REAL ESTATE: Renovations: Nothing’s impossible! Really?

BY MARTHA WILKIE | Whenever friends begin renovations, I send them a New Yorker cartoon in which an agent shows an apartment to a couple and says, “It’s a real fixer-upper, how’s your marriage?”

Renovations can be fraught. A rule of thumb is that it’ll take twice as much time and cost twice as much as you think.

One family spotted a townhouse in the Village that was a (relative) bargain: a single-family that had been converted to apartments in the 1920s. Delivered empty — except for one tenant. Architects Zack and Richard H. Lewis, a father-and-son team, worked around this.

“Dust and managing expectations were probably the hardest things,” Zack Lewis said. “To complicate matters, we added an elevator that had to cut through her apartment. It all worked out in the end, but the duration of the project was something no one was truly prepared for.

“We started to renovate around the tenant, but it was hard on her, so she was happy when we bought her out,” the owner said. “The lucky part is that the house has a beautiful, traditional layout, which I love. I think the trend for open spaces has gone too far. Our rooms are comfortable on a human scale.”

According to agent Hanina Levin of Wohlfarth & Associates, “Some buyers love ‘wrecks.’ With a wreck they get to start from scratch and the end result will be exactly to their taste.”


This Upper East Side was staged — actually, not virtually — to show how good it could look with a bit of work.

A two-bedroom, two-bath on E. 72nd St. is well priced and looks nice in the photos, but Levin admits it needs work.

“We had it staged — actually, not virtually — but it took months of peeling off ancient wallpaper and fabric, and cleaning and scrubbing and painting, not to mention removing lots of broken furniture,” the agent said. “We cosmetically improved it so prospective buyers would see the tremendous pluses of the space instead of immediately focusing on the need for renovation.” $949,000.


This Hamilton Heights apartment needs work, but has beautiful “bones” and a great view of the G.W.B.

A three-bedroom, one-bath in Hamilton Heights has, in the agent’s poetic words, a view of the “sparkling necklace of lights that is the George Washington Bridge at sunset.” $499,999.


Also, in Hamilton Heights, a three-bedroom (although it looks like two, really) needs work, but has nice original details, like unpainted French doors. $300,000.

This Morningside Heights building has a fixer-upper that needs so much fixing, the agent won’t show the apartment’s interior.

Morningside Heights has an affordable three-bedroom, two-bath on the market. Currently used as an office. The agents don’t dare show one photo, so caveat emptor. $795,000.

One Response to REAL ESTATE: Renovations: Nothing’s impossible! Really?

  1. Price drop on the E. 72nd apartment! Now $849k.

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