Rent Vs. Buy: In Brooklyn, Both Are Difficult

If you’ve got Brooklyn property to sell, fantastic. It’s a seller’s market. People are clamoring for Brooklyn property. Your listing may even ignite a bidding war. You will probably be sitting on a lot of cash after you sell. But then what do you do? Hopefully you’ve got plans to move to, say, Kansas, because buying another place or even finding a rental in Brooklyn is going to be very, very, very difficult, according to DNAinfo. “Right now is a horrible time to be a buyer or a renter,” said Catherine Witherwax, director of sales for Stribling’s first Brooklyn office. “There’s very little on the market. We’re seeing unprecedented interest in Brooklyn and people staying in Brooklyn. And we’re seeing a large international component. The borough’s popularity goes beyond New York City and the metropolitan area.” Buyers will need perfect credit and enough funds to win a bidding war with all cash. The story gives an overview of the market in four neighborhoods with tips and deets on prices in each: Crown Heights, Bushwick, Bed Stuy, Dumbo. Crown Heights, for example, “is really starting to boom” with prices for renovated homes in the $1.2 to $1.5 million range. Rents are 10 to 30 percent cheaper than in Manhattan, with studios going for $1,200 to $1,500. Depressed yet? The article has some advice: If you’re priced out, try Queens.
Rent vs. Buy: Navigating Brooklyn’s Tight Real Estate Market [DNAinfo]

72 Comment

  • Officially priced out. Brooklyn no longer wants my type. Should have gotten a finance job or whatever instead of pursuing artistic dreams I guess. Or had a trust fund. Been a good 20 years.

    I hate the “new” Brooklyn.

    • You helped shape it, as did I. Underneath its facade of its reclaimed barn wood, beneath the glare of its flickering edison lights, it is really just the Upper West Side, c. 1993. Or something like that: a very nice neighborhood for those that can afford it. But this kind of thing never ends well. Nothing in New York that becomes insanely coveted stays nice for long: things get too crowded, too full of tourists, and the kinds of people who want things because everyone else does. It is nothing new, but the scale and speed of this much of Brooklyn gentrifying at once–the sheer square miles of Bed Stuy alone that are gentrifying is pretty new. My daughter’s school is full of families who are being displaced–again. (They were priced out of Clinton Hill long ago; now they’re getting priced out of Lefferts, Crown Heights and even Ocean Hill.)

      I have to wonder: is there a tipping point? A point where this relentless line of gluten-free bakeries, wine bars, and oven-baked pizza shops will cross and then fall back? I don’t know. I know I love my current neighborhood–artisanal patisseries and all–but pretty much everyone I know here who rents as we do is wondering what next year’s lease renewals will bring. And that cuts across a wide swathe of income levels.

      As I’ve said too often, rich neighborhoods end up being boring. The good restaurants all end up closing. Little things, like drummers in the playground stop happening. Kids don’t play on the street because they’re bussed to soccer, to ballet, to field hockey. Rich people are crap neighbors: they don’t invest in their public schools, (unless they’re already getting a million each year from the PTA), they don’t walk their own dogs, and they’re gone all summer.

      So… yeah, about Queens… maybe.

  • Please. There are plenty of areas in Brooklyn that are still somewhat affordable. So you have to sit on the train a little longer, or take an express bus. BFD!!!!!

  • Anyone want to buy some tulip bulbs?

  • for as much as everyone here makes fun of the “i did it before it was cool” hipster mentality, it sure does seem like the majority of the loyal Brownstoner contigent typify it themselves albeit perhaps they don’t necessarily look the part. But the mindset sure does seem similar… regardless, i tend to agree that once a neighborhood becomes super affluent it becomes super boring. i still think however that most of these nabes have a while to go. just because it’s getting expensive doesn’t mean it has “arrived” and it probably won’t be for some time.

    • little while to go? look at parts of Forte Green closest to Flatbush Ave, if u re not sitting w/some friend at a table somewhere, there is really no sense of neighborhood or community anymore, just people wondering who is who, & who has what. Good or bad all of Brooklyn is becoming Brooklyn Heights

    • that’s true enough, which makes the how expensive they’ve become kind of more insane. I could buy a brownstone in Ocean Hill, which has bad schools, lousy groceries, and a lot of crime, or I could buy a brownstone in Bushwick, which has, which has bad schools, lousy groceries and lots of crime, or I could buy a brownstone in East New York, which has bad schools, lousy groceries and lots of crime.

      The difference?

