Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Hipster Premium

An article in last weekend's New York Times Real Estate section ("The Sell: Getting New Buyers Into the Pool") described the sale of a 590-square-foot one-bedroom co-op in a 120 year old building (pictured nearby) in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The sale price? $450,000. According to the article, the couple that bought this co-op (pictured above) previously lived on Staten Island and had a 90 minute commute. Presumably, they worked in Midtown Manhattan (or higher up), since Downtown would be a fairly short commute via ferry from Staten Island. If that's the case, they could have had shortened their commute by moving to Hackensack, where $450k would have bought them a 1600-square-foot two-bedroom condo in a new construction building (or a house). Hackensack lacks the hipster cachet of Williamsburg though.

That hipster cachet of Williamsburg and similar Brooklyn neighborhoods is a fairly recent phenomenon. Mark Steyn's obituary for Betty Comden in last year's Atlantic ("Opting for Wit Over Sincerity") was a reminder of that. From Steyn's piece:

...Betty was a starry-eyed hick just arrived in the glittering metropolis from her dusty one-horse rural flag stop: Brooklyn. “Arriving in Manhattan from Brooklyn,” she wrote, “I felt like a kid from a small town, clutching her straw suitcases, and staring up at the Big Town for the first time. It was madly glamorous.”

It stayed that way. Comden and Green never tired of writing screen and stage valentines to “New York, New York / A helluva town”—by which they meant Manhattan. “The Bronx is up / And the Battery’s down”—and Brooklyn isn’t even on the map. As the predatory lady cab driver says to the sailors on the lam in On the Town (1944),

“I know a place across the Brooklyn Bridge where they’ll never find us.”




Albert said...

shouldn't it be called a "stupidity premium"?

DaveinHackensack said...

Heh, I guess that's another way to put it. Incidentally, the article notes that the couple that sold this co-op originally paid $74k for it in 2002, and then put in about $130k of renovations. So they more than doubled their money in six years, and now they're renting a house in Rhode Island (presumably for much less) Quite a contrast with the buyers.