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Manhattan Loft Guy


February 2011

Feb. 28, 2011 - O’Neill loft seller finally gives up, yet sells above ask at 655 Sixth Avenue

bizarre is in the eye of the beholder
I don’t think that the most unusual thing about the sale of the Manhattan loft #2M at 655 Sixth Avenue (The O’Neill Building) is the synchronicity in that it sold on February 17 for $1.2mm after having been offered first at $1.699mm, compared to it having been offered by the sponsor at $1.75mm but was purchased originally for $1,186,261 in 2007. Nor is it so unusual that the recent sale was within 4% of the (many) asking prices over 22 months before finding a contract 7 weeks ago, yet it took all of those 22 months to negotiate less than an 4% discount.

YMMV, but to me the most bizarre thing about this sale is that -- when it eventually happened -- the January 10 contract at $1.2mm exceeded the asking price that had been in place for 60 days. And the one that had been in place for a month before that.  And the one that had been in place for a month before that.

aphorisms ‘R us
One of the hoary chestnuts that sellers sometimes take too much comfort from is that it only takes one, as in you only need one buyer to agree with you about value to sell at your (inflated?) price. The general partner to this chestnut is … and two to get a bidding war. Until a more egregious example of an exception-proving-a-rule comes along, sellers everywhere will be pointing to this sale while roasting those chestnuts.

I assume that 2 buyers who were new to the market in December saw this listing at about the same time, both preferred #2M to anything else then available, both figured the loft could be had for yet another discount, and then both were surprised to find that there was competition. Probably not as surprised as the sellers were, but still....

did they ever live there?
The sellers owned #2M from January 3, 2007 until February 17, 2011, but they probably never intended to live there: they offered it for sale (at $1.75mm, as mentioned above) the very same day they bought it (at $1,186,261, as mentioned). They also tried to cover their bases by immediately offering the loft for rent; while they continued to maintain an active sales listing for all but six of the next 47 months, our database shows that they successfully rented it in September 2007 and in May 2010 (lengths unknown).

Try to keep that wrinkle in mind while looking at this listing history, and note the zig-zag price history:

Jan 3, 2007 sponsor sale $1,186,261
Jan 3, 2007 new listing $1.75mm
Mar 28   $1.699mm
May 11   $1.599mm
June 12 hiatus  

Nov 6 back on market $1.85mm
May 7, 2008   $1.795mm
May 13   $1.765mm
July 28   $1.699mm
Aug 18   $1.485mm
Jan 13, 2009   $1.399mm
Jan 27   $1.3mm
Feb 19   $1.25mm
July 2 hiatus  
Aug 1 back on market $1.25mm
Jan 26, 2010   $1.199mm
Sept 8    $1.15mm
Oct 6   $1.125mm
Nov 10   $1.175mm
Jan 10, 2011 contract  
Feb 17 sold $1.2mm

mondo bizarro
For fans of such things (like me!) that history is incredibly rich, and extremely weird. More so if you mentally annotate this history with general market milestones, such as The Peak (when #2M was offered for $1.85mm) and the Lehman bankruptcy etc (which did not provoke an asking price reduction for 4 months).

a market can be too thin
Isn’t it obvious that the two buyers needed to bid this thing up from $1.175mm by January 10, 2011 could not have been interested in this loft at any time during nearly a full year before making a play?? And that no one else was interested at its (now confirmed) market value?

In terms of appreciating weirdness, perhaps you have a different favorite from this history, but I am quite satisfied with mine.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Feb. 27, 2011 - Greene Street block as a lab for ... global economic development??

I don’t want to leave the impression that I regularly peruse economics blogs about global development issues, but I did come across this February 22 small blog post by an econ prof with NYU’s Development Research Institute that focused on the Greene Street block in Soho from Houston to Prince Streets:

We usually analyze Development at the national level. Why not other levels? At the other extreme, here is a short and surprising illustrated history of one city block.

As advertised, it is both short and illustrated, so I won’t attempt to summarize (much).

I don’t know that Professor Easterly’s got an academic point about development to make there, other than to note the twists and turns of one Soho block … as a way to say “you never know what can develop”?? I don’t hik I will spoil anything by quoting his closing:

Its history had been a series of unexpected events involving many actors, from Nicholas Bayard to the yellow fever mosquito to Anthony Arnoux to James Bogardus to Jane Jacobs to George Maciunas, few or none of whom could have anticipated the outcomes of their actions. Like many other examples, Soho illustrates that a lot of economic development is a surprise.

Let me summarize, a bit:

He’s got images from before this block was a “block”, in an undeveloped condition (pre-European), as farmland from at least the 1660s (a 1768 image), and a 1782 map showing a 100 foot hill and a meandering creek (neither survives, obviously). One focus is 139 Greene Street, built in 1824 after a yellow fever outbreak pushed wealthy families north, which became a brothel by the 1860s (one of 23 on this one block!). The cast iron factory next door dates from 1880 and represents the “next boom ... in more traditional sectors”. That is 135 Greene Street, which looks like it was converted to coops in 1980 (more, soon).

The short and illustrated history touches on the Robert Moses plans and the Jane Jacobs team response, leading to the beginning of “Soho”:

In 1967, with real estate prices depressed by the uncertainty about the Expressway and the deterioration of the neighborhood, a Lithuanian-American artist named George Maciunas had bought one of the old factories and converted into a studio and residence for his artist co-op. Many artists followed in his wake. The neighborhood was not zoned for residences, so the pioneer artist-residents lived illegally, finding ways to tap into power and water supplies.

The Life Magazine photo of this block from March 27, 1970 has become iconic (I think I’ve seen it at the Soho Alliance website). Unmentioned is the tension between artists arriving because the area is more or less dying commercially, and the hustle and bustle in that photo. But this is a short history and I digress ….

A hop, skip and a jump take us through Soho-as-gallery-center to boutiques and the Apple store. More than 450 years in 12 images.

the non-mall part of current Soho
His last image represents the current high-end boutique era of Soho. That is 142 Greene Street, which the menswear designer Paul Smith bought in 2006 for $27.25mm, and that is his store on the ground floor.

From the New York Times on May 9, 1997: there were still more than 200 art galleries in Soho, but John Weber was about to move “one of Soho’s oldest galleries” to West 20 Street, a time when; Pace Wildenstein was still in the building; Metro Pictures had already moved to West 24 Street from 150 Greene Street.

that old whore house
One cited source for the history of 139 Greene Street is the always invaluable Christopher Gray and his New York Times Streetscapes feature; on November 19, 1989 he wrote that the area had become safe for haberdashery fans within 30 years after that prostitution bust, and notes the business typical of the area after World War I:

In 1890, the Real Estate Record & Guide described Greene Street as a center for the hatter's trade and noted the end of its former status as a center of prostitution, saying: ''A man can walk through now without being himself too frequently accosted through closed window shutters.''

The house at 139 Greene remained more or less intact and telephone directories after the 1920's give a succession of typical SoHo businesses: trucking, rags, paper stock and wastepaper.       

my parochial concerns
Of course I love to read about history like this, but this blog is about residential real estate, so I am going to quibble with the professor’s description of “this block … [as] one of the wealthiest blocks in the city” (assuming that can be measured by the value of residential lofts sold). Yes, this is prime Soho, but other blocks nearby have a history of more valuable residential sales.

