March 17, 2018

If you want a doorman building, go condo

It’s just about the next best thing in Manhattan to having a chauffeured limousine always at your disposal. That would be living in a doorman building.

He may be a budding doorman, but he's out of uniform. (Flickr photo by Photo-Fenix)

Door personnel and concierges obviously do like to get paid for their work, and that means you’ll fork over plenty in common charges or maintenance fees to live in a doorman building. In fact, the cost of all labor normally is the biggest budgetary item in such a building.

But the conveniences are manifold; I’m sure that I don’t have to enumerate them for you.

I got to wondering what percentage of buildings offer doormen as an amenity and decided to find out.

First, I called Local 32BJ, which represents building employees.

Union spokesman Matthew Nerzig reminded me that buildings with small staffs–say, 10 or fewer employees–don’t tend to be members of Local 32BJ, so its numbers are suspect and came across as little more than a best guess. All I learned from the union was that buildings in which residents own their apartments make up possibly 60 percent of Manhattan’s housing stock.

I was flummoxed.

So I fell back on crude analysis, unwilling as I am to spend days of tedious data collection and unable to extract exactly what I needed from OLR, the database commonly used by many brokers.To derive an approximation of the number of doorman buildings a few weeks ago, I decided on the following parameters:

  • –An area that arguably might be considered the core of Manhattan residences–Upper West Side, Upper East Side, Midtown;

  • –East and Midtown West, including any minor overlaps or exclusions;

  • –A filter for “attended lobby,” which covers both doormen and concierges;

  • –Only active listings of condos, co-ops and condops going back a year from the middle of last week;

  • –Properties listed from $100,000 to the unlikely stratosphere of $60 million;

  • –Assumption that it is reasonable to extrapolate from the core to all of Manhattan.

To reiterate, my number crunching is admittedly defective but, in all likelihood, telling.

I discovered that 86 percent of buildings, or 2,784 of those with listings, have doormen, leaving 459 of the total 3,243 without them.

There were significant differences among types of buildings. Because there are so many new condo units in buildings owned by developers facing intense competition, I was not surprised that condos rely on door personnel as an amenity to a large extent. Such actively listed units represented 58 percent of the total.

Co-ops amounted to 36 percent and the small number of condops in Manhattan, 6 percent.

Condos and co-ops dramatically switched percentages in buildings without doormen. For co-ops, it was 88 percent of the total, while condos reached merely 9 percent and condops, 2 percent.

Nearly half of all the listings can be attributed to condos (49 percent) with doormen and a nearly a third to co-ops (31 percent).

I have no doubt that the figures do not apply to all neighborhoods since some (e.g. Tribeca and the Financial District) tend to have dramatically different ratios of condos and coops than other neighborhoods (Washington Heights and the Central Village). But the figures do give buyers a general sense of how hard it would be to find a doorman building of the sort they might be seeking.

My takeaway is that buyers in search of buildings with door personnel should concentrate on condos, but they should not by any means ignore co-ops or condops.

–by Malcolm Carter


  1. Ryan Hinricher says:

    Malcom, thanks for this information. There are a lot of long time renters looking to buy in the market. I’ve had 2 in my building that had leases for 15 and 17 years respectively who just purchased.

  2. Question: do you think the analysis would be significantly affected if you break it down by 24 hour vs part time door staff?