Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

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jory1804
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Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by jory1804 » Sun Jan 01, 2017 3:36 pm

I’m posting this under a second account – which the mods have approved of.


Currently my wife and I are living in Manhattan, with one young child and another on the way. We’re in a 2 bedroom apartment, but with the family soon to grow, and with our first child getting bigger, we’ll need an apartment with more space.

Right now we’re renting our place, and I assumed we’d just move into a bigger rental. However, most apartments in rental buildings, even if they have 3 bedrooms, still have pretty small common areas (e.g. living room, …), which doesn’t provide the “more space” feeling we’re looking for. However, apartments in owner building can potentially be much bigger. So the question here will be whether we should buy a place, or keep renting.

Now unfortunately, the size of apartment we’d ultimately want to live in (~2500 square feet) would cost roughly $5M in Manhattan. That may sound crazy, but $2000 per square foot is where the market is today.

However, our financial position is pretty strong, with $7M of liquid assets, no debt, and $3M/year of income. That probably means we can afford a $5M home, perhaps more easily than some other buyers. But, is buying such a place a good idea?
On one hand, a home that costs 1.7x a family’s income doesn’t sound out of reach. On the other hand, given our position, some might say we’ve already won the game, and I’d like very much to not “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” here. In fact, we could probably retire today if we really wanted to – and while we don’t actually want to retire, being able to gives tremendous peace of mind.


A few additional considerations are:
  • My wife and I are 34 years old.
  • We both work in finance. As a result, if the economy hits a downturn, our family income, our investment portfolio, and a leveraged NYC apartment could all take a big hit. This is the scenario I’m most afraid of.
  • If we didn’t buy this apartment now, we’d probably hold off for a few years, and try to make a few additional $M before pulling the trigger. In this case, we could either buy a smaller place in the mean time, or continue renting. Personally, I’m not keen on going through 2 purchases, and so in this case, we’d probably keep renting (maybe directly from an owner, at a likely cost of $15k/month).
  • Moving out of Manhattan, either to an outer borough or the suburbs, isn’t an option we’re considering. This would be cheaper, but it would also mean less family time (which we value highly) and longer commutes for both parents.

Any thoughts on the buy vs. rent decision in our case?

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by LadyGeek » Sun Jan 01, 2017 9:18 pm

jory1804 wrote:I’m posting this under a second account – which the mods have approved of.
Use of multiple accounts is not permitted unless there's a good reason. I confirm the moderators have approved this second account. See: Usernames (accounts)

If there any questions, please PM me (or a moderator).
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ThankYouJack
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by ThankYouJack » Sun Jan 01, 2017 9:28 pm

How much is a comparable rental?
Have you run the numbers in The NY Times rent vs buy calculator?

I'd probably rent myself for the flexibility even if it does cost more.


EDIT: I just saw that you mentioned a rental price of $15k/mo. The price to rent ratio is ~28 which is quite high. I would still run the NY Times calculator to do a deeper dive, but renting seems like a good idea.
Last edited by ThankYouJack on Sun Jan 01, 2017 10:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Globalviewer58
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by Globalviewer58 » Sun Jan 01, 2017 9:35 pm

Rent another year. Seems you are $5k less out of pocket to rent a 15k per month unit versus paying mortgage of $3mm on a $5mm property. At the rate you are saving there is no need to risk loss of principal on a purchase for the next few years.

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by expat » Sun Jan 01, 2017 9:37 pm


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Pajamas
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by Pajamas » Sun Jan 01, 2017 9:47 pm

Because you are planning to spend $5 million for a three bedroom apartment, you are probably looking at a new construction condo in the lower end of the luxury range. That market has already started to soften. Given that plus your household income, the cost of what you are looking to buy, and the field in which you both work, you might be better off if you wait a year or two before buying as time should improve your financial situation. In a couple of years, it probably won't seem like a difficult decision. In the meantime, you would only be paying 6% of your gross income in rent.

Assuming you and your wife both work downtown, many people in your situation would buy a brownstone in Brooklyn instead of an apartment in Manhattan for quality of life for the children.

Tal-
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by Tal- » Sun Jan 01, 2017 10:10 pm

Rent.

