Tripping over toys? Wondering if a lack of closet space is going to drive you to divorce? Sick of cooking on a hot plate because your kitchen is just a shelf in the corner? Sounds like it's time to buy a bigger place. Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. It's important to try to sell your current apartment before buying the next, particularly if you're planning to buy in a co-op, as a co-op board is unlikely to approve you if you still own another apartment. This can be managed by scheduling both closings within a few days of each other so you'll be able to move directly from one apartment to the next, writing a "lease-back" into your contract, in which the new owners don't take occupancy for a set time period and you essentially pay them rent, or by moving into temporary rental housing while you wait to find the right new home.
2. Explore the boroughs. If space is your top priority, you're likely to get more bang for your buck the further out you go from Manhattan. There are larger apartments, brownstones with gardens and even single-family homes available in many of the other boroughs. That said, some of the more trendy areas in Brooklyn and Queens are now exceeding some areas of Manhattan on a cost per foot basis, so do your homework. Clinton Hill-Fort Greene is an area that is on the upswing in terms of price and there are still bargains to be had.
3. Be mindful of common spaces. If the biggest space-hog in your apartment is toys, consider buying in a building that offers a playroom. This will give your children a space to meet friends in the building and a room full of toys that is NOT in your apartment. Don't forget to take into account amenities like a garden, a patio, a rooftop deck, a fitness facility or a swimming pool. These features can give you extra usable space beyond the square footage of your apartment.
4. Consider combining. Many people that outgrow their apartments still like their building and neighborhood—that is why they moved there in the first place. So staying in the same building with more space is often the best situation. Add to this that prices per foot are often lower in smaller units, and you can see the advantage of simply adding on to your space rather than moving. Of course, the combo needs to make sense, but a good combo's value is often greater than the sum of the parts.
5. Don't forget layout. Square footage is a fine baseline for determining how much space you have, but a great floor plan can make a smaller space work much more efficiently than a unit with more square footage and an awkward layout. A better layout may be all you need.
Many city residents who decide to buy a bigger place are looking for something they can live in long-term. Choose well, and your second home purchase could end up being the last one you have to make for a very long time.