If you are combining two NYC apartments, there are a few things you should know before taking on this scale of a project.
July 24, 2018
Combining Two NYC Apartments Into One? Here’s What You Need to Know
Combining two NYC apartments can be an enticing option in New York City, but there are many pros and cons to consider beforehand.
Are you or your family cramped in your current NYC apartment and considering moving for more space flexibility? If the answer is yes, but you're hesitant to take on the logistical headache associated with moving, consider combining two apartments. While not always an immediate option, purchasing a neighboring apartment and combining it with your existing space can often be the path of least resistance for those looking for more highly sought after square footage in New York City.
In this article, we’ll break down all the nuances of apartment combinations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including everything from procedures on how we combine two apartments into one and the subsequent financial consideration to the various challenges and opportunities this unique type of apartment renovation in NYC presents. Is combining two apartments better than buying a large apartment? Let’s find out.
Combining two apartments is often a better option than buying one large apartment, simply because purchasing and combining an adjacent unit next door is typically more cost effective on a per square foot basis compared to purchasing a new apartment with the already combined square footage. Another way to think about this is that combining apartments is one of the common ways to unlock value in NYC.
For those New Yorkers dialed into their daily routine, uprooting your entire life to accommodate a home renovation is a tough sell. However, combining two apartments in New York City is an ideal middle ground, offering all the benefits of staying in the same building and neighborhood - while adding space with an upgraded design that suits your lifestyle.
For those who aren’t looking to move, hearing a neighbor is selling their unit at a bargain — perhaps due to its subpar condition or an estate sale — could make way for a wise investment decision. Knowing that a renovated three-bedroom unit will carry a higher price per square foot than the current unit makes the deal even sweeter.
StreetEasy confirms only 39% percent of the current listings for sale in Manhattan have washers and dryers. Yet, while many NYC buildings prohibit in-unit laundry, many buildings make exceptions in adjoined units.
Especially in vertical combinations, plumbing and wet over dry restrictions can be less of a concern. In fact, adjusting the plumbing during an apartment combination may be to your benefit. If your building has strict wet or dry restrictions and you're combining two apartments, you may potentially be over someone else's wet space below. In a case of vertical combination the top floor is often unrestricted from a wet over dry restriction since the floor below is also yours.
Certain buildings have more restrictions than others when combining two apartments in NYC. Condo or co-op boards need to approve any combination before plans can be filed and permits received. When considering horizontal vs vertical apartment combinations, getting approval for combining two horizontal apartments on the same floor is typically easier than for a vertical combination. If you’re the first owner in your building joining two properties and trying to get approval, you might have a harder time than if others have combined units before.
You can’t count on having the ability to move a bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room to a previously “dry” area, like a closet or living room. Wet over dry areas have the potential to create a liability, which is one of the main reasons projects fail to receive approval. Important to note, however, not all buildings have strict wet over dry restrictions. There are numerous buildings throughout Manhattan with lax wet over dry regulations.
Many - not all - New York City residential buildings do not allow the removal of a unit’s main entry door. When joining two properties, some buildings might allow you to wall off the entry from the inside, but the exterior-facing door usually must remain as part of the respective building’s fire code.
Pro Tip: Having 2 entrances may be a benefit in allowing more flexibility in interior staircase dimensions because having an entrance on both floors no longer forces you to comply with DOB rules for staircase dimensions.
Apartment combos are typically larger projects in scope and involve extended time in the planning and production stage, along with additional costs. On average, combining two apartments takes 5-6 months in planning and another 5-7 months in construction, while costs will be determined by two main factors:
For in-depth detail, read Combining Apartments In NYC: Two Factors That Determine Cost & Timelines.
Many moving parts are involved in a New York City remodel, especially one that involves combining two units into a single home. There’s the planning and design phase, the board approval phase, the Department of Buildings approval phase, the material selection and procurement phase, and the building phase. To supervise the various moving parts and ensure everything lines up literally and figuratively, consider the services of a full-service design-build firm with expertise in apartment combinations, like Gallery KBNY.
The most effective way to organize and manage a project of this scope is to centralize the processes under one roof — and that’s exactly where Gallery brings the most value to our customers. As a full service design-build firm that specializes in the renovation of apartments in Manhattan and Brooklyn, we have a wide range of experience working on all styles of residential renovations - including extensive apartment combinations. We handle every part of the process - from interior design and architecture services to filing permits and construction management - so you don’t have to.
With a full-service team of design and construction professionals experienced in the complexities of specialty NYC apartment combinations, design-build firms make change orders and mid-project budget adjustments much less likely.
Design-build firms take on the responsibility of handling all red tape involved in apartment combinations, at no additional cost. This includes reviewing and satisfying the alteration agreement, filing all relevant architectural plans with the Department Of Buildings, and procurement of all necessary permits. We also handle all LPC approvals and requirements. In addition, we also fully take on the approval process with the building management company and co-op board.
Depending on the scope of the renovation, permits must be obtained from the city or local government. This can include permits for electrical, plumbing, and structural work, as well as permits for any exterior changes or additions.
Below is the life cycle of an apartment combination in NYC and the respective phases involved, from architectural design to installation of appliances. Please note, this is Gallery’s full-service design-build process, which is an all-inclusive and may differ from what more traditional architectural firms and design-bid-build contractors offer.
Look up The Albert building in New York City and you’ll find a rich history, as the famed Greenwich Village hotel-turned-apartment complex has been graced by everyone from Jim Morrison to James Taylor. That rich history resonated amidst this NYC apartment combination for a young family who purchased two units in the historic building in hopes of combining two apartments into one with a more modern and engaging layout. View the full renovation via our before and after.
This NYC apartment renovation project in a Columbus Circle co-op involved the horizontal combination of an existing one bedroom apartment with a newly purchased one bedroom unit next door. As is common with almost any project involving the adjoining of two apartments, the scope of construction included work being done in both units to ensure a uniform floor and ceiling height and the integration of the electrical system. View the full renovation via our before and after.
If you’re planning a remodel that involves combining two apartments into one, learn more about Gallery KBNY, view our apartment renovation before and after portfolio, or contact us to see why our New York City apartment renovation and remodeling services are the most mindful choice when choosing a home renovation contractor in NYC.