I recently received a Google news alert, i.e. an ad, for a condo in Clinton Hill. I’m not in the market, but something struck me about the property. Not its precious name (Aperture 538) or the severe appointments, but its price tag: a staggering half-million dollars for a 533 square-foot studio. That is sheer lunacy — why would anyone pay that much for such a tiny space? Yeah, yeah, location, location, location. The ad says, “Clinton Hill is an ideal neighborhood to call home…”, which is true if you have no concept of the value of money. But I do; so I wondered if that cash would be better spent buying somewhere less desirable and simply visiting Brooklyn every weekend.
I love living in New York, but with work, commuting, and sitting around afterwards griping about the two, I don’t have much time to take advantage of the city during the week. A half-million dollars is about 1/74th of the GDP of Tuvalu — way too much just to watch Netflix in an overpriced mausoleum on weeknights. With those kinds of bucks I figured it could be saner to buy a similar condo in another city, say, Cleveland, and use weekends to fly back to the borough. But would $500,000 be enough? And how long could I keep that up? To answer these questions, I did some research.
It was actually hard to find a place in Cleveland as small as the above decadent shoe box. In fact, finding a 500-square-foot studio was nearly impossible — it’s as if people in Cleveland appreciate “living space” and “bedrooms.” I did find this place, a little bigger at 768 square feet with a little patio, a bathroom, and a bedroom. It doesn’t have chichi Cervaiole marble slab countertops like the Clinton Hill condo, but this is the Rust Belt.
It lies in a so-called hipster part of Cleveland, Ohio City, where they’ve got similar “emerging shops and restaurants” hawked in the Clinton Hill ad. It also has a gym and washer/dryer, which are worth their weight in gold and conspicuously absent in the Brooklyn condo. Though the two places aren’t identical, I’m calling it even. The price: only $124,000.
For simplicity’s sake, assume I have a half-million in cash (haha, yeah…), because that’s the only way to buy real estate in Brooklyn nowadays. Buying the condo in Cleveland leaves me with $376K in the bank.
Airfares to Cleveland are surprisingly cheap. I found upcoming round-trip flights from $190 to $360. Frequent flier miles and fare fluctuations will likely cancel each other out over time, so I’ll take the average of these two, or $275. I figure travel time would be around six hours every week, which is plenty of time to trade stocks, laugh mirthlessly, or whatever the hell it is rich people do in their spare time.
Without a place of my own in Brooklyn, I’d have to find an Airbnb to stay Friday and Saturday nights. The life of a weekend nomad will be lonely, so I’d only need accommodation for one. Airbnb says the average price for a single private room in Clinton Hill is $116/night. With the normal service fee it comes to about $250 for weekend accommodation.
Add $200 for cab fare on both sides and it’s $725 per weekend trip to New York, or 518 possible trips with our leftover cash. Divide that by 50 weeks in a year (two weeks saved for a real vacation, duh) and you have enough money to buy the condo in Cleveland and visit New York City every weekend for ten years. All for the price of one tiny studio condo in Brooklyn.
Would I miss New York during the week? I’d miss all-night bodegas and limitless dining options, though I imagine getting used to 7-11 and… sausage? That’s what they eat in Ohio, right? I might miss the MTA, but probably not. Worse, though, is I’d be the snobby guy in the office that always skips happy hour because I have to fly off to a better city for fun. But the whole arduous plan would be worth it because in reality I’ll never be able to afford a home in Brooklyn.
Ten years feels like just enough time to grow sick of the Big Apple anyway. My peers will be old and boring by then, what with knee problems and children. Plus, if the Post is to be believed, second-term de Blasio will be personally arming criminals with handguns and telling them “Gotham is yours.” More likely, though, I’ll be the lame one, complaining about the noise, the price of real estate, and how small restaurant portions are compared to back home in Cleveland.
But if I do want to keep the party going well past my prime, I’d take public transit to the airport and find a very, very accommodating friend with a spare couch. That way I could theoretically keep up the scheme for 23 years, or until New York is swallowed by the sea and Cleveland becomes the new Brooklyn. Then I would sell my tiny Cleveland condo for a million 2038 dollars and fly back every week from my new home in Tulsa.