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Manhattan Loft Guy


March 2010

Mar. 31, 2010 - 9 PM on PBS: I M Pei documentary

shilling recidivist

Tonight is the night for the Anne Makepeace film that I hit last week, Mar. 24, 2010, shilling for I M PeiAmerican Masters' I. M. Pei   Building China Modern will air on local Channel 13 WNET at 9 PM and will then be available on-line for 90 days (that, and other information in the link). The quick-and-dirty Manhattan Loft Guy summary:

The documentary is about I. M. Pei and his return to China to design an art museum in Suzhou, the 2,500 year-old city that his family had lived in for 600 years before his father brought him to America in the 1930s. Of course there are fascinating details about what the commission meant to him at this stage of his career (and to the local Chinese) and about his attempts to begin a new Chinese architecture while working within (sometimes very rigid) bounds of tradition and regulation 'on the ground' in China. But what interested me most was how much fun this 92 year-old man was having, and how humble he seems.

Tune in tonight!

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

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Mar. 29, 2010 - from $1,102/ft to $874/ft at 420 West 25 Street in 3 years

no surprise
Unit #7D at the 2007 Manhattan loft conversion Loft 25 at 420 West 25 Street closed on February 27, 2008 at $1,476,462, from a contract signed in May 2007. This clearing price of $1,102/ft for the "1,339 sq ft" was just a tad above the asking price of $1.45mm that had been offered for only 60 days Way Back When.

Not "news", I know, but it sets up nicely the news that a deed was filed yesterday for #8D, which cleared on March 17 at $1,170,987 (a difficult negotiation??), or $874/ft for that same "1,339 sq ft" footprint, one flight up. That's "news" only in the sense of being current, of course. But still.

There's not a lot of "news" in the decline of 21% from #7D's May 2007 contract to #8D's February 2010 contract.

#8D was new to market in May 2007, asking $1.55mm in apparent reaction to #7D going over ask. Looks as though the developer got faked out here.

I can't tell if the space was rented out at any time in its long listing history, but the asking price was pretty sticky: they did not drop at all until December 2008 (3 months post-Lehman), and then only to $1.425mm (essentially flat to #7D, at 1.72% under the March 2007 #7D asking price); they held there for 9 months before dropping to $1.24mm, and then to $1.175mm on November 1, 2009. Oops, indeed.

Gotta say I am intrigued by the tiny spread between the asking price ($1,175,000) and clearing price ($1,170,987). How much of a fight was there for the developer to defend the ask, and the buyer to attack, that they ended up at a "discount" of $3,013?? My bet is that the developer caved on closing costs (transfer taxes), but perhaps they fought over that, too....

And a Good Pesach to all, and to all a Good ... Afternoon!

© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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Mar. 28, 2010 - huge raw space at 17 West 17 Street off 25% from peak

not a surprise, but interesting
The last time Manhattan Loft Guy visited the mongrel building 17 West 17 Street was way back on May 22, 2007, is 4,600 sq ft enough? 2 chances at 17 W 17 St, it was evident that this 11-story building was going through a late-in-life change of major proportions. There were then two (recently, three) massive full-floor that had housed a variety of defunct businesses, one of which (the 5th floor) was marketed with the rhetorical question Where else can you find this kind of space in Manhattan?Rude as can be, I volleyed the rhetoric back that "this kind of space" could also be had on the 11th floor ("PH"), with better light and much better views (and a higher price).

another long intro
Which is a long way to go to note that the 10th floor just closed, on March 11 at $2.895mm. Here's the spin on this one: "perhaps the last of the great full floor raw lofts in a distinguished pre-war building in a fabulous location". The 'perhaps' is critical, as it looks as though there is one floor that has not been sold since this industrial loft building started its transformation about five years ago (one floor had been a design studio, one might have been the last local tool-and-die shop, another showed signs of having housed many very heavy machines).

Last chance or not, the 10th floor provides an interesting comparison to the 11th floor.

then vs. now
The 11th floor looks like one of those listings that needed the market to catch up to it ... on the way up. First offered in March 2006 it found a contract that stuck in April 2008, without ever changing the asking price, and getting the asking price of $3.95mm when it closed in July 2008. In other words, it was over-priced at $3.95mm for nearly two years, then found a buyer in the new (current) (frothy) market. ("A rising tide ...", etc, etc.) In contrast, the 10th floor just got $2.895mm in the same condition, without having an easy time of it.

The 10th floor came to market in February 2009 at $3.475mm, about a 13% discount from the 11th floor 8 months earlier. When that hadn't worked by July they dropped a big one, coming down to $3.095mm, where they held until attracting a Christmas contract at the $2.895mm price that just closed this month. The 11th floor had other advantages over the 10th (higher ceilings, one more exposure, skylights, and a view of the Empire State Building that the 10th floor is either missing or shy about), but the main advantage was the calendar, and what it did to The Market.

I wonder if the 10th floor buyer will also experience the advantage of lower renovation costs, compared to the July 2008 buyer on the 11th floor. I have seen nothing definitive about this, but anecdotes suggest that contractors have been more flexible about costs in the last year than during 2007-2008.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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Mar. 26, 2010 - 181 Hudson Street closes at strong price / why?


why is $996/ft 'impressive'?
The March 15 deed for the sale of Manhattan loft #3A at 181 Hudson Street is late-breaking (filed yesterday!), but is it news? The "2,509 sq ft" "uniquely textured" (??) north Tribeca loft came and went pretty quickly, with a price history suggesting motivation: new to market on October 7 at $2.895mm, they dropped it to $2.695mm five weeks later, and had a contract by Christmas. The closing price of $2.5mm is a hefty 14% off from where they'd started, achieved in about ten weeks.

On the plus side of the ledger, there are vintage loft-y details, all that space, the "spirit of old Tribeca", and "ten over-sized windows". On the other side of the ledger, the loft probably requires some re-purposing (there's a very large "guest bedroom suite" with it's own entrance) and there's not much to see out those over-sized windows on the third floor (4 face south across Vestry Street at the 7-story rental building, 177 Hudson St; 6 face west over an alley and the 7-story commercial building, 443 Greenwich St).

It is exactly that lack of view that I think makes this clearing price 'impressive'.

sunny neighbors got (only) $1,027/ft in December
The loft upstairs is "1,800 sq ft", a little smaller than #3A, so it is not quite an apples-to-apples comparison. But the floor plan is functionally the same, with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths (no guest suite, or artist gallery). For this comparison, #7D is all about the views: "impressive architectural views topped by a sweep of endless sky", with an entire long wall facing east. I am not saying it is a $2mm view (that would be over Madison Square, as in my March 20, a $2 million view on Madison Square? comping at 15 East 26 Street), but the layout is terrific and focused east, where the angle of nearby Canal Street really opens up the view.

I'm surprised that the spread between these two lofts is not greater. I assume that #3A found just the right buyer to appreciate "a true ‘one-of-a- kind’ residence".

I wonder if they did this on purpose
These neighboring lofts never competed against each other, as #3A came to market a few weeks after #7D went into contract.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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Mar. 25, 2010 - 22 Mercer Street closes up since 2007


but not as well as neighbor
The Manhattan loft #2D at 22 Mercer Street closed on March 4 at $3.05mm, which makes for 2 interesting comparisons. First, it had been purchased in the initial offering of this relatively new condo conversion in January 2007 at $2.95mm, so it will (eventually) be added to my much-loved March 5 post, data dump: 20 Manhattan lofts sold in 2007 + recently. Second, that small gain of 3.4% was outdone by the original #2A buyer, who sold that loft on November 19 at a nearly 20% premium over the original purchase.

Both #2D and #2A have 2 bedroom, 2.5 baths layouts; both are oddly Long-and-Narrow (click on floor plans to understand); they are similar in size. Nevertheless, the developer pegged them at very different per-foot values. The original sale price for #2D ("2,392 sq ft") computes to $1,233/ft, compared to #2A ("2,047 sq ft") originally at only $1,030/ft. The recent sales close that gap quite a bit: #2D = $1,275/ft; #2A = $1,233/ft ($2.525mm).

developer error, or something I am missing?
What was the developer thinking, when pricing #2D to a 20% premium over #2A in the original offering? (Actually, the spread was even a little bigger, as #2A sold in December 2006 above the $1,000/ft asking price.) The aftermarket closed that spread to nearly a rounding error, at 3.4%. I can't figure it out from the listing descriptions or the two floor plans -- both of which are odd enough that you should click through to them. Neither is a great layout; neither is a classic Long-and-Narrow. Both have only 3 windows on one narrow living room wall, with the bedroom windows all seemingly view-less.

