Combining apartments is not easy. But for owners short on space, it is worth it
If you’re looking for a bigger apartment due to a growing family or need more space, but you love your apartment building and don’t want to move, here’s a solution: buy the next unit and combine the two.
That’s what Praneet Gill, chief strategy officer for a tech startup, and her husband did. The couple lived in a third-floor apartment with their two children in a prewar apartment building they loved on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. When two adjoining units became available on the sixth floor, they purchased both, paying just under $ 3.3 million for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom and ‘classic six’ apartment, consisting of ‘a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, two complete bedrooms. bedrooms and a maid’s room with its own bathroom.
After a two-year, $ 2 million renovation completed just before the pandemic, Ms Gill, 41, had created a five-bedroom, five-bathroom apartment with a spacious open kitchen and central air conditioning.
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“We wanted the apartment to be our own and reflect what we love,” she said. “We kept it in the style of the pre-war building, so we kept its spirit, but everything is modern and new.
Combining apartments is a complicated process. Ms Gill, for example, needed the approval of three different entities: her co-op board of directors, the New York City Department of Buildings, and, since the building is in a historic district, the City Council of preservation of monuments.
Those hoping to buy multiple apartments and combine them into an apartment building they don’t currently reside in may find it difficult to live, according to Margery N. Weinstein, a real estate lawyer at Ganfer Shore Leeds & Zauderer in New York City.
“The boards are quite reluctant to even consider, let alone approve, a proposed combination before approving the buyer and asking the buyer to shut down the units,” she said. “You take the risk that the board of directors concludes that it will not authorize the structural changes. “
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But a current apartment owner who is considering buying an adjacent unit and combining them might find the process a bit easier. “You’re already in the building and know people on the board,” Ms. Weinstein said. “You can pass on an informal architectural sketch to get a general idea that the combination is structurally sound and may be acceptable to the board before purchasing the apartment.”
Either way, it is essential to hire experts who have experience in combining units. At a minimum, you’ll need an architect, designer, and lawyer to help you get through the bureaucratic process.
Co-ops are not the only type of multi-family units that can be combined – condominiums can also be combined, whether they are new constructions or existing units. Dan Teixeira, sales manager at Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences Fort Lauderdale, a 22-story project slated for completion by the end of this year, recently worked with a buyer who pays more than $ 10 million to purchase a plot of 3,090 square meters. three-bedroom, three-bedroom duplex to combine with an adjacent 2,000 square foot condominium. The result will be a unique floor plan for the building: an oceanfront residence with five bedrooms and six bathrooms. The buyer plans to close each unit individually and then combine them, but Mr. Teixeira said those who buy very early in the development process could ask a developer to combine the units before construction by changing construction plans. and obtaining new permits.
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Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are planning to combine co-op apartments or condominium units.
Prepare for the paperwork. If you don’t already have a unit in the building, you’ll need to contract with two different sellers and coordinate closures. Board approval is required, which can be difficult, and you’ll need an experienced architect up front to advise you if your vision is achievable. Then there is the disturbance of an intestinal renovation. Ms. Gill’s project lasted two years and her family lived in the units towards the end of the construction process. At that time, she did not have a fully functional bathroom, no kitchen, and meals prepared for her 4 and 6 year old children at an instant pot.
Calculate the finances. Melissa Cohn, executive mortgage banker at William Raveis Mortgage in New York City, said financing the combination of two or more apartments is usually done in two ways. If you already own a home and have sufficient equity, you can refinance cash on your current home to cover the cost of the second apartment. Alternatively, a lender can finance the two units together, either by adding the value of the two units as is, or by considering the future value of the combined units and funding a percentage of that number. Either way, expect the bank to hold escrow for the cost of removing the second kitchen (removal is required by law, with a few exceptions). The escrow, which varies but is typically no less than $ 10,000, is refunded once the work is completed, Cohn said.
Consider this may be a bad idea. Co-op boards may decline a combination if the structural integrity of the building is affected, the renovations will disrupt other residents, or if your design requires a configuration called “wet-on-dry”, such as a kitchen or bathroom on the floor. above a room below. This is especially true with the proposed renovations that penetrate the existing concrete slab between units to create a duplex. “You could envision the apartment in a way that simply cannot be achieved because of the structure of the building,” said Ms. Weinstein, the lawyer. But a successful combination involves more than just structural integrity. It should also make sense from a design standpoint. Rudy Duemichen, the 64-year-old CEO of an international distribution company, has already pulled off the successful combination of two-bedroom apartments and studios on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He now owns a two-bedroom apartment on Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village which he hopes to combine with an adjoining one-bedroom apartment.
“I have an L-shaped, rear-facing apartment with one window on Fifth Avenue, and here is this apartment right next to me that completes a square,” he said. “You don’t buy all the apartments next to you, but this one has incredible added value as all the windows are on Fifth Avenue which overcomes the negatives I have with my apartment. You don’t want to end up with a funky shape or a weird flow, but if you end up with a bob, that’s great.