How to make a million bucks in New York City real estate!

That’s right – a million bucks!  It’s easy!  Just send me three easy payments of 29.99 and I’ll tell YOU how to make a million bucks! Act now, and I’ll throw in a valuable collection of paper-based takeout menus for the neighborhood of your choice!

OK, so I’ve never actually made a real estate deal for a million bucks.  This is sad, since I’ve owned more than one place that probably would go for that price tag if 1) I properly staged the whole apartment, 2) the kitchen had working appliances and 3) I still actually owned the property.

In any case, a million bucks won’t get you very far in most Manhattan neighborhoods.  For that sum, you could probably buy a nice 2-bedroom co-op with no view in Morningside Heights…maybe.  I wouldn’t really know.  As I may have mentioned, I’ve never made a million bucks.  The upside is that you can learn from my mistakes, and if you act NOW yadda yadda, you can get rich in only two easy steps!

Step One – Do your homework before you buy to get a great deal.

Step Two – Sell later for more than you paid when you purchased.

So that’s pretty easy, right?  Let’s get to the details.

They’re called brownstones because the stone is brown.

First – learn about the types of property you can legally own in New York City.  Unless you are crazy, you won’t buy a house.  You may wish to buy a brownstone, an entire building, a co-op, or a condo.  You may wish to, but you’ll probably just sublet a room from a stranger for a while or live with your parents while you save up for the down payment.

Next point:  New York City is not like the rest of the country.  Technically, you COULD buy a house with a garden (on Staten Island, for example), but what’s the point of that?  Just move to Jersey already!  In NYC, most people want an apartment.  Here are the basics

What would I get if I bought…

A brownstone You’re buying the whole building
A condo You’re buying a unit in a building
A co-op You’re not actually buying anything at all

Let’s go through this slowly.  If you buy a brownstone (called a townhouse in most of the rest of the country),  you’re getting a fabulous amount of space, or what is known as a “small starter home” in places like North Carolina.  You’ve just bought the whole building, and it’s gonna cost a bundle….first to buy, and then to maintain.  You own the roof and the plumbing.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready for that level of adult

Generic Condos in here

commitment to an edifice.

If you buy a condo, you’re getting the best of both worlds.  You have an apartment, but you get a built-in support system (a.k.a. “neighbors”) who must share the costs of things like boilers and front door locks.  Condos are not very common in New York City, and that’s because most of what’s for sale here are co-ops (short for “co-operatives”).  Co-ops were invented decades ago as a way of allowing tenants to buy out landlords and own their apartments.  Well, kind of.  You actually own shares of a corporation, not an apartment.  This hardly matters, because for most people, the bank owns your co-op, condo, brownstone, or house, since you have a mortgage.  Lots of bankers won’t even give you a mortgage on a co-op, because they don’t

Quick – buy the air rights to this co-op!

understand them….which is weird when you think about it, as this was the group of people who claim to know what a CDS is.  It’s also weird because co-ops are a NYC success story, and in practice they work very well and make the banks lots of cash.  I’ve owned two (co-ops, not banks), and they’re great.

Now you know what to look for, but where?  To help you get rich, here are some Dos and Don’ts

  • If you are living in a rental, and if the rental goes co-op, DO buy it at the insider price.  It probably won’t happen, but if it does, go for it!  I coulda bought a 2 bedroom, 2 bath on Central Park West for under 100K because it was going co-op, but I didn’t.  I’m still kicking myself, but in my defense I was tired of hearing the gunfire at night.
  • DON’T buy a walk-up unless it’s in Chelsea
  • DON’T buy on the ground floor unless you enjoy either a cave-like darkness or the ability to display your person and talents to all the world’s foot traffic.
  • DO look at the overall financial health of the building and figure out what it means.  You may need a professional for this.
  • DON’T buy at the bottom of a hill.  All the trash will roll down to you.


And, last of all, DO buy in a real neighborhood.  I’ll tell you how next week.




  1. Hey Jane, good post… a couple of related questions:

    What’s a “cold-water” apartment”?
    What’s a “walk-up”?
    What do they call those long apartments where the hallway runs all the way from the front door to the back?

    These are very poetic American names; are there others?

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