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Apartment Too Small? The Surprising Way to Get More Space in NYC

If you’re like most New Yorkers, then you probably want – or need – more living space. But the problem? Larger New York apartments sell for more per square foot than smaller ones. Each square foot of space will cost you about $838 for a studio, $1,119 for a two-bedroom and $1,837 for a four-bedroom, according to the New York Times. Add renovation fees and maintenance costs to that expansive dwelling space, and you’re left with an even bigger bill.

More and more city dwellers are finding a new solution to the problem: combining two apartments into one to get something closer to the dream-home ideal. Buy a one-bedroom for less than $1 million, scope out a similar space next door or on an adjacent floor, and you can walk away with a space that’s mysteriously more spacious than many two-bedrooms on the market. The process isn’t without its challenges, but more and more New Yorkers – and real-estate professionals – are opting for the patchwork solution as heavily desired three- and four-bedroom homes dry up from the market.

Eileen Mintz, senior vice president at The Corcoran Group, says most co-op boards don’t oppose combining apartments if renovation plans maintain the building’s integrity with plumbing and electricity. “For owners, it’s usually less costly to purchase and combine the apartment next door to their current apartment than to purchase a larger apartment elsewhere,” she explains.

But how does it work out in reality? For one space-starved client, I helped reconfigure a two-bedroom apartment, combined with a one-bedroom. (Results above.)  The place became a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment – but with an expanded kitchen to accommodate a sit-down island with a pantry closet.  The master bedroom became a suite including an office/library, walk-in closet, bathroom with a steam shower and a small gym with a rowing machine, bicycle and weights.  Two living rooms became one open space with a dining area. When the client remarried, his bride had an apartment with a wrap-around terrace, so he sold his place and made a substantial profit that would have been impossible with separate places.

Town Residential Real Estate Specialist Gina Sabio says the process isn’t all perks, though. “Combining two apartments is an excellent way to get more space,” she says. “Although the cost of buying two apartments and combining them will cost you less, keep in mind the monthly maintenance will be combined from both apartments and increase accordingly every year.”

Terry Robison, a Prudential Douglas Elliman real estate agent, recommends planning for another fee: short-term housing during renovations. However, he says that combining apartments can be “a gift from real-estate heaven,” as long as the process gets proper attention. “Your co-op board knows you, so the approval process to buy that other unit is likely to go much smoother than if you were a new buyer,” he says. “Overall, the pluses far outweigh the minuses.”