The developer knows a lot more about this building, these layouts, and available light than I do, but it's just weird that the developer thought there was such a difference in value between these two same-floor lofts and that the aftermarket disagrees.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

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Mar. 24, 2010 - shilling for I M Pei


not that he needs it
I sat about 15 feet from I. M. Pei  last night, at a screening of a documentary about him that will be broadcast next Wednesday. It was one of those that's why I live in New York! moments. The documentary premiere was an hour, followed by a panel of the producer, the director/writer, and someone from the Architectural League.

The venue was The Paley Center For Media, with plush seats, wonderful sound and images, and a small (mostly?) invited audience -- certainly an engaged and interested audience. It is a fascinating thing to experience a film that pretty much no one has seen before, in a small room with its creators and its subject. Given that I have been hearing about the film-in-production for a while and that I have a close second-hand relationship with one of the creators, part of the fascination comes from watching the film on two levels: for its content / impact as a film; and as the heart-felt work of someone I know, someone I have been hearing a lot about.

I will end any 'suspense': I loved the film and am proud to know a creator. The film is American Masters' I. M. Pei   Building China Modern, part of the PBS series, and it will air on local Channel 13 WNET Wednesday, March 31 at 9 PM (as they say, check your listings for times on other PBS stations). It will then be available on-line for 90 days (that, and other information in the link).

The documentary is about I. M. Pei and his return to China to design an art museum in Suzhou, the 2,500 year-old city that his family had lived in for 600 years before his father brought him to America in the 1930s. Of course there are fascinating details about what the commission meant to him at this stage of his career (and to the local Chinese) and about his attempts to begin a new Chinese architecture while working within (sometimes very rigid) bounds of tradition and regulation 'on the ground' in China. But what interested me most was how much fun this 92 year-old man was having, and how humble he seems. Not so humble that his name isn't on the firm, or that he won't protect his vision or market his projects to the public, but humble about what he can accomplish and whether his ideas will work out.

We got a taste of the back-story to making this film from the panel, but there is more in the Inside This Episode section on the linked PBS page, with interviews with Producer Eugene Shirley and Director / Write Anne Makepeace. I will add one detail offered in the Q&A last night, which was offered by Didi Pei, architect son of Mr. Pei, in answer to an audience question about the 'special' entrance door to the new museum (which is mostly glass, with circular elements that split as the door opens). The premise of the question suggested that the door was an element created to use Chinese forms in this modern device and how fitting for this project. Didi Pei's answer: we've used that door in a lot of projects, including here at [I am blanking on which local New York hospital].

Architecture aside, I found it interesting that the Chinese government reached out to a Chinese refugee for a high-profile project. With 3 articles in today's NY Times about Google vs. China (one is here) as a battle by that government to control what the people are exposed to, it strikes me as odd to give Mr. Pei a platform (a stamp of approval, even) on an official project. The creators commented that traveling with Mr. Pei in China was like traveling with a rock star, which was a phenomenon you could see in the film. Plus, his warm manner, his fluent Chinese, his ease with everyone, from government officials to the worker who was responsible for 'scarring the rock' (see the film; you'll understand), all had to have a beneficial propaganda effect that runs counter to official story lines. I guess one 'answer' is that 'China' is just too big for all of it to move in one direction at once.

high class friends in high places

I am not aware of any Pei-designed lofts, but I do have other interests. And it is surely nice to have friends who invite me to such events. Thank you, Charles; congratulations, Anne!

I need to shill more often
Long-time readers know that Manhattan Loft Guy sometimes shamelessly promotes people or efforts that are interesting, or engaging, or by friends, or (for some other reason). I tried to help a non-profit theater group find some free space on February 26, with theater group needs some FREE space short-term / anyone have some?, but so far as I know that did not work out. I promoted a friend's art work on February 10, 2009 in diversion / art from a Manhattan loft neighborhood (do any loft building art committees need decorative art for walls or lobbies?? operators are still standing by). I linked to a fascinating collection of old-time Manhattan photos on September 25, 2008 in NYC photos / could not stop scrolling, which reminds me that I should do more linking to pictures and sites more often.

That collection indicates to me that it would take a very long-time reader to see this as a trend, and that I really should do this more often. That's one reason I started today....

all thumbs up
You can watch a preview from the PBS link. To sum up: If you have any interest in architecture or in China, I highly recommend it. If you have little interest in China or in architecture, I highly recommend it.

My favorite part: seeing that the stone garden really did work. (Nice job, 'scarring the rock' guy!)

© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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Mar. 23, 2010 - 161 Grand Street sold in 2005, in 2007, in 2010 ... hmmm


'tis a puzzlement
I have been wondering about the Manhattan loft #2A at 161 Grand Street (the 2002 new development The Solita) since I noticed last week that it sold on March 11 at a 20% premium over the last sale in February 2007. That 2007 sale was at a 13% premium over the prior sale in January 2005, which was a sponsor sale even though this condo had been formed and other units sold in 2002 (presumably, they rented this one out). (Yes, I will add this loft to my data dump of 2007 and 2010 paired resales, next time I update that March 5 post; but not today.)

That price sequence is interesting enough. There are also some peculiar comparisons to other sales in the building. Into the weeds we go...

size matters, of course, as does health
I don't know why StreetEasy thinks this loft is "2,100 sq ft", when it thinks that the other non-penthouse lofts here are in the narrow range of "1,771" to "1,850 sq ft" and our inter-firm data base counts this one as "1,800 sq ft". You will see that this 300 sq ft "difference of opinion" is significant, in comparing #2A to the other loft of the floor, which sold in July 2007 at $2.2mm (StreetEasy and our data-base agree that #2B is "1,816 sq ft"). I am going to assume that #2A is "1,800 sq ft", particularly as the floor plans for #2B and #2A have dimensions and spaces that are closely equivalent. (Sorry, I find no 'public' floor plan for #2B, but I did find one in our data-base.)

At "1,800 sq ft", the #2A sale for $2.25mm on March 11 is a healthy $1,250/ft, healthier still when compared to the June 2009 sale of #4B at $933/ft ("1,831 sq ft", per our data-base and StreetEasy, for $1.71mm) and that July 2007 sale of #2B at $1,211/ft ($2.2mm, "1,831 sq ft", as noted). But throwing that July 2007 sale of #2B into the mix (against which the recent sale of #2A holds very well) raises the problem that #2A also sold in 2007.

reconciling 2007 (not)

The February 2007 sale of #2A at $1.87mm and the #2B sale in July 2007 at $2.2mm cannot be reconciled in a rational market. Let's repeat that the two units are essentially the same size and that each was built new in a "luxury" condo loft conversion in 2002. Let me also point out that #2A has a significantly 'better' footprint, with two long walls of windows, the windows being described as 10 feet high, but which also appear to be even wider than they are high; in contrast, #2B (trust me) has less than half the length of windows, with those widows being on opposite and narrower walls. So, into the weeds we go (again).

That #2A sale in February 2007 was done without having been offered through a REBNY firm and (intentionally or not) seems to have been Below Market, at least insofar as the open-market sale of #2B in July established a market value for the second floor of this loft building at around $1,211/ft. I have no idea if the February 2007 #2A sellers and buyers knew each other, or if they bargained hard to maximize their individual interests, but the fact is that the less desirable layout of #2B sold for about 18% more 5 months later. (Not to go completely nuts here, but the respective broker-babble suggests that it is possible that #2B had some improvements that #2A lacked, with "custom book-shelves" and  "state of the art sound system", but any such improvements can't make up a $330,000 difference in price/value.)

2008 throws a curve, with a view
I told you there'd be peculiar comparisons to other sales within this building.... Here's one from July 2008, just 6 weeks before The Fall of the House of Lehman and the subsequent freeze in the Manhattan real estate market. #9A is described in much the same terms as #2A (by the same agent), with the same foot print and the same window array as #2A. In other words, any difference in value between #2A and #9A should be based entirely on what you can see 85 feet higher out all of those massive windows (for one thing, you are looking over the dome of the Police Building and beyond, not into its windows). If you've already clicked on the #9A listing history you know that there was a huge difference in value being 85 feet higher, as the (very near Peak) price of #9A was $2.75mm.

a grand unified Solita theory?
In rough numbers, if you took the July 2007 #2B sale as indicating that #2A should have been worth about $2.2mm then, and then push that notional July 2007 value to The Peak about 9 months later, you can ballpark the peak #2A value at about $2.4mm, accounting for the view premium of #9A as about 15%, or $350,000. That actually makes sense to me.

