You’ll Probably Never Own A Home In New York City (Or Anywhere)


Let’s be real: New York is becoming a city for the rich, if it isn’t already. Soon, it will be like an elite country club. Just to get an idea what houses go for, I often stop by real estate offices and look at the listing posted on the window. More often than not, I walk away feeling disillusioned. Unless I hit the lottery, there’s no way I’ll be able to afford any of it.

I love New York. I’ve got that iconic shirt in two different colors. I enjoy the lifestyle here. Every now and then I think about living here long-term. But the question is, where would I live? Homes in New York are becoming ridiculously expensive.

Living in New York is like dating a stripper. It’s all good times until you try to get serious. Or simply put, it’s like dating someone you know you’ll never marry. It has to end at some point, but you don’t want to think about that right now.

In most cities, the rich and poor areas are separate. When I lived in LA, I had no business in Beverly Hills. Residents there refuse to even let the city build a train station through their neighborhood. Beverly Hills is an exclusive community for the affluent and they want to keep it that way.

But because New York City is so dense, the situation is a bit different. Projects sit across the street from million-dollar homes. I’ll have to start walking around with those side blinders they put on horses to avoid window-shopping. Why should I even look at these houses with the hopes of one day owning one only to have that dream crushed?

I know of a married couple who saved money for 10 years with the goal of buying a brownstone in Brooklyn, where they grew up. But because the value of houses in the neighborhood increased exponentially in that amount of time, they can no longer afford to live there.

Prospective buyers bring millions of dollars in cash to open houses like it’s a drug deal. Speaking of narcotics, it seems becoming a high level drug dealer is the only way to afford these houses. Even if I get thrown in jail for possession and intent to distribute, I can write a memoir about it and make millions. Maybe they’ll even create a Netflix show based on my experience in jail. Win win.

I can’t compete with that.

You can buy a castle in Europe and literally live like a king for less than the price of a condo in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Maybe the solution is to invent a time machine, go back to the 80’s or 90’s with cash in hand and buy a brownstone in your choice area of Manhattan or Brooklyn. Just watch out for dog poop. People will look at you sideways if you purchase something somewhere like Harlem or Williamsburg, but they have no idea what’s about to happen.

That’s only because you live in New York, you say. Of course, everything’s expensive there. That’s true, but I see the same issue when I visit friends in places like Los Angeles, Austin, and Portland. Housing prices are just as unreasonable there as they are here.

This isn’t just a problem in New York City but a national issue. There’s no middle ground anymore. These houses are incredibly expensive for the majority of us and economical for a few of us. We don’t stand a chance. I have to square with the fact that I, making a teacher salary, will never make enough money to save up for a home in the areas I love. What happened to the American Dream? We used to believe that anyone could make it as long as they worked hard and saved enough money. Well, someone lied to us. It’s like life’s a 90’s video game and the rich have all the cheat codes that give them unlimited resources. We need to redefine the American Dream as just getting by for most of us.

I recognize that many prefer to simply rent. After all, you have someone (the landlord) to complain to whose responsibility it is to fix your problems. Now, whether or not they fix anything, especially in a timely manner, is another matter entirely. But it’s nice to know it’s not up to you to bolt the loose door, unclog the drains, or repair anything that breaks down during our stay. It’s also nice to know you’re only bound to a place for a year, or if you’re lucky month-to-month, and can leave anytime after that.

However, I often fantasize of owning a spacious home and having it completely paid off. Then I could leave it to my children (who won’t even want it) when I pass away. I guess I watch too many old films on Netflix.

My time in New York is a lesson of living in the present. In the end, all I can do is enjoy my time here until the day my monthly rent is more expensive than a new Ducati. I’ll just eat, drink and be merry as I keep handing my landlord a check at the end of the month until he sends me that notice. I guess I’ll figure out the rest later.

Now excuse me while I go buy a few lotto tickets. You never know.