Owning a car in New York City is seen as a liability by many, especially when a quick Uber ride or the swipe of a MetroCard can easily get you where you need to go.
Car owners know that circling the block for a spot and moving the car for alternate side parking is just a part of life, unless they’re willing to pay for a parking space. But for some New Yorkers, an unused space in a parking garage or an extra spot in the driveway is a valuable piece of real estate and an easy way to earn extra income.
Jee Choe became the reluctant owner of a parking space about 16 years ago when she bought an alcove studio in Greenwich Village.
“I wanted to find out if I could buy the apartment without the spot,” said Ms. Choe, a tea sommelier and author of the tea blog Oh, How Civilized. “I never intend on having a car in New York so why would I need a parking spot? I didn’t want another thing to be responsible for because buying the apartment was already a big deal.”
She has since come to see things differently, as renting out a parking spot can be a lucrative venture. The parking spot and the apartment were a package, with the monthly cost for the garage rolled into the apartment’s maintenance fee. Her real estate agent told her that it was a good deal. “It’s a rare thing in New York,” she said, in regard to owning the spot.
She paid $275,000 for the studio and parking spot, which is just a short walk from the Pratt Institute’s Manhattan location, where she was earning a master’s degree. A neighbor across the street was renting the spot from the previous owner, and Ms. Choe extended the lease. The rent check she received for the parking spot was a boon every month.
Ms. Choe has yet to meet her garage tenants, who used to leave a monthly check with the doorman but recently started sending the payment by mail. She now rents the space out for $480 a month, which is lower than the amount the garage would charge at $550, plus tax. “But they’re hassle-free for me,” she said of her tenants. She originally charged $375 a month and has raised the parking rent only twice, in line with increases to her maintenance fee and puts the money from the parking spot toward her $1,300 monthly maintenance.
Ride-sharing services have actually reduced demand for parking spaces, according to Jonathan Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants. “New Yorkers are relying more on mass transit and ride shares to get around rather than use their own cars,” he said.
At the same time, the development boom in recent years has absorbed a lot of the parking lots that used to be found on city streets. Still, Mr. Miller said, “despite the drop in parking supply, I don’t believe we can declare a parking shortage.”
Plus, he added, new residential developments still often include parking. “In the luxury market, garaged parking spaces are still a sought-after amenity,” he said.
New York’s Department of City Planning sees parking as “one piece of a neighborhood’s transportation system,” said Joe Marvilli, the department’s deputy press secretary. “Off-street parking is required in some new buildings and optional in others, and parking garages frequently serve a neighborhood rather than one building.”
The average price for a single parking space in recent years has been about $280,000, Mr. Miller said. “Parking space price trends seem to track with the general trends of the apartment market, so prices have dropped over time,” he said. “Their prices are largely dependent on the prices of apartments.”
When the market was booming, some developers asked as much as $1 million for a parking space. “To my knowledge, they never sold or never sold close to that price,” he said. Mr. Miller added that parking spaces were often bundled with apartment purchases, making it difficult to know the exact price of a parking spot. But anecdotally, he said the highest price he had heard of was just over $500,000.
For Yadh Yaich buying a deeded parking spot, along with a one-bedroom apartment at the Carriage House on West 24th Street, turned out to be a wise investment. Mr. Yaich, who is originally from Tunisia and is a finance executive and entrepreneur, took out a mortgage on the $1.175 million apartment and paid cash for the $125,000 parking spot.
“Since I bought the first parking spot, I was able to haggle the price with the builders down from $250,000, as they didn’t know at that time if they could sell them,” he said. “I got it at half of the original asking price, but they all sold very quickly after me. The last one sold for $260,000.”
Mr. Yaich has been able to impress his friends with the garage’s hydraulic lift system, calling it his “James Bond moment.”
“When I walk in with a new friend, they don’t see any car in the garage. I press a button, the platform raises, and my convertible BMW appears from the ground,” he said. “The scene never fails to amuse them.”
Parking spaces are prized, even outside Manhattan.