Granted, it takes making a few assumptions, and the key one being that the February 2007 sale of #2A at $1.87mm did not accurately reflect The Market. But if you don't make some assumptions, the Hard Cold Facts are that the #9A views and 18 months of 'froth' account for #9A being worth $880,000 more in July 2008 than #2A was worth in February 2007, a premium of 47%. I don't buy that (so to speak).

I believe that all of these data points in this building can be rolled into an approach to the transaction history for this building that is coherent and inclusive from 2007 to now if we can ignore (or adjust) that #2A sale in February 2007:

Mar 11, 2010 #2A $2.25mm $1,250/ft    
June 25, 2009 #4B $1.71mm $933/ft    
July 29, 2008 #9A $2.75mm $1,552/ft    
July 13, 2007 #2B $2.2mm $1,211/ft    
Feb 14, 2007 #2A     $1.87mm $1,039/ft

More or less, the recent #2A sale was a 'strong' sale based on the layout and light and (compared to #4B in June 2009) is an example of a recent sale above the Frightened Market phase of early 2009; more or less, the recent sale of #2A compares to the #2B 2007 sale, putting this (almost) paired resale into the more-or-less-flat bunch in the collection of 2007 recent resales in that March 5 post; more or less, #9A traded in the active part of 2008 at about a 15% premium because of the view.

None of this more-ing or less-ing works if you have to squeeze the February 2007 sale of #2A into the story. I choose to consider it an outlier.


© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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Mar. 21, 2010 - today's Manhattan loft poster child: the audacity of hope

only my copy identifies this child

You know that I can't identify this relatively "new" listing, but it is another poster child for me. Yesterday I identified a newly developed Manhattan loft building as my poster child for valuing a view (March 20, a $2 million view on Madison Square? comping at 15 East 26 Street); today it is a loft in a prime location in a classic loft neighborhood that is back on the market at a price point that has not worked in the past. My mind's eye gives it a Shepard Fairey treatment.

how audacious is this?
This loft came to market in the Summer of 2008 and lasted into the Spring of 2009, so it was well exposed to the market, and was offered by very experienced loft agents who have been very successful in selling lofts in this long-established coop. They started at $1,148/ft and by the end had come down all the way to $814/ft, with four intermediate asking prices between these poles. This is a pretty big loft, so this swing from top to bottom pricing is almost $1,000,000.

I suppose the theory is that was then, this is now, as I don't see any other theory to account for the fact that it is back on the market, asking about $960/ft, in the same condition, with the same agents.

As before, the marketing text hints that a buyer will want to renovate. I heard enough reports from people who had seen it the last time that the amount of work likely to be done is more extensive than is hinted at, which leads me to wonder if they are still not managing buyer expectations well enough to avoid people being disappointed rather than energized by the prospect of improving this large space.

a new poster, perhaps
Of course, if they succeed at this new price -- nearly 20% higher than the last unsuccessful asking price -- the Manhattan Loft Guy poster collection will use this loft for that was then, this is now, instead of the audacity of hope. Stay tuned. Updates as they occur.


© Sandy Mattingly 2010


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Mar. 20, 2010 - a $2 million view on Madison Square? comping at 15 East 26 Street

how much would you pay?
[UPDATE 2.4.11: I looked at this post again for purposes of another ‘view’ post and was embarrassed to see that I never spell-checked this. What a mess! I have made the many corrections (26!!), this time without indicating where there’s been any editing. Embarrassing, indeed.]
A colleague recently canvassed other agents with the question, "what is a spectacular view worth?", to which many people responded with opinions but few with data. Personally, I offered the opinion that some people will willingly overpay for a view, though I also provided some data (see below). Then I came across two of the recent new development sales of Manhattan lofts added to the Master List at 15 East 26 Street (Fifteen Madison Square North). Some people will overpay by a lot  for a view. I have some data.

as clean a comparison as you are ever going to get
The two units are on the same floor, are essentially equal in size ("2,380 sq ft" vs. "2,390 sq ft", with the "smaller" one being a 2 bedroom / home office / 3 baths vs. 3 bedrooms / 3.5 baths), appear to have identical finishes, and have essentially the same common charges and taxes. The "larger" one has a "full spectrum of sweeping city views", facing north, though with only 3 windows giving that north view; the developer priced this loft at $3.6mm.

The developer bet that someone would overpay by a lot for a view: the "smaller" one started at $6.15mm (later was "reduced" to $5.9mm), for no other apparent reason than the view. With only 5 windows, these windows are all large and south-facing, giving "sweeping southern views over Madison Square Park" from both bedrooms and the living room.

The clearing prices (can't you feel the tension mounting?) are contemporaneous: buyers signed a contract on the smaller one on January 5; for the larger one on November 26. In other words, you might never find a pair of sales in which The View is so obviously the only difference. As it happened, the developer got nowhere near the asking price on either unit, but was right about the value of the view. Somebody paid $4.73mm for the view in #14A; somebody else paid $2.69mm for the same amount of space and (only) "sweeping city views" in #14F.

Everyone will still have opinions about what a view may be worth, but in this instance this view over Madison Square Park was worth $2,014,000. Indeed, while I believe that few people would estimate a view premium on this scale, facts are facts.

Look at it another way: the #14A buyers paid a 75% premium over #14F for the view.

I suspect that this spread is out of guidelines for any appraiser, as I have been told that direct river or park views can add "10+%" in value; I don't know how much range an appraiser would put on that "+".

other data pair from Tribeca
The other pair of same building sales that shows a premium for a view is not anywhere as clean an example as with 15 East 26 Street #14A and #14F, as those two lofts vary so much in size. Nonetheless, in the case of 38 Warren Street (Keystone Building) #8A sold in January 2008 at $1,282/ft while #3C sold in February 2008 at $1,016/ft. Given that these are two very different lofts (#8A is "1,248 sq ft" while #3C is "2,815 sq ft") it is hard to say that the 26% price/ft premium for the smaller loft was entirely due to the view. But it is some data. Not as good as the 15 East 26 Street pair, clearly.

Fifteen Madison Square North is my new poster child for the value of a view. I just don't think it will become my benchmark, as I doubt that I would be very quick to apply a 75% premium, despite this evidence.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010


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Mar. 19, 2010 - today's the day

rather: it was the day
My first post on Manhattan Loft Guy (as Manhattan Loft Guy?) was March 19, 2006. Yikes!

Happy Blog-day to me!!

If you click on Archives on the lower right you can easily get back to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Some quotes from March 2006:

But the data in beta has some *serious* limitations for Manhattan lofts and apartments. The key numbers Zillow reports in Manhattan are 13% for Error Percentage and 41% for 10% Range, meaning that half of the time they will "Zestimate" a value that is off by 13%, higher or lower, and that the Zestimate will be off by 10% only 41% of the time. So: half the time they will get the value of a hypothetical $1,000,000 apartment as within the range of $870,000 to $1,130,000 and half the time they will Zestimate that $1,000,000 as either worth less than $870,000 or more than $1,130,000.

Mar. 19, 2006: 

Zillow - what it is and what it says about how it does Manhattan

(I like that "data in beta")

The Corcoran report is based on a large but unknown number of transactions, as it uses sales data reported by Corcoran and by one of the major appraisal firms in Manhattan, Mitchell, Maxwell & Jackson. Unlike the reports issued by Miller Samuel -- which should be released soon -- Corcoran and MMJ do not break out their raw data in any way. But given the size of the Corcoran firm and the access to data that MMJ enjoys as a top appraiser, the raw data should certainly accurately represent the market.

Mar. 20, 2006:

Manhattan Loft Prices / lofts kept pace with market, per Corcoran year over year report

(goodbye, MMJ; hello, Property Shark)

An artist's son who grew up in SoHo in the 1970s remembered it this way:


"SoHo smelled like a beautiful cigar."

Mar. 23, 2006:

What did SoHo smell like back in the day?