I count only only 6 coops or condos on this block, plus one rental. And only two sales since 2007, both of which sold under $1,000/ft. 134 Greene Street #3 sold in July 2010 at $2.8mm for “3,000 sq ft” and #5N at 135 Greene Street (next door to one old whorehouse) sold in April 2009 at $2.65mm for “2,775 sq ft”. 135 Greene Street is a 10-unit coop, with this fascinating nugget about architect-owners: “a long line of six highly accomplished architects who have owned or currently own and live here”.

Lovely lofts on a lovely loft block; just not among the top-selling lofts in Soho. Thanks to Professor Easterly for the history and tour.

a kindred spirit?
Not a dry or dismal economist, the econ guy has enough of a sense of humor to conclude his personal bio with this nugget:

He is believed to be the most famous development economist named after a wind direction.

the h/t for leading a Manhattan real estate blogger to an economics development blog goes to polymath Andrew Sullivan

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 26, 2011 - 108 Wooster Street lofts clears at $826/ft, pines for The Peak

those were the days
When the Manhattan loft #2D at 108 Wooster Street sold on February 3 for $980,000, that clearing price was a discount of 18% off the asking price, not to mention 22% down from peak pricing in this small loft building in prime Soho that was converted to residential ownership in the second era of local conversions (circa 1982). If the StreetEasy building description is accurate (“built for small manufacturers in 1880”), one of those small manufacturers was a Jersey boy, T. A. Edison, who had a business here in 1881 “for the manufacture of dynamos, underground conductors, sockets, switches, fixtures, meters, etc.” But I digress...

#2D is said to be “1,186 sq ft” and (reading between the lines of the babble) is in somewhat primitive condition (“[c]lassic old-style features throughout [with] ... [m]odern updates include stainless steel kitchen appliances, a washer/dryer, modern bath, and contemporary cable lighting”). Back in the day, #5E was in no better condition (probably even more primitive) when it sold nearly at The Peak on July 1, 2008 for $1.15mm ($1,008/ft for “1,140 sq ft”).

egg on Manhattan Loft Guy face?
Very (very) long-time readers may remember that I hit #5E twice, once beating it up for a peculiar floor plan as an active listing (October 16, 2007, all feet at 108 Wooster are square but not equal), once acknowledging that The Market judged that layout differently (January 31, 2008, who laughs at 108 Wooster deal?). Suffice it to say that #2D has a much better footprint than #5E (and ceilings 2.5 feet higher and that “updated” kitchen), so that the Peak-to-now natural spread is probably greater than the simple arithmetic (down 22%).

an odd duck of a building
With maintenance for #2D of $970/mo and income from the commercial rental of $18,000+ per year, this loft is essentially “rent” free. A reader on that #5E thread suggested that this building was not created as a traditional cooperative housing association, but as an S Corp. If so, this probably involved clever lawyering 30 years ago around the (former) 80/20 rule problems from all that rental income.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 25, 2011 - NY Post "Just Sold” loft at 7 Worth Street was a Manhattan Loft Guy hit on December 21

anybody read The Post?
Yesterday’s typical “Just sold!” Thursday feature in the Real Estate section of the New York Post (a feature with this promising sub-head: “The latest info about recent sales — in your back yard and beyond”) included a Manhattan loft sale that hardly counts as recent (or, the “latest info”), even for dead tree media. Here’s the “news” report:

TRIBECA $1,600,000

7 Worth St.

Two-bedroom, two-bath loft co-op, 2,300 square feet, with dishwasher, washer/dryer, walk-in closets, exposed brick, central AC and 500-square-foot basement; building features elevator and garage. Maintenance $2,319. Asking price $1,650,000, on market 80 weeks. Brokers: Doug Eichman, Victoria Terri-Cote and Cristina Cote, The Corcoran Group

Looks interesting, right? 80 weeks on the market, and only a $50k discount from the ask … hmmmm. Maybe there is a blog post in there about how bad the market was in 2009 (80 weeks ago) compared to 2010, or on what it is like to be on the market for 80 weeks.

been there, read that
Really close readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know where this is going, and most of the rest of you know something is up. What’s up is that you knew about this sale, and about what it said about The State of The Market, Circa 2009 and about The State of The Market, Circa 2010, way back when I hit it on December 21 (you know, when it had “just sold” ;-) in my ground floor loft at 7 Worth St proves how bad 2009 was.

The money quote touches on two common Manhattan Loft Guy themes (1) how dangerous the 2009 thin market was for sellers, and (2) the tough choices that disappointed sellers are faced with.

I would have thought that the nuclear winter for Manhattan residential real estate began to thaw, in general on this island, by Summer 2009 and was well under way by that Fall. But that is not how it worked out on Worth Street near Hudson:

June 5, 2009 new to market $1.499mm
August 6 $1.399mm
December 6 $1.4mm
Jan 28, 2010 off the market
March 20 back on market $1.65mm
Sept 16 contract
Dec 14 sold $1.6mm

Clearly, The Market rejected this loft from June 2009 through January 2010 at prices below where it embraced this loft 9 months later. The sellers earn props for having correctly gamed the fight or flight question conundrum for disappointed sellers (in my November 15 post). They did not like the prices The Market was signalling in 2009, so they waited off the market; when they came back, they came back higher, and patient. They were so patient, they sat at $1.65mm for six months before getting that contract at $1.6mm.

Well played, people, well played!

is a word to the wise sufficient? (a curiously shilling experience)
If you really want to keep up with “The latest info about recent sales — in your back yard and beyond”, and if “your backyard and beyond” has room for Manhattan lofts, read this blog and check the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 from time to time. You’d have seen this February 24 “news” on December 21, with a lot more context than you find in The Post.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 24, 2011 - return of the gut renovation buyer / 222 Park Avenue South edition

was she ever away?
I wonder if the run of recent Manhattan loft sales that I have noticed of lofts in need of a complete build-out is an actual sign of Something Happening In The Market, or if it just random noise that I happen to notice. I don’t think this is going to make it more of a mental note (to continue to watch for), as opposed to one of those Note To Self ideas that I seem to rarely even get back to, because I can’t think of a way to systematically look for this very narrow niche of an already small part of the overall Manhattan residential real estate market. Sigh.

But here’s what’s interesting to me (today): the Manhattan loft at #10C at 222 Park Avenue South sold on January 14 after needing only 24 days to find a contract, and it sold in a condition that (at least in former market conditions) made it tough to sell.

This loft was explicitly marketed as needing a re-do, though the babble never used the gut word:

Ready for renovation, this loft gives you the perfect opportunity for customization to suit your needs.

one reason for scarcity
It has long been my impression that there have been fewer buyers interested in (or qualified to buy) gut-job lofts since credit tightened in 2008. The reason being that it had gotten much harder to finance a renovation project and a mortgage up front, so the liquidity required to put 20% down and pay cash for a $250/ft build-out and have a big enough pot of liquid wealth left over to impress a coop board in tough times became a bigger obstacle in a market that already had some good-sized (other) obstacles.

Yet this loft came out on September 22 at $1.295mm and found a contract by October 16. So that is at least one (quick to act) build-out buyer. But wait … there’s more! There must have been at least two such buyers, as the price got bid up to $1.35mm.

sound familiar to you? (it would be if you read Manhattan Loft Guy more closely)
This sequence and result remind me of the gut-job bidding war that I I hit on January 26, gut job loft at 395 Broadway provokes war, gets $1,000/ft (which I also mentioned yesterday in hitting a loft 10 floors below), where there were at least two (quick to act) build-out buyers bidding up that one.

