Long known for its historical homes and artistic spirit, the West Village is now the epitome of gentrification: trendy weekend crowds and excited tourists pack the streets where Kerouac once drunkenly roamed. Meanwhile, the area’s established residents who are willing to sell or rent capitalize on the desire of well-to-do New Yorkers to live in hip places that the bohemians have (not so) recently left.
It’s no secret that this small home market has become one of the most exclusive in NYC. So exclusive, in fact, that it outprices blatantly rich neighborhoods such as the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side, in both the home sales and, more recently, rental markets.
If you’re new to the place, looking to move in, or you just love to delve into neighborhood curiosities, we’ll give you a guide to the local home market and the real estate highlights of the West Village.
Few developers make it past preservation restrictions
A defining characteristic of the neighborhood lies in the old buildings that make up most of the housing stock available: over 200 of them were built before the 20th century and most of the neighborhood is protected under the Greenwich Village Historic District. Almost all constructions built from the ‘70s onwards line up along West Street, with a view to the Hudson River, and just 3 new constructions have been filed with authorities since 2013.
Among these, it’s only the 643-651 Greenwich Street co-op development that already has units on the market, with currently available listings asking upwards of $4.5M. The other two projects are still under construction: 156 Leroy Street to be completed this fall, while 130-138 7th Avenue is slated for 2017.
A rather small neighborhood, the West Village has 14,178 housing units to date, a majority of which are rentals. However, a greater percentage of residents own their homes than elsewhere in Manhattan. Residents who own a place mostly live in co-op apartments, though as in the rest of the city most new housing units are condominiums. Take a look at The Shephard and 111 Leroy Street for some examples.
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Though not as youthful as other neighborhoods in the area, having a median age of 37 years old, only 23% of households are families, according to the 2014 census data at Point2 Homes. Sharing an apartment is less common than elsewhere in Lower Manhattan, and the residents also get to enjoy quite a bit of space for themselves. The median size of condo and co-op homes is 852 square feet, while 13% of them offer an ample living space of over 2,000 square feet.
Booming prices at the end of 2015 slowly returning to normal levels
The popularity of the West Village is reflected in dynamic home sales; between 2011 and 2015, an average of 326 homes were bought every year, a very high number for the size of the home market.
Luxury properties are also well represented and have been on the rise during this time. Last year alone, 92 homes sold for over $3M, almost double the number recorded in 2014 and a 163% increase compared to 2011.
In April 2016, 3 such properties were sold, all of them at 150 Charles Street, by now one of the most famous new condo developments in Lower Manhattan.
Looking at recent market trends, April 2016 saw only half as many transactions closed as during the same month last year. Nonetheless, prices soared by 57% Y-o-Y, and the median price was just over $1.4M, which means the West Village is still one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Manhattan. Despite an increasing demand in West Village real estate, prices are actually returning to normal compared to the freak spike seen back in October 2015, when the median price jumped a little over $3.2M! The unusually high prices were mostly due to the many sales closed at 150 Charles Street, after the condo development hit the market in summer 2015.
As for yearly trends and changes, the median sale price in the West Village has been climbing over the past years, exceeding the $1M mark. In 2015, it hit $1.35M, translating into a 21% Y-o-Y growth. Though still not as expensive as NoHo and TriBeCa, where the median price for a home skyrocketed over $3M in 2015, the West Village records a 51% increase in median sale price since 2008.
The median rent hovers around $3,900, while small rentals are unaffordable
Apartments in the West Village are some of the priciest in Lower Manhattan, though much less so than in the TriBeCa – SoHo area, on the whole. The median rent among all apartments in the West Village in April 2016 was $3,900, while it reached $6,395 in SoHo and TriBeCa, according to Citi Habitats.
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However, when you take a look at each type of apartment separately, it’s rather shocking to realize that renting a studio or a one-bedroom in the Village is now just as expensive as in TriBeCa or SoHo; they cost an average of $2.7K and $3.7K, respectively, for the average unit. In fact, if you plan to live in anything under 3 bedrooms, you’d save up to $1,000 per month by making the move to the north, on the Upper West Side, another NYC neighborhood in high demand.
It’s only in larger units that the price gap widens in favor of Village renters, who can look to spend $6,000 on a typical 3-bedroom, or $2K less than nearby neighbors in SoHo. It seems that at the top of the market, between these two New York spots where celebrities love to live, larger families and top earners favor the more luxurious SoHo.
Few affordable alternatives still exist in this area. Among large multi-families, having 50 or more units, only 107 units are affordable, out of the total 2,231, according to data from Yardi Matrix. Westbeth remains the single largest refuge for low-income renters, in an effort to hold on to the artists that made this neighborhood famous to begin with.
High housing costs in the neighborhood seem to have put off many rent-seekers, and so far in 2016 vacancy rates are well above the borough average. In April, 2.31% of West Village rental units were unoccupied, a rate second only to the one seen on the Upper West Side.
It’s hard not to get into a debate over landmarks in an old neighborhood such as this one, so we’d like to settle the dispute over the single oldest building once and for all. And the winner is the charming little brownstone at 24 Commerce Street, built in 1821 for a one-family household.
Homes in the West Village are high-value, but just how much are people willing to pay to live here? For owners of the penthouse at 400 West 12th Street, $31.5M was that upper limit, making this transaction the largest condo or co-op sale ever closed in the neighborhood. The residential development also includes 7 townhouses, sold for far less than that.
Buying your way into the neighborhood doesn’t come cheap, however small your new home may be. The current owner of the tiniest unit in the West Village, at 219 West 13th Street, paid $266,000 for just 134 square feet of living space back in 2004! All 5 units inside this beautiful condo building, dating back to 1890, span only 300 square feet or less, but make up in proximity to 2 subway lines and luscious greenery covering the entire façade.
A massive condo unit at 176 Perry Street is the largest home in all West Village. Having 11,032 square feet to move around in, unit #10S is close to the top of an infamous building in the area, a glass-and-steel mid-rise facing West Street, the southern half of a two-building development spread on both sides of Perry Street. It’s no surprise that the distinctly contemporary design hasn’t met with much enthusiasm by the Greenwich Historical Society.
One Last Snapshot
This neighborhood is built for comfort and indulgence, with local shopping, food and entertainment designed to cater to an increasingly younger and hipper crowd. At the same time, it’s getting more and more expensive to live small, in apartments designed for singles and young couples, and competition on the market is high.
Lately, we can see vacancy rates that are higher than in most of Manhattan, and a fast turnover of home owners, as a high number of homes get sold each year. It will be interesting to see whether West Village residents will turn their eyes to places such as the Upper East and Upper West Sides for better value on their money, now that the luxury hot-spots map in Manhattan looks a whole lot different.
Check out the full infographic here.