How One Couple Transformed Their Brooklyn Brownstone to Age in Place


Before the Sussmans bought the property in 1980, for around $70,000, it had been a boardinghouse, and it was in rough shape. The couple renovated the house at the time, putting in a new kitchen and restoring the floors. But the ensuing decades took a toll on those renovations, while the neighborhood transformed from edgy to enviable.

“The house was in good shape, but it needed updating,” said Wassim Fakhereddine, an associate broker with Corcoran and the Sussmans’ leasing agent.

The upstairs apartment, he estimated, might have rented for $6,000 to $6,500 a month as it was, while units at the top of the market — with luxury finishes, in prime Park Slope locations — can fetch as much as $12,500. Renovating this apartment wouldn’t yield that sort of windfall, but it would put the monthly rental somewhere in between.

So the Sussmans focused their attention, and their budget, on the parlor-floor kitchen, spending $60,000 to install custom cabinets, quartzite counters and a Thermador range and refrigerator. They added a powder room and coat closet, installed central air-conditioning throughout and renovated the third-floor laundry room. In the bathrooms, they installed matte-black penny-tile floors and painted wainscoting. And in the one on the second floor, they reglazed the claw-foot tub, moving it beneath a window overlooking the garden.

But they made sure to retain 19th-century details like the parquet floors, crown molding, millwork and the ornate medallion in the dining room. “I wanted to keep as much of the integrity of the house as possible,” Mrs. Sussman said.

The payoff? After listing the apartment in April of 2019 for $10,500 a month, they rented it three weeks later for $9,000 a month for the first year and $9,500 for the second.

They might have held out for tenants willing to pay more, but Mrs. Sussman was happy to find a family she liked. “The money was not as important as who was taking it,” she said, “because we live underneath.”


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