by Marialena Rago
Fulfilling the dream of owning a home is never an easy accomplishment. It’s even more of a challenge for actors, who deal with periods of unemployment and financial instability more than those in most careers. But those who save for and purchase homes are able to do so thanks to careful and thorough planning.
Robbie Roby is an actor/choreographer who owns his own flat in Midtown Manhattan. I asked him to share his experience of saving for and purchasing his apartment while maintaining his successful career as an artist.
What made you want to buy instead of rent?
I always had the bug to buy property in New York City because when I first moved into Hell’s Kitchen about 12 years ago, the rates of renting were astronomical already and back then is no relation to what it is now. I just had no concept of spending all this money on a property that wasn’t even mine and that somebody had control over and told me what I had to do and what I wasn’t allowed to do or can kick me out at any second. I had an experience once where the person I was staying with told me out of the blue, “Oh, you can’t stay here anymore. You have to be out by the morning.” I moved out at like 1 o’clock in the morning, so I pretty much said, “That’s it! I want more control over my living place and do it in a financial way that was beneficial to me.” When I did all of that and saved all the money and worked through the mortgage I was actually paying $100 less for my space then the renters in my building.
Besides saving money, what are the benefits of having your own property as an actor?
I do a lot of touring and regional productions, so it just keeps me in the loop of the city. I can’t tell you how many times I had to run back to the city for an audition or something and because I am located in Hell’s Kitchen, no matter what life is like I come back here and all my stuff is readily available and in walking distance of my auditions. I don’t have to worry about a place to stay or where are my shoes. That is the most beneficial thing to having my own place.
New York has a reputation of being very competitive especially with real estate, how did the process of buying your apartment work?
I had a friend who had a broker who was also a performer and her husband worked at Actor’s Federal Credit Union, in the mortgage department. I met with her and she very, very sweetly sort of said, “This is how this process will work, I will sort of walk you through it step by step so you can see the pros and benefits and the negatives.” And she said, “How about Hell’s Kitchen. It is very competitive. They are all tentative houses - they are small and weirdly structured, so you are going to have to really look for this diamond in the ruff to find something unless you want to be in a new high-rise which will probably be more money and more cookie-cutter.”
After meeting our first day, I saw one apartment on 42nd Street, which was a two bedroom, classic. Each bedroom was so beyond small and looking like a closet but it was weirdly structured and she said, “This sort of what I’m introducing you to in Hell’s Kitchen and what it is like.” Then the second place we looked at was this apartment that I am in now. It is a one bedroom, it has two fireplaces and 1,000 square feet. She walked in and was like, “You have to buy this apartment.” I was sort of looking at the $350,000 price range and this was on the market for $799,000 so it was almost double what I was looking for. She said, “I’m telling you, this apartment does not happen.” We literally stopped that day and made an offer on the place and after all the back and forth for only 24 hours, we settled on a deal. I had just come home from tour and booked the Broadway show Billy Elliot so I didn’t have a place to live. I went to rehearsal was in rehearsal all day long then sat in a Starbucks calling Craigslist people for sublets and then the next day called her. It was insane. I can’t believe it happened so quickly and this apartment is definitely one of a kind in terms of shape and style.
What advice would you give to an actor who is purchasing for the first time?
I’m more of a saver than a spender, but you don’t have to change the way you live your life. It is just basics like if you know you are coming into a job that is very good, especially in your 20s, you just have to put a couple of those pennies away.