We've called it the holy grail of apartment building amenities, and it's hard not to get excited when the description of a building includes even the possibility of a parking spot. But that's just it. Often listings note that a building offers parking to residents but there's a waitlist. If you really want that spot, you're going to have to bide your time.
How long you have to wait is a calculation that relies on several factors, but if you don't like leaving things up to forces you can't control, you can try to take matters into your own hands. One anonymous broker told us that if you've got the time and the energy, you can sidestep the system and try to deal directly with another resident in the building. That may involve talking to the doormen, posting flyers in building, and sending letters see if you can negotiate for a spot on your own.
But that's not a strategy that's practical for many people, and so for them, it's a waiting game.
“Parking waitlists are truly building-dependent, based on available spots, cost, and how often residents relocate. For some, it's a matter of months, and for others, a matter of years,” says Elizabeth Kohen, owner and managing broker at Garfield Realty. “We sold a co-op to a buyer last year in a large building with a sprawling parking garage in Kensington, where parking is just $140 a month, and it took the buyer about a year to get a spot.”
The length of the list can depend in part on the building's location.
"A lot of times if the building is central or in a desirable location, the parking spots are very coveted or so expensive when they do become available,” says Blair Sheehan, a broker with Prevu (a Brick Underground sponsor). But that's not always the case. "I have seen both," Sheehan says, "where the waitlist is so long you are unlikely to get a spot or where it isn’t bad and you can get a spot shortly.”
Daniella G. Schlisser at Brown Harris Stevens says that a major factor on your chance of getting a spot is if the lot or garage is owned by the building, as opposed to being a larger, outsourced lot. If it's building-owned, it's likely much smaller, with significantly less availability and movement. She cites one building with its own garage, 200 East 84th St., where she's sold multiple apartments over the past five years.
"I've never gotten anyone off the waitlist," she says. "It takes a long time... People sit on them."
Christopher Kromer of the Ariffin Kromer team at Halstead doesn’t like to get people’s hopes up.
“Parking is certainly a premium, and when it’s offered as an amenity ‘subject to availability,' I’m usually very careful on managing expectations. In my experience, I just haven’t seen much movement on these lists,” he says. Building size can also factor into how long the list is, he points out.
For example, Kromer has friends who bought a two-bedroom in a 59-unit building in Park Slope five years ago. They just learned that a space is opening up. Clients who bought a condo in the 400-unit Upper West Side complex Central Park West Towers four years ago, on the other hand, are waiting with no end in sight.
“It’s not something I would bank on,” he says. “But then again, this type of amenity is often on one’s ‘wish list’ and typically not a driver of a real estate decision, at least not in the immediate short-term. If they’re not prepared for street parking, or they’ve not identified a nearby garage that would work for their needs, they probably should continue looking.”
Citi Habitats broker Rick Ashenfarb has sold several condos in Central Park West Towers and, contrary to Kromer's gloomy prediction, estimates the wait for a spot at about six months to two years, noting that demand fluctuates according to time of year, and that each of the four buildings in the complex has its own process for doling out the spots in its quarter of the central outdoor parking lot.
Schlisser says that spots often open up in the summer, when people leave the city for several months and don't want to pay the expense for a service they're not using.
So, can you find out where you are on the waitlist? Often, yes.
"They can tell you what number you are," Schlisser says, with the caveat that that information is hardly enforceable. "You can't hold them to it. If you're spot number five and somebody with pull in the building wants a spot, there's no accountability."
However in some cases, the list, and its order, is kept under wraps. One co-op owner we spoke to described her building's list as "a top-secret document."
If you’re one of the many New Yorkers on a parking spot waitlist, perhaps you can take comfort in knowing that even brokers are in the same boat, and the they know all too well the misery of circling the block looking for a space.
“I'm on the waitlist for parking in a smaller Windsor Terrace co-op where there are very few spots up for grabs and incredibly high demand,” Kohen says. “In three years, I think only one or two spots have changed hands, but I'm not giving up hope.”
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