Normally, this is a nuanced decision in my eyes - but this one feels pretty clear... Buying introduces huge risk to your long-term financial security, and it is risk that would be highly correlated with both your liquid assets and income.

Congrats on your wonderful financial situation. But, I encourage you to keep renting.
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Sun Jan 01, 2017 10:26 pm

Rent - as the finance market goes, so does the fortunes of NYC and it's real estate market. The perfect trifecta or...not. Being out of pocket $60-120K for another year or two of rent is a small price to pay to be down 20% if the market takes a dive. Lots of supply coming on stream in 2017/2018 - how long can the party continue?
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erik265
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by erik265 » Sun Jan 01, 2017 10:30 pm

Well Manhattan is great for investment as well as living if you have a lot of money. I would buy a new construction building if possible. Those apts increase fastest in value but can be smaller. The great thing about manhattan is inventory there just isnt much of it and 3 bed apts are coveted. Unlike say south florida which is over built. I have never known anyone to really lose over the past 20 years by buying in the city, as long as you will be living there for 5 years or more. There is always risk of financial meltdown like the one we had in 2008/9 but low probability at least to that degree it will happen again soon. Even during the great recession manhattan property prices didnt get crushed 20% decline and did come back in less then 5 years. Might be the most resilient area in the US. FYI there is a nice new construction in west village going up area has similar feeling to brooklyn. I would maybe look there also close to downton :)

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by Zott » Sun Jan 01, 2017 10:34 pm

I know you said that you aren't considering a move out of Manhattan at this time. But things change, a lot of residents of Manhattan do leave when kids come or other reasons. You may want even more space with two children than is easily available, then there's the public vs private school issue, perhaps, with two children and ample resources one of you may decide to suspend their career for a while and stay home and prefer a suburban family environment. So renting would allow you to keep this option easier to achieve, should you desire it in the future.

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by LadyGeek » Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:01 pm

I removed an off-topic comment and one reply. As a reminder, see: General Etiquette
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by monsterid » Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:12 pm

I don't think it really matters. You could buy in cash or if you decided to leverage - the rates stop getting better at a 60% LVR at most banks. You can easily afford the 40% without massively destabilizing your position.

Given the size of the shovel you have you should be out of debt in a year or two (or immediately anytime you feel worried given liquids). I suppose your current investments are very leveraged to the markets (like your current careers). You may want to consider diversifying yourself away in future. NYC real estate is only one hop removed from financial markets, but at least it's a start...

I'm assuming the $7M in liquids doesn't count unvested deferred comp because you said liquid. If it does than this calculation obviously changes given risks associated with that realization.

Congrats on the great financial position!

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by Watty » Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:50 pm

jory1804 wrote:My wife and I are 34 years old.
I have seen promotions and job offers given to the person that can relocate the easiest and fastest. It was a totally different situation but I once saw someone promoted to be a site manager on a Wednesday because they could be at the new location and ready to work the following Monday to fill an unexpected opening. They flew back several times over the next month or two to move out of their apartment. Their being able to relocate easily was one of the reasons that they got that promotion.

In some companies being rotated through several different locations or international assignments can also lead to getting into higher level management.

If you are not on a career path where you are likely to be working for the same company in the same office for the next ten or twenty years from now then the mobility of renting can be worth a lot so don't underestimate that.
jory1804 wrote:.....but with the family soon to grow,.....
One option would be to defer the decision until after the next kid is born so that you will be more certain of what the situation is then.

In addition to having difficulty in having the next kid it is possible that you could have twins or a kid with special needs that would make one of you want to be a stay at home parent. If you move to some place bigger now and you have difficulty in having the next kid having the empty nursery could be pretty depressing.

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by Goal33 » Mon Jan 02, 2017 12:37 am

Well it's hard for me to say this, because I bought a house at approx 5x my income (financed 80% of it), but I think you should wait until you you are ready to buy a house of this value in cash.

My thinking and the difference between our situations:

My house is a pretty standard townhouse in a very HCOL suburb of SF. I could get a place cheaper, but in the scheme of things, I couldn't spend much less if the s**t hit the fan and I need a place to live. However, in your case, you could spend millions less if your career ever became more "average" if your life took an unexpected turn.

