Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Looking at Streeteasy, one will find that the average cost of the 65 townhouses on the market in West Harlem and Central Harlem are almost at $2 million.  El Barrio is not included in this mix of homes which are generally 3,790-square-foot in size and going for $1.990 million for the most part.  Some higher end properties with better finishes, original details and great locations have sold at the $3 million price point but nothing has quite sealed the deal at $4 million to date.  On the low end, those looking really hard might find a shell under a million but sometimes the location or other issues are not so first-time buyer friendly.  Per square foot, this all breaks down to about $461 which is still half the price of what most properties in Manhattan are going for.


  1. It would make most sense for developers to buy the burnt out shells and turn them into condos.

    It's too hard for first time home buyers to do that kind of work.

  2. But would it hurt to offer these shells to local middle & working class people who really want to stay in the city and be homeowners? They could offer them at a substantial reduced rate along with other support mechanisms like property tax abatements, low cost or subsidized local contractors, etc. Back in the early 80's the Koch administration offered burnt out shells for $2 but there was a hard & fast deadline to get the house up to code or lose it. I know a nurse from Harlem Hospital (now retired) who got one for $2 and along with her husband they got second jobs and were able to get the house up to code just 48 hours before the deadline. I also know a couple of people who got shells for $2 and then proceeded to get second jobs to get the capital to get the house to code but it happened too late and they lost the shell along with the little bit of work that was done. But with no second part-time or full-time jobs available a nice property tax reduction and referrals to low cost or subsidized contractors could really make a difference. Native New Yorkers should not have to leave the city nor the state to realize their dream. These are the people who we need to try to keep here so that they can help make the city better, so that their children can assume leadership positions here. Ever notice how the news readers on TV are all from somewhere else? It wasn't always like that. John Johnson, Roseanne Scammerdella, etc all were native New Yorkers. There's nothing like home grown movie stars, artists & musicians. They could be great role models for school children. But they need to be housed and housed well.

  3. I like the idea Greg but that was in the days when the city owned the properties. A lot of the shells that are left are not city owned anymore so it would be harder to have this sort of program again.

  4. I found that the hardest part with the shells is finding an owner who was 'engaged' and willing to talk - there are still plenty of shells, albeit luckily ever fewer, houses with chains and boards, but many owners are seriously absentee. It's actually very weird. Inexplicable that they aren't actively selling.
    In this internet age, it's actually pretty easy to figure out who owns a given house, but to try and get them to have a conversation is the hard part. Having said that, the issues of SRO, code, rotten beams, massive amounts of work, etc are all surmountable- a little patience and a little due diligence and any shell can be made into a pretty nice place to live.
    If someone can figure out how to crack the code of getting owners to sell, I would love to build a business around helping turn them into affordable 1-2 family homes...

  5. Zero chance of shells for $2 much less $2000. i am not sure where you are going to find shells for under a million in central harlem. 120 west 118th which has been a shell for 15+ years, is now under construction and ACRIS records show it sold for 1.6 million, over a year ago.. and from peeking inside the now open windows its a MESS inside...