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December 2008

Dec. 31, 2008 - looking for walk-aways by testing the hypothesis that buyers can't close / the lab at The Caledonia, 450 West 17 Street


yes, still beating on The Real Deal

Can you tell yet that I am still frustrated about The Real Deal article that linked two related-but-vastly-different premises? Here's (still) more....

 

Without having access to actual sales directors of actual new developments that are actually closing these days (unlike Michael Stoler in The Real Deal), I figure that one way to check to see if 10% of buyers are unable to bring enough cash or a bank with them to closing is to look at actual sales data in our listing data-base (cross-checked against StreetEasy) for actual closing and back-on-the-market activity.

 

closing at The Caledonia

I started with The Caledonia at 450 West 17 Street because I happened to note a recent Manhattan loft closing there and was curious about the building as a laboratory to check The Stoler Hypothesis about walk-away buyers. The Caledonia turns out to be a terrific Manhattan loft laboratory because there is ample rich data, though nothing is totally up-to-date without having access to those actual sales directors who can explain what is behind the numbers.


obligatory rant

No discussion of actual sales and listing data would be complete without a Manhattan Loft Guy rant about the limits of data, so here is today's edition of that rant: I looked at the information reported in our inter-firm data-base, then cross-checked that against StreetEasy. The two data sets conflict, of course. Directionally, it appears that StreetEasy has more up-to-date data, which of course irritates me, no end.

actual data

It appears that the earliest contracts were signed for this high profile High Line project, and that closings began in August. Since then, looking first at the inter-firm data-base, then at StreetEasy:

 

45 closed; the StreetEasy building page (here) says 75
10 active (some are resales); StreetEasy says 13
48 contracts have not yet closed; StreetEasy says 34 are pending

3 apparent walk-aways
#1701 contract signed October 2006, back on market June 2008 (well before Lehman bankruptcy)
#1112 contract signed July 2008, back on market December 14
#1104 contract signed March 2007, back on market (at higher price) December 21

 

big hole in the data

As far as quality information is concerned, the good stuff is in that signed-but-not-yet-closed group of 34 or 48. The Related Companies sales people know if any of them are in danger of not closing, or if closings have been adjourned to permit buyers to try to drag money together or sell / assign their obligations. StreetEasy shows 15 deeds filed in December (so far) and 22 in November, so the number of pending contracts should shrink pretty fast. By the end of January we will have a much better idea if the Caledonia sales history supports The Stoler Hypothesis about 10% or more buyers walking away from contracts. Or not.
 


© Sandy Mattingly 2008  

 

 

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Dec. 30, 2008 - Manhattan lofts for sale = 822

Number of Manhattan lofts offered for sale as of Sunday night: 

price range # of lofts
$500k to $999k 123
$1mm to $1.99mm 293
$2mm to $2.99mm 196
$3mm to $3.99mm 84
$4mm to $4.99mm 53
$5mm to $10mm 73
TOTAL 822

 

This is down 18 in a week, while up (only) 130 since my recorded low in mid-August.

 

See my May 19 post for what I am counting, and why it is difficult.




© Sandy Mattingly 2008

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Dec. 30, 2008 - quick work at 139 Reade Street / 11 weeks from list to artistic close

 

taking advantage of the Fall market

How's this for a quick sale? The Manhattan loft #3B at 139 Reade Street came to market on September 28 at $2.875mm and found a contract within six weeks, then closed in another 4 weeks. In any market it could be considered quick work to bank your cash 11 weeks after coming to market. In the brave new world of The (current) Market, that is awfully good.

 

2 very different buildings, one condo

This building is the 5-story component of an unusual 2007 Manhattan loft condo conversion, Artisan Lofts, along with the neighboring 17-story 143 Reade Street. The shorter building shares the amenities next door, but appears form the title histories to have been a separate condo formed in 1994. In 2007, it looks like it became a legal part of the new condo including 143 Reade Street (looks as though 143 Reade had an old address and entrance on Chambers Street; did they incorporate the lobby of 139 Reade as the lobby of the new condo??). The result would be 5-stories of 'classic' Tribeca lofts (with all thevariety of finishes and layouts in such a building) attached to 17 stories of brand new "loft" spaces.

 

Unit 3B is "2,175 sq ft" set up as 3 bedrooms plus media room in a relatively stumpy Long-and-Narrow footprint (roughly 35 x 70, so not so long or so narrow), but with the classic windows at either end and all plumbing in the middle (on both sides), including the proverbial gourmet kitchen. As part of a new development, amenities include concierge, gym, roof deck and "Children's Imagination Center" (which undoubtedly includes more than a box with old clothes in it). These sellers had been here at least 14 years, but I can't tell when they renovated.

 

no premium here; curious...

The deed was dated December 12 for $2.5mm so the seller quickly took a 13% discount to get the price available in The Market ($1,149/ft, in this case). Props to them for getting out quickly (11 weeks!) and for being nimble enough to drop 13% to make a deal.

 

You'd think the values in this 5-story building would reflect access to the amenities in the 17-story uber loft next door at 143 Reade Street, wouldn't you? Looks as though you'd be wrong. The last sale I see at 139 Reade was #4A, which is said to be "1,900 sq ft" but I don't have any information about its condition, or the marketing that resulted in its sale in June 2006 (7 months before the deal with the Artisan Lofts developers and the amenities upgrade) at $2.2mm -- $1,157/ft. Or, if there is a premium for having access to The Amenities (as you'd expect), you can't see it anymore because of shifts in The Market from June 2006 to December 2008.

 

 

 

© Sandy Mattingly 2008

 

 

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Dec. 29, 2008 - facts v. hype / testing the thesis of "little or no sales activity"


still beating on The Real Deal

I unloaded a bit recently on The Real Deal article that linked two related-but-vastly-different premises. Here's more....

 

The teaser early line from that Michael Stoler piece was:

While many brokers and developers are hyping to the public that there are sales taking place, the truth, according to industry leaders, is that little or no sales activity has taken place since the fall of Lehman Brothers in September.