Remember that I wondered at the start whether I am merely noticing something that has been going on (unobserved) for a while? My antennae were really up at the end of January! The day before that 395 Broadway post I hit (January 25) 303 Mercer Street loft with nothing but potential sells for $640/ft and teh day after (January 27) I hit white box loft sells for $847/ft at 251 West 19 Street, Manhattan Loft Guy is surprised (granted, the build-out market might be different for a white box than for a gut-and-build, but not very, IMO).

One of the 3 same-building lofts that I hit in my  February 8, is loft market at 722 Broadway irrational?  3 very different prices can be explained was an ‘estate condition’ sale (which sold 21% lower than a dressed-up neighbor) but that sale was in September -- not as recent as these others. And then there’s the loft that sold in September after having been gutted by a fire, which I hit in my October 26, what is your loft worth after a major FIRE? 12 East 12 Street loft goes for more than you'd think, in a post that found it weird that this loft sold in a burnt-out condition off just 15% from where it had sold at The Peak, and that was explicitly marketed to cash-buyers only.

So, today’s post makes 5 in 4 weeks, 6 in 4 months. I will add one more, further back, just to establish that this is not merely a recent fixation of mine: in my July 30 divorce + dollars / 111 Hudson Street loft sale is painful on several levels, I hit a loft that occupies the unusual space between a white box and a gut job. That full floor loft had been 3 separate units, demolished and begun to be rebuilt (studs, BX cable, capped plumbing) in a project ended when a marriage did.

a fool’s bet
I bet that I would find very, very few similar purchases in the thin (credit poor) market of 2009. But if you want to win that bet, you have to do the work to prove it. Don’t try, except for fun, as my standard betting limit is 25 cents.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011
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Feb. 23, 2011 - renovated 395 Broadway loft is jealous of primitive top floor + of 505 Greenwich Street loft

envy is bad for the soul
When the Manhattan loft #5E at 395 Broadway sold on January 28 at $1.15mm ($945/ft), it was said to be “completely” renovated (unlike #15A, the gut job with glorious light, which sold on December 23 for $1,033/ft that I hit on January 26, gut job loft at 395 Broadway provokes war, gets $1,000/ft). #5E last sold in April 2005, not long after the loft I hit yesterday at 505 Greenwich Street (505 Greenwich Street loft wonders “what slump?” after closing up 61% since 2004) but, unlike that loft that appreciated 61%, #5E ‘gained’ only 2.7% in the 5+ years since selling at $1.12mm.

cue the Manhattan Loft Guy chorus
(You know the lines …) Life is not fair. Neither is The Market.

busy corner of non-prime Tribeca vs. quiet corner of non-prime “Soho”
Of course the prewar early conversion (1983) with no amenities other than a roof deck at 395 Broadway is a very different building than the 2004 new construction with many amenities (pet spa!) at 505 Greenwich Street, but both condos are at an edge of their prime loft neighborhoods. But you will exit 395 Broadway making no mistake about being in the (busy) middle of commerce, as opposed to stepping onto the sidewalk at 505 Greenwich being unsure which way to go to find … anything.

The finishes in 505 Greenwich were state of the art for the mid-lux category development in 2004, with listing descriptions here dropping proper proper names and materials promiscuously; in contrast, that “recent renovation” of #5E at 395 Broadway did not disturb the floor plan (other than now describing a former “sleep loft” as “storage space above”) and generated a listing description with only one (very mild) proper proper name (California closets) and no bragging about finishes apart from calling the kitchen “mint” and the track lighting “new”.

If these relative benefits of 505 Greenwich over 395 Broadway are not enough to explain the 22% premium of #5D over #5E, their respective layouts further advantage #5D. The Greenwich Street loft is oriented to the huge windows along one long wall; the Broadway at Walker Street loft is a classic Long-and-Narrow, but the two bedrooms are at the windowed narrow end while the other two “huge” windows along one long wall are not featured in the listing photos. The Broadway loft has only one bathroom, about as far from the bedrooms as you could be in a “1,217 sq ft” loft.

Net-net, The (current) Market rationally preferred #5D in “Soho” over over #5E in northeast Tribeca (both sold on January 28; both went into contract in September). But #5E barely held its value from April 2005, while #5D just sold at a 61% premium over its sponsor sale in December 2004.

the closer comp should sting more, light be damned
505 Greenwich is clearly not a good source of comps for 395 Broadway. But the comparison of market treatment within the building is probably a more bitter pill for the #5E seller. Whether that renovation is really “complete” (or even recent), it is not very enthusiastically babbled about. But #15A  was explicitly a complete re-building project, not in livable condition, when it generated a bidding war to close at $1,032/ft -- a 9% premium over #5E.

Considering that any reasonable build-out of #15A would include a second bathroom and that the existing bath and kitchen are worse than worthless (demolition costs money, and this loft “[n]eeds complete gutting”), the adjusted premium of the light-filled #15A over the (puffed?) “abundance of light” in #5D is probably more like a minimum of 36% than 9% ($1,032 + $250 vs. $944). That is factoring in a base line of $250/ft for a moderate renovation, though the guy who did a bento box for less than $200/ft (November 4, that bento box loft in Noho also provides a Quote Of The Day) or whoever did the shoe closet (plus loft)  (November 7, another loft in New York Times, another inexpensive renovation, with 400 shoes) for around $100/ft might do better on the cost side while generating a similar value bump.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Feb. 22, 2011 - 505 Greenwich Street loft wonders "what slump?" after closing up 61% since 2004

not pushing a good thing too far
Rumor has it that the overall Manhattan residential real estate sales market has been … (how to put it?) … up and down over the last few years. Looking specifically at one 2004 new Manhattan “loft” condominium development, I took a somewhat systematic look at the down part of that rumor in the post-Lehman nuclear winter in my May 6, 2009, pretty efficient (depressed) market at 505 Greenwich Street as both 6F and 7F sell, off 25%. The January 28 sale of the Manhattan “loft” #5D at 505 Greenwich Street represents the up part of that rumor, its clearing price of $2.875mm is a cool 61% appreciation over its sponsor sale of $1,781,937 on December 8, 2004.

See that May 6, 2009 post for why I say “loft”, but let’s look at that #5D sale before considering other activity in the building. At “2,404 sq ft”, that clearing price on January 28 comes to $1,196/ft. The space is set p as 3 bedrooms and 3.5 baths, and seems to have exactly the same finishes, materials and appliances as when it was sold by the sponsor in 2004. It came to market September 24 at $3.1mm and found a contract by November 16, so it hardly lingered. That fairly quick 7% negotiated “discount” from the ask shows the seller was flexible (with a purchase price of $1,781,937, why not??).

what a lab!
Manhattan Loft Guy has hit this building a lot recently, as recent sales here have been at least interesting and even illustrative of Weird Stuff About The Manhattan Loft Market.  On February 4 I used a (very nicely matched) pair of sales to prove that a river view here was worth $370,000 (these water views from a 505 Greenwich loft are worth $370,000 (really)). On February 1 I hit a loft her that has now sold twice since the sponsor sales in 2004, but with a very different trajectory and scale than the 2-beat hit by #5D (505 Greenwich Street loft is up 8% since 2004, down 12% since 2006). I called the sales data of #7B a “surprising history”, as indeed it is, on its own and especially in comparison to #5D:

Jan 3, 2011 $1,525,000
July 24, 2006 $1,735,000
Dec 20, 2004 $1,415,367

But note what about the January 3 #7B sale is similar to the January 28 #5D sale: #7B got $1,192/ft; #5D got $1,196/ft. Yet #7B was up only 8% overall. Did I mention that life is not fair?

using the E word
Note that 505 Greenwich also provided an opportunity for what I have sometimes termed neighborly extortion, when a neighbor needs room to expand and the next door neighbor is willing to let a loft be annexed … at the right price. In my November 9, another neighbor extorted, as Queer Eye tires of "Soho", leaves 505 Greenwich Street loft for Chelsea, the selling neighbor is a celebrity and the above-market premium paid for the annexation is extreme 30+%. That deal was plainly motivated by the buyer’s need for more space, as the seller never put it on the public market … and got a huge premium.

