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About Concierge

Google Employee's Home Search

By Lore Croghan
Daily News Business Writer

Saturday, August 23rd 2008


Shana Robinson bought a one-bedroom Co-op Village apartment for $385,000 after her lawyer said her finances would benefit if she had a big tax deduction (Photo by Lombard for News)


Yahoo paid for college, Google paid for a Manhattan apartment. For a time, eBay also paid her bills.

When it comes to picking her employers, Shana Robinson has done well.

The San Francisco Bay area, where she's from, has seen the demise of countless Internet startups.

Yet Robinson, 32, has worked only at winners in her 11-year career. "It was luck," she insisted.

Robinson is now an executive assistant earning $77,000 a year. She joined Google in May 2004, three months before it sold stock to the public at $85 a share, and got cheap stock options.

Over the years, she converted the options into shares and sold them in dribs and drabs. Last year — when Google's high-flying price ranged between $439 and $742 a share — she made a $300,000 profit from the sales.

Her windfall triggered a phone call last winter from the lawyer who does her taxes.

"You need to buy a home, and you need to do it yesterday," attorney Ana Fineman told her.

Robinson, who was living in a rented studio on Prince St. in Nolita in Manhattan, got the message: "I needed a serious tax deduction."

She'd been living in the second-floor walkup since she transferred to Google's Manhattan offices in September 2006.

Before going to work at the iconic Internet firm, she put herself through Santa Clara University by working at Yahoo, where she was an assistant to one of the company's lawyers. Later, she was an international events manager at eBay.

When she started at Google, based out of the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, she traveled frequently helping to open offices in other cities. She spent a lot of time in New York during layovers — and soon realized she wanted to live here.

"I felt like I was home," she said.

She quickly landed a job as an executive assistant at Google's Manhattan office. She moved just as fast when her lawyer told her to buy a home.

She'd bought a home once before, in San Jose, Calif., during a brief marriage. When she divorced, her ex-husband bought her share of the house and she invested the $50,000 in mutual funds.

This time, she handled the homebuying process alone.

"It's kind of hard to believe I didn't need any financial help — I could do it on my own," she said. "It feels empowering."

Robinson started apartment hunting in the Village, SoHo and Nolita, and on the Lower East Side, with a price ceiling of $425,000. The studios she saw were at the top of her range.

Then she checked out Co-op Village on the far eastern edge of the Lower East Side, where a friend lives.

Initially, the 12-building mini-neighborhood, built by garment workers' unions between 1930 and 1960, wasn't on her radar screen.

Co-op Village prices are more affordable than those in most downtown and midtown neighborhoods. Until recent years, prices were incredibly cheap because owners were required to sell their apartments back to the co-op board for little or no profit when they moved, and resales were restricted to moderate-income families on a waiting list.

Her subway commute to Google's offices on Eighth Ave. in Chelsea would be longer, but she wouldn't need to drive, like in California.

Robinson looked at a 700-square-foot-plus one-bedroom in Co-op Village that had an asking price of $425,000. It needed major renovations. She made an offer of $395,000.

Broker Jacob Goldman of LoHo Realty told her he knew the sellers wouldn't accept a bid that low — but he could show her another one-bedroom that would be coming onto the market the next day.

It was on Grand St., in Co-op Village's East River Housing complex. As one-bedrooms go, it was on the small side, 550 square feet. It had a tiny kitchenette, known as a Pullman kitchen, tucked in an alcove behind the front hall closet.

But Robinson really liked the space. There were four closets — one extending the entire length of a bedroom wall. The 225-square-foot studio she was living in had just one closet the size of a phone booth.

The apartment gets lots of morning light and has views of the East River and midtown skyscrapers. It had traditional touches like old-fashioned glass knobs on all the doors.

"I definitely saw the possibilities of making it my own," she said.

She offered $20,000 below the asking price of $395,000. A deal was struck at $385,000.

Money for the 20% down payment came from Google shares she'd sold. She got a 30-year, fixed-rate loan at 6% from Citibank.

Her monthly housing expense is $2,211 — $1,846 to pay the mortgage and $365 for maintenance. She moved in last month and agreed to pay $18 to use the building's gym.

Her rent had been $2,000 a month. While her new place is a bit more, the tax deduction will more than make up the difference. Plus, she has more space.

"It feels like a mansion," she said. "I have walls now."

Shana Robinson bought a one-bedroom Co-op Village apartment for $385,000 after her lawyer said her finances would benefit if she had a big tax deduction (Photo by Lombard for News)

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