So ... it is hype to say that

sales

are taking place because the truth is that there's been little or no

sales activity

. Let me offer some more hype, then.



actual data: sales are taking place

Looking only at sales of Manhattan lofts (as in transactions reported as Sold & Closed), on average since mid-October 2007 (when I started counting this stuff) 18.93 Manhattan lofts have closed each week. Here are the weekly average closing, reported by month since June:



June 21.5
July 32
August 26.4
September 23
October 17.67
November 14.6
December 8

I don't have long enough data (yet!) to know what the seasonal trends are, but October 2007 through January 2008 were hardly barn-burner months for closed Manhattan loft sales (I have only data from the last two weeks in October 2007):



January 2008 14
December 2007 15.8
November 16.25
October 12

quibbling

Again, I am

not

arguing that market activity continues at the same pace as Before Lehman (which filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday, September 14), just that it is not "hype" to say that "sales are taking place", at least in the Manhattan loft market (and probably in the overall Manhattan coop and condo market). Looking back to that article in The Real Deal, it may well be true that fewer

contracts

are being signed recently in new developments, just that smart people like Michale

Stoler

and industry rags like The Real Deal should be able to provide data to support claims about trends -- and should know enough to keep as

separate

the

separate

things of contract signings and closings.


 


© Sandy Mattingly 2008  

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Dec. 28, 2008 - new Manhattan loft listings + closed sales in last 7 days

 
This is my sixty-first report on the number, price distribution and neighborhood distribution for Manhattan lofts reported as new to the market or as closed sales in the last 7 days
.

The stats as of Sunday night:


  • there were only 8 Manhattan lofts reported as new to the market in the last 7 days and only 9 as sold, in (perhaps ... probably) the biggest turkey of a week all year
  • 6 of the 8 new ones are offered between $1mm and $3mm, while 8 of the 9 closed sales were between $1mm and $2mm
  • NONE of the 8 new loft listings are in new development, while 4 of the 8 closed sales are in new development

    By price
    New = 8
    Sold = 9
    $500k to $999k
       
    $1mm to $1.99mm
    3 8
    $2mm to $2.99mm
    3 1
    $3mm to $3.99mm
    1  
    $4mm to $4.99mm
       
    $5mm+
    1  

    By neighborhood
    New = 8
    Sold = 9
    Battery Park City
       
    Chelsea
      1
    Clinton
       
    East Village
       
    Financial District
    2 1
    Flatiron
       
    Gramercy
      1
    Greenwich Village
    1  
    Kips Bay
       
    Little Italy
       
    Lower East Side
       
    Morningside Heights    
    Murray Hill
       
    Midtown East
       
    Midtown West    
    SoHo
    1  
    Sutton Place    
    Tribeca
    2 1
    Turtle Bay
      1
    Upper East Side
       
    Upper West Side
    1 3
    West Village
    1 1

  •  
  • New loft listings in new developments
  • none  
     

  •  
  • Sold lofts in new developments 

    420 West 25 Street (Loft 25) 1
    243 West 60 Street (Adagio 60) 3

    For information about how I get this stuff and why I slice it as I do, see methodology for New + Sold in The Last Seven Days. For my rant about how soft this data may be, see
    loft or not? caution: active ranting ahead.





© Sandy Mattingly 2008

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Dec. 27, 2008 - disconnect: dumbest article ever? (not saying market is not tough, but ...)


not THE dumbest EVER, but ...
Curbed linked this week to a Real Deal article by a smart Manhattan real estate guy (really) that does not make much sense. I am thinking it has got to be the editing, rather than the writing. (Before posting this I came to my senses: there are so many truly stupid articles that would qualify as The Dumbest long before this one, this one won't make even a Top Hundred list.) But I still think they dropped a paragraph or two; they certainly left out a thought or two.

The thrust of the article is that few actual closings are actually taking place these days, because buyers are walking away or delaying the close to get their mortgage money together (or not). It's not that I don't believe this thesis; it is that they don't deliver news (facts). Here's a teaser early line:

While many brokers and developers are hyping to the public that there are sales taking place, the truth, according to industry leaders, is that little or no sales activity has taken place since the fall of Lehman Brothers in September.

But the first hint that there's an ... intellectual ... problem comes in the next line, and the one following (

bold

is mine):



And units that are closing, some experts say, are generally those in buildings that have made some headway in terms of construction.
 
"Sales of condominiums in buildings which are not in final stages of completion of units are far and few," said a managing director at one of New York's leading residential brokerage firms, who asked for anonymity.

Uhhh

... there are

no

"

closed

sales" in buildings that are not complete (or

very, very nearly

complete, and have a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy). It has nothing to do with making "

some

headway". (New developments tend to close floor-by-floor, as

TCOs

are issued serially.) The anonymous MD of a leading firm was probably not talking about "closed sales" but about "contracts", of which there

may

be few and far between.



the nugget (small)

The next line in the article

is

a real nugget, and I would love to hear more details about this -- this is (would be) really informative:



Trade sources say that at least 10 percent of scheduled closings are not taking place due to purchasers' inability to secure mortgage financing. In the rare case where closings are taking place, developers are "overjoyed that closings have finally occurred," the managing director said.

Sorry ... but saying (1) that closings are few and far between, and then saying that 10% of closings don't take place is a little ... jarring, without a bridge. (

90%

of deals closing is not consistent with

few and far between

.) Sorry (again), maybe i just expect too much (especially from [actual] experts such as Michael

Stoler

).

Stoler

probably does talk to enough people on the front lines -- lawyers, title companies, lenders -- to have interesting and fact-based things to say on this topic. I just wish he had.



stumbling along, from one anecdote to another (for now)

I would love to hear real data about the number of people who can't drag enough cash to a closing to take title, but in the meantime I will just stumble along with my Manhattan loft anecdotal stuff (about developments such as 15 East 26 Street as an exception, for example; December 26:

bringing (a lot) of cash to closing / news from the top of the market at "Madison Square North"

). But the Real Deal article is talking about two related but very different things: (1) how many buyers who are contractually obligated to close on X date walk away (or postpone), versus (2) how many buyers are signing contracts now to close at some future date when (if?) the developer finishes the darn building. The General Terrible Local Economy might impact both of these things, but they are at very different stages in the marketing of new development.