The clear lower boundary of SoHo is Canal Street, but almost nothing about Canal Street feels like SoHo -- except possibly during those scattered minutes in any day when Canal is deserted by people and cars, and the electronics and plumbing suppliers and the 'designer' stalls close up. As crowded as West Broadway gets with foot traffic, there is no comparison with the shoppers and pedestrians across Canal's wide sidewalk, and the 24/7 vehicle traffic going east to the Manhattan Bridge or west to the Holland Tunnel make Canal one of the grittiest, sootiest, busiest streets in a busy, sooty, gritty city.

Mar. 28, 2006:

SoHo pushes down to its southern border / the Arnold Constable building conversion (NY Times 3.26.06)

(love this: "

one of the grittiest, sootiest, busiest streets in a busy, sooty, gritty city


You know “lofts” have moved way beyond trendy when The National Association of Realtors magazine talks about loft developments around the country, in cities and in suburbs.  The Loft Goes Upscale and Suburban 


Authentic lofts — with their high ceilings, open spaces, and expansive windows — are fetching prime prices in former warehouse districts, while developers churn out new variations of the popular style in cities and suburbs across the country.

Mar. 31, 2006:

Creeping loft-ism / nationally

(3 posts in one day? didn't I have any work to do?)

That was fun ... Happy Blog-day to all!!


© Sandy Mattingly 2010

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Mar. 18, 2010 - with 225 Fifth Avenue, now 20 pairs of 2007 sales + recent resales


quick points
I noticed today that the Manhattan loft #10A at 225 Fifth Avenue had a deed filed yesterday (some details to follow) and in the course of looking at past history here (The Grand Madison) I discovered that I had overlooked three other sales here over a three week period spanning New Year's. Those three (formerly) overlooked sales have now been added to the Master List of Manhattan loft closings and ... because each of the three was first sold in 2007, to my collection of lofts that have sold recently and in 2007.

That collection of paired resales of Manhattan lofts is now 20, and that March 5 data dump (data dump: 20 Manhattan lofts sold in 2007 + recently) has been updated (again), for all you who seem to have bookmarked that post.

one 2006 pair
#10A at 225 Fifth Avenue closed on March 8 (deed filed yesterday) at $1.65mm after a pretty efficient marketing campaign: one price, three months to contract, only a 3% discount from the asking price. No surprise that this "1,613 sq ft" loft is in essentially the identical condition as when it sold in the original offering of The Grand Madison (although there is listing babble about custom closets), as that sponsor sale was only in 2006. (This loft was one of the very first to close in this condo loft conversion, but is ineligible for that reason for the paired loft resales collection I posted on March 5; link is above).

The floor plan for #10A exemplifies why it can be difficult to make medium-size lofts out of buildings with large footprints: too many units are too far away from the edges of the building. Although #10A is not Long-and-Narrow it is  a rectangle, with the only four windows on one side, leaving a 16 ft wide living room with 2 windows, a 13 ft wide bedroom with 2 windows, and a 'home office' (no windows) that many people will use as a sleeping area. With "1,613 sq ft", this loft will have to compete against real 2-bedroom Manhattan lofts.

I will create a set of paired resales from 2006 similar to the 2007 list, and this loft will be on it. When it sold in the first offering, it cleared at $1.78mm, so the recent sale represents a decline of 7.8% since November 2006. This sale at $1.65mm is essentially flat to the December 29 sale of the identical unit upstairs, as #11A traded at $1.667mm.

After yesterday's convoluted journey through un-neighborly comps down the street (March 17, 170 Fifth Avenue loft sales are confusing), it is nice to see two neighbors who comp out exactly where you would want them to ... if you expect to see rationality in the Manhattan real estate world. #10A at $1.65mm on March 8 lines up very well with #11A at $1.667mm on December 29. There's a charm in that.

stalking the sellers
It appears that the sellers of #10A at 225 Fifth Avenue (a) love the micro-neighborhood, (b) needed more space, (c) are very confident about their financial situation, and (d) don't mind paying transfer taxes. While I can't be certain, the deed address for their sale of #10A is #14F at 15 East 26 Street (15 Madison Square North), which is immediately around the corner. #14F sold to a LLC on February 5 at $4.73mm (see what I mean about their confidence about finances?), with "2,380 sq ft" of 2 real (windowed) bedrooms and another home office. So these folks moved around the corner to get 767 more feet, a park view, an additional bedroom, and were willing to pay nearly three times the price of their 225 Fifth Avenue sale. That's confidence!

Whether the #14A buyers got a deal or not, they paid much less than the developer originally wanted: this loft came to market in April 2008 at $6.125mm.

At the risk of getting even further afield, the #14A buyers did not get as good a 'deal' as their new neighbors downstairs, as the sponsor sold #13A on December 4 (same footprint, same condition, same views) for $4.275mm. They will have a lot to talk about when these neighbors meet!


© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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Mar. 17, 2010 - 170 Fifth Avenue loft sales are confusing

sound + fury = what? (nothing??)
In this episode, Manhattan Loft Guy chews on a sale price that just bothers him, and concocts a scenario to account for the odd transaction.

For a small building (12 units) and a short history (converted to condo in 1999), the Manhattan loft building 170 Fifth Avenue has had an awful lot of activity in the last five years, with two lofts changing hands in 2009. You'd think (I thought) that with so much data the valuation trends would be clear. You'd be (I was) wrong about that.

I will get to the data below, but loyal Manhattan Loft Guy readers may remember that I visited this building on August 13, 2009, to try to make some sense of the then-recent sale of the 5th floor in light of closed loft sales here from 2007 and 2005 and a contemporaneous failed marketing campaign in 2009, 170 Fifth Avenue closes AT 2007 (maybe).  The on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand theme in that post is proof that I did not make a lot of sense out of all those data points, but that post was one of a series comparing 2009 sales to 2005 and other prior sales. As I intro'ed and linked then:

There have been a series of Manhattan Loft Guy posts of late comparing 2009 clearing prices to 2005, or other prior sales. (This July 29 post canvassed quite a few, attack of the Killer Comp (when 2005 pricing does not help), and I have added several since then.) Generally speaking, 2009 has not done very well in this competition, so I was a little surprised to see a recent sale in which 2009 may have held its own against 2007.

(Remember that: I was surprised at the time that the July 2009 sale price held up so well, compared to 2007.)

cue the head-scratches
There's been a more recent sale in the building that has had me scratching my head ever since I came across it in the course of (finally) bringing my Master List of Manhattan Loft Closings up to date about a month ago (February 16, master list of Manhattan loft closings is up to date!). Let's get to the data, then we can all scratch heads together:

Oct 30, 2009 #6 $3,247,500
July 21, 2009 #5 $2,945,000
Feb 6, 2007 #3 $2,972,500
Sept 8, 2005 #7 $3,200,000
March 14, 2005 #3 $2,800,000
Feb 1, 2005 #2 $2,725,000

comps should be comparable, shouldn't they?

Remember that all lofts in this building were built out new in 1999 as a "luxury" condo conversion (how many 12 unit buildings have even a part-time concierge, or two elevators??) and that all are floor-through lofts; meaning that they all started with a high level of finishes and the same footprint of "2,736 sq ft". Recall also that the 7th floor sold in 2005 at $3.2mm but did not sell from October 2008 to May 2009, despite having been offered at $3.195mm for the last nearly 100 days of that effort.

Not to tax your memory unduly, but you should also keep in mind that the 5th floor sold in July in such a refined condition that the broker-babble was not only extensive but almost giddy ("featured in numerous design magazines and books" will give you the idea).

So how could the 6th floor loft sell -- without being publicly marketed -- at a 10% premium three months after the 5th floor??

Damned if I know.

This sale is one of those noted by StreetEasy as "[n]o listing associated with this closing", so there are no pictures, no floor plan, and no prose by which to assess how it compares to the other beautiful lofts in the building. Having scratched around the Property Shark and the Department of Buildings website in an attempt to get some info, I see no work permits for a 6th floor renovation. (Interesting that the new owners of the 5th floor filed renovation plans soon after closing, though I cannot tell from any documents in the DoB's Virtual Job Folder how extensive a job they did.)

I have to believe that the 6th floor was in pretty much the same condition it had been in when the October seller bought it (for $1,434,000!) in February 2000. If it is in that ten year old original condition, it probably does not compare well to that magazine-featured loft on the 5th floor.

arm's length or within the tribe?
Prior to October 2009, the only clearing price that really stood out over the last five years was the $3.23mm paid for the 7th floor in March 2005, yet The Market was unreceptive to a resale of that loft in that pricey neighborhood for the 8 months before May 2009. As of October 2009, the most recent sale at 170 Fifth Avenue was the July sale of the "featured in numerous design magazines and books" 5th floor at $2.945mm, a trade essentially even to the last prior sale before that one (the 3rd floor in February 2007). You will recall that I was surprised by that.

