What Makes a Great Apartment?

Have you ever wondered what some of the world’s best known apartment buildings tell us about the ingredients for a great apartment? On the contrary, what are some of the cons that gives even the most famous addresses a negative score. To do this I thought it would be a good idea to look at the ‘spiritual home’ of the apartment, New York City.

NYC has a long tradition of apartment living with trophy buildings overlooking Central Park or rubbing shoulders on Fifth Avenue. It’s a city where apartments prices can reach breathtaking heights, however even the most sought after building can still have relatively affordable options.

Doing my homework, I did find various lists of the ‘Top 10 Apartments’, the ‘Top 10 Most Expensive Apartments’ or the ‘Top 10 Newest Apartments in New York’ and many more, indicating it’s a topical thought. Sifting through some of the information I decided, just to have a look at three of the most recognised buildings.

Classic & Tradition

On one of the many lists, the three ‘best’ apartment buildings were listed as: The Plaza on Central Park South, the Sherry Netherland on Fifth Avenue and the legendary The Dakota, well-known because of John Lennon.

These three buildings have a number of things in common. They are all very traditional, big solid architectural statements and they date back as far as 1882. They’re the type of building that’s very rare in our markets. Still they do offer some interesting insights, even in a market as big and diverse as New York City.

The Sherry Netherland is the largest with 168 apartments, built in 1927 and with prices ranging between US$1.2m to US$78m. The Dakota has 103 apartments and it dates to 1882 with prices ranging between US$1.6m and US$40m.

The Plaza, which includes the very famous hotel is the smallest of the three with 81 apartments, and while the building dates to 1907 the partial conversion into apartments only dates to 2007 and here prices range from US$1.4m to US$68m. There’s a big range of prices and these are only the published prices which I suggest may be an indicator.

A High-end Address Still Needs Good Transportation & a Supermarket

Given the reputation and the location of these three apartments buildings, I think it’s easy to imagine the marble and timber lined foyers and the ever attentive concierge but I wanted to have a look at some more everyday and practical aspects that might impact residents. I think that the details of what are seen as disadvantages to even the swankiest address interest me.

What I found among the various comments, concerning the negatives of the buildings, were points that most average buyers looking for an apartment in Sydney or any market would also be alert to and there were a few common that were very familiar.

Traffic and easy access to public transport came as a surprise to me, buildings were marked down if there was a lot of noisy traffic and the walk to a nearby bust stop was ‘blocks away’ as opposed to being at the front door.

Another common concern was the lack of private outdoor space, possibly a more important feature when many apartments did not have balconies. The absence of a roof top deck or shared sun-terrace was seen as a negative by residents and potential buyers.

Some of these landmark apartment buildings were also seen as ‘too big’ with the number of individual apartments seen as a negative, possibly even more important if you’re paying a top price between US$40m and US$78m. If the building was a mixed use, or had no health-club or on-site garage parking these were also a concern.

A big negative was the use of externally mounted air-conditioning units which almost any apartment buyers would see as ugly and in some older buildings a little hard to avoid. One of the last draw backs for New York apartment dwellers was the lack of a near-by supermarket, something that’s easy to understand in any location.

What About New Buildings

The three landmark buildings I’ve discussed are seen as very desirable and despite comments about their size, they are in very limited supply, so to round of this peek at the ups and downs of New York City apartment living, let’s look at what buyers are saying about two new buildings.

Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue was built in 1983, it has 238 apartments, and (from published figures) 1-bedroom apartments sell from US$2.2m and 3-bedroom at US$3.5m. Then we also have in lower Manhattan the Gehry building, finished in 2010 this is a big complex with 903 apartments, where I could not find any for sale but apartments lease for US$12,000 a month.

Both buildings are seen by some buyers as too big, and the Gehry building is marked-down because surprisingly it’s above a school, and there’s a hospital and university nearby. While the Trump Tower attracts curious tourists, is seen as glitzy and expensive.

I’m not really surprised to see lots of common factors that buyer’s search out that are common to our market as well as NYC. Apartment buildings need to have good in-house services, good transport connects or parking, local shops, parking and outdoor space is ideal.

All of the points discovered sound very domestic and everyday concerns, but they are still important even if your address if Fifth Avenue, NYC or in any neighbourhood across Australia. [Prices quoted above are published figures but they are only intended as a guide].