Also, the max loan you can deduct interest of is 1 mil anyway.
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by nyclon » Mon Jan 02, 2017 6:32 am

jory1804 wrote:I’m posting this under a second account – which the mods have approved of.


Currently my wife and I are living in Manhattan, with one young child and another on the way. We’re in a 2 bedroom apartment, but with the family soon to grow, and with our first child getting bigger, we’ll need an apartment with more space.

Right now we’re renting our place, and I assumed we’d just move into a bigger rental. However, most apartments in rental buildings, even if they have 3 bedrooms, still have pretty small common areas (e.g. living room, …), which doesn’t provide the “more space” feeling we’re looking for. However, apartments in owner building can potentially be much bigger. So the question here will be whether we should buy a place, or keep renting.

Now unfortunately, the size of apartment we’d ultimately want to live in (~2500 square feet) would cost roughly $5M in Manhattan. That may sound crazy, but $2000 per square foot is where the market is today.

However, our financial position is pretty strong, with $7M of liquid assets, no debt, and $3M/year of income. That probably means we can afford a $5M home, perhaps more easily than some other buyers. But, is buying such a place a good idea?
On one hand, a home that costs 1.7x a family’s income doesn’t sound out of reach. On the other hand, given our position, some might say we’ve already won the game, and I’d like very much to not “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” here. In fact, we could probably retire today if we really wanted to – and while we don’t actually want to retire, being able to gives tremendous peace of mind.


A few additional considerations are:
  • My wife and I are 34 years old.
  • We both work in finance. As a result, if the economy hits a downturn, our family income, our investment portfolio, and a leveraged NYC apartment could all take a big hit. This is the scenario I’m most afraid of.
  • If we didn’t buy this apartment now, we’d probably hold off for a few years, and try to make a few additional $M before pulling the trigger. In this case, we could either buy a smaller place in the mean time, or continue renting. Personally, I’m not keen on going through 2 purchases, and so in this case, we’d probably keep renting (maybe directly from an owner, at a likely cost of $15k/month).
  • Moving out of Manhattan, either to an outer borough or the suburbs, isn’t an option we’re considering. This would be cheaper, but it would also mean less family time (which we value highly) and longer commutes for both parents.

Any thoughts on the buy vs. rent decision in our case?
Three things that others haven't mentioned that I'd like to:
1. Even if you convince yourself to take on the leverage, based on your post, it seems you still wouldnt have peace of mind due to the uncertainty of the markets and nyc economy. You can't solve for that if you want to put up the amount of liquidity you're discussing.
2. There are plenty of very nice, high floor apartments you can buy trading at $1400-1600 sq ft in the city. This could help lower your required leverage.
3. The extra rent you pay vs buying is like buying a put option as insurance against leveraged downside if you buy. It also buys you peace of mind so you can play with your kids without worrying.
Last edited by nyclon on Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

Quark
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by Quark » Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:21 am

Rent.

If you look at buy v. rent calculators for $5M v $15k/month, the answer is going to be rent, especially when you include monthly maintenance and fees on an apartment in Manhattan.

Buying is a lot riskier, as you and others have noted. Manhattan prices tend to go up, but there's no guarantee and there's a high correlation between finance income, investment portfolios and Manhattan real estate.

Which would make you feel worse - having to pay more later or the economy hitting a downturn and your finances taking a serious hit?

It's a lot easier to change your mind if you're renting than if you buy.

If you can find a rental you like, go for it. With income of $3M/year, you can afford to spend a lot on rent.

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by qwertyjazz » Mon Jan 02, 2017 9:41 am

Rent
Most people looking at your income would say you are doing great. But you are both in finance in Manhattan. At your level in the next decade you will either move up in which case whatever you buy now will seem small or you will burn out in which case having the cash for a second career would be nice. You could be the small percent who stay at your current level and want to live in the city in your 50's. Given your finance background, does it make sense to believe what you think your future will be or to look at most people in your positions?

Good luck
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givewell
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by givewell » Mon Jan 02, 2017 10:28 am

I cannot say whether you should now, or soon, buy or continue renting.

