Someone I know lives in a Manhattan building that has no doorman, but they are considering becoming a doorman building. He wanted to know how much value it adds. I haven’t really seen any studies on this, so I tried to take a look. Most discussion that I have seen focuses on quality of life. A doorman provides a service that covers everything from greeting people and opening doors, helping to carry things and receiving deliveries, and safety and security. Doormen are associated with luxury. Critics of doormen highlight the higher maintenance/common charges, nosy doormen, complain about tipping, say that a live-in super can check some of the same boxes, or just find the whole concept elitist. Doormen are expensive, most are union, and to keep a front desk staffed 24/7 could take a team of roughly 5-10 people. One estimate put the cost at $80,000 per doorman (+tips), so figure $400,000-800,000 in annual operating expense. So are they worth it?

Sample Size: Close to 200 recent transactions in Full Time Doorman buildings, versus close to 50 transactions in non-doorman buildings.

  • Condos only
  • Manhattan neighborhoods south of 96th St, excluded some neighborhoods like LES, CPS, Chinatown, Battery Park for various reasons. Basically I want neighborhoods where doormen are not unusual but also not taken for granted
  • Excluded super low end and super high end listings ($500K to $4M)

Observations:

  • On average, doorman building listings were a little more expensive and carried higher common charges as expected
  • Doorman buildings trade for about 10% more per SQFT than non-doorman buildings based on this sample
  • Apartments less than 1,000 SQFT with a doorman sold for about 6% more per SQFT, and apartments more than 1,000 SQFT with a doorman sold for about 11% more per SQFT
  • Apartments that sold for under $1.25 million sold for effectively the same price per SQFT with or without a doorman, which was surprising. So many variables go into a price, but I rechecked and didn’t see any obvious errors in the data
  • However, apartments that sold for over $1.25 million sold for almost 15% more per SQFT with a doorman versus without.
  • In buildings with 50 units or less, where each unit therefore carries a larger share of the cost, there was effectively no difference in price per SQFT between doorman and non-doorman buildings. However, in units with greater than 50 units, where the additional cost of having a doorman is minimized, there was a 26% difference in price per SQFT. It is worth noting that once a building exceeded 100 or so units, we only found one or two buildings that did not have a doorman. That could explain why lower priced units did not show a difference between doorman and non-doorman, it may have something to do with the size of the building and the absence/presence of other amenities.
  • It also looks like doorman buildings sell significantly faster than non-doorman buildings, but my data was pretty spotty on this point so not comfortable sharing those numbers without further verification

This analysis will be tricky to replicate with co-ops since most co-op apartments do not disclose SQFT. A doorman in a condo building could be of greater value since condo buildings are more likely to have investor owned units occupied by renters. So with more “transient” occupants coming and going, its good to have someone manning the front door to keep an eye on things. On the other hand, some of the most ultra-exclusive buildings in Manhattan are co-ops where doormen are a given, and therefore the price difference between doorman vs non-doorman could be extreme.

As for the original person who posed the question, are they worth it? The answer seems to rest largely on how many units are in his building. If many, then the answer is yes. If not that many, then there is the part-time option, or the virtual option, both of which provide some but not all of the benefits at a lower cost. As for whether someone should buy into a doorman building, that seems to be more a matter of lifestyle and personal preference.

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