Note: Original date of writing: September 24th, 2014.
I was recently informed by a colleague via email of one 167 West 129th Street Unit 5D, a for-rent unit in a cozy co-op in the middle of Harlem. This 284 square foot prison cell/studio was first listed for $1,700 per month back in mid-May 2014. Luckily, in the few months since, the rent has been reduced to $1,150 per month.
Here is a description from the official listing, cleaned up for readability sake: Dramatic price drop, priced to rent quickly! Motivated landlord! Fantastic starter apartment! Approximately 284 square feet, new renovated studio, southern exposure, hardwood floors, ample counter space and wood cabinets. It’s a 4th floor walkup with no elevator. No pets allowed. (And then it lists schools, attractions, and other buildings that it’s relatively close to.)
Before deconstructing the cons and going through the results of my research, let’s take a quick look at the high points of 167 West 129th Street Unit 5D. Looking through the slideshows, it’s clear that the hardwood flooring addition and other renovations look quite nice. According to the floor plan there is a separate kitchen, which is something you don’t typically see in a “studio” apartment, much less one of this size.
The windows are south-facing, so there will be no point during the day where a sunrise or sunset will send glaring sunlight into your cubby and roast you. From BrickUnderground’s article regarding the co-op apartment, there is “enough room for a small table or stand-alone kitchen island and some bar stools”.
Dramatic price drop, priced to rent quickly! – Desperate seller/landlord who will most likely continue dropping the price. It’s fallen 35%+ in less than four months, so either the owner was attempting to gouge potential renters in the first place, or they are very desperate to dump this co-op piece on someone.
Motivated landlord! – See before. This landlord is desperate. Motivated landlord/seller in real estate talk means that the landlord is willing to take practically any offer. Contact them and offer $600, he will counter at $1,050, offer $700, and then after some back and forth you will be in your initial $1,700 per month closet for around $850.
Fantastic starter apartment! – Perfect for single college kids (without pets), artists, anyone who lives alone and won’t be spending time in their studio apartment except to sleep and shower. This place is also ideal for people who are minimalist in nature and have next to no worldly possessions. Fantastic starter apartment, that’s what this really means.
Approximately 284 square feet – For all intents and purposes this place has three usable rooms: a kitchen, a living space, and a bathroom. There are two very small closets right at the entrance as well. The kitchen is 60 square feet total. The living area is 140 square feet total. The bathroom can’t be any more than five by seven, so add another 35 square feet. Then there’s the narrow hallway and two closets. Excluding the bathtub, countertops, and closets, you’re looking at maybe 175 square feet of usable space at 167 West 129th Street Unit 5D.
Southern exposure – I Google Mapped the location and checked it out on Street View. I couldn’t get a good view of it, so I drove over there myself. From where I believe the unit is, you are looking at a building. A very close building. Sunrise and sunset directions don’t matter when your view is a brick wall. When I returned home, I looked at the images from the listing again. The view in the windows is clearly Photoshopped.
Ample counter space – Refer to the floor plan. I assume they are speaking about kitchen counter space, as there is zero counter space in the bathroom. Assuming this, and assuming the floor plan dimensions are correct, that leaves you around five square feet of the precious 284 square feet of counter space. For the scale, sure, there’s ample counter space, if you blow it up by a factor of ten and assume that in a 2,800 square foot home there would be fifty square feet of countertop to work with. But still five square feet is five square feet, and that $1,150 per month will get you the 2,800 square foot home in some place like an Atlanta suburb.
Fourth-floor walkup with no elevator – If you are moving in and have furniture like a futon or bed (with the space, you can have one or the other), you will be dragging and pushing it up three flights of stairs. Whenever you get groceries, three flights of stairs. After a long jog, you have to climb three flights of stairs. After returning from a party completely trashed, you have no option but to traverse three flights of stairs. Break your leg? Guess you’re sleeping in the street tonight unless you have a very strong and very friendly friend.
Bottom line, 167 W 129th Street Unit 5D might seem like a steal after being reduced $550 per month in price, but try to decipher what the description says, and see everything from a skeptical point of view. I’m sure the price will continue to drop, and I’m sure the landlord will find a tenant. I feel sorry for whoever ends up living in this prison cell with a candy shell.
UPDATE: I wrote this back in September of 2014. It looks like the price maintained at $1,150 per month and was eventually rented out. I stand corrected. All the best to whoever was suckered into this deal.
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