Michael

Stoler

knows that. The Real Deal knows that. (Curbed probably knows that; some of its readers ...

not so much

.) It does not read well, as written. Bah, humbug.



I know a guy involved in lending to A Brand Name New Development, whom I ask (every time I see him) about People Walking Away. There's never enough data in his responses to present in an interesting (informative) way, so you have never heard about it. Usually (most often he says something like, "most closings are happening"  but I have never pushed for data (let alone quotable data) about how many are delayed or canceled. So I was really disappointed by this garbled thing from Michael Stoler printed in The Real Deal.



© Sandy Mattingly 2008 

 

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Dec. 26, 2008 - bringing (a lot of) cash to closing / news from the top of the market at "Madison Square North"


waiting to close, not for contract
I realized when I did my post of 30 days of actual loft sales on December 18 that 15 East 26 Street (15 Madison Square North) was a very successful new Manhattan loft development, with many contracts signed quickly in 2006, some of which are just closing now. Last week PH-B was reported as closed there off the $9.6mm asking price (dded was filed dated December 9 for the full asking price, typical of this building's sales). While the contract was signed on November 21, 2006 (after 4 months on the market), it is now somewhat newsworthy when a big one like this actually closes.

In fact, when I confirmed some details about PH-B in our listings data-base I noticed that PH-D also closed recently (with a December 9 deed, for $5.8mm). That listing history is a little weird: offered at $5.5mm on February 14, 2007, we show an accepted offer off an asking price of $5.8mm on April 7 but no contract signed until November 21, 2007 (just a delay in reporting, most likely). Again, they got the full ask (apparently enhanced) here, as is true of all the 15 Madison Square North sales that i have noticed. This unit is "3,402 sq ft" plus a terrace, with only north views (from the 20th floor); #PH-B is "4,766 sq ft" with north, south and east views but no terrace (alas).
 

 

© Sandy Mattingly 2008  

 

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Dec. 24, 2008 - NY Times highlight 142 Duane St sale, mis-counts weeks, omits land lease info

 

garbage in, garbage out?

The problem with relying on the NY Times sometimes for accurate information about Manhattan loft sales is that the Times has to rely on (shudder) real estate agents to supply "facts". That can lead to errors and omissions, as they say. Take the sale of #3B at 142 Duane Street reported in this past Sunday's Residential Sales Around The Region. For one thing, it was on the market longer than the 20 weeks reported, whatever theory of counting you use; plus (if our listing data base is correct) you'd never know from the Times (or from the listing agent descriptions, for that matter) that this coop does not own the land the building sits on.

 

Here's my quick-and-dirty on this loft, from an open house review I did on January 11 when it was a brand new listing:

 

$1.95mm and $2,290/mo for “1,650 sq ft” with 14 foot (tin) ceilings; nearly square with only one wall of windows, so flexibility is limited; set up as a 2 bath 1 Bed Wonder, with fireplace and balcony


With a  deed dated October 3 (for $1.75mm, as the Times correctly reports), a listing history showing a contract as of July 30 off a (reduced) asking price of $1.895mm (as the Times correctly reports), and an original listing date of January 9 (then asking $1.95mm), I don't see how you get "20 weeks" on the market, as the Times reports (incorrectly, no doubt based on information supplied by one of the agents involved in the sale). From January 9 to July 30 is more like 29 weeks (total time to contract); from the May 27 price drop to July 30 is only 9 weeks (using the Miller Samuel way to count 'days on market').

 

so what?

A small point, perhaps, this discrepancy about the Times reporting 20 weeks on the market, but it is an example of the risks of relying on agents to provide accurate information (even in the inter-firm data-base). Feh...

 

not buying an interest in land
It is probably unfair to criticize the Times -- or even the agents -- for not reporting that this coop does not own the land underneath the building. (Assuming that our data-base is correct; see below.) That is typically revealed (to those to whom it would be a surprise) at the offer stage or in negotiations. It would be bad form, as well as counter-productive to a negotiation, to leave this important datum to be discovered only in due diligence.


a nasty rash you've got there

There are not many land lease buildings out there (outside of the unique situation of Battery Park City, nearly all are coops rather than condos) and some lawyers I know will counsel a client to never buy in a land lease building. Here's a colorful attorney quote from a NY Times article from 1998 (the article has an excellent overview of the issues with land leases):

 

''Owning a co-op with a ground lease is like having a chronic rash,'' .... ''It's not going to kill you, but it's always there and it sure can be irritating.''

 

A 1987 NY Times article talks about a land lease having more (negative) impact on value in a tough market than in a strong sellers market. (That article estimates that in 1987 there were about 50 coops that did not own the ground, with another 1 or 2 such coops "created each year"; undoubtedly that 'trend' slowed or stopped as fewer coops of nay kind were created in more recent years.)

 

looks like a land lease

If I am reading the city property records correctly, this document from 1999 (when the coop was created) is a sponsor-entity assignment of its interest in a lease including the land under 142 Duane Street to the new coop corporation. I may have missed it, but I don't see any records indicating that that lease has been sold to the coop or otherwise abrogated.

 

another sorta recent sale in the building

#4A closed in this coop about 2 weeks before this one. That one was on a faster track than #3B: it came to market May 21 at $2.35mm and found a contract just before #3B did (July 19). Interesting that the clearing price for #4A of $2.15mm was nearly exactly the mid-point between the asking price and the sale price in August 2005 ($1.955mm; a slight premium over the then-asking price). That one was said to be "2,000 sq ft" of "Old World detail [that] meets seamless Modern Luxury". (THX StreetEasy; here.)

 

one happier neighbor?

Both sellers should be happy they sailed through the sales process, of course. But with #3B getting $1,060/ft at pretty much exactly the same time that #4A got $1,175/ft, OOPS one Manhattan loft seller is just a little bit happier than the other.

