For many New Yorkers, buying a home in New York City seems like a pipe dream at best. With the Big Apple – and Manhattan in particular – having some of the highest real estate prices in the country, many people toss their hands up assuming they’ll stay renters as long as they live here.
But the COVID-19 pandemic changed the equation. With so many fleeing the city, first-time home buyers Adam Bokunewicz saw an opportunity to buy instead of rent. In September, this 27-year-old fitness professional, music theater producer, and vocal coach became the proud owner of a one-bedroom home in Midtown Manhattan.
The awning of The Whitby apartment complex in Hell’s Kitchen.
As part of our ongoing series “Confessions from first-time buyers”Here’s the story of how Bokunewicz overcame adversity – and the often prohibitive New York housing market – to own a small piece of the Big Apple.
Location: Midtown Manhattan
Apartment Specifications: 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom (600 square meters)
Asking price: $ 572,800
Purchase price: $ 565,000
New York City is so hard to buy. How did you even start
The Whitby Entrance
My new home is a pre-war cooperative on West 45th Street called The Whitby. The building used to be the home of Doris Day, and it’s right across from the Al Hirschfeld Theater. Many Broadway actresses and actors lived there at the time. So it has a lot of rich history within the walls, which is what I always wanted.
I used to live on 44th Street and walked past the building the whole time. It has a very nice awning and I loved the facade of the building. So I always had it in mind.
One day I was talking to a friend who works in real estate.
She said, “You should check out The Whitby. My friend got such a great offer there. “
The apartments in the building turned out to be small, about 600 square feet or less. But for my partner Branson and I it was a total upgrade because we lived in a studio apartment together, so whatever room with a door had like, “OMG, great!”
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Housing hunting in NYC can be grueling. How did you beat the competition?
I contacted the building’s agent – who also lives there. I had asked about an apartment and he had already signed a contract for it.
But he said, “I had this other apartment that was listed during COVID. We took it off the market, but we’ll be releasing it again shortly. “
The market was completely dead due to the pandemic.
The agent received permission from the owner to show it off the market. The day after seeing the place, I made an asking price offer. We walked back and forth with the owner for a bit before settling on a $ 565,000 retail price.
When I started looking, the market hadn’t turned back all the way either, so it was like I hit my head and got it before the real estate market turned completely and the competition got tough again.
What was important to you when you made the purchase decision?
I’ve always lived in Hell’s Kitchen and was pleased to hear that I could buy something and live in the neighborhood too. I looked at properties in my price range and most of the apartments I found should have been moved to a different neighborhood. That would have derailed my life. I didn’t want to commute.
The architecture and building type of the old school were also important. The building also has a 24-hour doorman and a large roof terrace with views of the city. The purchase had to be an upgrade as it would increase my monthly expenses.
How did you get the finances up and running – especially during a pandemic?
I looked at the price of a one-room rental versus the price of a mortgage plus maintenance. It turned out to be more expensive to rent a one bedroom room than if I put down 20% and got a mortgage. The down payment was a huge factor – that’s a lot of money – but for my monthly stuff, it’s not that I would double or triple the monthly expenses.
And my mortgage rate was 2.85%, which is insanely low, and the building maintenance – which covers taxes and general dues – wasn’t that high because it’s a small apartment.
Is there anything else that helped you know this apartment is The One?
Adam in his new apartment
Many apartments in the building require extensive renovation. They’re relatively cheap for the city, but since it’s an old building, they need a lot of renovation – a new kitchen, new bathroom, and new floors. When you’re renovating a one bedroom apartment in NYC, it’s uninhabitable while it’s happening. That’s one of the reasons I jumped on this apartment straight away, as it was completely renovated a year before I bought it.
How long did it take from closing to moving in?
It took us about 90 days to close which is pretty standard for cooperatives in NYC. And the timing was actually perfect. I had about six weeks left on my other lease so I had some overlap, but things could have been worse.
And the extra time gave me time to prepare for the move without panic. It was good to do things slowly. We officially moved in a month ago.
Are you happy in your new home?
Whitby rooftop view
Oh my god yeah We were immediately greeted by everyone in the building. Maybe because we are the youngest to live there?