My June 9, 2010, the vultures next door / 505 Greenwich sells to neighbor, addressed the opposite dynamic, as the attempted seller of one unit ended up (after a long time on a terrible market) selling to the next door neighbor who decided to expand.

That is a great deal of interesting stuff coming out of a single building in the last two years!

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 22, 2011 - #1 is 279 today (well, would be)

happy birthday, Dad!
George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 (d. Dec 14, 1799). Unless you are over-tired from commemorating Presidents yesterday, take a second to consider The First on his birthday.

Many thanks, old man.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Feb. 21, 2011 - 73 Worth Street penthouse loft has a baffling price history

how bad was the 2009 market?
Sometimes when you look at sales history you can hear somebody being ground up in the gears of The Market, remorseless monster that it can be. Use a Rod Serling interior voice and consider, if you will, the sales history of the Manhattan loft #PH-A at 73 Worth Street, a loft that also sold on February 1, and imagine, if you will, the emotions of the June 2006 buyers turned September 2009 sellers, particularly when (if) they found out what happened 17 months later:

June 15, 2006 $2,443,800
September 11, 2009 $2.35mm
February 1, 2011 $3.1mm

(You don’t see that February 1 sale price on StreetEasy yet; I will explain below.)

While not as extreme as the roller coaster ride at 345 West 13 Street (see my January 6 post) this quick sequence is an outlier compared to overall Manhattan residential real estate market trends. That June 2006 deal was about 7 quarters before The Peak, while there was still some significant upward momentum (Greenspan’s ‘froth’); the September 2009 clearing price was almost exactly a year after Lehman’s bankruptcy applied the coup de grace to a faltering market, plunging Manhattan into a nuclear winter.

Regular Manhattan Loft Guy readers know that I have often highlighted 2010 sales at prices that could not have been achieved in the thin 2009 market. Yet this 3-beat swing from 2006 to this month is remarkable. Does anyone think that the current overall market is up 30% since The Bottom?

confusion reigns in my brains
Having checked all prior listing descriptions, let me assure you that this loft is little improved over its sales history, with the same luxury features, layout, and proper proper names throughout. Thus, any change in market value is a function of The Market, not the condition.

Penthouse A is said to be “2,352 sq ft” and the largest penthouse in this Civil War era building, converted to residential condominium in a troubled process that began in 2002. The duplexed floor plan has the master suite on top of the living area, with not-very loft-y walls of glass opening onto terraces on each level (“832 sq ft” in all).

It is not so much the downswing from 2006 to 2009 that is confusing (although that trend direction simply feels wrong), but the dramatic upswing to the February 1 sale that is shocking. Compare that Penthouse A history above to Penthouse E, which I hit in my September 13, 2010, bidding war over penthouse loft at 73 Worth Street that started at 2006, after that smaller penthouse sold quickly on August 25, 2010. (THX to Curbed for a link, which focused on an unusual outdoor amenity.)  That post looked at Penthouse E in the context of other 2010 sales in the building, used The Miller’s rubric for valuing outdoor space (see the oft-cited May 6, 2010, riffing with The Miller on the value of Manhattan terraces, decks + balconies), and found a very justifiable market response to the “2,015 sq ft” duplexed interior of #PH-E with “800 sq ft” of exterior in 3 terraces.

That 2-step #PH-E history:

March 31, 2006 $2,393,877
Aug 25, 2010 $2,475,000

Note that #PH-E started out last June asking as close to flat as you could reasonably get on that 4 year old purchase price (asking $2,395,000). The Market bid up the price to that very rational $2.475mm last August.

Note also that the 2006 prices paid for these two penthouses are much closer than the size disparity would suggest. The #PH-A interior is 17% larger than in #PH-E, yet the 2006 sponsor price differential was only 2%.

With that background, the September 11, 2009 clearing price of $2.35mm for #PH-A is easier to understand as the product of that (still) thin market compared to the deeper market a year later. Instead of selling weakly as it did, #PH-A should have sold around $2.5mm around 18 months ago, in a more rational market. The thin market hit was then only about 6%, a more easily understandable hit.

But how then to explain the zoom to $3.1mm on February 1?

short answer: short on answers
Let me put this plainly, even (after this long introduction): I cannot explain the fact that The Market valued #PH-A at $3.1mm 3 weeks ago.

While I would never have projected a market value above $3mm for this loft, the seller and agent certainly did: the ask on October 26 was $3.25mm and it took only until December 7 to find a contract at $3.1mm. Again: this makes no sense to me, as this February 2011 trade seems even more of an outlier to the north than the September 2009 trade was an outlier to the south.

Friggin’ weird.

StreetEasy is not easily confused, but …
You StreetEasy fans see that the #PH-A listing history ends with “sold” but no price, there or on the building page. Here’s the glitch: “73 Worth Street” must have been a conversion that spanned at least two tax lots. I came across the closed sale data for #PH-A as a newly recorded sale when updating the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 this weekend, where it shows up as at “65 Worth Street”, with “[n]o listing associated with this closing”, and with no other individual unit sales under that building address. Mystery solved!

(At least, that mystery is solved. But I still cannot figure out how this seller and agent correctly predicted a value I would not. That mystery remains. Sigh.)

this has gone on long enough, no?
I have a few more wrinkles to this loft sale, but if I go on in this post I might break the Manhattan Loft Guy record for over-long posts (not to mention, the patience of you readers). So I am gonna stop now, and will return to Penthouse A at 73 Worth Street if those wrinkles still interest me in a day or two.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Feb. 20, 2011 - Sunday diversion / 'Goodnight Moon' deconstructed for fun (I hope)

I can’t find my copy this morning. Is it clear the bunny is a “he”?

The deconstruction is here. The ever-fascinating Wiki has some more bits of cultural significance or effluvia. What would McSweeney's make of the altered author's photo?

h/t Daily Kos

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 19, 2011 - The Miller found 9.2% of deals above ask; Manhattan Loft Guy, not so much

playing with numbers (he wins)
This week my favorite numbers geek for the Manhattan residential real estate coop and condo market weighed in with his (semi) regular Curbed feature, Three Cents Worth, with A Look at Overpaying in Manhattan on February 15. The text contains The Miller’s analysis of sales above the last asking price since July 2008, but the monthly numbers and trends are easier to see in The Big Chart .