Let's be blunt: The data show that the October 2009 buyers overpaid for the 6th floor.

Comp theories aside, those buyers could certainly have gotten the 7th floor for less than they paid for the 6th floor, as the 7th floor was publicly offered for sale at $3.195mm from February into May 2009. Chances are, the 7th floor sellers were willing to negotiate off that asking price, and a further 10% final discount would have brought a (hypothetical) deal for #7 into the $2.9mm range around where the last two neighboring lofts traded.

Unless the 6th floor is really really really unique, the opportunity to buy the 7th floor at $3.195mm or less should cap the price that a rational buyer would pay for the 6th floor in a rational market.

So the Department of Redundancy Department asks again: why did these people overpay?

the Oscar for Scenario Spinning goes to ...
I have a theory. My theory is based on some facts and considerable speculation. On one side, the facts are that these buyers are very well-heeled, very well-connected political lobbyists in Washington DC (the story in the Washington Post about the White House release of 6 months of visitor logs says "the powerful husband-and-wife lobbying duo, have met with top White House officials numerous times. [He] made at least four trips; [she] visited three times"). On the other side, the seller is a very high-powered and well-compensated law firm partner (he made the NY Times when he recently changed firms) who personally maxed out his campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton ($2,300), yet also gave $1,000 to the Obama and Edwards campaigns; he earlier contributed $1,000 to Wesley Clark and $2,000 to the DNC in 2004.

To connect the dots, if these people didn't know each other personally, I'd bet that they have good friends or close political connections in common. So I think that someone told the seller that the buyers were interested in having a Manhattan base, and maybe they complained that they had no time to do open houses or otherwise visit apartments. (Maybe they even complained about Manhattan real estate agents, or the relative lack of transparency in our market; but I digress....)

Probably the seller said something like I'd let you have mine but you'd have to make it worth my while. Maybe the buyers said something like your place is just perfect and we'd save so much time and energy not having to search, so we'll give you 10% over the last sale. (That number would be $3,239,500, btw.) Then (maybe, maybe) the seller said deal! but if you want to keep the [something or other] I could let you have it for another $8,000.

That is how (my imagination tells me) The Movers and Shakers make deals! It also accounts for the peculiar (not very round number) trading price of $3,247,500, but that's because I cheated over that last $8,000.

Now that I have walked through this very logical solution to a very illogical sales price conundrum, I wouldn't be surprised if the seller hosted a political fund-raiser in his beautiful 6th floor loft that the buyers attended. Maybe they fell in love with it then....

If someone has a better theory (or even some facts) I'd love to hear it.

yes, that building
You may not know this building by name (the Sohmer Piano Building) or by its address, but you know this building if you have ever looked south at the Flatiron Building from a few blocks away, as this is the building at the far corner of Fifth Avenue at 22 Street with the gold dome (copula?). Very distinctive. Iconic in its own way.

a happy building
And now the new neighbors are very welcome, having brought the gift of an inflated comp to each of them. The gift that keeps on giving, indeed!


© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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Mar. 16, 2010 - what about that (not yet) New Construction across the street?


good, or bad? yes and no
I had a kind of cocktail party conversation with someone who may be buying very near a high profile (pun intended) proposed Major Real Estate Development in a prime part of Manhattan. Long story (aren't they all?), but I don't represent them, so we were just talking "generally".

We talked about a lot of things: potential impact on resale value (now, during, after); quality of life issues (during, after) from noise, dust, congestion, 'tumult'; light and view impacts; and, miscellaneous. They seemed to think it worthwhile that we had this conversation, that it helped them think systematically about the risks / opportunities involved in their anticipated purchase and The Project nearby.

I tried to explain that everyone will approach a situation like this differently, for a host of idiosyncratic reasons, depending on factors such as:

  • how long before they are likely to move again;
  • whether the current purchase price includes a discount for (short-term?) negatives;
  • if they trade light (a slice of sky) for a view of A Beautiful Building, how they value each;
  • if there family members there regularly during the (noisy) work day (sleeping toddlers, work-from-home creatives);
  • whether they would open their windows if they could, or prefer filtered breathing;
  • whether they enjoy watching something being built (perhaps a boys-love-cranes-and-iron-workers thing);
  • whether they view That Particular Project, once built, as a net benefit (a work of art?) or as a blight;
  • simply: one's tolerance for uncertainty and risk

Which made me think that there might be Some Generally Applicable Principles (i.e., a worthwhile blog post) helpful to people in such a situation. Refill your coffee, if you find the topic interesting. Manhattan Loft Guy is about to wander, as some of these things bear explication.

location, location, location
Rarely is that maxim more relevant than when a huge project is involved. Is it next door? (blocking lot-line windows, endangering your party wall?) Is it across the street? (blocking light and view?) Is it around the corner? (making the beep-beeping more remote?) Is it 3 blocks away? (blocking view, but more remote for dust and congestion?) If it blocks sky, is The Money View impacted? (will you still see the river, the park, the Empire State Building?) Is it on my side of the building? (screw my neighbors on the other side!) If The Development Site runs completely through a block or sits on a corner, will the deliveries be made on 'your' side or on the other? (is your block association stronger than theirs?) Is it so close that my building will have a sidewalk shed for The Duration?

Here's one thought experiment about New Construction Nearby: the people who live on Second Avenue feel very differently about construction of the subway than people on First Avenue.

Another angle: if you lived so close to the Woolworth Building that you can tell who came to work late this morning, your windows have lost view and light (granted, the light and view was lost 100 years ago); but if you are 20 blocks away with a direct (protected!) view of that Cathedral of Commerce, that is your Money View.

One more: the folks at 474 Greenwich Street were less enthralled about construction of Zinc across the street when their foundation began to crack.

The Project
How big is it? This is most obviously important in relation to your location and view, but also about construction methods and timing ... how long will it take to drive all those piles? ...  how many hundreds of truck loads of girders will there be? ... how many weekends will my street be completely closed when they jump the crane to the next-higher level?

Which side is the construction elevator going to be on (that elevator will likely consume the sidewalk until the building facade is complete)?

Is The Project compatible with my political sensibilities? It may be one thing to live with consequences when you appreciate that the net benefit is a benefit (a school is being built or expanded; Mikhail Baryshnikov is building an arts and performance center) than when there are more bloodless capitalists building more luxury housing on a scale that is out of character for the neighborhood.

Aesthetically (whether the architect is a name or not), will you like to look at the thing when it is done? Will you find it thrilling to say (years down the road),  yes, I live across the street from The Stunning Building?

timing is everything
This might be a more important factor than location.

No matter how near or far, might you have to sell when all the negatives are apparent but before the benefits are obvious, or are you likely to glide through Construction Hell to get to The Other Side? The worst case is that you buy in without a discount for disruption (noise, loss of view, whatever) and then have to sell with a discount because the darn thing is not finished.

The best case is that you buy with a discount because The Project is real-but-not-started-yet and that you will not in any case sell before the scars have healed, the landscaping is done, and whatever benefits have sprouted.

life style
Some people buy a particular Manhattan loft or apartment entirely because of what is inside (the quality and/or amount of space), or because of the location (within a school district, proximity to work or to a park). Some of those people are essentially indifferent to what goes on outside the window. For example, people who work at night or who work 100 hours a week (medical residents) want the darker, the better.

Other people will spend all waking hours within 6 feet of a window, and anything that makes the window less attractive (noise, distraction) will impact their quality of life. The more so, those with seasonal affective disorder.

While it is (generally) true that (most) infants 'can get used to (most) everything', few infants sleep well with pile-driving.

If you work at home on Something Important That Requires Great Concentration, you might not like pile-driving either. Indeed, you might not like it that every delivery truck has to use Reverse to align at the un-loading point (beep, beep, BEEP), or that cement trucks queue up (idling) under your window, or that lunch hour for each set of trades involves a dozen professionally profane people sitting in the sun opposite your windows.

you may be paranoid but you may be right
Any construction site involves risks (and I don't mean to suggest that another crane will fall down). The longer the construction goes on, the more risk. The higher the building, the more risk. You should read this piece from Curbed to see why this guy said this about the Incredibly High Gehryness of Beekman Tower, 52 Beekman Street (hint: death is averted):

"I am not somebody who is automatically against the idea of large buildings. I'm beginning to think this tower is too tall for the neighborhood in which it's located. We have very narrow streets here, with a lot of people living nearby."

