New York City Townhouses and Brownstones

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  A Townhouse is a multi-story dwelling (attached or detached) that is built close to the street and scaled similarly to surrounding houses. Many people use the terms of Townhouse and Brownstone interchangeably, however, a Townhouse can be sheathed in red brick, limestone, brown sandstone, or wood, whereas a Brownstone is sheathed in brown sandstone. Manhattan has many different types of Townhouses including Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, and Second Empire architectural styles of the early- and mid-nineteenth century, as well as the Neo Grec, Romanesque, Renaissance Revival, and American Colonial Revival styles.

Single-Family or Multi-Family Townhouse

A Townhouse buyer has two options – a single-family Townhouse or multi-family Townhouse. Deciding which to choose will depend upon the owner’s needs for freedom and privacy, as the former would offer the most of each. Buying a multi-family, however, can make homeownership more affordable as an owner will collect rent from tenants.

Townhouse Statistics for Manhattan in 2010

New York City Townhouses account for only 3% of property sales in Manhattan, as there were only 196 transactions. The average sale price for a Manhattan-wide single-family Townhouse was $7,948,000 with an average size of 4,909 sq. ft. or $1,619 per sq. ft. (or $17,428 per sq. mt.). For the luxury market, the top 10% of all sales, the average sale price for a Manhattan-wide single-family Townhouse was $18,130,000 for 8,914 sq. ft., or $2,034 per sq. ft. (or $21,893 per sq. mt.).

Primary factors that impact the value of a townhouse

The primary factors that provide value to a Townhouse are 1) whether or not there are existing rent-control tenants, 2) location, 3) the condition of the building, and 4) frontage, or width of the building.

Rent Control

If you decide to go the multi-family route, remember that New York City has formidable citywide rent controls (or price controls) that may apply if there are six or more units in the building.  It would be wise for a buyer to steer clear of buildings with rent control or rent-stabilized tenants in place since once the property transfers to the new owners, so do all the rent controls. The new owner likely won’t be able to evict tenants of the property if the owner decides to make a single-family home. Rent Control favors the tenant, so landlords must know these rules inside and out.  In searching for New York City townhouses, buyers should search for buildings with “Market Rate”  or “Free Market” tenants. That is not to say that an investor should never purchase a property with rent control tenants. However, the investor must know that his freedom will be severely restricted by NYC rent control laws and, therefore, the value of the property will also likely be impaired if rent control tenants are in place.

Location, Location, Location

New York City Townhouses are valued based on which block they are on. In addition, each block’s configuration impacts value, since there is more perceived value in a block that has rows of uninterrupted Townhouses than a block with a large building smack-dab in the middle of the block that is interrupting continuity. On both the Upper East and Upper West Sides, the most expensive Townhouses are generally those blocks adjacent to Central Park in the 60s and 70s. On the Upper West Side, Townhouses that are on blocks adjacent to Riverside Park in the 70s and 80s are more expensive than those adjacent to Central Park in the 80s and 90s. On the Upper East Side, Townhouses on blocks adjacent to Park Avenue in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s are more expensive than the remaining Townhouses in the area.

Condition of the Building

Most New York City Townhouses were built in the 19th Century, so they are the oldest buildings in the city. Accordingly, a buyer will have to decide how much renovation and reconfiguration that he or she is willing to make in getting the Townhouse in condition to meet the buyer’s needs. While many Townhouses have been completely restored or renovated, many have not.

Frontage

Generally, frontage, or width of the building, has a great impact on the value of a Townhouse. A buyer would pay much more for a 24-foot-wide Townhouse than for 15-foot-wide Townhouse, all things being equal, including the total square footage. If you want us to prepare a search of Townhouses for you, please go to our Tailored Search.