of a complex of buildings called Park Terrace Gardens that offer a large green space between the buildings and ample roof terraces. Here is a two-bedroom with a beautifully renovated kitchen, currently priced at $579,000.

Yes, there is a lack of truly affordable housing in New York City. Sadly, the “affordable” housing that is built is not usually affordable to New Yorkers with modest budgets. However, those seeking to purchase a mid-priced starter home, contrary to public opinion, do indeed have options that are perhaps more plentiful in NYC than in other major U.S. cities.

Vivian Ducat is a licensed real estate salesperson with Brown Harris Stevens and one of the firm's top-producing Harlem agents. To connect with Vivian and view her current listings, click here.

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