This category of the market became a conversation piece for him recently (“It's come up as a topic in a number of conversations I've had with real estate agents recently so I thought I'd look further into it”), as it has for me. Maybe it is simply that above-ask sales are bright shiny objects that naturally draw attention; maybe they really are rare things that have meaning.

I have noted a few above-ask Manhattan loft deals in recent blog posts (e.g., February 15, 18 Leonard Street penthouse (not really a) loft fits a bidding war into 3 weeks, January 26, gut job loft at 395 Broadway provokes war, gets $1,000/ft, January 11, 53 N. Moore Street loft flies (yes) off the shelf, above ask) and have been tempted to look at my loft data more systematically. The Miller’s inspiration (and base line), plus the weekend, give me all the prompting I need.

The Miller’s key take-away:

While the market share for sales above list price has been rising since mid 2009, the premium being paid above list has generally fallen over the past 2 years until recently

His January 2011 data shows the highest ‘market share’ for ask+ deals in about the last 30 months:

- 9.2% of Manhattan apartment sales exceeded the list price at time of sale in January 2011.

- Of those 9.2%, the purchase price was 5.3% higher than list price at the time of sale

the guy is a tease
Sometimes I wish I had more excuses for stuff in (or not in) Manhattan Loft Guy posts that did not directly implicate … me. For example, The Miller is comfortable blaming “the insanely overbearing Curbed staff” for only taking the data back to July 2008; I generally have only myself to blame if I cut off a blog post with a Note To Self for further review. (As I did yesterday with the pregnant mention that there were 13 other 2010 sales that could test an apparent trend: recent Grand Madison sale shows 225 Fifth Avenue lofts still treading water.) Note To Self: start blaming the Curbed staff.

After blaming the Curbed Folk, The Miller drops this confident-but-not-yet-proven nugget, with his bolding:

I plan to build more historical data and I am fairly certain the market share for sales above list price was at least a third of all sales, probably more, during the housing/credit boom

Manhattan loft data is different (weaker)
Obviously, breaking up sales data into small pieces is awkward, as there is a lot of noise is small numbers. If that is a problem for month-by-month segments of the overall Manhattan market problem, it is significantly exacerbated for a niche like loft sales. But in the spirit of having fun with numbers, let’s see what the quarterly loft data looks like, taken from my Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 (raw number of loft closings above ask, then as a percentage of loft sales):

1Q09 0 0%
2Q 0 0%
3Q 2 1.5%
4Q 2 1.5%
1Q10 7 5%
2Q 11 6.6%
3Q 11 8.1%
4Q 9 6.8%

If there is any validity to these small numbers at all, the take-away is that there were very. very, very few above-ask loft sales in Manhattan in 2009: only 4 all year. Each quarter of 2010 had more than all of 2009, representing from 5% to 8.1% of the total loft sales by quarter.

Hardly surprising data. And very weak at these levels, but kinda fun, no? Sorta??

Even The Miller’s data is subject to … errr … unnatural volatility (did I just make up a concept in Statistics?). His February 2009 spike shows the perils of slicing and dicing finely: in retrospect, that was a clearly out-of-trend month.

more fun?
Because this was so much fun, even with small numbers, I also counted Manhattan loft sales AT the asking price. (Again, first the raw number of loft closings at ask, then as a percentage of loft sales): 

1Q09 4 0.67%
2Q 2 0.25%
3Q 9 6.67%
4Q 5 3.8%
1Q10 10 8.5%
2Q 10 6%
3Q 12 8.8%
4Q 7 5.3%

Again, not surprising data, but still weak. Counting At-Ask loft sales shows a change after the first half of 2009, and a (very rough) stability after that.

I went back and edited Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 to show Above Ask deals in green in the closed column and At Ask deals in yellow in the ask column. Perhaps this will prove useful (or, at least interesting) going forward.

Stay warm, and hold onto your hats today!

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 18, 2011 - recent Grand Madison sale shows 225 Fifth Avenue lofts still treading water

time flies!
It has been almost a year since I did one of the more interesting posts using the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008: my March 5, 2010 data dump: 27 Manhattan lofts sold in 2007 + recently, in which I looked at 27 pairs of resales that had sold sometime in 2007 and again within four months of that post, straddling the end of 2009 and the start of 2010. The summary paragraph went like this (the bold is new for today’s post, focusing on the lofts at the 2007 new development 225 Fifth Avenue):

it seems to me fair to conclude (provisionally, always subject to more data) that the trend for Manhattan loft resales from 2007 is more likely to be positive price changes than negative, even allowing for the number of lofts that were improved from 2007 to the current resale. Buyers in 2007 at 225 Fifth Avenue have (so far) shown mild declines but the five resales there overweight the experience in that one building in this paired resale analysis. Of the four Big Losers, one was a 2007 conversion, one a 2005 conversion, and two were in buildings converted to residential living many years ago.

Those losses at 225 Madison (the Grand Madison) ranged from 1.2% to 6.87%, comparing their original sponsor sales prices to the then-recent resales.

The latest sale there shows no progress: the Manhattan loft  #10D at 225 Fifth Avenue sold on December 30 for $1.6mm, 2.1% off from its original sponsor sale in March 2007 ($1,634,291). (Don’t blame me for not bringing fresh data:  this by-now-not-very-recent sale was not recorded until February 9.)

anticipating a flat horizon
It looks as though the sellers expected to sell into a flat market, as they started on June 21 at $1.699mm. When that had not worked by August 12, they dropped to $1.649mm, looking for a less than 1% gain (if they’d then gotten a full-price offer). They held there until the December 1 contract.

By the way, what do you think of the living room wall color? Or that bedroom wall treatment?

Note to self: for a future post check the other 13 sales in 20120 not captured in my March 5, 2010 post, as updated.

Note to StreetEasy users: there are two sales reported for #10D on December 30, as there was a corporate relocation service that bought the loft from the sellers, then immediately sold to the buyers.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 17, 2011 - 126 West 22 Street loft deal shows opposite approaches to market while keeping it local

seller = renter on West 26 Street, buyer from West 28 Street
The recent sale of the Manhattan loft 126 West 22 Street #3S (Chelsea Flats) at $2mm on January 19 is intriguing for a few reasons. For one thing, everyone seems to like the (greater Chelsea) neighborhood, as the buyers moved here from 8th Avenue at West 28 Street and the seller moved from here to 6th Avenue and West 26 Street. For another, the seller seems to have taken the cash (and gain from his new development purchase in 2000) and gone to a rental, while the buyers still own the 2007 new development that they bought in early 2008. The buyers are expanding from 1,200 sq ft to “2,161 sq ft” while the seller is downsizing to that rental, which is probably well under 1,000 sq ft. The buyers are giving up light and (some) views, while the seller is getting great light and long views.

the market has 2 sides
Obviously, for a deal to be done both the buyer and the seller have to believe that it is in their interest to do so. Obviously, each person’s goals, resources and interests vary, so their reasons to move will be different. Obviously, the aggregation of all the individual buyers and sellers who meet-in-the-middle makes up The Market.

While this is really beyond obvious, I am often amazed at how many people overlook This Basic Stuff in taking about individual properties or The Market generally. Logically, if there is some kind of normative “a great time to [buy / sell]”, then that same moment in time cannot be a “great” time to do the opposite (sell / buy). But no one could do either one of those without someone willing (needing?) to do the opposite.


