She’s Gotta Have It
If you’re anything like us, one of your favorite parts of vacation planning is figuring out where you’re going stay. We love perusing the photo galleries of hotel websites and rental properties all over the world. Seriously, some of us around here spend whole afternoons fantasizing about Airbnb homes even when we don’t have a trip planned (Ahem! You know who you are). And that is how we found our new favorite Airbnb hostess, Rinat Aruh. By chance.
Rinat is the co-founder of a New York-based brand strategy and product design agency, Aruliden. Her interest in design probably won’t come as a surprise if you’ve seen her property. If you haven’t, do a Google search of “Sunny Tribeca Loft.” Rinat’s is the third link from the top of the first page. A quick click through the pictures should make it evident that she’s serious about design. We’re obsessed with her apartment, from the serenity it invokes to the incredible amounts of natural light and to the birdcage pendant lamp in the study.
It turns out Rinat is also a savvy investor and has been from a young age. Here, she sits down with us to share stories of her earliest real estate purchases and what she learned (about the process and herself) along the way.
Girls Guide: Rumor has it you made your first real estate purchase at an early age. What’s the story there?
Rinat Aruh: My first real estate purchase was at the age of 23 or 24. I really wanted to purchase an apartment in New York City where I was living. Back then, you could get a mortgage on an apartment there – even with a salary under $80K. I wanted to own because renting felt like throwing money out the door. I had been renovating my rental to accommodate myself and a roommate until I realized it was a waist of money.
I made my broker crazy for about a year with a budget of $250K. I wanted it all: amazing sunlight, a doorman, a true one-bedroom, no walk-up, et cetera. Eventually, I found a wonderful apartment on the upper west side, right off of Riverside Drive. The day it went on the market, I made an offer. Other people couldn’t see past the lime green walls and the pink and black bathroom, but I knew those were simple details that paint and love could take care of. They were just décor issues. The foundation was solid. The building was solid.
I paid for the down payment through an advance on a credit card. It was a wonderful, impulsive purchase.
GG: Ok, let’s talk about the learning curve. Was it a steep one, or did everything go pretty smoothly?
RA: Well, I was broke for a bit, but it was OK because I had limited responsibilities. I now had debt, but I also had a great asset that in my mind would only appreciate. It was a good deal and only a little over the monthly costs of the rental I had been was sharing. Market appreciation made it an even better deal. I just paid off that mortgage a week ago. I would say: well worth it!
I also learned a lot about the flip tax.* At the time of purchase, I had no idea what impact that would make when I wanted to sell.
GG: Do you still own that place?
RA: I do still own it. I intend to keep it for a bit since the neighborhood is only getting better. I would like to see it appreciate even further, even though it is now valued at twice the price I paid for it.
GG: How did the first time differ from the next time you purchased property?
RA: The next time, I was certain I wanted a condo. Something I could rent if I ever left the city. Something that could generate potential income when I was away. And I learned that I actually did not like having a doorman; it was a waste of money for me.
GG: Ok, we have to admit we’re drooling over your Tribeca loft on Airbnb, and we’re dying to know the story there.
RA: I bought my Tribeca apartment in 2007. I purchased that apartment not for what it was, but for what it could be. It was never listed. My broker and I were approaching owners directly in the buildings I wanted to live in. We asked if they were interested in selling, and it went from there. It was a two-bedroom, one-bath that became a two-bedroom, two-bath with an office. We renovated the apartment in two phases, first the bathrooms, then the entire front of the apartment – floors, kitchen, and so on. I chose to rent it out on Airbnb because I belive in a shared economy. So it just makes sense for me.
GG: Before you go, will you please share your top three tips for making a real estate investment?
1. Do your research: Speak with a doorman if there is one. Speak with a neighbor if you can. Check the history of the apartment and the building.
2. Visualize: Look at what the apartment can become versus what it is today – if you want to save some money.
3. Prioritize: Decide what things you can’t live without (i.e. light, etc.) and make those things non-negotiable in your search.
*Flip tax – A transfer fee paid to the co-op in a housing co-op transaction. It’s often paid by the seller and is neither a tax, nor deductible as a property tax.