10 Townhouse Tips


Gotham Magazine

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Thinking about buying a townhouse? These exclusive homes – on one day in mid-October, just 450 townhouse listings were active versus more than 9,000 listings for apartments – are iconic New York City abodes and worth a look. Here, Thomas Wexler , a townhouse owner and Corcoran agent who specializes in the homes, gives 10 tips on how to get the townhouse of your dreams.

  1. Strategize: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said it: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” So when it comes to finding the right townhouse, map out a strategy and share it with your agent. In addition to considering budget and ideal location, think about home width, number of floors and bedrooms, square footage, and whether there is an elevator. Your answers may change as the hunt progresses, so revisit them often.
  2. Determine the Budget: Before the search begins, establish how much you can spend and which financing option is right for you. Speak with a bank, a mortgage broker or a financial advisor.
  3. Choose a Neighborhood: Each ‘hood in New York City has its own personality. Do some research and spend an afternoon wandering through a few of them to find the right fit.
  4. Build a Team: Like any real estate purchase in New York City, buying a townhouse can be a complex matter. First, find an experienced agent who can guide you through the process – he or she will be your main resource. The rest of the team will include an attorney well versed in Manhattan real estate transactions, highly recommended inspectors, and (as needed) architects, general and sub-contractors, and any other real estate-related professionals.
  5. Figure Out Your Style: There are a number of different townhouse styles, including Federal, Greek Revival, Queen Anne and Beaux-Arts. If you’re curious, learn about them and keep an eye out for what you like.
  6. Be Prepared to Look: Townhouses are like wedding dresses – sometimes the first one is it, and sometimes it takes a while. Most people see about 20 to 25 homes before making the decision. Many townhouses are seen through private showings as opposed to open houses, so consult with your agent.
  7. Be Thorough: Since townhouses are normally older buildings, pay careful attention to a home’s maintenance. (Be able to describe it as ‘meticulous.’) Take a close look at the exterior as well as the interior. Look for cracks or water stains on walls or ceilings that indicate past flooding or leaks. I personally view a functioning sump pump in a townhouse basement as a good sign – it means the owner has been proactive.
  8. Gather the Right Information: Once you find a home you think you love, you’ll need certain details in order to evaluate it: floor plan, certificate of occupancy, floor area ratio (FAR) information, recorded violations, etc. You also want to see how the building measures up to comparable properties. Your agent should get this information for you and help to evaluate it.
  9. Know the Process: When the time comes to make an offer, your goal is to arrive at just the right price. Next steps include negotiation, inspection, securing financing (if necessary), signing the contract and closing.
  10. Recognize What You Have: The experience of living in a real house in the middle of New York City is unparalleled.