After this weekend's attacks by Mother Nature, more people may be more concerned about whether those guys up there properly secure materials hundreds of feet in the air.

sitting by the dock of the bay
The physical orientation on the completed project can be very significant, particularly if there is a commercial component to The Project. A 100% residential building gets city Department of Sanitation service (day times); a commercial establishment (office, hotel, restaurant, museum, whatever) gets private carting services, which are generally at off-hours and (all too often) at 4 AM.

I once lived in a loft building with bedrooms in the back. The good news is there was a lot of light in the back because of a parking lot; the bad news was the buildings across from and adjoining that parking lot had commercial trash pick-ups in the wee small hours. Part A: beep, beep, BEEP. Part B: the grinding of hydraulics as they lifted metal trash bins. Part C: dropping said bins on the sidewalk.

How likely is it that you can get someone to tell you where the trash will be completed for a not-yet-built building? How motivated are you to find out? If your bedrooms are on that side, you might want to check that out.

Apart from trash, many commercial buildings get many deliveries throughout the day and evening. From the beep-beep of FedEx trucks, to semi-trucks hauling large pieces of equipment, or machinery, or just stuff. If that loading dock is on your side, you may hear it.

benefits ... we got benefits
When the darn thing is up, some buildings add a lot to the immediate neighborhood ... from a stretch of new street level retail for an under-served area (many blocks need another dry cleaner; some blocks really need a bank; most don't 'need' another nail salon) ... to just being a nicer,  safer (better lit!) street scene to walk by.

Some new developments increase property values; a few ... err ... don't (methadone clinic? city agencies? some schools, some say).

Some people are afraid that if a 'nicer' residential building comes in, their building will suffer by comparison. My read of history is this is logical but not proven by reality. The property values for Your Basic Small Coop Loft in Tribeca have been enhanced, repeatedly, by the addition to the neighborhood of uber condos, and of even regular condos. That rising tide does tend to float all boats. (But this is true only if you sell after the benefits are felt.)

This rising tide can work even if the new development destroys some specific part of your value. I am thinking here of the Lincoln Towers complex in the West 60s along West End Avenue. The river views of nearly all residents here have been lost by the time that (that Trump abomination to Manhattan street naming convention) "Riverside Boulevard" was filled in. Yet it is my impression that the collateral benefits to these West End Avenue buildings from having so many high-end condos and rental properties nearby (cabs, street retail, general cachet) have made up for the immediate loss in market value driven by the lost river views (though not for the loss of the views, esthetically).

In this regard, "light" must be distinguished from "views". A new development that blocks certain lovely views but leaves your home well-lighted would be a very different outcome from a new development that was so close and so tall that you are plunged into darkness. I have seen lofts along Worth Street that have suffered market declines of a half-million dollars because of massive nearby building. Sucks when it happens to you.

NIMBYs can always hope
Sometimes "projects" don't become "buildings". We've seen that recently caused by changes in the market and credit conditions (56 Leonard Street), sometimes by local opposition that is well-placed politically (I am looking at you, Greenwich Village whatever-for-historic-preservation), sometimes by a combination of the two. But one should be very leery before predicting that a Neighboring Monstrosity can be stopped.

net-net, it is up to YOU
Overall, all of the things I have talked about (and the other elements that will occur to you as you read this, or me after I hit SEND) depend on your tolerance for risk, your tolerance for temporary noise, dust, congestion, your tolerance for experiencing Life In The Big City. That tolerance -- for any of these elements -- probably will change over time. Developers' schedules, appetites and capital may or may not coincide with your cycle of tolerance. And (or) you may find out that things that you 'knew' you had to have (could not live without) are not as sacred as you thought.

It is THE BIG CITY. Nothing stays the same. Deal with it.

Or not. As you prefer. It is your choice.

Hope this helps.


© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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Mar. 15, 2010 - new development limping towards finish line


will it cross?
There's a new development property that has been offering Manhattan lofts for sale for so long that I used to regularly refer to it when I commented on active listings of other firms. When I noted a (fairly) recent closing in the building I assumed it was a resale, since the original offerings were so, so long ago. Not so, after all.

Turns out that it needs two more closings before I can talk about it publicly by name, which is a rather extraordinary number of unsold units in a building that has fewer than 10 units, a building in which the first marketing was done in 2006 [two thousand SIX!], well before the development was completed, in which the last residential sales to close were in 2008, and in which the development's website has long since given up its URL. Yikes.

The lofts are in a prime Manhattan loft neighborhood, on a prime street for lofts. More than half the residential units were already in contract before The Peak. They were even able to sell one above $1,100/ft with a contract signed soon after The Fall of the House of Lehman.

But the last sale price was at $634/ft for space that was marketed without a view. Last two lofts are offered for sale above $1,000/ft (with light, views and space). One hardy soul is trying to flip out at $1,200/ft (a 12% premium over the arrival price). Double yikes.

in the canon of western literature
Cue Marlow. What's that you say, Kurtz?


© Sandy Mattingly 2010


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Mar. 12, 2010 - now 17 pairs of 2007 Manhattan loft sales + recent resales

quick note
I just edited the March 5 post (now titled) data dump: 17 Manhattan lofts sold in 2007 + recently, to add 3 Manhattan loft resales with recent deeds filed that were last sold in 2007. It is an interesting data set, and is unique among Manhattan Loft Guy posts in that a huge number of people seem to have bookmarked it (i.e., many, many visitors but not so many unique visitors).

paging Sally Field
That tells me that you like the post, and that I should not screw around with your bookmarking. Hence the edits, rather than an updated post. And now anyone who was not already aware of it has been given another chance to find it.


© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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Mar. 12, 2010 - Quote For The Day, 2000 edition

the goods
Before I tell you how I found it, here's a long-time Tribeca resident talking about the change in Tribeca's population in the 20 years they lived there, way back in 2000:

You've never seen so many people under three feet high...

Well played, sir, well played.

it started with baby clothes
Curbed started me down a path this morning, by linking to a small Downtown Express item about the evolution of a clothing store that has changed its name as it is beginning to serve older children. The thrust of the Curbed piece is that the "baby boom [in Tribeca] is starting to age". Ummmm ... no. That's not right.

The baby boom isn't aging in Tribeca, but one store owner's kids are aging (if you can say "aging" to describe a 6 and 8 year old), as is pretty clear from the DT:

The six-year-old clothing and toy shop on Hudson St. has grown with Adams’ daughters, now ages 6 and 8, and Adams decided the name and mission ought to keep growing up as well: She’s keeping all her unique birth-to-age-7 offerings but is now expanding to serve tweens

What got me going down memory lane is that I remember this exact thing happening with a Tribeca clothing store 20+ years ago, because that proprietor's daughter was the same age as mine. As our girls got older, her merchandise adjusted. (Cool for us.) I can't remember the name of the store, but I well remember the stuff.

plus ca change...
Which got me thinking about periodic news coverage about Tribeca's population booms, recycled every five years or so. I wandered through the NY Times archives, which is always a dangerous thing for Manhattan Loft Guy to do, as I tend to get ... distracted. Very distracted.

I found a few articles that I will link to below, without offering commentary on them. The single best quote was quoted above, but there was another terrific quote in the same article from July 30, 2000, which highlights the impact of demographic changes on the mix of activities in Tribeca very well. 

Steven Wils also noticed the growing number of children in the neighborhood, but it made him anxious. He operated Harry Wils & Company on Duane Street, across from the park, with 18 trucks coming and going around the clock, laden with butter, eggs, cheese, olives, chocolate, spices and oils.

''If there were 50 kids, now there were 150,'' Mr. Wils said. ''It just wasn't safe anymore.'' Happily accustomed to living over the store, Mr. Wils reluctantly moved the business to Secaucus, N.J., in 1998.

I remember trucks like those, which used to sit at loading docks almost blocking Duane Street just east of Greenwich. Even with Duane Street being very wide there, it took a lot of maneuvering to get those trailers to back on to those loading docks. Especially in the days before beep-beeping to warn of trucks in reverse, a distracted pedestrian (with or without toddler or stroller) would be at risk.

some quotes, some links
(Some of these articles format very strangely; blame the Old Grey Lady, not me.)