 

[update 1.6.09, after noting my simple + obvious math error above:

2 happy neighbors, 1 efficient market

Both sellers should be happy they sailed through the sales process, of course. And with #3B getting $1,060/ft at pretty much exactly the same time that #4A got $1,075/ft, these two Manhattan loft sellers should be just about as happy as each other. With a spread of only $15/ft between the two clearing prices, these near-contemporaneous transactions imply a remarkably efficient market.
 
(what a difference correct math makes)]

 

 


© Sandy Mattingly 2008  

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Dec. 23, 2008 - Manhattan loft inventory as of December 21 = 840

Number of Manhattan lofts offered for sale as of Sunday night: 

price range # of lofts
$500k to $999k 126
$1mm to $1.99mm 301
$2mm to $2.99mm 198
$3mm to $3.99mm 85
$4mm to $4.99mm 53
$5mm to $10mm 77
TOTAL 840

 

This is down 15 in a week, while up 148 since my recorded low in mid-August.

 

See my May 19 post for what I am counting, and why it is difficult.




© Sandy Mattingly 2008

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Dec. 22, 2008 - new Manhattan loft listings + closed sales in last 7 days

 
This is my sixtieth report on the number, price distribution and neighborhood distribution for Manhattan lofts reported as new to the market or as closed sales in the last 7 days
.

The stats as of Sunday night:


  • there were 17 Manhattan lofts reported as new to the market in the last 7 days and only 8 as sold, in yet another (very big) turkey of a week
  • 9 of the 17 new ones are offered between $1mm and $2mm, while 4 of the 8 closed sales were between $1mm and $3mm
  • all 6 of the 17 new loft listings that are in new development are in the same new buidling (love the name, The Deuce), while 3 of the 8 closed sales are in new development

    By price
    New = 17
    Sold = 8
    $500k to $999k
    2  
    $1mm to $1.99mm
    9 3
    $2mm to $2.99mm
    1 1
    $3mm to $3.99mm
    2  
    $4mm to $4.99mm
    2 3
    $5mm+
    1 1

    By neighborhood
    New = 17
    Sold = 8
    Battery Park City
       
    Chelsea
    1  
    Clinton
    6  
    East Village
    1  
    Financial District
       
    Flatiron
      1
    Gramercy
       
    Greenwich Village
    2  
    Kips Bay
      3
    Little Italy
       
    Lower East Side
    1  
    Morningside Heights    
    Murray Hill
    1  
    Midtown East
       
    Midtown West    
    SoHo
    1  
    Sutton Place    
    Tribeca
    2 3
    Turtle Bay
    1  
    Upper East Side
       
    Upper West Side
      1
    West Village
    1  

  •  
  • New loft listings in new developments
  • 543 West 42 Street (The Deuce) 6
     

  •  
  • Sold lofts in new developments 

    15 East 26 Street (15 Madison Square North) 2
    243 West 60 Street (Adagio 60) 1

    For information about how I get this stuff and why I slice it as I do, see methodology for New + Sold in The Last Seven Days. For my rant about how soft this data may be, see
    loft or not? caution: active ranting ahead.





© Sandy Mattingly 2008

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Dec. 21, 2008 - FSBO loft in unusual location offers artist provenance + park views


a possible jewel, squeaking through the Junk folder
On a typical day, i get anywhere from 100 to 250 e-flyers from real estate firms touting a new listing, a price reduction, an open house, "spectacular views", or simply an AMAZING deal (sometimes "priced below market" ;-) -- a ridiculous barrage that undercuts the utility of any of these individual messages. In order to keep my email handling at all functional, I filter nearly all of these things by 'offending' senders so that they never get to my In-Box, but collect in a Junk folder, which I scan quickly every so often to see if there is anything I really should look at. (Hint: that would be rare.)

Unique or first time 'junk' mailers get through, until I identify them as Junk for my filters. Hence, the email that came in Friday afternoon from a for-sale-by-owner went into my In-Box, with a subject line that caught my eye: "FIFTH Avenue TROPHY LOFT ** PARK VIEWS ** 4BR ** UNDER $1,000 PSF ** Open House SUN 1-3" (abbreviated as a subject line on first view as "FIFTH Avenue TROPHY LOFT ** P", still enough to be catchable).

Yes, I am a sucker for trophy lofts, and how many lofts of any kind (in Manhattan, at least) have park views? "Under $1,000 psf" is not so catchable these days, of course, but there was enough for me to click through.

major park to view
I found a fascinating loft with all the elements as advertised, offered by an owner willing to pay 4% to an agent who brought him a buyer. The pix show the green trees of "park" and the address tells you that is no ordinary park, but Central Park. How many "lofts" have Central park views? Precious few, making this a "loft in 'other' neighborhoods" entry.

Just as there are not many "loft" buyers who want to live on East End Avenue (though there are a few real lofts there), there are relatively few "loft" buyers who will prefer living on Fifth Avenue at 107 Street unless something really makes it worth their while to do so.

This loft is a combo unit of "3,042 sq ft", 1255 Fifth Avenue #3CDE (the link may expire, but will be updated if the owner replaces it), and the principal candidates for that something to lure buyers to this area are those Central Park views (including the Harlem Meer) and the fact that it had been owned by Annie Liebovitz. The other lures are more typical of trophy lofts, generally: 15 foot ceilings, high end finishes (granite kitchen counters, Venetian plastered walls), that general feeling of 'space' and 'volume' from a loft with these dimensions, all in a condominium building with amenities to shock the downtown snobs (doorman + concierge, health club, roof deck and live-in super).

Whether pricing below $1,000/ft is enough of a something to lure buyers here depends on whether the whole value package works for a particular buyer (after all, it only takes one buyer).

they say that comping up is hard to do
(And they are right.) Pity the buyer, agent, lender or appraiser who has to consider a (truly) "unique" property (or seller, for that matter). The multi-variant calculus of adjustments to finding any useful comp to this property will make most heads split.

