So, who has it better when it comes to housing?
Realtor Candice Vilaire of Brooklyn Heights Real Estate confirms the obvious: “What mainly sets apart suburbia from City living is space and value.” That is, we get much more of both. Need proof (as if your three-bedroom house and your friend’s teeny co-op in Chelsea isn’t proof enough)? Let’s compare the price of one square foot in each locale. (Get ready to pop that Champagne.) “In Westchester, the going rate is about a third of Manhattan’s,” Vilaire reports. Indeed, according to the most recent Douglas Elliman Report, the median price per square foot in Westchester is $288; in Manhattan, it’s $1,068 (we can hear those corks popping).
Which may explain why our homes have kitchens we can eat in and closets with doors we can actually close. On average, City dwellers live in 3.3 rooms, while we spread out in houses with 5.3 rooms (figures include both owners and renters together). In Westchester, our owner-occupied dwellings—homes, condos, co-ops—feature, on average, 6.8 rooms, while in the City it’s 3.7 rooms. Our apartments are bigger, too: an average City apartment has 2.9 rooms; a Westchester apartment has 3.7.
Of course, that extra space doesn’t pay for itself—that is, our expansive houses with nice, green yards need to be heated, cooled, lit, not to mention taxed by our government. It seems we pay more on average than our Gotham brethren when it comes to monthly housing costs—e.g., mortgages, taxes, maintenance, heating fuel, and utilities: $3,079 in Westchester vs. $2,956 in Manhattan. That goes for renters, too, to a lesser extent: the average renter pays $1,206 per month in Gotham, but $1,220 for a slightly bigger place in Westchester.
What really drives up the price of housing in Westchester? Yup, taxes. The Tax Foundation says our average owner-occupied home comes complete with a $9,044 annual property tax bill, the highest in the nation. (The median home value? $544,700.) Manhattan homeowners pay $4,742 for dwellings with a much higher median home value ($849,000).
Of course, these figures don’t include the cost of renting a storage locker in Chelsea for your bicycle or—heaven forbid—a garage space for your Prius in Park Slope. We get to take creature comforts for granted that City dwellers have to pay big bucks for (see sidebar “How Much for That”). We also get some of the best schools in the country—and they’re public. Add a private-school tuition on top of those low, low taxes, and the numbers don’t seem as rosy for the urbanites.
How Much for That?
City folks have to shell out big bucks for amenities that are de rigueur in Westchester homes.
Most Westchester homeowners take a few luxuries for granted: an in-house washer/dryer here, a driveway there. Our City counterparts, though, either have to learn to live without—or shell out serious dough to add those creature comforts to their urban dwellings. But how much?
Broker Candice Vilaire with Brooklyn Heights Real Estate warns, “It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Both areas are very different and buyers look depending on their needs.” But, given that big caveat, she estimated for us how much more she’d be able to tack on to the price a City apartment based on these suburban touches. Here’s how much she’d add if it had…
…an in-apartment washer/dryer
…a separate dining room
…access to a backyard
…storage space (equivalent to an attic or a basement)