The seemingly impossible goal for millions of people looking for a first home is not impossible. That’s even though for most of them the down payment seems daunting. It requires a plan and the discipline to stick to that plan.
For millions of Americans and Europeans, especially those who live in big expensive cities, the dream of owning a home is more than just a dream—it is an impossible dream.
Yet it doesn’t have to be so, even though it appears to be so for millions of people. Take New York City, a place that I have called home for most of my life, although I never have lived in the central part of the city, Manhattan, I live in a more reasonably priced place called Kew Gardens in Queens.
That’s because Manhattan has always been the priciest part of an outrageously expensive city. My wife and I were able to pay for a small apartment in 1987 after a period of intensive savings. And that’s even though neither one of us has ever made a great income.
So Many Renters, So Few Owners
So the vast majority of the people here in New York City rent. Renting means you pay for housing but you have zero equity and get none of the tax breaks that are given to home owners who can obtain a mortgage. And, even though many renters would love to own, they believe it is, and will always be, too expensive for them. And it will be if they can’t find the large chunk of money required as a down payment for an apartment or a house. Most New Yorkers fall into this category.
Indeed, here renters outnumber owners by more than two to one. That’s because the price of New York City housing has become more and more expensive. This is also because the limited housing supply combined with high taxes and other costs keep prices in the stratosphere. And the huge down payment frustrates many would-be owners.
As a child, I can remember my parents working multiple jobs, making a middle class income and able to pay a fairly high rent, but never able to own. Why? They could never scrape together the considerable down payment. It has happened to many New Yorkers before and it has since happened to many others living in pricey big cities around the globe.
“For more and more Americans, the down payment has become the Everest-size mountain they need to climb to reach their dreams of home-ownership—or perhaps freeze to death trying. In these days of rising home prices, it seems harder than ever to pull together that mammoth mound of moolah needed to get yourself into a new place,” according to a new report from Realtor.com.
It documents the pricey path to home-ownership in the biggest cities. Unsurprisingly, the Big Apple is at the top of the sticker shock list.
The advice of housing pros is simple: Start saving small amounts now. Save every day. Follow a disciplined saving program for between five and ten years if your goal is a substantial down payment on that America Dream, which is also the dream of many others in countries across Europe and Asia.
A Reachable Goal
It can be done, says an author who studies how people can buy a first home. He says the seeming impossible dream can become possible through small daily sacrifices that are put toward saving. Cutout or reduce luxuries such as high-priced coffee breaks.
“All of this only helps you toward home-ownership if you put that money away,” according to Michael Corbett, author of “Ready, Set, Sold!”
He cautions that “A lot of people say ‘I’m not going to go to Starbucks anymore,’ but they don’t take that $5 or $6 per latte and actually save it.” Hey, do you really need to drink 15 of those things a day, anyway? We thought not.”
But, if you do cut out some luxuries and bank the savings, Realtor.com calculated what is needed to start down the road to Big Apple home ownership.
One should save between about $19 and $39 a day for between five and ten years to accumulate the down payment on an average priced New York City metro area home, according to the report.
This assumes a median home sale price of $413,900 and an average down payment of $71,191, according to Realtor.com.
Sticker Shock in the Big Apple
Asking prices for New York City homes, says StreetEasy.com., are higher than that. It places the median asking price in the five boroughs—New York City is comprised of five counties, which are called boroughs here–at between $833,000 and $515,000.
Where are the bargains?
The cheapest boroughs in New York City are the Bronx and Queens, which have median selling prices of $235,000 and $358,000, respectively. The central part of New York City, Manhattan, is the most expensive. It has a median price of $976,000.
A housing economist says first-time buyers should be willing to compromise.
However, if you succeed in becoming that rare person, a New York City home owner, you will not only enjoy the benefits of ownership, you will part of a New York City elite.
Here some 69 percent of residents rent, while only 31 percent own, says NakedApartment.com. Those numbers are the opposite of the rest of the country.
Not Enough Supply and Too Much Demand
New housing supply in New York City is low and the housing vacancy rate is “ridiculously low,” NakedApartment.com, says. Vacancy rates are usually only between three and five percent. In New York City—a city that has never ended its extensive rent control regulations—it is difficult to find decent, reasonably priced, housing so people who do have something good rarely move.
Tips for First-Time New York City Home Buyers
*Bargains are often grabbed quickly so be prepared to move fast. It’s important to have financing pre-approved and know what you can afford if you come across a bargain.
*Consider the outer boroughs. “Generally, affordable inventory greatly increases with the distance from Midtown Manhattan,” says Krishna Rao, an economist with StreetEasy.
“To find the home that fits a lower budget, first-time buyers should open up their search to larger neighborhoods with plenty of inventory like Bay Ridge and Forest Hills.” Rao argues these areas are “far more friendly” than Manhattan for those seeking starter homes.
*First-time buyers and those with middle-class income should know the difference between condos and co-ops. The latter, Rao notes, are generally cheaper and in greater supply.