Even when Friends first debuted in 1994, fans had a big question. How did the show’s main characters end up with such an amazing apartment in a desirable neighborhood in Manhattan? Especially because they never seemed to have lucrative jobs? The story was that it was Monica’s apartment, located in Manhattan’s West Village. Monica inherited a rent-controlled lease from her grandmother. And she supposedly paid just $200 a month for the expansive, two-bedroom apartment.
Too good to be true? We think so. Here’s what that iconic apartment would be worth today, whether you wanted to rent or buy it.
The Friends apartment was in the West Village
TripleMint reports that the iconic Friends apartment was located at 90 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village. The show was actually filmed on a Warner Brothers set in Burbank. But the exterior shots of the apartment featured a real building located at 90 Bedford St. The apartment measures an estimated 1,125 square feet. And it was probably located on the third floor in the pre-war walkup.
The apartment had two bedrooms, one bathroom, and an expansive living area. CNBC notes that the apartment was “quite spacious for a two-bedroom.” Estimates put it somewhere between 1,125 and 1,500 square feet. That alone makes it a coveted find. “The average two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, where space is at a premium, is just 975 square feet, according to real estate research company Yardi Matrix,” CNBC explains.
It was supposedly a rent-controlled apartment
The show explained that Monica paid just $200 a month for the apartment. That’s because it was her grandmother’s apartment that had been rent-stabilized since the 1940s. CNBC notes that the Friends crew held onto the apartment for a decade “despite various bouts of unemployment and low-paying jobs.” Most of the important Friends characters lived in the apartment at one point or another. But Monica and Rachel famously split the apartment, even though Rachel worked as a waitress for the first two seasons of the show.
Even though the apartment was located in a walkup — meaning that there’s no elevator, a common situation that opened the proverbial door to antics such as Ross cutting a couch in half to get it up to his apartment — the generous size of the apartment still makes its a highly desirable piece of real estate. So, as you might expect, it would have the price tag to match.
Monica and Rachel couldn’t have afforded the apartment in real life
TripleMint reported in 2014 that a comparable apartment in the neighborhood would cost somewhere between $4,200 and $5,500 per month. Bustle estimated in 2015 that “we’re talking in the $5,000/month range, at least, and that’s if you get lucky. (The publication even found one comparable apartment in Greenwich Village that cost an eye-popping $14,000 per month.) In 2016, The New York Post reported that the apartment would cost at least $4,500 per month.
The estimates that CNBC got in 2018 pushed the figure even higher. The median rental price for a two-bedroom apartment in the West Village is $4,500 per month, the publication noted. And an apartment of the same size as the Friends apartment — and in the same location — could cost a more realistic sum between $7,000 and $8,000 per month. That doesn’t sound like something that any of the Friends crew could afford.
They definitely could never have bought the apartment
Many renters fantasize, at least occasionally, about buying the apartment where they live. But that would definitely have been out of reach for the Friends characters. CNBC reports that if you wanted to buy that fictional apartment today, it could easily cost around $2 million.
Plus, there are a few factors that could make the apartment worth even more than $2 million to potential buyers. CNBC reports that the apartment could fetch an even higher price tag if it were renovated. And all bets are off if it were “a condominium (as opposed to a co-op, where you’re buying a share of the building rather than the physical unit).” A condo could fetch a price 15 to 20% higher than the initial $2 million estimate. Not exactly attainable for a chef and a waitress.
It’s not common to inherit a rent-controlled lease, either
Monica and Rachel couldn’t have lived in the iconic Friends apartment if they had to pay market rates for it. The excuse that the apartment was rent-controlled works to explain the apartment to fans. But the situation has become pretty rare in New York City. Curbed notes that “Rent control happens when a tenant has been living continuously in their apartment since July 1, 1971 — yes, 1971 — in a building constructed before 1947.”
Curbed also notes that in the 1950s, 2 million of the city’s apartments were rent-controlled. Now, the city only has about 27,000 rent-controlled apartments. For Monica to get the lease, she would have had to demonstrate that she was already living in the apartment to get the rights to take over the tenancy. TV aficionados say that “Friends rent control” has become a TV trope. It not only appeals to audience fantasy but also conveniently excuses large sets that are easier to film in.
The producers needed the apartment to be unrealistically large
That brings us to our final point. The producers behind Friends probably found it a lot easier to film the show on a set depicting an unrealistically large apartment than they would have if they’d been filming on a smaller set. Free Tours by Foot — which tells Friends fans how to get to the building that was featured in the exterior shots of the apartment — notes that the people behind the show knew that the apartment was unrealistic.
“The writers and producers said the apartment needed to be large so the audience could see what the actors were doing.” The publication explains, “Friends was filmed in front of a live studio audience. Action and conversations had to be visible to the audience, so the floor plan of the apartment was wide open and large — it looked nothing like a typical New York City apartment.”
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