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It's been more than two decades since the "Friends" gang first convened at the Central Perk for coffee with a side of TV history.
The now-classic sitcom debuted on NBC on September 22, 1994, with 21.5 million people tuning in for the show's first episode. Millions more would watch "Friends" over the next 10 seasons, as the show stretched across 236 episodes until it went off the air in 2004.
The show averaged more than 24 million viewers per episode for a decade — and its episodes are still a big draw, which is why Netflix paid a reported $118 million for streaming rights to "Friends" re-runs in 2014. Following six friends in their 20s living in New York City, "Friends" became a cultural touchstone of the 1990s — all while leaving millions of viewers wondering how exactly the characters lucked into such an amazing Manhattan apartment.
That's right. The "Friends" characters Monica and Rachel split a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in the city's pricey West Village neighborhood. The apartment is quite spacious for a two-bedroom too, with some estimates putting the space between 1,125 and 1,500 square feet. (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.)
Of course, the show was actually filmed on a Warner Bros. studio set in Burbank, Calif., so their apartment was fictional, but the exterior shots were filmed at a real building located at 90 Bedford St. in the West Village.
What's more, the "Friends" gang held onto those sweet digs for a decade despite various bouts of unemployment and low-paying jobs (Rachel is a waitress for the first two seasons). The show explained that their good fortune came on account of an inherited, rent-controlled lease from Monica's grandmother that allowed the pair to pay just $200 per month in rent.
If you're wondering how much a similar apartment would cost to rent or buy in Manhattan's West Village today, CNBC Make It asked some experts for their best estimates. The median rental price for a two-bedroom apartment in the West Village in 2018 is $4,500 per month (up 3.75 percent from last year), according to Marcelo Vilela, a spokesman for real estate listings website Trulia.
That's considerably more than what Monica and Rachel were paying, but that's also just the neighborhood average. An apartment of the same above-average size at that same location could actually cost between $7,000 and $8,000 per month, according to Scotty Elyanow, a Corcoran Group real estate broker who lives and works in the West Village.
And, it would cost the characters even more to buy the fictional apartment, which Elyanow tells CNBC Make It would easily cost around $2 million today.
The building the "Friends" apartment is supposed to be located in is a pre-war walk-up (in other words, no elevator), but it would still fetch such a lofty price because of its above-average size. "In the [West Village] we call it 'massive,'" Elyanow says about the fictional apartment, especially if it offers up to 1,500 square feet.
The apartment could even be worth well over $2 million if it was renovated, he says, or if it is a condominium (as opposed to a co-op, where you're buying a share of the building rather than the physical unit).
"A condo would be 15-20 percent higher," he says.
Either way, it's clear that the "Friends" gang lucked into a great real estate deal.
Disclosure: NBC and CNBC are both owned by NBCUniversal.
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