House Hunter: 'We're looking for a slice of the Big Apple'

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The Independent Online

THE PROBLEM

THE PROBLEM

Ron and Anne Markham write: "For the last few years, since easing off on our business, we have divided our time between the UK and Florida, where we've bought a condominium and where we tend to spend most of the winter months.

However, we are now thinking about a more permanent retirement and plan on selling our large UK home. We'll buy a smaller property here as a base so that we can come back to keep an eye on our business whenever we like and see friends and family, but there seems no point in buying more property in the UK. Buying somewhere else in the US seems to make good financial sense at the moment - the pound is much stronger against the dollar than it has been, and we could get more for our cash.

We also like the idea of spending more time in the States as we both enjoy the better quality of lifestyle and service that you get over there. The people are friendly toward us Brits, and we just love it. We will still spend winters in Florida but my wife loves the idea of buying a city pied à terre and her favourite city, of course, is New York. She is absolutely in love with the place having spent several holidays there and she loves the theatre, the nightlife and of course the shopping. We know that New York City is an expensive destination but we'd be interested to see what prices are like. We'll have an ample budget but wonder if it's still possible to get a bargain in an up-and-coming area, although we wouldn't want to buy anywhere with high crime levels. We want to feel safe while we're there and we want to be able to let it when we're not using it."

THE ADVICE

Scott Durkin replies: "I agree that the strength of the European currencies make this a great time for the British to be buying here in the US. In fact it's a better time for you to buy than for us. We always find that when we go to London it's so expensive, we don't know how you guys can afford to live there, and everything back here in the US is so much cheaper. New York is an expensive city in terms of property but it's still cheaper than buying in Paris or London.

This probably explains why we are now getting more British buyers registering with us. Many of them also own properties in Florida, particularly around the Palm Beach area, where our company Corcoran has a huge presence and where we sell condos from around $500,000. We also have 13 offices in The Hamptons, which is another luxury playground where the average home costs round $3.5m and where there are properties up to $26m.

Many Brits are looking to buy a second or even third home here in New York. I have to say that bargains don't exist anymore in the city. There are many fantastic areas, which are expensive, but if you're clever and you look even a few streets away you can pick up something for far less.

As for the real pockets that are shining at the moment, there's Beacon Court opposite Bloomingdale's, which is a very hot spot. Beyoncé's just bought there and she's the hottest star right now. All over the city there's so much great construction going on, and many of New York's industrial buildings are being brought back to life and turned into apartments where you have modern amenities but in old-style New York. Hudson Square is another great spot between TriBeCa and the West Village, where Meryl Streep has just bought. One of the best-kept secrets is Murray Hill, where prices are around 10 per cent less than most places. Graham Norton has just bought a townhouse north of here.

As for safety and crime issues, post-9/11 the world fell in love with New York and there's never been a better time to be here. Crime has dropped considerably and everyone is looking out for, and protecting, everyone else and everything has been cleaned up and beautified. These days if you shouted "help!" anywhere in the city at least 25 people would rush to your aid. I've been here for 24 years and it's the best I've ever seen it."

Scott Durkin is the chief operating officer at Corcoran: www.corcoran.com

THE SOLUTION

Property one: 23 Perry Street

Price: $6,995,000 (£3.9m)

Agent's details: An exceptional townhouse in the most sought-after block in the West Village. Features include a lap-pool on the ground floor, a full floor master bedroom suite and decked terrace overlooking beautifully landscaped gardens. A restored stooped entrance leads on to an open loft-like double parlour.

Property two: 44 Gramercy Park North

Price: $1,995,000 (£1.1m)

Agent's details: A classic pre-war duplex in one of the most coveted buildings on the park. This apartment offers grand scale opportunities, it is currently being used as a doctor's office but can easily convert into a stunning home or a live/work unit. There are four large bedrooms all with views of the park and a grand living room with 18ft walls. The property comes with a key to the only private park in NYC.

Property three: 3 Sackett Street.

Price: $1,580,000 (£880,000).

Agent's details: An impeccably renovated Brooklyn brownstone property in the heart of Carroll Gardens featuring beautiful period details such as marble mantles over two working fireplaces, plaster mouldings and original shutters and wide, plank, floors. It has air-conditioning, eat-in kitchen, new marble bathrooms, three large bedrooms, family room and south-facing garden.

THE VERDICT

"These properties all sound amazing, particularly Perry Street, which is sadly out of our price league but which sounds incredible. We love the idea of being near your own private park in the middle of the city, which would be such a bonus particularly in the summer months and which would also be great if we wanted to rent the place. The brownstone building in Brooklyn also sounds fabulous. It would be lovely to own a period building. In Florida, of course, all the buildings are new. My wife has become even keener on the idea of having another base in a city where we can actually walk everywhere or use the subway, unlike in Florida where you always have to get in your car even if you need a pint of milk. Scott's comment that the city is safer than ever is reassuring."

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail: househunter@independent.co.uk

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