San Francisco couple left their heart in NYC

BY MARTHA WILKIE | A West Coast couple is looking to return to New York City after living in the San Francisco area for years — but now with a kid who needs a good public school. Does the crazy-to-us-New-Yorkers real estate market seem tame compared with the insanity of the Bay Area?

The husband is a stalwart worker in the save-the-world-department.

“Twenty years ago on a rainy Sunday, I stumbled on a dimly lit studio apartment for sale by owner on 20th St. and Seventh Ave.,” he said. “Amazingly, our offer of $100,000 was accepted, and post-renovation we spent half a decade living in an Art Deco oasis. We loved it.

“Currently, we have a nice three-bedroom modernist A-frame overlooking Richardson Bay,” he continued. “However, my last five years with community-development companies meant living in Bedouin caves in Jordan, Buddhist temples in Japan, bamboo huts in Cambodia and yurts in northern Mongolia. It has been an adventure but nothing compared to returning to the daunting journey of the New York City real estate market — this time with tween in tow.

“Rent or buy? Yes. Condo or co-op? Yes. Historic building or new construction? Yes. Live above a storefront that sells $16 avocado toast and caters to venture capitalists? No! We are trying to escape sport-vest-wearing start-up dudes who obsess over deal points.”

Returning to Manhattan as real grown-ups means a few more “must-haves” than the couple had in their newlywed studio days. This includes two bathrooms, two bedrooms and either high ceilings or a view. A quick walk to a park or river, or outdoor space falls into the “would be nice” category.

“I am not too fussy on neighborhood,” he added, “but as a trained architect, I’d love a unique space to call home for the next decade. West Coasters say New York City is in a funk. But as a former local, I see it locked in reality and responding as such. For us, the bubble of San Francisco has become increasingly both impermeable and thin-skinned, so it is time to go.”

The family likes the West Village and environs. Their budget for a rental is around $6,000 or to buy, $1.6 million. As for schools, the dad is hoping their kid will get into a good public one.

“Given the fact we built schools for over 5,000 refugees last year, I’m hoping karma will do the trick,” he said.

In a very California-modern way he said, “We are on the fence to sell or rent, but in embracing the sharing economy, we’d be game to house-swap for those seeking warming climates, hotter tech jobs and endless avocado toast.”

Do you have a suitable home that you’d consider trading for sunny (O.K., it’s the Bay Area, not so sunny) California for the next 10 years or so? Leave a note in the comments and I’ll put you in touch. Services such as can facilitate swaps (I used it myself once, worked well), but those are usually short-term.

Hate to break it to them, but I’m afraid $16 avocado toast is probably on as many menus at trendy restaurants in the West Village as Noe Valley.

Since they’re open to swapping and had good luck with a FSBO (“for sale by owner”) once before (a rarity in Manhattan), I first looked for that. Under the Craigslist “Real Estate: Swap” section, almost all “For Sale by Owner” listings are actually real estate agents (you can tell by the ALL CAPS!!!). Streeteasy and The New York Times turned up little in way of true FSBOs and nothing in the West Village.

Here are some spaces in and around the West Village that fit this family’s requirements and budget.

A cool $1.495 million will get you 92 Horatio St.: a true 2BR, 2BA for sale in a 1920, five-story building. Lavishly renovated, it has a beautiful white marble bath and kitchen with fancy appliances and a wood-burning fireplace — more and more a rarity in Manhattan.

What would Jane say? This co-op at the West Village Houses, between Charles St. and Charles Lane, is for sale for nearly $1.7 million. Courtesy Warburg Realty

At 690 Washington St., a co-op in the West Village Houses is for sale. Completed in 1975, the West Village Houses are part of a Jane Jacobs-advocated movement for low-scale walk-up affordable apartment buildings that fit into their architectural context. Originally part of the Mitchell-Lama program, it later was converted to a market-rate co-op, with a program for existing renters to stay. It’s a (relatively) reasonably priced 2- or 3-bedroom for the neighborhood at $1,695,000.

This two-apartment property is a project with lots of potential. Courtesy Oxford Property Group

Now here’s a challenge for a design-minded family: Combine two units in a co-op at 727 Greenwich St. and design a new home with outdoor space. Gut-renovation and don’t forget, when you combine two units, you may pay two maintenance fees.

This stylish new rental is in an enclave with a stylish new name — Chelsea/Hudson. Whether or not the neighborhood name catches on, the apartment is a hot property. Courtesy Related

There’s a new-construction 2BR, 2BA rental in what real estate agents are now optimistically calling “Chelsea/Hudson” (a.k.a. far W. 30th St.) in the Abingdon House, with exterior by Robert A.M. Stern. This place features everything new and trendy, a roof deck with fabulous views, and conveniently located just steps from Dyer Ave., leading to the Lincoln Tunnel. (That may or may not be a plus.) Renting for $6,620, no fee.

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