If having privacy and a backyard sounds like music to your ears, the iconic NYC brownstone might be the right home for you. Yes, it’s a more hands-on investment and you may not be able to enjoy the usual high-rise perks like a doorman or fitness center, but it’s a small price to pay in exchange for a house you can fully make your own.
But before you go ahead with buying a brownstone, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into as it’s a whole different process compared to buying a co-op or condo – and the demands on your time will be much higher as well. Here are five things to consider.
Maintenance lies in your hands
With buying a brownstone, there comes a certain responsibility. Unlike a condo or co-op, you are the one in charge of hiring a professional if there’s a problem with the property (unless you’re a handyman yourself). All the ongoing and infrequent responsibilities will be yours; boiler check-ups, plumbing, as well as any roof repairs. In NYC, you’re also required to keep your sidewalk clean and in good condition, meaning shoveling snow in the winter.
That said, you might not have to deal with these problems on your own. Some streets have a collaboration between neighbor-owners who hire a communal super to handle their problems (and sometimes you even see supers “owning” a whole block).
A lack of amenities
In most cases, your brownstone won’t have the high-rise amenities such as doormen or concierges to handle package deliveries. So, what can you do? One solution is installing a remote doorman system like a virtual doorman, or you can hire a house manager who can take all your packages. If these don’t fit your budget, you can always ask a neighbor to accept your packages.
Without a doorman or front desk, there will also be a lack of building security. This problem can be solved by installing security systems, and these days you can buy one with Latch locks, motion sensors or a 24/7 monitoring service – so you’ll never have to feel unsafe.
The landmark status
If you’re buying a brownstone in one of the sought-after landmarked districts, you’ll have to get approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission for any exterior renovations. Remember this can be a lengthy process and you will likely be limited in what you can change or renovate. Fortunately, smaller renovations or simple updates can be approved at a lower level, so you won’t have to wait for a full review.
Being a landlord brings responsibility
If you intend to live there by yourself or with your family, make sure your brownstone is delivered vacant. If you intend to be a landlord, there are a number of laws you need to keep in mind. You must know them, comply with them and make sure the paperwork is filed properly with the right city or state department. In the case that your brownstone has existing tenants, you need to pay attention to rent-regulated tenants who might impact your financial equation. An easy way to keep on top of these requirements is to hire a property management company that can take care of these aspects for you.
Property taxes are the big plus
One thing that certainly brings an advantage to owning a brownstone is the break on property taxes as one to three-family houses are in a different tax class compared to condos and co-ops. It can seem like brownstone owners have to spend more money on everything else, but they pay fewer property taxes, savings of which can be put towards the earlier mentioned services for your brownstone home.
With all of this info in mind, the next step is to find your perfect NYC brownstone. Click here or call 646.681.5272 with your questions to speak with an agent from Platinum Properties! We’re standing by to help you through every step of the real estate process, whether buying or selling a brownstone, guiding your rental search, or anything in between.