Because this is a 3-unit combo, there is no similarly sized building past sales data. Because there are so few lofts anywhere near here, general loft pricing does not easily apply. Because this is above 96 Street, it is within the borders of East Harlem, according to StreetEasy (their building page is here). (Actually, I am pretty sure that some of those new condos east of Second Avenue in the 100s and 110s are probably at least 'loft-like', but 107 Street and First Avenue is in no ways comparable to Fifth Avenue and 107 Street.) How many apartments of any kind above East 96 Street have Venetian plastered walls? (I know what it cost for the 7 coats of Venetian plaster applied to a townhouse apartment I marketed last year, which involved an artist living in the space for a week, and working at night.)

The single best comp that I can find for this space is a year old, lacks the high end finishes promised in #3CDE, and requires adjustment for having a (250 sq ft?) terrace. It happens to be next door to #3CDE, and is the combination #3AB, with those same 15 foot ceilings, which sold in December 2007 for $1.897mm; said to be "1,720 sq ft", that is just over $1,100/ft before adjusting for the terrace. On the one hand, that $1,100/ft was at a lower level of finishes (it appears to me; the Corcoran listing did not do any bragging about that), would require renovation to be more than the 1-bedroom it sold as, yet it found a buyer within 3 months (within 4 weeks of a price drop from $2.25mm to $1.995mm).

On the other hand (there's always another hand, isn't there?), that was December 2007, and #3CDE -- even under $1,000/ft -- is asking another million bucks above what the neighbors got. Staying on that hand, this unit was offered together with the neighboring #3AB (by Corcoran, for $5.29mm) before #3AB found its buyer, and alone by different PruDE teams for $3mm as #3CDE and for $2.55mm for the "1,866 sq ft" of just the #3CD portion -- without selling. (The complicated listing history is available on that StreetEasy building page, above.) So it has already been professionally exposed to The Market.

the power of one comp
The December 2007 sale of #3AB at $1,100/ft provides some hope to this seller of #3CDE, trying to sell a (nearly) "unique" Manhattan loft in a non-loft neighborhood. Any buyer will want to beat him up about the difference in The Market from one December to another, to which the seller will respond by beating the drum of his finishes, his space, his views, his provenance.

One one year-old comp is an awfully thin reed on which to set a price, but in the absence of more useful (or current) data there's a justifiable (if arguable) logic to it. Whether it works is up to The Market, in combination with the motivation of the seller (about which I know nothing).

props to the seller
Since this is not a current listing by a REBNY firm, I would not have my April 9 problem in commenting on it, but I emailed the seller after getting his flyer to ask if he would mind if I blogged about his listing. I referred him to this blog to see my MO and we spoke yesterday. I gave him no editorial control other than the courtesy of saying whether he wanted the exposure at all. He agreed, for which I give him props. And props, too, for his beautiful pix on the e-flyer.

I don't know if there are enough unique buyers for unique lofts in unusual neighborhoods who have the $$$$ needed for this loft. No doubt, it is a very cool loft with many attributes. No doubt, The Market will determine if he can sell off this price. Let's wish him luck....
 

© Sandy Mattingly 2008  


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Dec. 19, 2008 - pushing on in Flatiron, but not as hard


a reader writes
In this continuing series asking the (musical?) question is that Manhattan loft too pushy on price, or not pushy enough?, I hit a candidate a while back that one MLG reader identified easily (my efforts to assure listing anonymity notwithstanding). That perceptive reader suggested keeping an eye on a neighboring (anonymous) loft, which I believe I have identified. Indeed, I believe that that Flatiron loft is a candidate on the too pushy ... side of the contest.

This reader-generated candidate came to market within a couple of weeks of its MLG partner at a bit less. While that reader suggested only that I keep an eye on it, the seller has already identified it as too pushy, by dropping the price $100k.

how much for the renovation?

This loft sold 2 years ago for $860/ft, bragging then only about a new kitchen. The new listing is all about being newly renovated. I suspect that they did not spend $300/ft on a renovation, but never mind ... it has not sold yet as the sum of (1) the 2006 purchase price and (2) $270/ft for renovation. It will be interesting -- in a vulture kind of way -- to see where this one ends up. As that reader suggests, I will keep an eye on it.

 

© Sandy Mattingly 2008  


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Dec. 19, 2008 - VERY pushy way to (try to) flip a big loft


must be some renovation
There's a small Manhattan loft condo conversion from last year in which the large full-floor lofts went for about $750/ft (it is not in a traditional loft [fashionable] neighborhood). They had classic loft features and finishes that were more high-end than over-the-top. One of the new owners must have spent much of the past 18 months on a total gut renovation, putting in new floors, cabinets, closets, marble, granite, etc, etc, etc. Apparently not content with the results -- or as one of the eight million stories (who guts a flip?) -- they put the magnificent even brand-newer-than-last-year's-brand-new loft back on the market for ....

(forgive me; I need to string this out)

... Let's start with the premise that they are pushing it here. They think they have created one of the most special lofts around; if so, there are few useful comps so I cannot say it is impossible they will sell in their asking neighborhood (unlike the impossible flip I hit [hard] in my No Magic Tricks post on December 15). But they are looking for the one buyer who loves the funk of the neighborhood and who falls hard for their gut renovation. Very hard.

... They are asking roughly $1,500/ft -- double their 2007 purchase price (before renovation). They could have spent $500/ft on the renovation alone and still be facing an uphill market if they sought merely to recoup their 2007 purchase price and the cost of renovation. But they have gone far beyond that pricing analysis. If they succeeded in creating a unique loft, maybe they have a shot. I can't tell from here.

This loft is an outstanding candidate for the too pushy thread. Stay tuned....

 

© Sandy Mattingly 2008  


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Dec. 18, 2008 - hard data are hard to find ... here's some on 30 days of actual loft sales


first of a series? maybe
A week ago I set up a spreadsheet on Google Docs as a way to retain and order data that I look at periodically -- namely, recent actual sales of Manhattan lofts. Since then I have been toying with how to share it with MLG readers in a way that will be both timely and useful. Problem is, every time I have an idea about making it more useful, it threatens to get more complicated and less timely. And I have stopped waiting for some closed-without-a-public-price sales to flower into a clearing price. So I will just present some data here, with some nasty limitations highlighted, and save extended commentary for the kinds of tomorrow that never seems to come for some very good-but-executed MLG ideas....

