Buying a Home on New York City’s Upper East Side

The Upper East Side is an upscale Manhattan neighborhood born of The Gilded Age and American Renaissance and has since evolved into a nexus of culture, sophistication, entertainment and education with some of the finest private schools in all the world.

Why should you buy a home on the Upper East Side?

Among the most coveted cities in the world, New York City is home to a real estate market laden with elegant and historic pre-war buildings side-by-side luxurious new developments with lavish amenities suites. This unique blend of quality housing stock makes home values a stable and reliable investment, and the Upper East Side offers the best of what Manhattan life has to offer.

  • Property values are strong — Beloved for its culture, history, and neighborhood quality, the Upper East Side real estate market has endured and retained value each year, making this a wise purchase for long-term investment.

  • Desirable location — Each year, tourists flock to New York City to enjoy its world renowned sites, museums and entertainment. Those who live in the area enjoy proximity to Central Park and Carl Shurz Park as well as famed cultural institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Neue Galerie New York and so much more.

  • Endless neighborhood amenities — You can enjoy an array of activities and transportation options, making the transition to a new city or neighborhood much easier. One of the most desirable residential neighborhoods in New York City, the Upper East Side is full of some of the finest shopping and dining experiences as well as gyms, grocery stores and schools.

Top Neighborhoods on the Upper East Side, NYC

The Upper East Side has some of the finest real estate in the city.

Fifth Avenue

Nicknamed “Millionaire’s Row” in the early 20th century, Fifth Avenue was home to some of the most resplendent private homes in its early days. Today, white-glove doorman apartment buildings line nearly the entirety of Central Park’s eastern flank, many of which offer breathtaking park and skyline views of New York City. Residents enjoy immediate proximity to Central Park as well as world-class restaurants and some of the most fashionable high-end retail shops.

Park Avenue

Similar to Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue is often associated with luxury and elegance, and the homes there are known for their gracious proportions, unparalleled service and high price tags. There are approximately 64 buildings that makeup the Park Avenue Historic District, many of which were built by some of the most celebrated architects of the American Renaissance including Rosario Candela, Schwartz & Gross and George F. Pelham. Like on Fifth Avenue, purchasing on Park Avenue requires seasoned guidance due to the highly selective nature of many buildings.

Carnegie Hill

Carnegie Hill is a refined community with substantial mansions and many original townhomes from the area’s emergence in the early 20th century. Its roots in The Gilded Age imbue the neighborhood with some of the most stunning specimen of old-world opulence with homes that offer stunning views of Central Park, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Park Avenue Malls and glorious pre-war architecture. The shops, restaurants and cafes along Madison, Lexington and Third Avenue make the neighborhood every bit as convenient as it is beautiful. The lion’s share of Museum Mile and home to some of the best private schools New York City has to offer, Carnegie Hill is a serene and cultured residential enclave.

Sutton Place

One of the few leafy and secluded neighborhoods in New York City, Sutton Place is an intimate and peaceful enclave located along the East River with an array of small parks, enhanced with the addition of the East River Esplanade. Proximity to Midtown Manhattan and majestic apartments with sensational direct river views make this neighborhood one of the most coveted in all of New York City.

What kind of home can I buy on the Upper East Side, NYC?

The Upper East Side has luxurious real estate ranging from modern penthouses with sweeping views of the city, to historic townhomes just moments away from Central Park.


The most common property type on the Upper East Side, co-ops give buyers more space for their money and typically lower monthly costs.  While in a condo you will pay common charges and real estate taxes, in a co-op those two expenses will be combined into one monthly payment called “maintenance.”  Because co-ops are in essence corporations, the building is taxed as a whole and then that financial obligation is divided up amongst homeowners (referred to as “shareholders”) who then pay according to the shares allocated to their apartment.

Some of the best, most high-quality property in New York City is cooperative product, and co-ops are excellent in that they retain their value with great stability over time.  Co-ops typically have requirements around how much of a purchase one can finance, with those requirements varying from building to building.  Depending on the building, there may be rules around how a home is purchased and owned as well as regulations on using the property as a second, part-time residence or offering the home for rent.  Some buildings have those rules in order to maintain quality standards for those that live in the building.  Navigating the world of co-ops is easy with the right guidance!


Depending on your financial or lifestyle needs, a condo might be a great fit!  Condos are typically the easiest properties to buy as there aren’t usually building requirements on the amount of the purchase you finance, and owning in a condo will allow you to use the property as a second home or income property.  That flexibility comes at a premium, however, and condos are typically more expensive than comparable co-ops, and owners pay their real estate taxes directly to the city and their common charges to the building.

