SOUTH BRONX — The Bronx is burning hot — when it comes to rising home prices.
Apartments that went for about $160,000 a few years ago now sell for as much as $300,000 and, rather than being the purview of local real estate agents, Bronx apartments are now repped by high-end firms including Houlihan Lawrence and Sotheby's.
"The borough president has been referring to us as the 'New Bronx,'" said Donna Davis, a spokeswoman for economic development nonprofit organization SoBro, who has personally seen the prices at her Pelham Parkway co-op nearly double since she moved in 16 years ago. The average price now hovers around $200,000.
"I don’t know if we’re so much the 'New Bronx' as we are the last frontier. Harlem has been saturated, and I think that's why we're starting to see so much interest."
Still, buyers say they are attracted to co-ops in The Bronx because it gives them a chance to live in a bigger home at prices that remain significantly cheaper than other parts of the city.
The average co-op price in Manhattan is about $1.3 million. Brooklyn co-ops average about half a million dollars, while in Queens they're $250,000 and in Staten Island they average $200,000, according to real estate reports.
Dan Irwin, a 25-year-old who works in theater management, moved into his co-op on Walton Avenue in March. He started looking in Queens, but after getting priced out of Sunnyside and not liking the vibe of Jackson Heights, he realized that an apartment in The Bronx would provide him with an easy commute to the rest of the city, more space and an affordable cost of living.
"It was more value and more opportunity," Irwin said. "And I can really stay there and watch the neighborhood grow.
"The space I was getting in Sunnyside was half the size and in a crappy location, whereas in The Bronx, it was a much better location and a much bigger space."
Joe Caraciolo, a 51-year-old who works in engineering and construction at the development firm Swig Equities, had a similar journey to his co-op on Grand Concourse.
He began looking at spots near 125th Street, but after moving up through Harlem and Morningside Heights, he eventually reached The Bronx, where he found the pricing, space and subway access much better.
"The perception out there is it’s still a little rough neighborhood, but it’s not," he said. "It’s great. Weekends are awesome. Shopping is great. Grand Concourse, by where I live, they’re out there every morning cleaning the streets."
Irwin and Caraciolo were not concerned about the rising co-op prices. Irwin viewed them as an indication that the neighborhood was improving and Caraciolo said they would likely work in his favor if he decided to move.
"It’s an investment," he said of his co-op. "I’ll get more money on my return."
Many buyers in The Bronx do not associate the borough with the negative stereotypes of its past but rather come there with an open mind, said Ariela Heilman, an associate real estate broker with Halstead Property.
The area's co-ops have also been popular with parents looking to help their kids get by in a city where low-paying jobs often collide with an expensive cost of living.
"Their children who work in the arts and in theater and creative fields or even entry level jobs aren’t going to be able to keep up with the increases in the rent and advance in their careers if they don’t have help from the family," Heilman said. "So families are buying apartments for their children in those fields."
Two neighborhoods that have developed especially strong co-op markets are Concourse and Kingsbridge, according to Taisha-Rose Pickett, a real estate agent with Area New York.
Concourse is popular because of its proximity to Manhattan and amenities like the courthouses and Yankee Stadium, while people enjoy Kingsbridge for its affordability, tranquility and access to the 1 train, Pickett said.
"People who still need to work in Manhattan and don’t want to go very far like New Jersey, they will consider The Bronx. They will consider those areas because they’re nice areas," she said.
"They’re very nice areas, but they’ve been overshadowed for years due to the luxury living of Manhattan."