The boom years were all about big names, high-end amenities, and niche details, features that attracted buyers of Manhattan luxury condos by the boatload. It turns out that many of the design features that characterized the new construction frenzy haven’t aged well. Unforeseen drawbacks of many of these high end fixtures and finishes have made it all too obvious to many of those buyers that the things that made their Manhattan luxury apartments so attractive were more flash than substance. To make matters worse, the rush to cash in on the high demand of the boom years led many developers to cut corners, which is all the more reason to tread carefully when purchasing a new condo in Manhattan.
Recent experience among buyers of Manhattan condos is more than sufficient reason to not fall in love with an apartment at first sight; doing your homework is essential. For instance, look closely at the flooring. While exotic types of wood like Brazilian Cherry certainly sound and look good, it turns out that in a Northeastern climate, the best choice by far for hardwood flooring is oak – it’s harder than any other. And while most New York City developers are doing all-hardwood floors, that wasn’t the case before the recession; back then, “pre-engineered” floors were all the rage because they were cheaper and easier to install. “Pre-engineered” means that the floors are primarily made of plywood with a thin layer of hardwood on top, so be wary of this euphemism – pre-engineered floors have been known to buck, shrink, and become uneven.
Other things to look for may be less obvious. In the rush to construct new luxury condos in Manhattan, many developers installed heating and air-conditioning systems in which two rooms shared one pump. The problem with that format is that it lets sound travel very easily from one room to the other. Similarly, developers loved putting in unvented washers-dryers because they could stack them in an alcove, something that certainly appealed to space-deprived Manhattanites. The problem with unvented washers-dryers that run on electricity is that they take much longer to dry clothing than vented washer-dryers, thus requiring much more energy. Developers are realizing that buyers of Manhattan apartments prefer the traditional version and are now installing them far more regularly.
One last thing: floor-to-ceiling windows are undoubtedly an attractive feature only found in newly constructed condos in Manhattan, but they too have their downside, namely that they make apartments hotter in the summer and cooler in the winter. While high-quality glass may partially alleviate this problem, the fact remains that it’s hotter in the sunlight, so residents of luxury apartments with floor-to-ceiling windows usually end up with increased air-conditioning and heating costs. So be mindful of what you want; there are many pre-war apartment buildings in Manhattan that have fundamentally different designs and layouts, so weigh your options, know your priorities, and always ask questions.