Doormen have long been a treasured perk in New York City -- apartment building gatekeepers who greet guests, take deliveries and hail cabs.

But the pandemic is upending the rules of real estate in the city. As residents avoid elevators and face-to-face lobby encounters to socially distance, some potential homebuyers now see doormen as a liability. Ground-floor apartments, meanwhile, typically shunned for their proximity to the noise and chaos of the street, are suddenly having their moment.

The new attitudes about doormen were apparent recently when two potential buyers got in touch with Mike Lubin, a broker at Brown Harris Stevens. One wanted an apartment for under $1 million on the Upper East Side. The other was looking for a $4 million property in Tribeca.

The two buyers had one thing in common: neither wanted a doorman. Lubin isn’t used to that request, but he understands the mentality.

“A doorman is putting himself or herself at jeopardy all the time,” Lubin said. “Doormen are magnets.”

Doormen have adjusted their practices during the pandemic to keep homes safe, and they provide valuable service that residents appreciate, said John Santos, head of the New York residential division for the building workers union SEIU 32BJ.

Listing Changes
Ground-floor apartments are gaining favor because they offer an escape from elevators and lobbies, where germs can spread. Samantha Rose Frith, an agent at Warburg Realty, hadn’t bothered to advertise that an apartment at 779 Riverside Drive has a second, street-level entrance when she listed the property in late February. The owner of the apartment, she said, had been using the vestibule as storage space.

Rose Frith changed the listing description to mention the entrance in May and the seller recently accepted an offer.

“Now, it’s a big selling point,” she said.

The pandemic has amplified other New York real estate preferences. Outdoor space is at an even higher premium now, and people are increasingly searching for apartments with laundry in the unit.

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