I have no idea of the actual facts behind the motivations of these real people who bought and sold #3S at Chelsea Flats, obviously. But the outline of public facts suggests that the seller prefers to stay liquid, trading in a $2mm asset (realizing a gain over 11 years of nearly $1.3mm) with carrying charges of more than $2,000/mo plus his mortgage for this roughly $5,000/mo rental of less than half the size. That is conventionally bearish behavior.

The buyers are the other side of the same coin. They had been living in this “1,214 sq ft” 2007 new development since buying from the sponsor in May 2008 at $1,425,505 (apparently paying cash, as Property Shark shows no mortgage associated with that unit); now they still own that unit and have paid $2mm for the nearly twice as large #3S (Property Shark shows no mortgage associated with that unit either, but one may yet be filed). That is conventionally bullish behavior.

The buyers had put their West 28 Street apartment for sale last year, but have taken it off after not selling for 8 months while asking a 5% premium over their May 2008 (Peak!!) purchase. Maybe they intend to rent it; maybe they intend to put it back on the market. Either way (and having priced it above their purchase price), they don’t appear to be concerned that the value will decline.

the old/new place(s)
It is remarkable that all 3 units in question are two bedrooms, given their size disparities. The loft #3S has greater utility than the other two units, with a separate dining area, a home office space that transitions into the master suite, and a general roominess consistent with being nearly 2,200 sq ft. But even the new rental on West 26 Street has 2 full bathrooms to go along with its 2 (small) bedrooms.

Not to be crude, but that rental is both cramped and … well … a rental. It must be nearly ten years old by now, but was state of the art for the area when new, with a high level of amenities. The floor to ceiling glass walls (and, especially where the buyer went, long views) may make up for not-so-high-ceilings.

The 2007 new development on West 28 Street that the buyers still own was also state of art for its day, but its day was much more recent and it was built as a condo, not a rental.  Still, kind of ‘cold’, particularly in comparison to the prewar building that Chelsea Flats was converted into in 2000. The ceilings are high (#3S claims 11 feet) and beamed, and the windows are large (but only on one wall).

It is hard to conceive of three different 2BR+2bath units more widely varied than these. Intriguing, indeed!

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Feb. 16, 2011 - Chelsea Mews loft sells before 2nd birthday, barely + under $500/ft, barely

were they aware of the anniversary?
When the Manhattan loft #1J at 148 West 23 Street (Chelsea Mews) sold on February 10, they were one day short of the second anniversary of coming to market on February 11, 2009. Remember those cold days of nuclear winter?

Taking only 2 short breaks from marketing in the two years, these sellers were fighters, not flyers. As with so many fighters, it took a while to find the right price:

Feb 11, 2009 new $1,350,000
Mar 5   $1,295,000
April 29   $1,195,000
May 30   $1,190,000
June 6   $1,199,000
Aug 13 hiatus  
Sept 15 back $1,200,000
Dec 2   $1,100,000
April 29, 2010   $1,050,000
July 16 hiatus  
Aug 30 back $999,000
Oct 26 contract  
Feb 10, 2011 sold $905,000

If you count all the silly moves around $1.195mm, that is 9 asking prices over the 21 months it took to get to contract, with just those 2 summer breaks from the market. And the sale was 33% lower than the long-ago ask. Another way to look at the clearing price: $492/ft (unadjusted for the small [dark?] patio).

four hundred and ninety-two dollars a foot
This ground floor loft is said to be “1,839 sq ft” on 3 levels, plus a patio. Although I would use the same word to describe this layout (“awkward”) as I did of yesterday’s not-really-a-loft-penthouse (18 Leonard Street penthouse (not really a) loft fits a bidding war into 3 weeks), #1J at 148 West 23 Street and #PH-A at 18 Leonard Street are virtual opposites, though multi-level.

The penthouse was on top of a loft building and got great light; the layout was conventional ‘apartment’ rather than classic loft; the finishes were brag-worthy (“No detail was overlooked!”); there are 3 real bedrooms (small, but real). The ground-floor loft is (I said it already!) on the ground floor and evidently gets little light through the few windows; the mezzanine “bedroom” shares the (open) space with a spiral stair and is far from any window; the main level is conventionally loft-like-and-open (though small); the broker babble contains nary a word about finishes.

Another way in which these two are opposites: #PH-A stopped beating its head against a cold market after 11 weeks (and one price drop) before starting again fresh November 11, 2010 with a 25% price reduction; #1J kept beating its head against the cold market of 2009, ending up 33% off from where it started. #PH-A was on the market for only 3 of the 25 months between starting and contract; #1J was actively marketed for 17 of the 21 months from new to contract. One disappointed seller chose flight, the other to fight.

One more difference: when #1J sold on February 10 the sellers realized a ‘gain’ since their October 2004 purchase of only 4.6%; when #PH-A sold on January 19 the gain from their April 2005 purchase was 25%.

the 500 club
A quick scan of the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 shows only six lofts that sold in the last year near the $492/ft that #1J got:

  • 1 Bond St #2C Dec 15, 2010 $500/ft
  • 154 West 18 St #2B July 28, 2010 $534/ft
  • 176 Broadway #8F July 28, 2010 $519/ft
  • 476 Broadway #2F June 25, 2010 $503/ft
  • 251 West 19 St #1D Mar 29, 2010 $509/ft
  • 148 West 23 St #2F Mar 16, 2010 $540/ft

That is pretty select company. Indeed, no Manhattan loft has sold for less in (at least) a year.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 15, 2011 - 18 Leonard Street penthouse (not really a) loft fits a bidding war into 3 weeks

awkward ‘loft’, smooth bidding
I attended one of the only two open houses when #PH-A at 18 Leonard Street (at the top of the Manhattan loft Julliard Building) was on the market oh so briefly in November. I remember the open house being very crowded. I remember the space as being not spacious at all.

But The Market loved it! New on November 11 at $2.995mm, this “2,176 sq ft ” (per Property Shark; the listing has no measurement) duplex with four terraces (!) found time for a quick bidding war before going into contract by December 1 at $3.156mm, and closing on January 19.

my destiny is set … deal with it
It is not that I want to be a snob; it’s that I can’t help but be a loft snob. The Julliard is undoubtedly a loft building, converted to residential use from some prior industrial purposes in 2001, but the rooftop penthouses are not at all lofty. The building is full of lofts: for example, #3B is very lofty, with 10 foot ceilings, tall windows, and that Long-and-Narrow footprint that regular Manhattan Loft Guy readers know that I use as a hallmark of a certain classic loft style. It sold for $1,124/ft on October 5. But this penthouse was added on the roof, presumably for the condo conversion in 2001. The layout is typical of an ‘added’ box-on-box penthouse you might find on a Greenwich Village apartment building, or anywhere else in the city. Meh.

But The Market loved it!

The first level is a box set back from the building edges, with a living room on one end and the dining/family room to the other (with those “green house style windows” opening to two terraces), and the kitchen, stairway and a bathroom in the middle. The second level is a smaller box set back on top of the lower box with the master suite on one end and the other bedrooms on the other, again with two terraces to the edges of the lower box. None of these bedrooms is larger than 165 sq ft (using the listing dimensions). Meh.

All that glass aside, I just didn’t get a sense of ‘space’, even on the lower level. Of course, with these boxes having been added to the old rooftop, don’t look for any classic loft elements, either.

