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What You Should Know Before Buying in a Boutique Building

CEO Khai Intela
The allure of a boutique building can be hard to resist. The term itself sounds swanky, evoking a sense of exclusivity and luxury. But before you sign on the dotted line, it's essential to understand...

What you need to know about buying in a boutique building

The allure of a boutique building can be hard to resist. The term itself sounds swanky, evoking a sense of exclusivity and luxury. But before you sign on the dotted line, it's essential to understand the unique considerations that come with buying in a smaller building.

The Appeal of Boutique Buildings

Boutique buildings are small-scale, typically housing only a few apartments. This intimate setting can offer a more private and personalized experience. You'll receive more attention from staff, and you'll have a greater opportunity to participate in building decisions. Boutique buildings are known for their non-cookie-cutter design, offering a higher standard of craftsmanship and customization.

Potential Downsides

While boutique buildings have their advantages, there are some downsides to consider. With fewer apartments, there will be fewer staff members to handle day-to-day maintenance, leading to potentially higher expenses. Additionally, if you have any disputes with your neighbors, it may be harder to avoid them in a smaller building with limited communal spaces.

Size and Definition

The term "boutique building" lacks a definitive size definition. According to experts, boutique buildings can range from 10 to 50 units, depending on whom you ask. The key characteristic is the sense of exclusivity and luxury that these buildings aim to evoke.

Searching in the Right Neighborhoods

Certain neighborhoods in New York City are more likely to have boutique buildings. Look for areas with zoning restrictions that preserve older, low-rise buildings. The West Village, Soho, Brooklyn Heights, and Cobble Hill are prime examples.

Cost Considerations

The cost of buying in a boutique building depends on various factors. In larger high-rise buildings, buyers often pay a premium for views and amenities. However, boutique buildings in prime, historic locations can be more expensive, even without the bells and whistles. Generally, boutique buildings offer more privacy, which can increase their perceived value.

Limited Amenities

Boutique buildings usually have limited amenities due to their smaller scale. Movie screening rooms and indoor pools are rare. However, you may find small basement gyms, common gardens, and on-site parking in some boutique buildings. Doormen, concierges, and on-site laundry rooms are also common in certain buildings.

Risks and Considerations

Buyers should be aware of the potential risks associated with smaller buildings. In boutique buildings, capital expenses such as boiler replacement, roof repair, and facade work can pose significant risks. With fewer owners to share the costs, these expenses can be higher per unit. Additionally, self-management is common in boutique buildings, which means the owners themselves handle building issues. This arrangement can create discord, and the board approval process may be more invasive.

Common Charge Delinquency

If an owner fails to pay common charges in a boutique building, the burden falls on other unit owners. However, the board has remedies available, including delinquency notices and placing a common charge lien on the unit. In extreme cases, a delinquent shareholder may face eviction.

Marketability and Resale Value

Boutique buildings often have fewer amenities compared to larger buildings, which can impact marketability and resale value. It's crucial to understand the potential effects on property value before making a purchase.

Due Diligence and Financial Security

Proper due diligence is essential before buying in a boutique building. Understand any planned capital improvements or large expenditures and how the building intends to fund them. Review board minutes to assess how decisions are made and if there are any issues among owners. Ensuring the building's financial security is of paramount importance.

Façade Maintenance

Even though smaller buildings may be exempt from certain regulations, façade maintenance remains crucial. Just like in larger buildings, smaller buildings must maintain and repair their facades. The costs associated with this upkeep may require additional assessments on owners.

Expert Advice and Warnings

Real estate experts don't outright discourage buyers from purchasing in smaller buildings. Instead, their goal is to ensure buyers understand the risks and benefits. It's essential to be fully informed before making a decision.

No Building Too Small

There is no definitive limit to how small a boutique building can be. It all comes down to understanding the associated benefits and risks. While smaller buildings can offer an intimate and exclusive living experience, it's crucial to consider the potential impact of one troublesome neighbor in such close quarters.

Before buying in a boutique building, weigh the pros and cons, conduct thorough due diligence, and ensure the building aligns with your preferences and financial goals.


Properties in Boutique Buildings

Here are some examples of units available in boutique buildings:

542 Laguardia Pl., #4B, Greenwich Village

  • Price: $2,750,000
  • Features: Three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath condo loft with beamed ceilings, fireplace, chef's kitchen, central air, washer-dryer, virtual doorman, and more.

221 West 77th St., #17, Upper West Side

  • Price: $8,995,000
  • Features: Four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath condo with terrace, fireplace, outdoor grill, gym, basketball court, and roof terrace.

92 Horatio St., #31, West Village

  • Price: $775,000
  • Features: One-bedroom, one-bath apartment with fireplace, open kitchen, walk-in closet, and pet-friendly co-op building.

259 West 21st St., #PH, Chelsea/Hudson Yards

  • Price: $1,299,000
  • Features: Two-bedroom, one-and-half-bath penthouse apartment with private roof deck and boutique co-op building.

131 East 93rd St., #6A, Carnegie Hill

  • Price: $875,000
  • Features: Two-bedroom, one-bath unit with renovated interior, hardwood floors, storage, and bike room in a pet-friendly co-op building.

Note: Prices and availability are subject to change. Please contact the relevant agents for the latest information.

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