8 Things You Should Know About Townhouses

Urban dwellers looking for more room and distance from others, are considering townhouses instead of condos or co-ops. Here are eight things you should know about why that is.

  1. They offer privacy and flexibility. One of the reasons celebrities love living in townhouses is because they offer a tremendous amount of privacy. You don’t have to share a common hallway or elevator with a neighbor. There is no doorman to monitor who is coming or going into your home. Many townhouses in New York City are also large enough to accommodate home gyms and your home office in addition to all of the daily living space you need, making it easy to stay home if you chose.
  2. How you utilize the space in the house is up to you. You may choose to live in the entire house and when you find it is too large, turn a portion of it into a rental apartment or vice versa. The only caveat being that if you decide to sell, your Certificate of Occupancy much match how the house is actually being used. You can under use a home but you cannot overuse it. For more on this topic watch my video: https://youtu.be/l7NBr0nxjII
  3. You will have plenty of outdoor space. Most townhouses have a generous backyard which can be a calming oasis in a busy city. They are typically about 700 SF, offering plenty of space to relax and barbeque with friends. Urban gardeners will love the opportunity to let their talents run wild. Many homes also have a private roof terrace and even a terrace on top of the extension, if the house has one. Imagine three private outdoor spaces on various levels of your home to suit your mood and time of day! Check out this house which has all three: https://youtu.be/7LZ6cYpqCY8
  4. They can be a worthwhile long term investment. Townhouses represent a very small portion of the overall housing stock in New York City. Comprising only 1% of the market, townhouses are just a sliver of the Manhattan real estate market. As a result they are less susceptible to a downturn in the housing market. Ryan Schleis, Senior VP of Research & Analytics at The Corcoran Group, explains these supply demand economics in this video. https://youtu.be/oenL4MjO14I
  5. You can build more and add value. If you are willing to do a little bit of work, you can add quite a bit of value to your home. Many townhouses in NYC have not maxed out their Floor Area Ratio (FAR). FAR is a zoning term which indicates if you can add onto your home. If you hear people talking about air rights, they are really referring to FAR. Many townhouses are underbuilt and you can add another story or even knock out the entire back wall and push the home further into the garden to gain interior square feet. While FAR is listed for every house and easy to access on line there could be restrictions, so don’t assume you can build as of right until you have checked with an architect. For more on the subject of air rights, watch this video: https://youtu.be/bQ4_StVDAYQ
  6. They are more affordable than you realize. You can find a townhouse divided into three apartments, enabling you to live in one and rent out the others two in order to help cover the monthly mortgage and tax payments. When you apply for your mortgage, this additional income will be taken into consideration, so that you can obtain a larger loan than if you were simply buying a house for yourself.
  7. You can let your inner eco-friendly geek out. Go nuts with LED lighting, energy-saving appliances, low flow and smart fixtures and a high efficiency HVAC system. Townhouses have roofs and you control the space, making it a perfect place for solar panels. Just be aware that if you are in a landmarked or historic district, you will need approval from the Depart of Buildings. One townhouse owner went so far as to turn his home into a passive house.
  8. You will own a piece of NYC history. Townhouses captivate us because of their rich history and beauty. In the West Village some of the townhouses were built three hundred years ago. As you travel further north in the city, many of the homes were built in the 1800’s and 1900’s. Outside their facades run the architectural style gamut from a simple Federal style to a classic and ornate Renaissance Revival or Beaux-Arts home. Inside they offer a great deal of space and variety as they spread over four or five stories.

I have been helping people buy and sell residential real estate in Manhattan for close to 20 years. My passion is helping people solve the myriad of problems a real estate transaction can pose. Have a question? E-mail me at julia.boland@corcoran.com

“Besides being very experienced and a total pleasure to work with, Julia is a wealth of resources and information. Selling a multi family property can be very complicated. Julia provided every resource and support that I needed to be successful with the sale. Julia’s recommendations were all  top-notch. Julia is top notch. She knows how to handle difficult problems and people if you’re caught in a snag. I highly recommend Julia.” Victor D. Seller

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