I am also not sure how the Google Docs links will work, so that may require updating and tweaking. It should be obvious that I have always chosen to send my MLG time on content rather than graphics, formatting or any (not even very) fancy stuff. Indeed, it is almost a point of perverse pride that MLG is a more primitive site than anything I look at regularly on the web. Until I get to a point of being able to learn something easily that will make MLG look better, I will putter along in this old jalopy.

top line numbers
For the 30 days prior to December 11, 2008 our inter-firm data base reported as Sold and Closed "lofts" 24 resales and 19 developer/sponsor sales in new developments. I am reluctant to do too much parsing of such limited data, but the median price-per-foot for the 16 resales I have enough data to compute was either $935/ft, $1,045/ft or mid-way between them ($990/ft), depending on whether the "median" of 16 points is point #8, #9 or the average of points #8 and #9. On the other hand the average was $1,170/ft for the 16 resales. For new developments, I can compute median and average per-foot numbers (for 17 sales) as $1,272/ft and $1,269/ft, respectively.

I think the most interesting current "days on market" number is the spread between when an apartment came to market and when it got into a contract that (later) actually transferred title. I can understand why Miller Samuel uses days between the contract and the last price change, but I am more interested in total time on market in our current market conditions. I get a median Days Until Contract for resales of 100 days or 121 days (or their average, darn those even numbers of data points) with a range of 15 days to 756 days, and an average for resales of 179. For new developments, the spread is from the ridiculous (655 days to contract) to the sublime (zero days; must be signed contracts on lofts released just for that buyer), with an average of 147 days.

Full data will be on Google Docs: address, "sq ft" (quoted by agents), date deed was filed or dated, clearing (closing) price, price-per-foot, date it came to market, last asking price, date reported as in contract, number of days between original listing and contract, and original asking price. I am sure there are other interesting facts to compute (like listing discount), but the more I play the longer it takes to publish (the data get more stale).

major limitations on data
The universe of data is limited by whether a given apartment is labeled a "loft" by the listing firm when they enter the listing data. This results in some over-counting of "apartments" that are not really lofts being marketed as "lofts", but the worse problem is under-counting when lofts are described as (e.g.,) "3-bedrooms" rather than as "lofts". I know it is a problem, but I cannot easily control for it. So be it.

I can count only sales that are updated as Sold & Closed in our system, at which point I can see when they really sold. The listings that sell through agents who take days, weeks, or months to update the system get lost, as happened to 2 or 3 "30 day sales" that had deeds recorded before November 11. I figure that the utility of this information is heavily dependent on it being timely, so sales outside the 30 day period will not be included. (Since I don't cross-check my weekly sales-in-last-7-days data, that data will be different from this 30 day data.)

Anything dependent on agents' measuring tapes is ... well ... dependent on agents' measuring tapes: most critically, the reported size of the unit and its obvious impact on price-per-foot calculations.

I suspect that more limitations will occur to me, but let's not further delay the data.

the goods, on line
If those Google Guys are as smart as they say they are, my spreadsheet is available on-line here, for all the world to see. (Crossing fingers and toes.) Would one person please confirm for me that it is there?

I will have some other things to say about this information in the days ahead. I really hope this is useful. If it is useful to you and not unduly painful to me, we will do it again in January, as the more there is, the more useful it will be.


 

© Sandy Mattingly 2008  

 

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Dec. 18, 2008 - quote of the day / avoid PR war with a PO'd writer


is this a fair fight?
Today's NY Post provides a quote that almost put coffee on my screen. Nothing to do with real estate (that would be Glengarry Glen Ross), but the story about Jeremy Piven's 'health' issues keeping him off the Broadway stage in Speed The Plow has this nugget:

Daily Variety reported that Piven said he was suffering from a "high level of mercury," leading Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet, who wrote the showbiz satire, to remark tartly, "My understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer."

 

Ouch. To be terribly crude for a moment, that works on so many levels. (what, you thought I only read the NY Post for the real estate news??)

 

© Sandy Mattingly 2008  

 

 

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Dec. 17, 2008 - was the 708 Greenwich seller a yogi? the buyer was inflexible


2004 + 17% = 2008, with an asterisk, not a bullet

When I first looked at the listing history for the Manhattan loft #4F at 708 Greenwich Street (a rare West Village loft), I wondered if they had picked the right year in which to offer it for sale at $2.35mm, with it last changing hands in 2004 off an ask of $1.95mm. I noted the update to Sold & Closed on December 5 and drafted a blog post, then checked periodically to see when the clearing price hit the public record. 

 

a bit drafty

That original draft started with the first sentence, above (it still works), then continued:

Seems they were quite right in pricing this as they did, as it fairly flew off the shelf: it came to market on October 7 and was in contract by October 22 -- pretty good velocity in any market conditions. Props to the seller and to Halstead's Judith Kleinman. The deed was filed December 5 at ____. The old listing is preserved, in part, on StreetEasy, here.

 

that's a big but you have

It finally showed up today with a closed price on StreetEasy, with a price that set me off in another direction: $1,999,999 -- not so very different from the 2004 asking price from which it last traded, but (BUT!) rather different from the asking price. Forgive me StreetEasy, but I doubted the data -- doubted that someone who wanted $2.35mm on October 7 would have folded by 15% so quickly.

 

Of course StreetEasy was right, as confirmed on the city's Department of Finance ACRIS on-line data, here. The Real Property Transfer tax documents were dated December 4 (nice to see that the inter-firm data-base was updated promptly on December 5) and filed on December 15. So my first sub-heading should have been "2004 + 17% - 15% = 2008, with a bullet", but I did not want to give the ending away so soon.

 

Perhaps as interesting as the ... err ... flexibility of the seller is that the buyer immediately went at the asking price with a meat axe. I'd love to know how those negotiations started, and proceeded, to contract in 15 days that far from the asking price. It is so dramatic (to me) that I wonder if something happened to the seller's World (or world view) in the middle of October. While it is possible that the seller went into that negotiation intending to be rather flexible rather early, the fact that I started the draft of this post as I did (in blue, above) reveals how surprised I am by such a parley.

