Combining Apartments When One Plus One Makes One

Though the practice may have slowed slightly since the apex of the housing market a couple of years back, condo (and to a lesser degree, co-op) owners still sometimes look to expand their own living space by combining two apartments into one larger unit. 

Sometimes this is done at the outset of a deal, with the buyer purchasing two units with the express purpose of knocking down some walls, and sometimes it happens when an opportunistic unit owner hears that a neighbor is selling and snaps up that apartment to expand their own space. Needless to say, combining two distinct units into one presents certain challenges, both procedural and from an engineering perspective. 

Why Combine? 

You own a one-bedroom apartment in a building you love. Then you have a kid. You don’t want to move, because moving with a baby is no kind of fun, and then something amazing happens: the owner in the adjoining one-bedroom apartment puts her apartment on the market (perhaps anticipating the baby noise), and you decide to buy it. By combining the two one-bedroom apartments into one, you have yourself quite a bit of space. 

Anyone who’s ever lived in a New York apartment has at least daydreamed about this sort of fortuitous expansion. But how often does this sort of thing actually happen? 

“It’s extremely common,” says Adam Finkelstein, a partner with the Manhattan-based law firm of Kagan Lubic Lepper Finkelstein & Gold, LLP. The reason why is as simple as adding one plus one and getting three. “The price of a three bedroom apartment is greater than two one-bedroom apartments that you can combine and make into a three bedroom apartment of a comparable size. That’s why a lot of people are buying apartments and then combining them. They get to buy cheaper, live there, and they’re creating more value. And we often have it where, not only are they buying two apartments and combing them, but they’re also combining hallway space in many instances.” 

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