Poor Persons Penthouse

Poor Person Penthouse

In early 2016 I moved into my second post-college apartment with my girlfriend. My initial apartment was a $700 a month closet-sized room that I split with an unbearable Craigslist stranger for some time, but we were getting serious so it was time to consolidate. We chose her place to ascend five floors daily for a $1,000 a month 5th floor walk-up. We have been living here for almost a year and I cannot imagine living somewhere other than what I call our Poor Persons Penthouse. Small as hell, but all we need, I sit most of my nights typing away in 380 sq ft of palatial living 50 feet above the ground.


Being on the top floor of a walk-up certainly took some getting used to but these days I never complain at all. First of all, it is obviously impossible to hate due to the price. Now to be fair we are outside of NYC proper but I have a small view of the top of the Empire State Building and I am 20 minutes from work. Paying $500 a month for a comfortable apartment is amazing in almost any location, ten times more so in NYC. I get a sick and twisted joy out of telling everyone my rent and watching them blanch and reconsider their life choices to spend $2,200 for a shoebox on the Upper East Side. In other cities this may be considered tacky but in NYC this is a right of passage.

Even though I am well compensated and there are two of us contributing to the bills, we have more space than we know what to do with. Our living room generally gets little use as it is a railroad style and has no windows.This is heartening for me to note that we could survive together in a studio if we ever wanted to indulge and move into a luxury building in the city to splurge one year. The problem for me is that having always spent so little, I can not even fathom what it would be like to have a large mortgage or rent bill. This pegs me into a bit of a corner as moving would require me to step out of my comfort zone, so I am trying to hold on to this place as long as I can. Being above everyone else in the building is fantastic. It makes me feel like a crotchety old hermit at the top of the stairs. Above the noise and the community of being sandwiched between people on the lower floors, it is just us and the birds up here. The hallway is never visited except by people that live up here, and it is likely safer as strangers should be too lazy or cautious to walk past 4 other floors of people and witnesses in the hopes of easy pickings at the top. Being at the top allows more freedom in leaving things out at the top of the hallway as well as easy roof access for suntanning in the nice weather. From the roof I have a fantastic view of much of Midtown, as long as you don’t mind walking on old tar paper! The view from all of the windows in general is so much better than the first or second floor as your have real privacy from the street.


On the other hand, If it needs to be pointed out – you’re gunna do some climbing. If you are averse to physical discomfort you may have a problem. You need to disconnect from the thoughts of stairs if you cannot embrace your inner stoic. I tend to grab my mail and give way to much attention to sorting to even notice the burn. It pays to be very organized in these apartments and not a person prone to rushing. Leaving something in the apartment or not being positive of the door being locked is really a special kind of agony. It is definitely solitary up on the upper floor. If you like community living, no one is climbing up to your perch very willingly. Friends and potential visitors will actively avoid coming if at all possible. This is nice if you want an easy reason to not entertain, just place the blame on others. I have a friend in a similar penthouse that has had massive issues with a leaking roof and absentee landlord. I have had no such issues so your milage may vary. Moving is an amusing situation in any apartment, it just becomes that much more aggressive with five flights of stairs. Obviously it is important to account for the size of objects and their rotational fitting – ness for the stairwells. I will be clear that in my move I completely abandoned one couch because it was too big to lift by myself and I am against talking to strangers. I did a gradual move in over a period of a few weeks to make it easy on myself, So plan out effective moves and keep belongings light and maneuverable!

I quickly got used to the stairs and really do not mind the extra free workout I get each day. I have taken the Stoic route as much as possible and welcome the leg workout as a man with notorious difficulty gaining calf muscle. I try to avoid inflicting my voluntary sacrifice on strangers, trying to be cognizant of other people’s lives. I generally will meet most delivery people at least halfway if not more. I do get delivery groceries but that as well I assist with because the company tends to send small females as handlers – I think for this exact reason. This also gives at least some measure of control in a delivery situation, even if the tip is already on the credit card, if the delivery was slow you can make them climb all the way up. Evil laugh the entire time.


The one major headache that this penthouse has given me is that it is too good of a deal. Knock on wood – I would hate to lose it so I do not even like talking about it too much. 500$  month for one of the most desirable zip codes in America is so unheard of people literally dislike me because I pay so little. I am at a stage in my life where I have friends buying primary residences and doing projects on homes. I want that. I am not a member of the cult of home ownership at all, but I do like the accelerating powers of leverage through landlording and real estate investing and the impact it can have on Net worth. The real estate market has blown up in the area we bought our first property, a 3 family that we slowly renovated in a suburb of Manhattan. I would like to pick up a second in the area and have been trying for the past 6 months. These days it is difficult to find a strong cash flowing deal because the word is out and people have cash available. The market is back up beyond 2008 pricing and each unit is going for 150-200k a piece when they need to be at 100-150k to be worth anything in a portfolio. The taxes are too outrageous to cash flow otherwise as the rents have not caught up with valuations at all. Either owner occupiers are moving in and getting fleeced or people are speculating on the appreciation to keep rolling.

This lack of good investment properties has me itching to try to jump into a foreclosure Live and Flip type situation. I would pursue a smaller duplex without my partners and slowly work on a property at my leisure. Sweat equity is my type of deal, and it is a great way to learn valuable life skills and get some exercise while I am young. It is just so difficult justifying a move when everything is so amazing with my current situation!





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