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Slumming it isn’t option for rich students in overcrowded Manhattan

Students in New York City are redefining off-campus housing, ditching closet-sized dorm rooms for more homely accommodations.

While students typically compromise on comfort, occupying six floor walk-ups in far-flung neighborhoods, some are living in apartments that most New Yorkers cannot afford.

“A lot of students, if their parents have the budget, have luxury apartments in New York City; $2,500 to $3,000 per person and they get, you know, a $6,500 a month apartment. A lot of students, especially in NYU, live in luxury buildings,” said Charles Conroy from the Conroy+Pagli Team of real estate firm William Raveis.

Charles Conroy
Charles Conroy

Conroy — who explained that summer is a busy time with students coming into the city for internships — identified the West Village, with its proximity to the New York University campus, as a “hot area.”
Rental prices in the neighborhood are some of the highest in New York City. The average price for a one bedroom-apartment in the neighborhood is $2636, according to Citi Habitats’ April Manhattan Residential Market Report.

This represents the highest price in the borough, much more than the $2,063 for the East Village, the $2,373 for Soho/Tribeca and the $2,425 for the Financial District.

While it remains the most expensive corner of Manhattan, rental prices have dipped recently. The latest average West Village rental rate is lower than the $2,691 from last March.

Still, the West Village remains a profit generator for brokers marketing accommodations to students who’ve included scions of the rich and celebrities such as Kirsten Bell, Dakota Fanning, Andy Samberg and Anjelina Jolie.

The neighborhood is where Conroy closed one of his biggest deals, for a $12,000 per month one-bedroom apartment near the university.

With the hefty price tag comes a wish list. While parents bankroll their kids’ stay in the big city, Conroy said they play a very small part in the decision making.

“In my experience, they (students) are making the decisions. I’ve never dealt with any parents,” he said.

Left to make their own demands, students in luxury apartments normally want two things: proximity to their school and a large communal living space.

“Everybody wants flexibility with their school. Everyone wants a real living space because they don’t want to be on top of each other, so the living rooms are big. Especially in NYU, with the prices in the West Village being what they are, students rent three or four bedrooms, but they want a living space,” Conroy said.

While luxury apartments are out of reach for most students, it does fill a need, and parents appear to be more willing to pay high rates to spare their children from life in tiny dorms.

“The accessibility and availability of dorms is simply limited. The NYU dorms were booked up three months ago for the summer. Unfortunately, there are more students than there are dorms,” Conroy said.
This willingness even extends to purchasing million dollar apartments. However, there are signs that this is a niche option.

Allen Wu, a broker with Fenwick Keats Real Estate, has cornered the market on selling high-end

Allen Wu
Allen Wu

properties to Chinese students. His biggest sale was a two bedroom unit at the luxury condo tower 325 Lex in Murray Hill for $2.45 million.

He said that parents of foreign students are now buying expensive properties to save money. Wu claims that it makes sense when considering the duration of a student’s stay in the city. “They can save a lot of money if they purchase the apartment. When they leave the country, they can just sell the apartment so they’re not paying high rent. If you pay $7,000 a month, and you’re staying here for four years or five years, that’s a lot of money,” he said.

However, there are signs that the trend has its limits, particularly within the boundaries of Manhattan.

Hakim Edwards, an agent with Halstead Property, has sold 15 properties near the Brooklyn College campus. He’s never closed on a sale with a student or a parent, and he doubts that will change anytime soon with rising property prices in the area.

“There haven’t been that many students that I’ve dealt with that I’ve closed apartments for. Especially with prices going up, it’s not going to happen right now,” he said.

“The price points have doubled in the last two years in the area. Normally, a one-bedroom that was able to sell for $160,000 is now going for almost $300,000. I’m not sure how many parents will spend $300,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.”

New York City is home to more than half a million students attending over 100 colleges and universities. The schools with the largest population are Columbia University (25,471 students), New York University (44,516) and City University of New York (269,000).

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