When we bought our place we kept having people tell us “that’s narrow” (it’s 15′ wide – 13 1/2′ inside brick-to-brick). It’s not as narrow as some – we looked at a few that were 12 1/2 footers, but it is narrow. Harlem Bespoke’s post about 148 W 121 reminded me about the importance of width… Consider the following…
|168 West 123 (our place)||148 West 121|
|Dimensions||15′ x 60′||18′ x 50′|
|Previous Owner||TPE Townhouses Harlem||TPE Townhouses Harlem|
To me that’s pretty remarkable… Same previous owner, same neighborhood, same square footage, yet they paid 41.5% more for their place than we paid for ours.
But the reason is pretty simple – width… 18 feet is the width when developers start getting interested in a townhouse. Building code requires a 3′ wide staircase and 3′ hallways. You’ll need one public hallway for the staircase and then another inside the apartment. Even if you do exposed brick, you’ll have at least 8″ of wall, so you need 9′ 8″ just for the required parts. In our building that leaves less than 4 feet for a bathroom, which isn’t enough. On a standard 18 footer that has about about 17 feet brick to brick you have over 7 feet of room for the bathroom, closets, etc. – which is plenty…
That means if you’re looking for a bargain on a Harlem townhouse shell and you just want it to be 2 or 3 family, then you should go narrow… You’ll get a better price on a 15 or 16 footer than you will on an 18+ footer, ’cause you won’t be competing with developers.
UPDATE: One thing I forgot to mention is that once a narrow townhouse is renovated it can sell for good money as is evidenced by the recent comp over on 119. So this really does seem to be a supply vs. demand issue. There’s just more demand for wider shells than there is for narrower shells. You pay a premium at 18+ feet because you’re competing with developers.