  • May 15, 1983:  "The population in Community District 1 more than doubled between 1970 and 1980, rising to 16,322." 
  • May 14, 1989: "As the weather warms up, competition for benches and space grows fierce at the 2.5-acre Washington Market Park, on Greenwich Street between Chambers and Duane Streets, TriBeCa's one serious recreation area with tennis courts, a playground, a gazebo and immaculate flower beds." 
  • April 14, 1990:  "Now, however, a downtown migration and a baby boom have turned this warehouse district into a neighborhood. These days, Washington Market Park, built in 1983 at Chambers and Greenwich Streets, seems far too small.
    ''There's really no room for big kids, and it's really not big enough for the little kids either,'' Ms. Crafts said, cradling her 8-month-old daughter, Jemma Rose Brown, in her arms. ''On a warm day, you have stroller gridlock here. On a freezing day, it's about the right amount of people.''"
  • May 27, 1990: "the population of TriBeCa has gone from 382 in 1970 to 7,800 in 1990. [The Tribeca Task Force] projects that school enrollment this fall will be four times that of 1985."
  • August 11, 1991: "The population growth rate in TriBeCa is 88.9 percent," said [a member of Community Board 1]. "That is the highest rate of any residential neighborhood in Manhattan. It speaks strongly to the fact that people are moving to the area, spending money and supporting services." 
  • Sept 26, 1993:  "P.S. 234 had 180 students on opening day of its new building five years ago. Today, 650 youngsters pack the school, with its nontraditional program that eliminates tracking and features multi-age groupings until the sixth grade. The Early Childhood Center, in Independence Plaza, started in 1988 with 53 pupils; it, too, is now at capacity with 170 children. The k-2 center includes creative writing and individualized reading." 
  • July 25, 2003 "chairwoman of Community Board 1, is worried about overpopulation. In 1980, according to census figures, there were 15,918 people living in the community board district; by 2000, that had more than doubled to 32,116." 

Enjoy your wet weekend!


© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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Mar. 11, 2010 - serial renovaters / selling 45 Crosby Street to buy 18 Desbrosses Street


they've got the bug
In doing (now frequent!) updates on the Master List of Manhattan Loft Closings, I sometimes notice that the same people who have sold one loft have just bought another. Not that I am stalking these people, just that the names ring a bell if the two transactions are close enough together.

It happened this morning when I noted the recent buyers of the "Artist’s Classic Loft brimming with potential" that is 4th floor at 18 Desbrosses Street (aka 463 Greenwich Street) are the sellers of the very successful renovation that I hit in my post on March 9,  45 Crosby races to contract above ask / could it be a million dollar renovation?  It looks as though they are about to embark on yet another major Manhattan loft renovation, using some money they did not expect to get when their old loft sold above ask.

how much renovating can you do for $115,000?
You should go back to that March 9 post to see how nice a job they did in renovating the Manhattan loft #7S at 45 Crosby Street. In summary, they started with "unbelievable" light and "gorgeous" views, then added some things (kitchen, baths, a steel-and-glass third "bedroom") and changed others:

the old ceiling has been covered, recessed lighting added, much brick has been covered with built-ins, and that the loft has been completely flipped (the current master bedroom is in the back, where the old living room had been).

Along with general market appreciation between their purchase in 2004 and sale this year, that renovation contributed to an increase in value from $1.6mm (2004) to $2.765mm (February 25, 2010). I am sure they did not pay a million bucks for the renovation, and not all of the 'added' value is from the renovation, but I am sure they took more dollars out because of the renovation than it cost them to do the renovation. And they took out more than they anticipated, since they sold above their asking price (and found a buyer and contract in 19 days!).

how much renovating will they do to a classic artist's loft?
I may have to wait another six years before they sell their new loft on the 4th floor at 18 Desbrosses Street to see what kind of renovation they do, but they are starting there with not much more than "[g]ood light, great bones and inherent warmth", and nearly the same size space they sold on Crosby Street ("2,215 sq ft" now; #2,350 sq ft" then). They've fixed up this shape before, as both lofts are Long-and-Narrow, with the significant difference being that 45 Crosby Street had 3 windows on the south (Long) side.

The new loft at 18 Desbrosses Street has no side windows, 3 in front and 4 in back, in a configuration that suggests a total gut job: the 4 back windows are in a bathroom and the open kitchen. Assuming the risers are there, I expect they will slide the kitchen up the west (Long) wall and (probably) that bathroom up the east (Long) wall to get 2 real bedrooms in the back, with the master capturing that east bathroom in the master suite.

east side, west side
These folks are moving from a beautifully renovated loft with great light and views on the east edge of Soho to a build-your-dream loft on the northern edge of western Tribeca. They got out of Soho at $1,176/ft ($2.765mm) and into Tribeca at $812/ft ($1.8mm), moving nearly due west while crossing the angled Canal Street. The contract to sell 45 Crosby looks like it was effective a full week after the contract to buy at 18 Desbrosses; that took some nerve. Maintenance will be nearly $1,000/month higher in the new place. I wonder why they did it.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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Mar. 10, 2010 - jazz great in great loft

shares a birthday with my mom
While Manhattan Loft Guy is a bit of a jazz fan, I am a huge loft fan, so my interest in the NY Times City Room blog post last night commemorating Ornette Coleman's 80th birthday was focused more on his garment district loft than on his art. (My buddy Andy is chagrined.) I am not going to out Mr. Coleman by giving his address, but I was able to find the old listing from when his loft had been offered for sale a while back.

I was disappointed that the Times blog post did not feature more photos, and the single photo gave me a very different impression of the loft than one gets from looking at the floor plan and the 4 or 5 old listing photos. He's got a full floor loft with a largely open floor plan (one "bedroom", plus the requisite recording studio). You can't tell from the Times photo that the ceilings are 11 feet high, or that the kitchen in which Coleman sits is top notch and minimalist, nor that it is arranged with other plumbing elements into an almost (pre-Jade Jagger) "pod" (without the shiny doors).

being on the market, only in a sense
He was asking in the low $800s/ft for very large 'done' space a year after The Peak in the overall Manhattan real estate market, in a building in which the last sales were at $623/ft at The Peak (for a smaller, buy-it-and-build-it loft), $714/ft for a highly renovated "International Style" loft that sold just short of The Peak, and at $922/ft for a "stunning" higher floor loft with great light that also closed just short of The Peak.

He overlapped on the market with an higher floor neighbor with another full-floor loft, a neighbor who was unsuccessful in selling one of those "published" over-the-top lofts at a price that ended up being 25% under where he was. In other words, Mr. Coleman probably did not really want to sell (he held to his price for the nearly 8 months he was "on" the market). No harm in that, as it is a free country.

musical trivia
One small irony: Mr. Coleman lives in a building the given name for which matches the adopted name of another musical giant (different genre). I wonder if he's a fan of That Guy....

Many more birthdays, Mr. Coleman, many more!


© Sandy Mattingly 2010


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Mar. 9, 2010 - 45 Crosby races to contract above ask / could it be a million dollar renovation?

like a new word?
Have you ever had the experience of learning a new word (one that had been totally unfamiliar to you) and then you notice that word repeatedly, in books, news articles, or even in personal conversations? Following yesterday's post and what I just saw in new deed filings, I wonder if "million dollar renovation" is that kind of new word in the Manhattan Loft Guy world....

In yesterday's psst! wanna see a million dollar renovation? 55 East 11 Street closes I observed the change in value from a 2007 purchase plus a renovation, to a 2010 sale, and wondered how much of that increase was attributable to the renovation (and: hello! Curbed readers). I also wondered how much that renovation cost, but I hope it was clear that I was talking about a "million dollar renovation" in the sense of adding up to a million in value, not as a million in cost.

So imagine my surprise this morning that the only Manhattan loft that I see with a new deed filed sold $1,165,000 above where it had last sold, and that there had been a renovation in between.

