What You Need to Know About Buying in a Boutique Building

The concept of a "boutique building" may sound luxurious and exclusive, but it simply refers to a small building with just a few apartments. While there are benefits to living in a boutique building, such...

The concept of a "boutique building" may sound luxurious and exclusive, but it simply refers to a small building with just a few apartments. While there are benefits to living in a boutique building, such as added privacy and personalized attention from staff, there are also downsides to consider.

The Pros and Cons of Boutique Buildings

In a boutique building, you can expect fewer staff members and higher expenses since costs are split among fewer owners. Additionally, it may be harder to avoid neighbors you don't get along with in a small building with limited common areas. However, boutique buildings often offer a higher standard of construction and customization compared to larger towers.

Finding Boutique Buildings in NYC

If you're interested in purchasing an apartment in a boutique building, certain neighborhoods in New York City are more likely to have these types of properties. The West Village and Soho in Manhattan, as well as Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, have zoning restrictions that preserve older low-rise buildings, making them ideal for boutique buildings. Each neighborhood offers a unique atmosphere and architectural style.

The Cost of Buying in a Boutique Building

The cost of buying in a boutique building depends on various factors. In large high-rises, buyers pay a premium for views and amenities, but boutique buildings located in prime historic locations can be equally expensive due to their exclusivity and charm. It's important to evaluate the value you are getting for your investment and consider the specific location and amenities offered in the boutique building.

Amenities in Boutique Buildings

Boutique buildings typically don't offer as many amenities as larger buildings due to their smaller size. While extravagant amenities like movie screening rooms and indoor pools may be limited, you may find small basement gyms, common gardens, and on-site parking options in some boutique buildings. In certain cases, boutique buildings may have doormen, concierges, and on-site laundry rooms.

Risks of Buying in Smaller Buildings

One significant risk of buying in a boutique building is the potential for higher capital expenses. These expenses, such as boiler replacement, roof repairs, and façade work, are typically split among a larger pool of owners in larger buildings, reducing the cost per unit. Additionally, boutique buildings are often self-managed, which can lead to potential discord among owners and delays in payments and financial obligations.

What Happens When Owners Don't Pay Common Charges

In the event that an owner doesn't pay common charges in a boutique building, the burden falls on the other unit owners. However, the board of the building has remedies available to address the situation, such as sending delinquency notices or placing a common charge lien on the unit. In extreme cases, shareholders in a cooperative building can even face eviction.

Other Considerations for Buyers

Buyers should be aware that boutique buildings have fewer amenities compared to larger buildings, which may affect the marketability or resale value of the unit. It is crucial to conduct proper due diligence before signing any contracts. Understanding the building's financial stability, any planned capital improvements, and how decisions are made at the board level is essential for making an informed investment decision.

Façade Maintenance in Boutique Buildings

While buildings taller than six stories must adhere to the Façade Inspection and Safety Program, even boutique buildings are not exempt from façade maintenance. Though smaller buildings have less surface area to maintain or repair, the costs can still be significant. Owners may be required to contribute additional revenue to cover such costs outside of the annual operating budget.

The Role of Experts in the Buying Process

Real estate attorneys and brokers play a crucial role in guiding buyers through the process of purchasing in boutique buildings. They provide information and highlight potential risks so that buyers can make informed decisions. It's important for buyers to understand the benefits and risks associated with buying in a boutique building and determine what they are comfortable with.

Is There Such a Thing as a Building That's Too Small?

According to experts, there is no definitive answer. The size of the building is subjective and depends on individual preferences and risk tolerance. While some buyers have had positive experiences in three- or four-unit buildings, it's important to note that problematic unit owners can have a significant impact on the atmosphere and dynamics of a smaller building.

Finding Your Perfect Boutique Building

If you're in the market for an apartment and considering a boutique building, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons. Boutique buildings offer a unique living experience with added privacy and customization. However, they also come with potential risks and limited amenities. By understanding the specific characteristics of boutique buildings and conducting thorough due diligence, you can make an informed decision that suits your lifestyle and preferences.

What you need to know about buying in a boutique building Image: What you need to know about buying in a boutique building


542 Laguardia Pl., #4B, Greenwich Village

In the heart of Greenwich Village, this three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath condo loft offers luxury living. With beamed ceilings, exposed brick walls, and a wood-burning fireplace, this apartment exudes charm. It also features a chef's kitchen with quartzite countertops and a temperature-controlled wine fridge. The boutique building provides amenities such as a virtual doorman, dedicated package area, and key-locked elevator.

221 West 77th St., #17, Upper West Side

Located on the Upper West Side, this spacious four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath condo offers modern living with a 378-square-foot terrace, gas-burning fireplace, and outdoor grill. The unit has direct elevator access and is part of a boutique building with a gym, basketball court, member lounge, and roof terrace. On-site parking is available.

92 Horatio St., #31, West Village

In the West Village, this one-bedroom, one-bath apartment combines pre-war charm with modern comfort. The pet-friendly boutique co-op building offers a live-in superintendent, central laundry, storage, and bike storage. The apartment features a fireplace, open kitchen, and walk-in closet.

259 West 21st St., #PH, Chelsea/Hudson Yards

Enjoy penthouse living in this two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath apartment with a private roof deck. The unit boasts custom moldings, an updated kitchen, and an open floor plan. Located in a boutique co-op building, this property offers a bike room and additional storage.

131 East 93rd St., #6A, Carnegie Hill

This recently renovated two-bedroom, one-bath apartment offers ample natural light and elegant finishes. Located in a pet-friendly boutique building in Carnegie Hill, this unit features a windowed kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. The building offers a renovated lobby, roof deck, on-site laundry, and bike and storage rooms.

Buying an apartment in a boutique building offers a unique living experience. Whether you prioritize privacy, customization, or a sense of exclusivity, there is a boutique building in New York City that can meet your needs.

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