Trend: Owners, Developers Turn Townhouses Back Into Single Families


    Over the weekend, the Times took a look at a miniscule but interesting trend: Converting formerly single family townhouses back into single family townhouses. The paper wrote:

    These stately buildings started life as single-family houses sheltering comfortable middle- and upper-class families and their servants. By the Great Depression, most had been chopped into single-room apartments, the unlucky among them getting the greatest wear, as rooming houses for the down and out. In the ‘60s, plucky young New Yorkers with more enthusiasm than cash began buying these down-at-the-heels beauties and spiffing them up for their families, usually retaining tenants who provided rental income and in many cases were impossible to dislodge. In the past few years, the historic townhouse has started to come full circle. Thanks to the growing appetite for larger and more luxurious private urban dwellings among people happy to pay upward of $10 million, many townhouses have been returned to the elegant single-family homes they once were.

    In the last few decades, a floor-through apartment (or three) helped most townhouse owners in Brooklyn pay the mortgage — sometimes all of the mortgage. But as prices in certain neighborhoods soar — Brooklyn Heights comes to mind — at a certain point you have to ask if the buyer of an $8,000,000 townhouse really needs or wants a rental unit. (And in fact, it’s increasingly common to see such units labelled “guest suite” on floor plans.) The Times story profiled two couples in Brooklyn turning townhouses into single families.

    A family in Prospect Heights plans to use an extra floor as a work space and another area for visiting grandparents. Another family in Park Slope who bought their house some years ago are just now getting around to reconfiguring it for their exculsive use. Above is pictured the restored facade of 1234 Dean Street, whose owner has set up the house as a single family and is converting it from SRO status. It is on the market for $2,195,000.

    Of course, there is another countervailing trend that is more common, as prices approach $1,000 a square foot, although the Times didn’t mention it: Developers buy a townhouse in an expensive neighborhood and convert it into condos.

    Townhouse Turnaround [NY Times]

    What's Happening