How to Pick A NYC Neighborhood: Things You Need to Consider
The path of least resistance — bridging the gap between apartment wants and neighborhood realities.
I’ve had many clients over the years – both those who know the city well, and those less so – who share with me a crystal-clear vision for the type of home they want, but seem much less certain about where they want to live.
This often creates a disconnect.
The challenge is that your ideal living space may not align with the realities and quirks of Manhattan’s many diverse neighborhoods – which we can think of as several truly unique islands within one. And while it’s obviously important to know what type of residence and amenities you want, it’s also imperative to emotionally and mentally connect with the neighborhood you’ll be living in.
How do I help my clients negotiate this challenge? By guiding them through a process that emphasizes taking the path of least resistance.
Fine-tune your mindset. Whether you’re a renter, buyer or seller, it’s normal at the beginning of the process to be less than certain of what you want in a residence and neighborhood. However, this is an absolutely essential part of the process.
If, for example, you’ve decided you must live in the West Village, but place a high personal premium on space and modern conveniences, we’re going to have a difficult time finding the right place for you. Even if we manage it, those features are going to be in high demand, which means you can expect to pay a premium. And then some.
But here’s where a different approach – one that only asks a little flexibility and open-mindedness – can make the process adventurous and fun. Because I can find you that same apartment, with all the space and modern conveniences you seek, on the Upper East Side (and other places too), for example.
Let’s say you’re a family with young children who has decided to make the East Village your home. The first thing I’m going to tell you is the community doesn’t have a lot of parks and is very nightlife oriented. So I’m going to encourage you to consider Riverside Boulevard, a newer, family-friendly development chock full of parks, other families, and building amenities like playrooms and jungle-gyms.
Or, say, like me, that you love to cook. It’s your passion, an important part of your identity (because these things matter!). A tiny kitchen likely won’t work, so living in the Village might not be the best option. However, if you’re willing to live in Midtown East, you can obtain the kitchen of your dreams for about the same, possibly less, amount of money, while still living in a pleasant neighborhood.
What if you’re starting a new job and it’s a priority to not be late or endure daily commuting nightmares? If I know this in advance – and it’s my job to – then I’m going to tell you that the West Village, which has few trains, will not be ideal for you even if you are clinging to that dreamy browstone block. But I would also have a suggestion at the ready: Why not consider Union Square, which is a similar neighborhood, but with far more commuting options?
What about social life?
Imagine you move to a new neighborhood and your weekend routine is to visit a coffee shop or café to read the paper and prepare your day. What if you find the local options available are a turn-off, or you don’t like the vibe or clientele? What if you’re walking home late one evening and find a neighborhood establishment’s bright lights, throbbing sounds and mulling patrons off-putting?
This is precisely why I encourage my clients to visit potential neighborhoods on different days at different times. Nothing will give you a better sense of the neighborhood’s culture and ambiance. Investing that time nearly always has a pay-off: it will either help you conclude it’s not right for you; or, better yet, that you felt connected and immediately at home. I cannot stress enough how important investing time in the neighborhood search is and not getting to fixated on the apartment itself. Its New York City, after all: just how much time do you think you will be spending IN your apartment?
The path of least resistance!
Of course, I can give a million examples of the challenge of aligning your priorities of home with neighborhood. But the important thing I hope you’ll take away is that it’s critically important to think through every element of what you want, to factor in your priorities accordingly, and then approach the process as a balance between your home and neighborhood wants.
Social life, work, neighborhood establishments, family needs – all have to be in balance.
Because no matter how much you may love your apartment, if you don’t have an instinctual, emotional and mental connection to your neighborhood, it won’t be as valuable an overall experience for you. You won’t be as happy as you could be.
After all, considering we live in one of the greatest cities in the world, why not leverage all it has to offer?