But The Market loved it!

it did require a major seller adjustment
These sellers tried to sell before, at the worst possible time. It is not surprising that they were not able to sell when they came out on October 30, 2008 (6 weeks after Lehman, in case you’ve misplaced your annotated calendar) until retreating on January 11, 2009. They might not sold at any price in those frigid 11 weeks.

What does surprise me is that they started fresh last November at a 25% discount from where they’d left the market 22 months earlier.

Oct 30, 2008 new $4.295mm
Nov 14   $3.995mm
Jan 11, 2009 hiatus  
Nov 11, 2010 back $2.995mm
Dec 1 contract  
Jan 19, 2011 sold $3.156mm

Good for them for adjusting their expectations. Dramatically. Though they still walked away (I bet they drove, since they moved to Bronxville) with a gain, as this penthouse appreciated 25% since they bought it in April 2005. Just not the 60% gain they had been dreaming about....

another move uptown by going south
I played the real-estalker yesterday, tracking where sellers next door to the loft I featured yesterday at 250 Mercer Street (more loft love from the New York Times for expanding small lofts / 250 Mercer Street edition) moved, and then where those buyers had come from. So I couldn’t help noticing that the buyer of the not-lofty #PH-A a month ago was the seller of #D1105 at 250 Mercer Street on October 26. Talk about movin’ on up (while moving [further] downtown)!

That guy bought the “2,176 sq ft” duplex plus 4 terraces #PH-A in almost-prime Tribeca for $3.156mm after selling a lovely (“dramatic and beautifully designed”) but definitely small (“788 sq ft”) space at the corner of NYU for $831,675 (yet another bidding war!). Fortune has smiled on that guy: even though he made over $300,000 compared to his 2002 purchase at 250 Mercer Street, he obviously had other resources to pay $3.156mm in the Julliard Building.

I will stop digressing, right after one brief rant.

whining about agent recordkeeping
If you took a quick look at the 18 Leonard Street building page on StreetEasy, you’d think that #PH-A sold for full price, as opposed to a premium. The listing detail, of course, shows the sequence in the table above, with the added detail that the asking price was increased two days after the closing, to the clearing price. I suppose it is possible that this was a clerical mistake (changing the asking price by mistake when reporting the closing and price), but I do see this too often to think that each time there is a benign explanation.

Granted, I can’t think of a reason why an agent would find it advantageous to have a full price deal than as opposed to a bidding war deal, but maybe my imagination is limited. And there probably are very few people who care about this stuff, but as one who tracks this particular market niche closely this kind of misinformation gets under my skin. If I were certain in a particular case that it was intentional, I’d be more mad, but it is enough that the data is unreliable to generate the (occasional) rant.

Now that that’s over, enjoy the sunny day.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 14, 2011 - more loft love from the New York Times for expanding small lofts / 250 Mercer Street edition

lucky guy breaks through
The love affair of the New York Times for loft design -- especially small loft design -- continued on Sunday with the Habitats feature by Constance Rosenblum, The Accordion Apartment in NoHo. This week’s hero began renting a “450 sq ft” studio loft with 12 foot ceilings in the greater NYU area in 2003, was able to purchase it in 2005 (for “slightly under $500,000”!), fell in love in 2008, and was able to triple his space by buying roof rights and expanding up in a renovation that cost (only) $275,000. Pretty intrepid!

Anyone familiar with the area would have little trouble identifying the building from the Mercer Street location near NYU, the 16 story description, and the photo in the Slide Show. (Compare the building pictures on StreetEasy and in the New York Times.) Mercer Street in Noho only runs from Houston to 8th Street, and that building has a pretty distinctive look.

As always, Manhattan Loft Guy is most interested in the loft design and opportunity aspects of a feature article like this one. This article has an interesting solution (literally, out of the box, as opposed to the Bond Street bento box loft renovation I hit on November 4, the Lego construction when combining 2 lofts on West 15 Street that I hit on January 24, or the expanded shoe closet renovation on East 12 Street that I hit on November 7, all of which got New York Times Manhattan loft love.)

a very inexpensive renovation, considering
The loft went from a “450 sq ft” studio with a bump-your-head sleeping loft to a “1,350 sq ft” triplex with 2 roof decks for $275,000 (not including purchase of the roof rights). It is hard to find all "1,350 sq ft" in the slide show, but the baby pix are cute.

That renovation was a little more complicated than most, going up through the roof, adding the necessary 2 flights of stairs, creating new space, and building 2 roof decks. Yet, at $275,000 for “1,350 sq ft”, this came to just over $200/ft. That’s pretty inexpensive work in light of my (now 3 year old) benchmark of $250/ft, which matched the West 15 Street combination+renovation, and in light of the $200/ft it cost to construct that bento box; given the work involved, it even compares favorably to the 400-shoe loft at about $100/ft.

deconstructing the deal(s)
Our hero was lucky that this building is a condop. In this case, it is a true condop (a 274-unit residential coop is one unit in a 2-unit condo) and satisfies the loose definition commonly (mis)understood (a coop with condo rules, e.g., about subletting). So he was able to rent the small loft from 2003 to 2005.

Did his landlord take advantage of the fact that our hero was “a busy single man with a taste for downtown life, [for whom] the space was ideal”? After all, he paid “slightly under $500.000” to buy the space from his landlord in 2005, or about $1,100/ft. I am pretty sure there are no lofts in this building smaller than this one at “450 sq ft”, yet StreetEasy shows 8 sales in the building in 2005 under $500k, half of which were under $400,000. The last sale was the “875 sq ft” #D703, on January 24 at $740,000 ($846/ft). Before that, #B1205 was said to be “550 sq ft” when it sold on December 29 for $507,500 ($923/ft).

On the one hand, he was able to stay in this “ideal” space; on the other hand, I bet he overpaid in 2005. But it all worked out for him when he was able to break through the roof. I wish I could find a record of him buying the  roof rights from the building. (Did Rosenblum not ask? boo!) That should be a significant part of his total investment: $500,000 (original purchase) + $275,000 (renovation) + ??? (roof rights) = his total price for “1,350 sq ft” plus 2 roof decks. It looks like his all-in price is pretty reasonable, unless he got squeezed by the building for the roof rights. Inquiring minds want to know.

I am going to have to satisfy my curiosity (and yours, if any) by engaging in some stalking. Our hero’s next door neighbors just moved out (to a hot hot hot new loft development 11 blocks north), while his new neighbors moved up by moving 90 blocks south. Follow me through some property records....

everyone seems to be moving up in the world, somehow
I bet these are the neighbors who suggested buying the roof rights. They just sold the loft next door for $2mm (with “private sundeck on the roof with 360 degree views”) on December 16, as they decamped completely to 29 Union Square West. They probably are the ‘helpful’ neighbors, as it looks like they were our hero’s landlords until they sold to him in December 2004 (not 2005!).

head-scratching broker babble of the day (year??)
By the way, does this listing description lede for the $2mm loft make sense to anyone? (It doesn’t to me.) “Unbelievable & Livable”.

moving up by going downtown
Sometimes moving up in the world is a function of space improvement, like our hero and his new family. Sometimes it is a function of moving from a prosaic building like 250 Mercer to a brand-new uber-loft, like his old neighbors. In the case of the new neighbors who paid $2mm next door, they seem to be holding onto this small apartment near Gracie Mansion, which they’ve owned since 2005.