      Only the price of the actual house. And that’s where the problem is–for me. What the problem is for the residents of those neighborhoods is a totally different thing, and one that readers of this blog have consistently shown no sympathy for.

      • so what you’re saying is that it sucks to not be able to afford a brownstone in your ideal neighborhood or even a hood that is semi decent by your standards… well, yeah that sucks 😉

        • That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying that prices seem a bit ahead of the gentrification curve in some neighborhoods. Way ahead in others. I am also saying that I’m not sure I want any part of the end result of the gentrification curve. You couldn’t, for example, pay me to live in Williamsburg at this point. Or Greenpoint.

          What I want is what most people want: a stable New York neighborhood, where no one’s getting displaced, where there are stores that have been there forever because they’re good, and where things aren’t going to change much for the next 20 years. That may not be the soundest financial investment: but for quality of life and raising kids it seems like the best bet.

          • You’re describing Windsor Terrace. But nothing stays the same forever.

          • houses are worth what people will pay for them. just because you have this pre-conceived notion on what $XXX should buy you in a certain neighborhood doesn’t mean that’s the case.

          • The people who have the preconceived notion that it’s worth $1.5MM to live in the farther reaches of Bed Stuy–well, bless the poor little dears.

          • i hear ya although it sounds similar to what i was saying. anyway, i hope you find what you’re looking for. check out Queens. you’ll find plenty of places that probably won’t change much for the next 20 years. i like change. i like looking forward to new things popping up in my neighborhood so 20 years of little to no chnage sounds like torture to me. to each their own!

          • Quite. I just don’t like to move into a place that all my neighbors are forced to move out of. One of the things that made this city an interesting place was the subsidized and stabilized housing stock that allowed the rich and poor to co-exist and share resources. That’s not how it seems to be going in the brownstone belt at all right now.

          • A “stable New York neighborhood” is an oxymoron, and has always been so.

  • Why not the South Bronx at this point?

  • It will be a while before Clinton Hill is not a cool neighborhood. Its really great right now for sure.

  • Why does everyone in NYC think that they have to be a banker, or have a trust fund to have a decent apartment. I am not a banker, far from it and grew up very poor, am also Hispanic. I did work my behind off and had to sacrifice being away from my loved ones for years with very little breaks in between. I served my country and risked death many times. When I saved enough money, I purchased a condo in a part of Brooklyn not many people wanted to live in. Yeah it was cheap in comparrison to other places in the city, but this place is worth alot more now and people want to buy it all the time. I refused to be “Priced out” and worked very, very hard, then all the pieces came together and it worked out in the end. The options of work I had were there and are there for all Americans, many chose to not accept them and then get pissed off when things don’t go their way. If you had 20 years to use every opportunity to your advantage and chose not to, that is your doing. I am proud of the fact that no one ever gave me anything for free and now I get to pass my investments to my children and yes, they will be trust fund babies and I will enjoy every minute of seeing them use it responsibly. America is still and will continue to be a great country, where anything is possible, if you are willing to eat a piece of humble pie and suck it up for a couple of years and sacrifice. Leave NYC for a couple of years, explore find ways to save money and then come back. You might have to buy in Queens, but hey, it’s still NYC. When we bought in Brooklyn, people looked at our neighborhood with lower standards than many parts in Queens. Don’t mean to offend, but it is really tiring to read about people whinning about how their life sucks, because they wasted most of their years being reactive and not proactive.

    • WOW….well said. If only more Americans thought and acterd this way. Congrats. Might be one of the best posts brownstoner has seen in many years.

    • This. I don’t know any bankers or lawyers. I own property in Brooklyn and so do many of my friends who work in publishing, or IT, or who are teachers. Brooklyn is huge. So you’re priced out of a few particular neighborhoods? Save your money, be flexible about your expectations and you can find something.

    • I echo Daveinbedstuy’s comments. Thank you for your service to our country and I congratulate you on pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and “making” your life. But to tell a truth, people like to complain on here (and read the complaints), so you have to be a little thick-skinned to participate on this blog. I myself just let the complaining – which, while it doesn’t do any good, is harmless, really – pass under the bridge and take from the blog what is helpful. No need in getting riled up over something you cannot control. Anyhow, best of luck, and see you at the VFW hall! :)

    • Why do people think that folks unhappy with the way the nabe has changed should sell, shut up or shut down? Some of the people (ehem, working people) who are balking at the changes work hard, but simply don’t like the way the nabe has changed. They have every right to balk at the ruin of the culturally vibrant, cozy neighborhoods they’ve invested in. It is suddenly overcrowded, over priced, sterile, and a strain on the quality of life and space they previously enjoyed. These “hardworking” people made this enclave home for 20 yrs or more. Doesn’t mean they should sell, or shut up or shut down. You’re not the only one who worked hard to stay. You’re not the only one who may work just as hard to leave.

