From Nolita to FiDi: My rent was almost doubling so I bought a place and now pay less each month

  • His $2,500 rent for a small, third-floor studio in a walk-up building was about to go up to $4,500
  • He paid $428,000 for a larger studio in an elevator building; his monthly expense is now about $3,500
  • 'Co-ops can be a pain but the interview itself was easy and the people on the board were great'
By Kelly Kreth  |
October 13, 2023 - 9:30AM
transitions brick underground

"I especially like everything on Stone Street," Aaron says of the historic pedestrian-only street in his new nabe.  

When Aaron faced an astronomical rent hike, he decided to buy a place instead. He homed in on Downtown Manhattan and, although a bit wary about co-ops, happily landed one in FiDi. Here’s his story. 

I was born in Virginia and grew up in Colorado and Arizona. I moved to New York City in 2012 because I had lost my job in Arizona and had always wanted to live in Manhattan. I figured I’d give it a try.

Most recently I was living in a 350-square-foot studio in Nolita in a basic walkup building. I was paying $2,500—I got a great pandemic deal. I hated being in a third-floor walkup but loved having the luxury of a washing machine and dryer in my unit.

I also loved the neighborhood and social life; there are tons of bars like Milano’s and Tom and Jerry’s and a young, hip crowd. Prince Street Pizza is iconic. The subway and Citi Bike were very close by so I could get to work easily. I am a pharmaceutical sales rep. 

[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Transitions” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to move from one New York City neighborhood to another. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]

Swapping renting for owning

In October 2022, my rent was increased by $2,000! That was just too expensive, especially for a small rental. I decided to buy something instead. 

I met Ian Matheson, an agent at Living New York, in a bar and he helped me navigate the process of buying. I told him I knew I wanted to stay Downtown. My budget was around $430,000 and I wanted an in-unit washer and dryer. 

He showed me five apartments over a month. One apartment was in a very steep fifth-floor walkup, one was in a land-lease building, and another had construction nearby that would probably obstruct my view. One owner ended up selling an apartment I liked to his friend, which was probably for the best. 

I zeroed in on a 710-square-foot alcove studio in the old Cotton Exchange building in FiDi. The doorman building has an elevator and was built in 1922. Co-ops can be a pain and I had to do a board interview but ultimately it all worked out. The interview itself was easy; the people on the board were great. It’s just a lengthy process to get to the interview. The whole thing took about four months.  

I paid $428,000 so my monthly expense (including mortgage and maintenance) is about $3,500, which is more than my rental studio’s original rent but still lower than what the new rent was going to be. The maintenance was relatively low to begin with, and the seller offered a $400 monthly credit for the first year of ownership. 

Although I no longer have a washer/dryer in my unit, there is one in the building. It’s amazing how fast I got used to this new reality. The  bathroom was recently renovated and the closets are great.  

How he likes the new neighborhood

I like how everything is conveniently located, with tons of subways—the A, C, E, 2, 3, and J, W converge at Fulton and Wall.

I also like all the entertainment in the area, including the Oculus, Freedom Tower, Brookfield Mall, and Battery Park City. Local dining favorites include Eataly, Cipriani, Delmonico’s, and Jean-George’s newly opened Tin Building.  

I especially like everything on Stone Street and Pier 17 and walking around the historic South Street Seaport. Something I am a little surprised about is that I enjoy listening in on the walking tours that go through the neighborhood. I've learned a lot of history simply walking to the subway or store.

The only drawback is that so many tall buildings packed close together block out the sun.  

Buying was a great idea and I definitely plan on staying. My friends like this new place way better than my old place. I’m starting to make new friends in the area as well. 



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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