BUT, I can say this:

You can buy a larger and often better apartment if you get a coop, not a condo, realizing that your building will almost always be at least somewhat older, and you will be buying a resale, not new construction. Very often, MUCH Better value.

Use STREETEASY to look at what is availalble. It is free and very useful. Just google the name, and there it is.

Combining both points, I will put a seach link for Manhattan coops costing 2.5 million to 4 million:
http://streeteasy.com/coops/manhattan/p ... =price_asc

For three million or less, it is easy to get a nice Manhattan coop of over 2000 square feet, and perfectly possible to get one for over 3000 sq ft.

Don't buy something as a Status Item - that will get you into fancy new construction with many useless amenities - and before you know it you could be looking at a condo for, say, 9 million that ain't all that large.

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by NYCguy » Mon Jan 02, 2017 10:08 pm

jory1804 wrote:I’m posting this under a second account – which the mods have approved of.


Currently my wife and I are living in Manhattan, with one young child and another on the way. We’re in a 2 bedroom apartment, but with the family soon to grow, and with our first child getting bigger, we’ll need an apartment with more space.

Right now we’re renting our place, and I assumed we’d just move into a bigger rental. However, most apartments in rental buildings, even if they have 3 bedrooms, still have pretty small common areas (e.g. living room, …), which doesn’t provide the “more space” feeling we’re looking for. However, apartments in owner building can potentially be much bigger. So the question here will be whether we should buy a place, or keep renting.

Now unfortunately, the size of apartment we’d ultimately want to live in (~2500 square feet) would cost roughly $5M in Manhattan. That may sound crazy, but $2000 per square foot is where the market is today.

However, our financial position is pretty strong, with $7M of liquid assets, no debt, and $3M/year of income. That probably means we can afford a $5M home, perhaps more easily than some other buyers. But, is buying such a place a good idea?
On one hand, a home that costs 1.7x a family’s income doesn’t sound out of reach. On the other hand, given our position, some might say we’ve already won the game, and I’d like very much to not “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” here. In fact, we could probably retire today if we really wanted to – and while we don’t actually want to retire, being able to gives tremendous peace of mind.


A few additional considerations are:
  • My wife and I are 34 years old.
  • We both work in finance. As a result, if the economy hits a downturn, our family income, our investment portfolio, and a leveraged NYC apartment could all take a big hit. This is the scenario I’m most afraid of.
  • If we didn’t buy this apartment now, we’d probably hold off for a few years, and try to make a few additional $M before pulling the trigger. In this case, we could either buy a smaller place in the mean time, or continue renting. Personally, I’m not keen on going through 2 purchases, and so in this case, we’d probably keep renting (maybe directly from an owner, at a likely cost of $15k/month).
  • Moving out of Manhattan, either to an outer borough or the suburbs, isn’t an option we’re considering. This would be cheaper, but it would also mean less family time (which we value highly) and longer commutes for both parents.

Any thoughts on the buy vs. rent decision in our case?
I struggled with virtually the same fact pattern in NYC. We rented until our kids were almost teanagets before purchasing. We also did not want to live in the burbs and wanted to raise our kids in the City.

What are you using as a number for taxes and maintenance in your $5 million hypothetical purchase? Depending on whether you are looking at coops vs condos that can easily run 3-7k a month.

Notwithstanding that we purchased at a good price point post financial crisis, I am a big fan of renting for the reasons you noted.

One issue we struggled with while renting was how to treat housing money as part of our asset allocation? We accumulated several million in cash while looking for the right place to buy. If we resigned ourselves to renting forever we would put the money to work in the market, but since we were uncertain, we held too much in cash. This happened over an 8 year period.

Congrats on a great problem to have. I would rent and maintain flexibility.
If your out-go is greater than your income, your upkeep will be your DOWNFALL.

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by JGoneRiding » Mon Jan 02, 2017 10:35 pm

Does 2500 sq feet really qualify as an apt? Thay is 1000 more than my 3 bed 2 bath with open floor plan plus office space house. What if you split the difference? "Only" spent 3mil and aimed for 1500 t0 1800 sq feet?

Would you feel comfortable with housing vs cost then?

