Investing In A Pre-War Manhattan Condo Apartment

Posted by Wei Min Tan on March 6, 2019

A pre-war Manhattan condominium is highly desirable by both buyers and tenants because of its scarcity and charm.   The “war” referred to here is the Second World War and the reference date is 1945.  A pre-war condo is hence a condo building built before 1945.

 

Before 1945, all apartments were of the Cooperative ownership structure.  The condominium ownership structure only got introduced in the 1960s.  Hence, most Coops are prewar while most condos are post war.

 

 

Contact:  tan@castle-avenue.com

 

 

So how does a pre war condo exist?  Well, it happens when a developer converts a pre-war building, usually a commercial or rental building, to condominium structure.  A lot of these conversions happened during the 2006 to 2008 development wave.

 

 

pre war condo building
The Apthorp of Renaissance Revival architecture in Upper West Side

Scarcity

Condominiums make up only 10 percent of residential housing inventory in Manhattan.   While supply of condos is limited, supply of a pre war condo is even more scarce.  Why not just get a pre-war Coop?  Reason is that a condo does not require board approval and is investor friendly in that the owner can rent out the condo at any time.  A Condo is preferable to a Coop.

 

 

High Ceilings and Thicker Walls

A key feature of a pre-war building is the high ceilings.  Pre-war buildings have ceilings of between 10 to 12 feet while post war buildings’ ceilings are around 8 to 9.5 feet.  The extra height of a pre-war condo makes the apartment feel larger and more spacious.  This also has to do with developers’ changing perspectives and profit-oriented motives over time.

 

Pre war condos have thicker walls hence sound insulation is better.

 

 

Pre war condo manhattan
High ceiling at 88 Greenwich Street

 

Character

Many New Yorkers like the character of older buildings.  For example, pre-war condos such as 99 John Street and 88 Greenwich Street are of the Art Deco style.   The Ansonia, converted to residential condo from hotel, in the Upper West Side is of the Beaux Arts style.   The Grand Madison on Fifth Avenue, also converted from a hotel, is of the Renaissance Revival style.

 

Pre war buildings have more ornate designs on the outside when compared to new buildings that are often all glass which some say lack character.

 

 

Downsides

A downside of pre-war condos is that windows are smaller when compared to new all-glass buildings that have floor-to-ceiling windows.  In Soho lofts where most are pre-war, the floors may be creaky.  Creaky floors are usually not an issue in large converted buildings.

 

 

Notable Pre War Condos in Manhattan

Walker Tower in Chelsea

The Plaza on Fifth Avenue

88 Greenwich Street, 99 John Street in Financial District

Ansonia in Upper West Side

260 Park Avenue South in Flatiron

The Grand Madison in Madison Square Park

Apthorp in Upper West Side

Parc Vendome in Midtown West

 

 

In summary, pre-war condominium apartments are a very good investment.  It boils down to selecting the right apartment with the proper exposure in a highly desirable building.

 

 

What We Do

We focus on global investors buying Manhattan condos for portfolio diversification and long term return-on-investment.
1) Identify the right buy based on objectives
2) Manage the buy process
3) Rent out the property
4) Manage tenants
5) Market the property at the eventual sale

 

 

Deal Examples

1) 88 Greenwich, 35th floor south facing waterview apartment overlooking New York Harbor.  Client purchased with tenant in place hence no vacancy period associated with finding a new tenant.  This is a pre-war Art Deco building with high ceilings and thick walls.  The building is about 100 years old, initially commercial, then converted to rental, and about 10 years ago converted to condominiums.

 

 

2) The Sutton by Toll Brothers in Midtown East.  Represented multiple buyers at $2 million price point.  Building was a new construction and buyer clients reserved units 2 years before completion.  Amazing interior details, Gaganeau appliances, classic style windows.  Close to United Nations, Citigroup Center, Blackstone, Blackrock.  Our tenants have been excellent.

 

 

3) 111 Murray in Tribeca.  Reserved at pre-construction and prices went up 20 percent upon completion.  The green building is the Goldman Sachs headquarters and one of the main drivers for our decisioning process.

 

This article was updated March 6, 2019

 

 

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About Wei Min

  • Focuses on investors of Manhattan condominiums, interviewed by CNBC, CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times
  • Ex-Citibanker, managed $500 million portfolio
  • MBA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Manhattan resident since 1999. Currently lives in Tribeca with wife and 2 kids
  • 352 burpees in 23 minutes, student of muay thai kickboxing

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About Wei Min


  • Focuses on investors of Manhattan condominiums, interviewed by CNBC, CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times
  • Ex-Citibanker, managed $500 million portfolio
  • MBA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Manhattan resident since 1999. Currently lives in Tribeca with wife and 2 kids
  • 352 burpees in 23 minutes, student of muay thai kickboxing

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