 

Indeed, I think it almost probable that -- at some point when the seller and agent saw how firm the buyer was about chopping the heck off the asking price -- the seller said something like: the first number HAS to be a two. Weird that they ended up one lousy dollar under $2mm. How hard was that last dollar??

 

Enough about me ... what about the loft?

 

combo?

Can't be sure, but the duplex layout looks to me like a combination, with the downstairs (former) full bath having been converted into a half-bath plus laundry closet and the upstairs bath having been expanded (into old kitchen space?), with a right angle staircase cut through and separating the two rather extravagantly sized bedrooms in the upper level (22 and 29 feet long). Doesn't that run of closets in the upper floor look like an old entry?


All the bragging about woodwork, built-ins, chef's kitchen and fireplace aside, you'd think the piece-de-resistance would be the large terrace that stretches across both bedrooms, as this would be a huge differentiator in the West Village market.

 

loft or apartment?

I don't know the history of this building, apart from the report in our database that it was built in 1920 and converted to a coop in 1981. I wonder about it's usage prior to being residential. On the one hand, our database calls it a loft building, and four units sold there in the last four years were marketed as lofts. Plus, the ceilings are high (11 feet), throughout (except perhaps the top floor) and the floor plan for #4F shows no interior load-bearing elements, though there may be some in that stairway structure.

 

On the other hand, my sole niggling doubt is that the building just does not look like a loft (former industrial or commercial) building. The front windows look very much like "apartment" windows. Perhaps back in the day, this far west, this was a warehouse of some sort, with the front windows added later.


Indulge me a bit .... I got to this point in drafting, but was curious.... So I googled. (In doing this update with the actual sales price, I had forgotten that I already had a while-I-was-drafting segue in this post ... weird; "indulge me", indeed!)

 

loft! (Google is my friend)

It took a few clicks, but I found the page for this block on The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which has some spare but very informative history. This residential coop is made up of two buildings that were combined into a multiple dwelling unit in 1978 (rental, presumably, since our database says it went coop in 1981; but our database was wrong about the date it was built, so maybe it converted as a coop). The southernmost building (formerly 704-706 Greenwich Street) was a 4-story stable built in 1893 that had a brief life as a disco (!) back in the day (1975-1978). The main building (formerly 708 - 712 Greenwich) was built in 1909 as a 4-story warehouse that was soon expanded north and up, extending it 25 feet along Greenwich Street and adding two floors in 1912 (must have been an immediate success as a warehouse).

 

full circle

On reflection, I was not wrong in my original draft about "pretty good velocity in any market conditions [and] Props to the seller and to Halstead's Judith Kleinman". But now it is props to the seller and to Ms. Kleinman for getting the deal done (by definition, at a level the seller wanted) and I must add props to the buyer (and agent) for seizing an opportunity I am not sure I would have guessed was there. (A learning experience for me, that.)

 

 

© Sandy Mattingly 2008  

 


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Dec. 15, 2008 - Manhattan loft inventory as of December 14 = 855

Number of Manhattan lofts offered for sale as of Sunday night: 

price range # of lofts
$500k to $999k 128
$1mm to $1.99mm 305
$2mm to $2.99mm 206
$3mm to $3.99mm 85
$4mm to $4.99mm 50
$5mm to $10mm 81
TOTAL 855

 

This is up 10 in a week, while up 163 since my recorded low in mid-August.

 

See my May 19 post for what I am counting, and why it is difficult.




© Sandy Mattingly 2008

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Dec. 15, 2008 - my job does not include magic tricks / pondering pricing puzzles

 

sometimes "impossible" means just that

I stumbled across a NY Magazine piece today that compared Manhattan coop listing prices in 2007 to Manhattan coop listing prices in 2008 to assess how optimistic sellers are now. There's a table, but here's the overview (with a comparison to a similar condo seller asking price analysis two weeks ago, which I missed, and have not located):

 

Co-ops’ asking prices are down slightly, too, but the drops are generally a little smaller than among condos. The only marked decrease is in Upper Manhattan, where asking prices fell 6.31 percent. ... In traditionally high-demand downtown areas, the prices are even up a bit, by 1.36 percent [my bold].

 

Yes, using average listing prices is a gross measurement, but the implication of this gross comparison is that sellers and agents have not adjusted their approach to the single most important factor in marketing a Manhattan apartment -- the asking price. That's a real head-scratcher for me, unless I am the only one who has noticed a drumbeat of news (not just articles, but some actual facts) indicating that the Manhattan real estate sales market has ... how to put this delicately?? -- changed since 2007 ....

 

The head-scratching caused me to ponder what sellers think the job of their agent is. Do they think we can do magic tricks? Do they think we can cause an apartment to be sold above its fair market value? Yes, when we do well we help a seller get the best price available in The Market. But more than that is (almost always) impossible.

 

One more question along these lines that is painfully relevant to the sale of Manhattan lofts and other apartments: If a seller really really really wants a price that is impossible to get in The Market, does that seller think the agent's job is to tell the seller that the price is unachievable?? (I have no doubt that the seller expects the agent to know whether a price is possible, or not.)

 

does this look impossible to you?

Having begun to ponder, I was truly puzzled about pricing when I saw a new re-sale listing in an all-but-brand-new Manhattan loft condo conversion. I don't want to get too specific about which building, and I will use round numbers in discussing that new listing and other units in that building, but The One I am talking about is a 1-bedroom unit asking roughly a million bucks (roughly $1,200/ft).

 

People who really like the view, the amenities, the finishes and the layout might also consider buying the unit immediately below this one, or the same unit a few floors higher up, each of which has been available for sale for some weeks for $50k less than The One. The only difference among these three units (apart from how high in the building they are) is that The One has higher ceilings than the other two, but that difference did not persuade the developer to sell The One originally for more than the higher floor unit also now available as a re-sale.

 

(some [numbing?] detail)

People who like the amenities and the finishes might also consider other 1-bedroom layouts in the building. There are five different 1-bedroom layouts available in this building for less than The One, all of which are on higher floors, all of which are larger than The One. These obvious competitors range in size advantage over The One from 50 sq ft, 100 sq ft, up to 250 sq ft; they range in asking price advantage over The One from $175k to $120k to $100k to $50k to trivia; and they range in price advantage over The One on a dollar-per-foot basis of $225/ft to $175/ft to $125/ft.

