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Don't Buy a Money Pit: Here Are 5 Proven Reasons You Should Buy Union-Built in NYC

Too few real estate shoppers know to ask the one question that will help them steer clear of a money pit: “Who built this building?” 


Don't get stuck holding the bag on construction issues hidden behind a nice sheetrock job. Ask to see union-built buildings.

It’s every real estate buyer's worst nightmare. You pony up a huge chunk of change and buy your dream place. But a few months later, you learn there’s something deeply, expensively— maybe even irreparably— wrong with your investment. The realization is as subtle as the ceiling falling on your head— you bought a money pit. Now you're on the hook for big-buck repairs, your property value has plummeted, and you’ve got months of headaches to look forward to. 

In buildings across the five boroughs, regretful buyers are ending up in this situation after purchasing real estate in shoddily constructed, non-union buildings. Non-union contractors pocket the fat profits generated by skimping on materials, using uncertified workers, and other corner cutting tactics, then they pass the costs along to you in the form of ongoing maintenance and repairs. The surest way to avoid this situation is to make sure you’re purchasing in a union-built building. Union Built Matters’ research and reporting has uncovered five proven reasons why choosing union-built can keep you out of a money pit:

Non-union contractors pocket fat profits by skimping on materials, using uncertified workers, and other corner cutting tactics, then they pass the costs to you.


Some non-union money pits you may have heard about (from left): 11 Greene Street, where conditions are so bad almost half the residents have stopped paying rent; the Hero building in Long Island City, where consistently out-of-service elevators have residents climbing 20+ stories to get home; 2 Blue Slip in Brooklyn, where repeated leaks have deluged residents and forced many out of their homes; and the luxury condo building on the Manhattan waterfront that continues to lean north and has no residents nor any projected completion date.

The Five Best Reasons to Buy Union-Built Real Estate

  1. The Highest Skilled Labor: Union workers frequently undergo hundreds or thousands of hours of in-classroom and on the job training, ensuring the highest level of expertise in their trade. Meanwhile, not a single non-union contractor can claim to have an apprenticeship program. Not a recipe for work that will stand the test of time. 

  2. Testing and Verification: Union contractors test and verify that all their workers have completed the requisite training. On non-union job sites, there’s no way to know which workers have been trained or if they even have a license to practice their trade. Not what you want to hear as a real estate buyer. 

  3. Continued Training and Education: Union workers are required to attend ongoing training and education programs to keep them current with the latest building techniques and technologies. You want your building built by workers that are always practicing their trade to the highest standards.

  4. Specialization & Focus: On a union jobsite, each worker is a trained expert, specializing in one aspect of the job. On a non-union job site, everyone is expected to do everything. Previous Union Built Matters reporting found that, “on a union job a trained and certified welder will bond a metal joint. On a non-union job, people with no such experience or certification are often made to weld joints.” Would you want to live in a building put together by someone with no welding experience?

  5. Job Security: Union workers are protected by collective bargaining agreements that provide them with job security and fair wages, which reduces turnover and increases stability in the workforce. This stability is the foundation for the highest skilled trade work. 


Most real estate buyers know to ask their realtor questions like, “what are the monthly costs?” or “how old are the appliances?” But not enough buyers know to ask the one question that will keep them out of a money pit: “Who built this building?” 

Mark C

Mark Colangelo is a writer and blogger.

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