With the global pandemic, political climate, and social unrest, it is easy to understand a prospective buyer’s trepidation about the real estate market. However, the stylish essence of the Upper West Side, low mortgage interest rates, and a buyer-friendly marketplace may be indicators that it is time to buy an apartment on the Upper West Side.
A Veiled Treasure
In some ways, the Upper West Side (UWS) is the clandestine jewel of Manhattan. It is hidden in that it is not touristy like Times Square or Greenwich Village. Perhaps memories still linger of the past when the area was known for crime and single-room-occupancy dwellings, but that was before the area was revitalized and gained popularity in the 1980s. Yet somehow it remains an enchanting milieu. Compare the pros and cons of the UWS to decide if it suits you.
Upside & Downside
Leaving the decades-old history of abandoned buildings behind, the UWS has grown into its own with a character with a community feel. Sandwiched between Riverside Park and Central Park with a cultural hub to the south, residents have the best of both worlds within a neighborhood that cherishes diversity. Easy access to verdant grounds for sunning, picnicking, and play; paths for walking, cycling and jogging; and sitting areas for reverie is a magnet for singles, couples, families, and seniors.
The downside is that the UWS does draw crowds. One advantage of living in the area is that you can time your runs to head them off. Attending cultural events does not involve parking a car, crowded subways or taxis stuck in traffic. Residents of Lincoln Towers on West End Avenue, for example, have the world-renowned Lincoln Center for Performing Arts at their doorstep with the iconic American Museum of Natural History to the east and the engaging Children’s Museum of Manhattan to the north.
If you are looking for glitz, the UWS may not be your first choice. But if you relish charm and an artsy ambiance, you can find wonderful restaurants and laid-back bars less touristic than you will find elsewhere in the city. If you lean toward culinary dining, Fairway and Trader Joe’s are popular choices for groceries. For dessert, I suggest one of the supreme neighborhood bakeries like Magnolia’s and Levain’s.
If you are not a fan of domestic pets, the fact that this is a pet-friendly neighborhood may be a drawback for you. The Friends & Lovers of Riverside Area of Life (FLORAL) is a volunteer group instrumental in the creation of the 72nd Street Dog Run in Riverside Park where dogs can delight in untethered runs. Lincoln Towers offers pet-friendly as well as pet-restricted buildings.
Why This Is the Best Time To Buy
From the perspective of a mortgagee, the best time to buy is when interest rates are low, and the economic forecast for the remainder of 2020 lends itself to a continuation of interest rates hovering near zero. In June 2020, MarketWatch reported “The Fed said it doesn’t expect to lift its benchmark interest rate until 2023. Only two of 17 top officials said rates would move slightly higher in 2022.” However, without a crystal ball, we can’t predict the future. Some people argue that the government is putting too much money into the economy, sparking anxious projections of inflation on the horizon. As the debate continues, some buyers see this point in time as an opportune window to take advantage of low affordable mortgage rates before any shift.
Qualified Upper West Side real estate buyers have leverage right now. There is less competition for properties than there have been in the past. Part of the reason is that some residents have migrated to the outskirts. Credit may be more difficult to get approved than in previous years, a natural response from mortgage lenders to the unemployment rate. If you have a great credit score and can afford a down payment of 20% or more, that will give you a competitive edge. Home prices tend to favor buyers when demand is low.
Upper West Side Culture And History
The Upper West Side offers views of the Hudson River and is home to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts with proximity to Columbus Circle and Central Park. The section has an interesting history too. The Lincoln Towers Apartment complex, located on West End Avenue, was a backdrop for “West Side Story” in 1961 when it was an abandoned building. Today, it is a conglomerate of eight luxury residential buildings with 28 or 29 floors, each with its own amenities and co-op structure. The area has a friendly neighborhood vibe, easy access to public transit, local playgrounds, and private schools.
Reopening of Schools
If you have children, now is a good time to get situated before schools reopen. If you don’t have children, the end-of-summer season can still work to your advantage because sellers may be keen to move to ensure their own children are settled into school at their new destination. Private schools have begun to announce their plans to reopen, according to Patch. The Bank Street School for Children and Dwight School are planning to reopen in the fall. The Calhoun School and Collegiate School announced a phased-in approach. The School at Columbia University will start with a distance-learning program. Trinity School anticipates a combination of on-site instruction and virtual learning. Visit the school websites to stay abreast of updates.
There is no denying that COVID-19 has transmogrified the NYC landscape. But based on historical events, diehard New Yorkers know in their hearts that NYC has always rebounded after a crisis. When it does, the UWS with all its culture and vibrancy will be no exception. If the UWS is right for you, think about how good it will feel to be settled into your new apartment when the revival unfolds. Feel free to contact me if it is time to buy an apartment on the Upper West Side in Lincoln Towers.