You live like "the other side" you have the resources to do whatever works for your family so you should sit with spouse and really philosophisies about what you both want out of lifestyle going fwd and then go from there. I would think you can totally have your cake and eat it safely too if you just buy a smaller cake.

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by carguyny » Mon Jan 02, 2017 11:07 pm

Rent to maintain flexibility - as someone who had always walked to work (or short subway if the weather was really bad) and decided to move to Westchester to try it out I'm much happier out of the city. My commute is now 35 minutes, but my office is right next to Grand Central on park so that helps.

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by steadyeddy » Mon Jan 02, 2017 11:23 pm

When income is high but volatile, its best to make large purchases in cash. I would rent if you're not ready to do that.

rjbraun
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by rjbraun » Tue Jan 03, 2017 12:24 am

"$3M/year of income"

Just to confirm, does that means an actual base salary of $3 million annually or, if not, at least an ironclad, rock-solid non-discretioanry guarantee of $3 million each year - in writing, regardless of how well other parts of the firm do, independent of your actual performance, etc.? If so, how long is the employment contract for?

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by tsukune » Tue Jan 03, 2017 1:22 am

Congratulations on the strong financial position, specially at 34!

I am in a similar situation to yourself, but I'm a little older with lower income, assets and wants. I have 2 little children, live in a 1000 sq ft 2 bedroom, and we face the same questions - buy/rent a family sized apartment soon (for us that we be a 1200-1500 sq ft 2/3 bedroom) or move out to an outer borough (keeping our commutes to 30 or 45 mins max). For us the main factor in deciding is the public school we'd be zoned for. We believe the public schools in Manhattan have improved significantly in recent years, and the private schools while a huge money drain come with many things we consider to be significant negatives, one of which is the fact that you have to keep running on the the hamster wheel to maintain the lifestyle.

At 5M, you are looking at the high end of the condo market, even in Manhattan. As you are aware, this part of the market has been coming down and transactions have been taking longer to happen. The pricing and liquidity of this sub-market are very tied to high income earners in finance, and to hot money (overseas, celebrity, etc.). If you are at all unsure of what you want to do in the future (move out of the city/state/country or retire early) or you get washed out in the next downturn (it's coming at some point!) or simply get burned out, it probably makes sense to rent. From a financial perspective, I do not believe you are 'throwing money away', assuming you actively invest your liquid assets and earn a return, which you should be able to if you work in finance and make 3M!

I share your feelings about the quality and size of apartments available to rent vs. buying. I have been looking for a larger rental as well and have found the same issues, i.e. smaller common living/dining/kitchen rooms and spaces while most of the space is wasted on bedrooms and closets. But as others have mentioned, you might not need/want 2500 sq ft for a family of 4, specially in the city where you have parks and other amenities to make up for a yard and driveway. Also, coops are a much better deal for someone like yourself in a strong financial position, of course if you don't want older buildings and want new construction only then it will have to be a condo.

Personally, I want out of this game (read rat race) soon! Manhattan is great, but there is (good) life beyond it! I value this optionality and liquidity and hope to continue renting or if a buy a coop it will be 30-50% of my net worth so that I can continue to sleep well at night (ignoring the fire engines and traffic noise of course!)

jory1804
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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by jory1804 » Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:45 am

An update to this thread. Most of you recommended that I rent rather than buy, and I've indeed decided to continue renting.

Originally, I thought I'd have trouble finding a large enough apartment to rent. As I looked through the rental listings, I came upon a 4 bedroom place in a good location (for us) for around $12k/month - which is less than I was expecting to spend. I've now been living in said apartment for a few weeks now, and I couldn't be happier with the result :) Specifically:

- The place is big enough that we no longer feel like "space is tight."
- The rental market in NYC is fairly weak right now. Rents are relatively low, and some landlords are offering incentives to get deals done.
- I was able to avoid the financial and time overhand of a real estate purchase.
- I have the option of moving inexpensively (either up or down market) as our situation changes going forward.


Much thanks to everyone who shared their perspective and advice!

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Re: Buy or keep renting in Manhattan?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:49 am

Your welcome. Rental market is weakening because 1) bonuses were down this year, 2) lots of supply has come on and will continue to come on in 2018. Smart move on your part.
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