    • Best post I read so far on this site. Like you I ate humble pie for many years and worked my butt off to get to where I am today. Wish more people were like you.

    • bought and sold more than once, and people at large didn’t get it. am now sitting on property that’s valuable and it will pay for college and retirement. i’ve always worked extremely hard and taken risks. things are totally available, but you have to sometimes step out of your comfort zone, and you have to not follow the crowd. it can be done.
      i commend your service to our country and thank you!

  • Why does everyone in NYC think that they have to be a banker, or have a trust fund to have a decent apartment.


    Not everyone thinks that. You’d just believe so from reading this blog.

  • I was priced out of Brooklyn before it became passé to get priced out Brooklyn.
    Do I win anything?

  • I think one of the most important things to remember is that for many of the neighborhoods discussed on this blog, it is impossible (because of landmarking) or very difficult (because it is hard to assemble a large lot) to create much additional new housing. In addition, while there are some row houses being converted to condos and maybe netting a few more units, many others are being converted from multi-family to one or two families. Right now there is just an incredibly high demand for what is essentially a very small supply. That drives prices higher.

    On the gentrification question, I have to say that my neighborhood, Carroll Gardens, is infinitely more interesting than when I bought 20 years ago. Back then, I had no choices for dinner but the No Baloney Cafe. No I have many, and still have the butcher, the pork store, the baker (plus new ones) that make it the kind of place I still want to live.

    As someone else said, Brooklyn is big. Go find the next Carroll Gardens.

    • and many of those who decry ‘gentrification’ and rising prices are also at the leading the fight against any new housing in the neighborhood…….by the gowanus canal and that new bldg above the subway station.

  • “Rent Vs. Buy: In Brooklyn, Both Are Difficult”
    Then wait it out from afar. You’ll need a safe distance anyway ’cause this baby’s comin’ down, man!
    3/4 off!

  • My favorite thing about the whiners that claim “I can’t afford it due to yuppies/bankers/blah blahs” is that if they themselves were to own a piece of property (it would have to be inherited of course) I am sure that they would be charitable and rent or sell it to someone who is not making enough money to pay full price.

    This is the classic OWS nonsense. If any one of those losers actually ever acquired anything of value, would they turn their back on their fellow 99%’ers?

    In a heartbeat.

  • Here’s how it works–at least since the 1950s. Buy the best you can, in the best neighborhood you can, as soon as you possibly can cobble together the cash to do so. The people who get “priced out” are the people who rent.

    I have seen endless discourse here on the merits of buying vs. renting. All that aside (net present value, maintenance costs, risk, reward, blah blah blah), the truth is that if you want to have a handle in your own future, you’ve got to put a stake in the ground.

    Many of the excellent people in our neighborhood (and I consider ourselves among them, natch) are ordinary people who saved and stretched and risked and bought 10 – 50 years ago. We are not trust funders or financial wizards or Wall Streeters–we are people who put down roots and are now enjoying the fruits of our labor.

    • Yeah, but what I’m seeing–and I think what a lot of the comments here are about–as someone who did that: I’m *not* enjoying the fruits of my labor, because the neighborhood I put down my roots in is changing beyond recognition to a place I no longer want to live, and which isn’t particularly geared toward early-middle-aged non-parents with limited disposable income after paying my mortgage living there,either.

  • i’m an artist with a salary–a nice one by middle america standards, but one that just barely makes me not desperately poor by new york standards. i bought a 1 bedroom last year. there was no way i could afford a place in all the “hot” brooklyn neighborhoods, so I bought in flatbush. if brooklyn prices truly continue to skyrocket and clinton hill becomes the next shitty copy of the UWS like many of you predict it will be, then i have to believe i’ll profit from it, whether it happens in 5, 10, or 20 years. If not, at least i have the option to sell and at least have the satisfaction i didn’t spend years throwing my money into a hole (a.k.a. rent) just for the privilege of living in close proximity to fancy new american restaurants and craft cocktail bars. i think it’s strange that so many people throw up their hands and think they have no more options just because there are neighborhoods they’ve never heard of restaurants opening up in. Take a bike ride to Emmons ave and you too will realize how big Brooklyn is. I feel terrible for renters being displaced but not for fellow transplants with no true appreciation of the breadth of Brooklyn. you’re no better than the people who ruined manhattan if you think like that!