In Astoria Heights, Senad Ahmetovic has two cars and two spots in his driveway but elects to rent one of the spaces out to his first-floor tenant for a monthly fee of $150. He knows neighbors who charge more for their parking spots, but he sees it as a way to build his relationship with good tenants.
Mr. Ahmetovic, who purchased the three-family home when it was new construction in 2006 for $965,000, said he was not motivated by the moneymaking prospect of the driveway.
“It’s a lovely couple that we rent to on the first floor,” he said, explaining that the tenant had initially inquired about nearby garages. “He has a BMW 5 Series, I felt bad for him parking it on the street,” he said. “I thought it’s only fair to let them park and be able to look out on their own car.”
When the tenants moved in three and a half years ago, he didn’t have a second car. By the time his eldest daughter needed her own car about a year and a half ago, though, he didn’t have the heart to rescind the offer to his tenant. His daughter, who is finishing up her last semester of college, alternates parking on the street with him, depending on when she gets home.
Mr. Ahmetovic, who works as a Halstead agent on the East Side of Manhattan, said the ease of rideshare services has encouraged some Manhattanites to park their cars in other boroughs, where parking is cheaper. “Down the block I know three or four guys that rent out their spots, anywhere from $150 up to $300, $350,” he said.
Those who are willing to pay for a parking spot argue that having a private spot can be life-changing.
Trish Martin has rented a spot in a garage around the corner from her home in Park Slope, Brooklyn for nearly 30 years and she doesn’t regret a penny of the money she has spent on it. “When my kids were young, I would drive into Manhattan with them for hockey practice and then back to Brooklyn. Parking was miserable — I’d be driving in circles for 45 minutes and I’d feel like crying,” she recalled. “I thought: There’s got to be a better way.”
After many months of asking around, she found a street-level spot in a nearby garage in a row of three one-car garages, which meant she didn’t have to call for the car in advance. With this setup, she could come and go as she pleased.
“It’s the kind that requires you to open it via an old-fashioned pull chain,” she said of the garage that started at $200 a month in 1996 and currently runs her $500 a month in rent. Offers to install an electric door opener at her own expense were met with a hard no from the garage landlords, whose old-fashioned sensibilities dictated that their tenants use multiple manual locks to secure the space. This means tenants have to manually raise, lower and lock their garages from the outside.
For Ms. Martin, the managing director of sales for Halstead Real Estate Brooklyn, the garage is more than a convenience. “It’s a social thing,” she said, adding that she chats with her garage space neighbors the way she does with the butcher and the greengrocer. “It’s a chance to pause and say hello and see your neighbors.”
These days Ms. Martin has better luck finding street parking in her neighborhood. “I’ve noticed with Uber and Lyft, parking is much easier here,” she said, admitting that while she continues to rent the parking garage, she only uses it 30 to 40 percent of the time. “In the past I wouldn’t have even considered looking for street parking because it was virtually impossible,” she said. Still she’s hesitant to give the spot up. “It’s the holy grail,” she said.
Sadman Nihal bought himself a Mercedes last June as a reward for a successful year in business. Even though street parking is available near his apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens, he sought out a private garage to protect his prize.
“One day I returned to see my car had a dent on the back,” Mr. Nihal said. “Someone had likely hit it while they were trying to park behind it. The very same day I searched every site I could and by evening I found a person two blocks from my house who was renting out their parking space. It was $300 a month, which is a bit high, but I had to take it.”
Mr. Nihal, 24, a native of Bangladesh, is the director of public relations at Velvet Caviar, a company that sells designer phone cases and accessories. To find a parking garage just blocks away from his apartment, he used the mobile parking app, SpotHero, a peer-to-peer marketplace that matches car owners with neighbors renting out their private parking spots.
Mr. Nihal said that he preferred the setup at the two-family house where he rents the garage rather than a big public garage because he can just drive in and out whenever he pleases (he also has dedicated parking at his job in the Brooklyn Navy Yard).
“It has truly been a life-changer for me. The garage even came with cameras I can monitor via my phone so I couldn’t ask for more,” he said. “The time I have saved having this parking spot has allowed me to do so much more in my everyday life and if I look back it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.”