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Spend too much time contemplating New York City real estate prices and you’re likely to go insane, or become numb to their stratospheric levels. That's definitely the case when you're talking about "affordable" Brooklyn townhouses, where the threshold is considered $2 million and under. That seems pretty crazy, but high demand allows sellers to set these prices, based on what some people out there are paying.
So where do you look if you don’t have several million dollars to spend but you have your heart set on a Brooklyn townhouse? Maybe you are tired of high-rise living, hate your co-op, grew up in a single-family somewhere outside the city and can’t shake that jones for your own place and some stairs—where, in Brooklyn, can you find a place?
We’re using the catch-all phrase “townhouse” to cover brownstones, limestones, brick, and frame houses. Webster’s defines them as “a usually single-family house of two or sometimes three stories that is usually connected to a similar house by a common sidewall; also: row house.” While all of these may not be created equally in your mind, being open to a variety of styles expands your options. (For the purposes of this article, we’re looking for townhouses that don’t need significant repairs or renovations, both of which can tack on significant costs.)
We checked in with experienced Brooklyn brokers familiar with the state of affairs in the borough. Here’s where they said to look.
Go smaller or farther away
“Well, it all depends on what you would consider affordable, certainly if you're coming from Brooklyn Heights, then the Park Slope market looks like a steal. However, assuming you've heard and seen all of ‘Brownstone Brooklyn,’ then it's time to venture out of your comfort zone,” says Corcoran's Marie Bromberg, who notes that may (read: probably) mean extending your commute, living near fewer conveniences, or living in a much smaller house than you anticipated. “Neighborhoods that are often overlooked but well worth the visit include Prospect Park South, Greenwood, Sunset Park, and Bay Ridge. Bay Ridge and Sunset Park in fact have ferry service that gets you to Manhattan in about 40 minutes.”
Another strategy is to go smaller, or less curb appeal in a neighborhood. “You can find more house for your money in areas such as Kensington, Ditmas Park, Windsor Terrace, and Lefferts Gardens,” says Elizabeth Kohen, owner of Garfield Realty. “Smaller homes in premium neighborhoods that are less than the standard/coveted 20-foot wide—such as 13 to 17-feet wide—will fetch a lower price. Homes with siding rather than a brick or limestone facade also tend to trade for less.”
That Bed-Stuy window? It's closing
“Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy and Bushwick have been the emerging market darlings for the last five years or so, and they continue to be popular,” says Bromberg. “But as prices in these neighborhoods continue to creep up they're becoming less and less affordable. Townhouses over $2 million in Crown Heights was practically unheard of as little as five years ago, but now we're seeing enthusiasm towards the $3 million mark.”
Brown Harris Stevens's Anthony Crews, who recently sold a fixer-upper in Bed-Stuy to a developer for $1.45 million, agrees. “Right now that ship is sailing in Bed-Stuy,” he says. He thinks Crown Heights opportunities still exist, but that they are dwindling as prices rapidly increase. (He suggests looking in Northern Crown Heights, in the area of Bergen and Dean Streets, and St. Marks Avenue.)
“Prices go up the closer you get to Prospect Heights,” Citi Habitat’s Douglas Jones says of Crown Heights. “‘Good value’...starts east of Nostrand and by the time you hit Albany the market is well below $2 million.”
Another area to explore for value? Ocean Hill, which is east of Bed-Stuy. “It’s a small area a few blocks above Howard Avenue,” says Crews, who notes there are still places in the area that need work listed for under $1 million.
“It's the border of Bushwick,” Jones says. “ There were just two brownstones [in the area] that were priced in the $1.4 million range. Sparked a lot of interest. We're also working on an off-market transaction with a very skittish seller on MacDonough between Patchen and Ralph. Priced at $1.6 million but it will go for slightly more.”
Speaking of Bushwick, it’s another area to look for single-families under $2 million.
“There are a lot of untapped blocks in Bushwick,” says Crews. But note that you won’t find the rows of stately brownstones of Bed-Stuy, or limestones of Crown Heights. “For what it's worth, if a buyer is spending anything approaching $2 million in Bushwick, it best be a pretty stunning renovation,” says Jones.
Looking in these area and still not finding anything? Bromberg describes the following neighborhoods: “Flatbush has been seeing a lot of development, everyone has been talking about Midwood for a while, and for those priced out of Bushwick and Ridgewood [consider] Glendale.”
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