A common misconception is that condos are all new, but that isn’t necessarily the case.  While the vast majority of new developments are structured as condos, there are in fact pre-war condos throughout the city.  That said, the vast majority of all new development today is condo product.  You will typically find lavish amenities suites including gyms, pools, lounges etc. in newer large condo buildings.


Many of the Upper East Side townhouses have been carefully maintained over the years and beautifully enhanced and renovated, offering their owners sumptuous, multi-level private escapes from the busy city.  While not always the case, most townhouses have private outdoor space typically in the form of a garden though some will also have finished rooftops and additional balconies or terraces.  While the purchase won’t include a full-service staff to maintain your home, you will have the luxury, privacy and autonomy that comes with townhouse ownership.

Determining Property Costs

As you determine your budget for a real estate purchase, you should evaluate all the fees and monthly payments that will be expected of you to ensure you are ready for such a financial undertaking.

Budget and Price Point

You will need to determine the price range you can shop in and consider the housing market trends as they relate to the longevity of the property's value.  Perhaps unique to New York City, buyers also may have to consider their total financial profile and what if any post-closing liquidity requirements a building will have.  Many buildings will expect a buyer to have excess liquid assets after they close on a home.  You should consult a professional to get a sense of what that might mean for you, the type of property you want to pursue, and the amount you can spend.

Buyer’s Closing Costs

People often forget that there are other costs associated with a purchase beyond the price of the home itself!  It’s best to consult your agent to get a better understanding of closing costs and what to expect depending on the type of property you’re buying.

Common Charges and Maintenance

Covered a bit above, buildings in New York City have infrastructure that needs upkeep and staff that need salaries.  Everything costs money in Manhattan real estate!  These expenses are most often covered in condos by common charges and in co-ops by maintenance which as noted above also includes your real estate taxes.  In New York City, buildings will have reserve funds, essentially money the building has put away to finance various projects, both known to be upcoming or that may happen by surprise.  Sometimes if the funds in the building’s reserves are low, they may levy an assessment to either replenish those funds or finance a project.  Those are one-time payments to the building that can usually either be paid all at once or spread out over a time period established by the building’s board.

Types of home buying loans

Whether this is your first time buying a home or your tenth time buying a home, you should know what options are available to you.  It’s always best to consult a professional to get a sense of what types of loan products would be best for your needs.

Conventional Loan

Conventional loans are typically quicker to obtain than government assistance loans, and you have peace of mind knowing you were vetted for this financial undertaking.

FHA Loan

With fewer credit requirements and lower down payments, a loan through the Federal Housing Administration has several upsides to consider.

VA Loan

For those who have served in the armed forces, the VA loan requires little to no money down and offers some of the lowest interest rates on the market.

Tips for Frugal Home Buyers

While the homes for sale on the Upper East Side, NYC may seem expensive, there are several tips you can follow to stretch your dollar in this pricycity.

Shop around for mortgage rates

Never settle for the first mortgage rate you are offered; always get a second, third, or fourth opinion. Your mortgage rate will likely be with you for years, and getting locked into a bag interest rate can set you back financially.

Get pre-qualified before you shop

Every buyer should get pre-qualified before they begin looking at properties. You should know your price range before you start touring homes and making offers. In New York City, a seller may not even consider your offer without a pre-qualification letter!

Put more money down to lower monthly costs

If you can pay off a chunk of the property now rather than later, your monthly mortgage payment could be lower than had you kept your rainy day funds entirely squirreled away.  That said, you should consult an agent before making that decision – there are in fact buildings that would rather you keep your money so you close with better liquidity.

Keep a high credit score

While this tip should be heeded months, if not years, in advance, you should keep a high credit score which will open you up to the best interest rates on the market. With a lower interest rate, you can keep your monthly payments down, affecting your finances for years to come.

Work with a reliable real estate agent

And last but not least, working with an agent will save you money.  In New York City, commission is paid by the seller.  Oftentimes buyers think that if they “go directly” to a seller without an agent, they will save on their purchase as the seller won’t have to pay a second broker.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Our commissions are contracted before a home is listed for sale, and depending on the listing agreement, a seller’s agent may get paid double what they would otherwise had there been a buyer’s agent involved.  The fact of the matter is that a seller’s agent has no fiduciary responsibilities to a buyer – they do not and will not advocate in a buyer’s best interest, and nine times out of ten you will overpay on your purchase and risk losing money on a sale down the road.  I sadly see it happen all too often.

Do you have representation?

If you are considering investing in Upper East Side real estate, you should look at Daniella G. Schlisser for representation. Daniella is passionate about the industry and eager to help her clients find their forever home. Contact Daniella today to discuss your real estate plans.

*Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock


Her drive to master each transaction on her client’s behalf has garnered her a fiercely loyal, multi-generational client list and a well-earned reputation as one of the best in the business. You'll see why.

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