 

In short, all three sellers in this line think this smaller line commands a premium over the larger lines but neither of the other two think the premium is quite as large as for The One. And these five larger units on higher floors are all offered at prices below The One -- some rather significantly lower. The other five 1-bedroom sellers are probably very pleased that buyers will see this more expensive trio.

 

magic required, not optional

Regular readers know I almost always temporize (he said, temporizing) but I must say that it will prove to be impossible to sell The One so long as two others in that line are available for $50k less. I would not (yet) say that it would be impossible to sell The One while all the larger units on higher floors are available at the same or lower prices, but I might conclude that after studying the different views and layouts. In other words, I do not believe that any rational buyer would prefer The One to these various alternatives, so much so that I don't see why a rational buyer in The (current) Market would even bid on The One until all other alternatives were exhausted.

 

full circle

Why would a seller hire an agent to "sell" an apartment at a price that is impossible to sell? If the asking price for The One succeeds in causing anything to sell, it will be another unit in the building. Why would an agent (or firm) expend any energy or expense promoting a listing that cannot sell until the others do?

 

What am I missing here? (Yes, I will add this building to my too pushy thread tracking....)

 


© Sandy Mattingly 2008  

 

 

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Dec. 15, 2008 - new Manhattan loft listings + closed sales in last 7 days


This is my fifty-ninth report on the number, price distribution and neighborhood distribution for Manhattan lofts reported as new to the market or as closed sales in the last 7 days
.

The stats as of Sunday night:


  • there were 23 Manhattan lofts reported as new to the market in the last 7 days and only 9 as sold, in yet another turkey of a week
  • 14 of the 23 new ones are offered between $1mm and $3mm, while 8 of the 9 closed sales were below $3mm
  • only 2 of the 23 new loft listings are in new development, while 3 of the 9 closed sales are in new development

    By price
    New = 23
    Sold = 9
    $500k to $999k
    4 3
    $1mm to $1.99mm
    7 2
    $2mm to $2.99mm
    7 3
    $3mm to $3.99mm
    1  
    $4mm to $4.99mm
    2  
    $5mm+
    2 1

    By neighborhood
    New = 23
    Sold = 9
    Battery Park City
       
    Chelsea
    2 2
    Clinton
    1  
    East Village
    1  
    Financial District
    2 1
    Flatiron
    5 2
    Gramercy
       
    Greenwich Village
       
    Kips Bay
      1
    Little Italy
       
    Lower East Side
       
    Morningside Heights    
    Murray Hill
    1  
    Midtown East
       
    Midtown West 1  
    SoHo
    3  
    Sutton Place    
    Tribeca
    4 2
    Turtle Bay
       
    Upper East Side
       
    Upper West Side
    1 1
    West Village
    2  

  •  
  • New loft listings in new developments
  • 53 Warren Street 1
    243 West 60 Street (Adagio 60) 1
     

  •  
  • Sold lofts in new developments 

    246 West 17 Street 1
    420 West 25 Street (Loft 25) 1
    243 West 60 Street (Adagio 60) 1

    For information about how I get this stuff and why I slice it as I do, see methodology for New + Sold in The Last Seven Days. For my rant about how soft this data may be, see
    loft or not? caution: active ranting ahead.





© Sandy Mattingly 2008


 

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Dec. 14, 2008 - tracking the market / the lab at 114 West 27 Street heads south

 

closing price starts with an ouch

The Manhattan loft #8N at 114 West 27 Street has changed hands three times in the last 50 months, first at $1.225mm in September 2004, then at $1.57mm in April 2007, and most recently with a deed filed November 25 at $1.435mm. That is not a typo: the November 2008 sellers at $1.435mm sold for $135k less than they paid as April 2007 buyers.

 

The loft is said to be "1,650 sq ft" and the 2008 PruDE listing captured (in part) on StreetEasy (here) is sufficiently similar to the 2007 Halstead listing captured (in part) on StreetEasy (here) to conclude that the condition of the unit had not changed materially between the two sales. Selling words include "triple mint", "chef's kitchen", "great light".

 

what a difference a year makes

The listing histories are instructive (sobering):

 

Aug 30, 2006 new at $1.595mm
Feb 11, 2007 contract
April 20 closed at $1.57mm
   
Sept 9, 2008 new at $1.575mm
Sept 25 $1.495mm
Oct 10 contract
Nov 25 closed $1.435mm

 

In the active Manhattan loft market of late 2006 into 2007, the seller was confident enough about pricing not to drop the price in the five+ months before reaching a deal, and got nearly the asking price. (In other words, they were right.) In the new market evident by September 2008, the buyer-turned-seller took a brief shot at the (not-greedy) asking price essentially equal to their purchase price, then quickly signaled a willingness to negotiate by dropping a digit. They quickly found someone with whom to negotiate, and made a deal 9% off their first asking price. (They, too, were right.) Props to Susan Daugherty of Halstead and PruDE's Francine Hunter McGivern for getting their respective sellers what they wanted within then-current market constraints.


 

© Sandy Mattingly 2008  

 

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Sandy Mattingly is Manhattan Loft Guy; now with The Corcoran Group (http://corcoran.com/ ; but see the disclaimer at the bottom of the page), he can be reached most easily at Sandy@ManhattanLoftGuy.com or 917.902.2491, and followed on Twitter @ManhattnLoftGuy (note "mis-spelling"). After 7+ years, the blog has moved. Links here on RealTown will work for the foreseeable future, but new posts (and all the old content) has migrated to ManhattanLoftGuy.com.

Recent Posts

looking for walk-aways by testing the hypothesis that buyers can't close / the lab at The Caledonia, 450 West 17 Street
Manhattan lofts for sale = 822
quick work at 139 Reade Street / 11 weeks from list to artistic close
facts v. hype / testing the thesis of "little or no sales activity"
new Manhattan loft listings + closed sales in last 7 days


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