With the Manhattan loft #7S at 45 Crosby Street, the increase in value from 2004 ($1.6mm) to the very recent sale ($2.765mm) has a great deal to do with general Manhattan market improvement since 2004 and not just the renovation. But what really interests me about this loft sale is that it took only 19 days to find a contract and that the contract was $115,000 above the asking price. Bang, zoom ... to the moon, Alice. The fact that one set of former neighbors probably hates these sellers ocurred to me, but only later....

fresh news (with a fresh attitude?)
How fresh is this news? The February 25 deed was filed today. The Stribling site keeps post-closing listings up (bless you, Miss Elizabeth) so the full pix and floor plan are readily available for 45 Crosby Street #7S. True lovers of Manhattan lofts will want to compare-and-contrast the before-and-after conditions in this loft compared to yesterday's at 55 East 11 Street (the Curbed link makes it easy for yesterday's loft), but my first impression was that the bulk of the renovation money at 45 Crosby Street went into the kitchen, baths and steel-and-glass third "bedroom". However, the 2004 listing photos (in our data-base; sorry you can't see them) show that the old ceiling has been covered, recessed lighting added, much brick has been covered with built-ins, and that the loft has been completely flipped (the current master bedroom is in the back, where the old living room had been).

In other words, they did a lot of work after buying in May 2004. Not a million dollars of work (especially at 2004 prices), but a lot. They had great bones to work with.

The Long-and-Narrow footprint offers three long-side windows, bringing much light into the kitchen/dining area and into 2 real bedrooms. Ceilings are still high enough to be called "high", even with recessed lighting and covering the sprinklers. The ten windows make it "unbelievably light-filled" and reveal "gorgeous" downtown views.

But (again) the news here is not the renovation but the pace. I haven't noticed a quicker loft sale than this (contract in 19 days) and there must have been enough of a feeding frenzy in that short time that it sold $115,000 over ask (a 4.3% premium). It is nice to know that that old saw if you price it right they will come is still operative.

That sale computes to just under $1,200/ft for a small coop loft in a building with a roof deck but no other amenities. It may be silly to quibble with such successful listing agents, but I would not call anything on Crosby "one of Soho's best streets", so this should not represent the best price available in prime Soho for a small coop loft. But a darn good price; one that the buyers evidently felt that had to pay, and did so happily.

old news (same attitude)
It is great to now have access to ancient sales data, so I have added to the Master List of Manhattan Loft Closings the data point that this loft changed hands the first time in March 1997 for $650,000. The notes reveal that that was the first sale by an original shareholder in this 12-unit coop; "original", going back to conversion in 1978. One can only imagine the likely primitive state of the loft in the first 20 years after becoming a coop, but judging from the enthusiastic prose in the 2004 listing and the underwhelming pix in our data-base from that listing, the 1997-buyers-turned-2004-sellers thought they had really improved the place. (It was said to be "magnificent" in 2004, but the pix show otherwise.)

more recent neighborly news (same attitude)
Careful readers will remember that Manhattan Loft Guy has been in this building recently. Very recently. #5S was the subject of my February 25, was it feng shui that got 45 Crosby Street sold?, after a deed was filed on February 23; that closing was February 6. (Welcome [back] Curbed readers!) That post has so much information that is even more relevant now that #7S has closed that (if you are still with me) you should refill your coffee before continuing.

In that post I compared the #5S closing at $1.85mm in February 2010 to #6S closing at $1.575mm in 2000, but I also related some sales history involving #7S in 2004. Indeed, I got so caught up that I finally said

This is too big a topic to continue digressing in this post, but I am Oh So Curious about this building now.... My head is spinning but I must stop.

I'm back.

The point of that February 25 post was that the feng shui angle did not appreciably assist the marketing of #5S and that the history of that listing (on and off the market for three years, with four firms, pricing starting at $2.899mm) shows that they really missed the market. Let me draw the parallels with the recent sale of #7S, then I will resist the temptation to go back to the 2004 sale of #7S. (Maybe another day, for this oh-so-curious building.)

the neighbors were smashed (not in a good way)
The structural advantage that #7S has over #5S is those 3 south windows along one long wall, and the living room skylight. (Maybe the extra height improves the light and views.) The #5S sellers seem to have been as proud of their renovation as the #7S sellers, but The Market reacted very differently to the two lofts.

The listing histories overlap only for a short time, but note how closely they overlap (in time, not price) when they get to that time:

  asking     contract
Feb 8, 2007 $2.899mm #5S    
May 23, 2007 $2.6mm #5S    
Jan 12, 2008 $2.65mm #5S    
Feb 14, 2008 $2.495mm #5S    
Sept 9, 2008 $2.29mm #5S    
Sept 25, 2008 $2.19mm #5S    
April 1, 2009 $1.995mm #5S    
Oct 9, 2009 $1.895mm #5S    
Nov 13, 2009 $2.65mm   #7S  
Dec 2, 2009     #7S $2.765mm
Dec 3, 2009   #5S   $1.85mm

(note that I have ignored the times when #5S was off the market)

a million dollar renovation?
(There's that word again!) I understand that any renovation is personal, and that a buyer may not like a renovation as much as a seller. But the spread of $915,000 between these two contemporaneous contract prices is simply staggering. Personally, I don't like the deep tub in #5S, but I have had a longer red wall than in #5S. #7S may be a nicer renovation, but it can't be that much nicer,

Except that The Market -- ever so cold, ever so cruel -- thinks that it is.

I don't get that. I really don't.
Now imagine life in the building after November 13, when #7S came out as sellers nearly $800,000 above where #5S was. Both neighbors knew that anyone visiting one loft was likely to visit the other one. I imagine that the #5S sellers, tired as they were, were thrilled by the comparison, figuring (something like) "these knuckleheads are going to sell our loft with their impossible price". If both sellers were aware that they were both negotiating just after Thanksgiving (possible, but not likely), the #5S folks probably figured that #7S must be taking a deep haircut.

My imagination fails in predicting what the #5S folks felt when they found out where they were both in contract. First, they had to be relieved to finally being in contract themselves. But I don't even want to consider what they may have felt when they learned that those @^$(*&^$)# neighbors signed a deal above  their @^$(*&^$)# asking price. I don't even want to go there; it is way more than stopping to watch a car wreck....

Is this spread an indication of how harshly The Market penalizes sellers for being on the market for a long time at the wrong price?? I don't get that. I really don't.

(Forgive me ...) The feng shui sellers were forced to contemplate the sound of the other shoe dropping. (It was loud.)


© Sandy Mattingly 2010


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Mar. 8, 2010 - psst! wanna see a million dollar renovation? 55 East 11 Street just closed


(more or less)
The Manhattan loft 55 East 11 Street #3 just closed (a week ago!) and will eventually be added to my cumulative list of lofts with paired resales (March 5, data dump: 14 Manhattan lofts sold in 2007 + recently). If I were to update that list of resales today from 14 to 15, this one would be at the top of the list, as the new price is 44% higher than the 2007 sale.

Given that this loft sold in 2007 as "an excellent opportunity to create [your] own space" and this year as "painstakingly renovated and transformed into a one-of-a-kind piece of art" it is a difficult puzzle to determine how much of that difference was due to the renovation and how much to general market change. In round numbers, it is possible that the 2007 buyers added a million dollars in value by renovating so painstakingly.

paging Burgess Meredith
I did not know there was a loft building in Manhattan called The Penguin House, but that is the name for 55 East 11 Street. (Where did that come from?, I wonder.) The 3rd floor was said to be "2,325 sq ft" when it sold on January 31, 2007, though with the 2009 listing Sothebys is typically close-mouthed about the size of a cooperative loft. As mentioned, it was sold then as a candidate for renovation and now, fully transformed, into that a "one-of-a-kind piece of art", and "real rustic splendor". Features include:  a "windowed gourmet chef's kitchen [with] concrete counters, custom cabinetry and counter-top dining for 5"; a "double-size master suite ... [with] stunning spa bath"; "custom steel and glass doors"; and central air. The highly experienced and very credible selling agent can't contain her enthusiasm, concluding: "It doesn't get better than this. A truly special find."

March comes in like a lion (watch out for changing animals)
The loft closed on March 1 (a speedy deed filing for a Manhattan sale!) at $2.8mm. Using "2,325 sq ft", that's $1,204/ft, compared to $839/ft when it sold January 31, 2007 for $1.95mm.

It is fascinating to wonder how much of that difference of $365/ft is due to the renovation, and how much is from an overall market change from One Year Before Peak to Two Years After Peak. Though one should not assume that every dollar of renovation cost generates a dollar of increased value, I would love to know what it cost to transform this space from " opportunity" to "rustic splendor" slash "one-of-a-kind piece of art" slash "truly special".

Whatever they spent, it is conceivable that they added nearly a million dollars in value to this loft in doing that renovation. Do yourself a favor and use that little magnifying glass thingy on the StreetEasy photos to get a good view of the pix.


© Sandy Mattingly 2010


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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.

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