In 1996 we bought our first townhouse in New York City. We paid $450,000 for a brownstone on 19th St. between 8th and 9th Ave. that had been vacant for four years. Everybody we knew told us we were crazy to buy it.
We had no budget for an architect and did all of the work ourselves. We did a surprisingly decent job. We sold the Chelsea townhouse ten years later for almost 7 million. It was the first of nine townhouses we bought and sold in Manhattan. At the time, we were setting records in neighborhoods from Chelsea to SoHo to Nolita to the West Village.
With a little blind luck, real estate savvy, and a mixture of cockiness, confidence and humility, we've always been good at predicting real estate trends in NYC and other places — even the hot spot Trancoso, Brazil, where we bought ten years ago. We were extremely lucky as the real estate market there went straight up. We were and always have been risk takers. Is it easy to build in New York City? You tell me.
A little over a year ago, we decided to leave Manhattan for a few years to see how the rest of the world lives. We couldn't stand De Blasio, Derek Jeter was retiring from the Yankees, and rumors were circling that Taylor Swift was going to be an ambassador for New York. Plus, the real estate bubble was bound to pop; we were hearing about places in Bed-Stuy going for 3 million. All the signs were there that it was time to go.
Through travels, shoots for TV, and writing books, we've visited cities across America in the last 5 years: Seattle, Chicago, Austin, Nashville — you name it. We thought about Seattle, but it was too rainy. We thought about Chicago, but it was still so cold. We thought about Austin, but it was a little too small. We thought about Nashville, but none of us are country musicians.
We chose Los Angeles because we feel it's the city that has the most opportunity not only for ourselves, but also in real estate. We had been doing a few jobs in and around L.A., and we felt there were exciting things going on here. The real estate was cheap relative to New York, and the music and art scene were having a moment. The good weather was a bonus. As crazy as it sounds, the deciding factor was a little company called Uber; as you might know, we have seven kids, ranging in age from 7 to 18. We didn't want to be in cars all the time, and Uber gave us an easy solution. In our minds, Uber has really changed L.A. And forget the kids, adults can go out, drink their favorite adult beverages, and have a safe, easy way to get home.
The decision to move was one we made rather quickly after the thought initially took a hold over us as sometimes you just have to "jump in." We learned that change on a big scale is great for a family and even better for a business. For better or worse as it's a big jolt to the system.
We encourage anyone thinking about moving to consider cities all over the map and take the plunge even if you're only 60% sure you want to. You can always go back to whatever place you call home, and the experience will only make you grow as a person. This was especially true for our 7 kids who were all born and raised in Manhattan and who, like most New Yorkers, thought NYC was the only place on the earth. They may have been right... or maybe not. We had many ups and downs year one but we are still standing.
For more on what the Novogratz family are up to, visit: The Novogratz
More from Robert Novogratz:
Re-edited from a post originally published 3.10.2016 - TW