Here is one picture of moving up in the world: buying a “670 sq ft” 1-bedroom in a quintessential Upper East Side ‘dorm’ for $388,500 in 2005, then being able to buy a $2mm loft in 2010. At that scale, being able to hold on to the UES dorm is pretty much irrelevant.

I am going to stop now, for fear of launching another digression.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 13, 2011 - O frabjous day! callooh!! callay!!!

(chortling) happy Pitchers & Catchers!
Today I am a fan of the Diamondbacks, Orioles, Tigers, Phillies [just can’t go there], Pirates, Cardinals, Padres, Mariners, and Blue Jays, all of whom had pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training today. Tomorrow, the world will revert to its axis and I will only be a Yankee fan.

Full reporting date schedule here. (The expansion team in Flushing waits until Wednesday.)

The unusual hat tip today goes to Lewis Carroll.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Feb. 12, 2011 - Mr. Lincoln's actual birthday

… is today (well, in 1809)
Pity he has to share with #1 on the Monday after next.

Re-read The Address. It’s short!

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Pithy! (Unlike, say, Manhattan Loft Guy.)

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 12, 2011 - different story for this Chelsea House loft: started with Lehman, ended up off 22%, but up 6.5% lifetime

fighting or flighting, double redux
When I started yesterday’s post about a recent sale at 130 West 19 Street (February 11, persistence pays for Chelsea House loft (that, and the right price)) I actually intended to write about a different loft there. But the immediacy of the #7B sale (recorded on February 10) and the multi-themed narrative of its marketing and (eventual) sale sent me in a different direction.

Today I return to Plan A, discussing the not-as-recent sale of the Manhattan loft #4F at 130 West 19 Street (Chelsea House), which sold on December 21, and has been on my ‘discuss’ pile since I noted the January 5 filing weeks ago. The themes are remarkably similar to yesterday’s #7B discussion but the result is very different, at least compared to the original 2006 purchase price.

I am not going to quote from yesterday’s post so it would be helpful if you were familiar with it. (Waiting....)

With yesterday as context, these travails will seem familiar (for this one I added the original sponsor sale as the top data point):

Aug 23, 2006 sponsor $1,267,721
Sept 27, 2008 new $1.728mm
Dec 2   $1.699mm
Jan 21, 2009   $1.65mm
Mar 1   $1.575mm
Mar 19   $1.5mm
May 1 change firms  
May 21   $1.45mm
Mar 12, 2010 hiatus  
April 20 change firms $1.525mm
June 7   $1.45mm
July 7 hiatus  
Sept 14 back $1.399mm
Oct 29 contract*  
Dec 21 sold $1.35mm

*(StreetEasy has two contract dates; I am using the only one in our system.)

fighting, and more fighting
Let me underline this (metaphorically): this loft was actively for sale from September 27, 2008 until a contract two years later, except one six week period leading to a change in firms in Spring 2010 and a two month summer break in 2010 … with 8 price changes in those 20 active months. If yesterday’s #7B took a both/and response to the disappointed seller’s conundrum (it did), #4F was a non-flyer, fighting every (bloody) step of the way. Note that #4F came to market 12 days after The Fall of the House of Lehman, so was fighting The Market at the beginning and through the depths of the nuclear winter that the overall Manhattan residential real estate market suffered from.

lofty prices, reduced to 2006 levels
OK … I will offer one quote from yesterday:

Did I mention that The Market is not fair?

#7B went on and off the market (two breaks of 5 and 6 months), started only 3% above the original August 2006 sponsor price (off a November 2005 contract), but ended up selling down 15% from that original sale price.

Did I mention that The Market is not fair?

In contrast, #4F started out at a 36% premium to the original August 2006 sponsor price (off an April 2006 contract), but ended up selling at a 6.5% premium from that original sale price.

unfair, but curiously rational
There were 2  other 2010 sales at Chelsea House, so a total of 4 in the last 13 months. Even spread out over that relatively long period, they are within a satisfyingly narrow range on a price-per-foot basis (satisfying, for those who prefer their markets rational). The last column below reflects the gain or (loss) since the original sale; those figures are all over the map, suggesting that The (current) Market valuation differences are different from the sponsor’s sense of the relative values among these lofts in 2005 and 2006.

#7B Jan 25, 2011 $1,119/ft (15%)
#4F Dec 21, 2010 $1,080/ft 6.5%
#8D June 18 $1,128/ft (5.8%)
#7A Jan 5 $1,105/ft 2.6%

Without that last column, you would never know from this table that #7B got squeezed by the market, or that #4F got a strong price. Isn’t this fun???

I am not going to extend this post with the kind of how to read past sale data / one Flatiron loft laboratory exegesis that a StreetEasy discussion thread about 43 East 21 Street prompted on February 9, but you can see how this stuff gets … complicated. If you take it seriously.

Sometimes price analysis gets over-determined. And I will stop there. (For today.)

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Feb. 11, 2011 - persistence pays for Chelsea House loft (that, and the right price)

and a willingness to take a hit
A quick look at the listing history of the Manhattan loft #7B at 130 West 19 Street (the newly-built-in 2006 Chelsea House) suggests a theme of price right to sell quickly, as it came to market at $1.25mm on November 8 and found a contract by December 23 at $1.231mm (the January 25 deed was filed yesterday). A slightly deeper look into the deeper listing history suggests a theme of persistence pays off, as this loft had been offered for sale from October 2009 into May 2010. And … from November 2008 into March 2009. Suggesting a theme of the chills of the nuclear winter, or the difficulty in pricing in a thin market, or the pain of over-pricing.

So many themes, so little time. SIgh.

Here’s the full history. If you can’t remember the important context of what happened to the overall Manhattan residential real estate market in the two months before this loft first came up as a resale on November 28, 2008, use The Google (Lehman bankrupcty, or Manhattan Loft Guy and nuclear winter). I’ll wait. 

Nov 28, 2008 new $1.498mm
Jan 31, 2009   $1.4mm
Mar 31 hiatus  
Oct 7 back $1.4mm
May 1, 2010 hiatus  
Nov 8 back $1.25mm
Dec 23   contract
Jan 25, 2011 sold $1.231mm

That’s 18 months of marketing at the demonstrably wrong price (including a 6-month hiatus) followed by another 6-month hiatus and a re-set at the right price, resulting in a “quick” contract and sale.

the disappointed seller’s conundrum, redux
You have to feel for this seller’s unsuccessful attempts at price discovery in the terrible market conditions that followed the Lehman bankruptcy (September 15, 2008; but you knew that) and associated credit-tightening and all around market-going-to-hell stuff. Evidently, he needed to sell (why else come out 6 weeks after Lehman?). Evidently, he observed that The Market was extremely thin in early 2009, so took a significant time out.

The seller was struggling with the same dilemma that other disappointed sellers go through, whether to fight The Market resistance by dropping the price (again, and again, and …), or to flee in response and wait to fight another day. That conundrum I addressed in my November 15, flight or fight? the disappointed seller’s conundrum, 30 East 21 Street and 205 West 19 Street lofts edition.

This seller had bought the loft only 27 months before starting to try to sell (put that August 25, 2006 purchase at $1,454,061 on top of that table up above), so something happened in his life to change his real estate needs or financial picture. He started at what must have seemed to him to be a modest asking price (a 3% premium to his original sponsor purchase, which was a November 2005 contract), much like the seller of #4B at 129 West 20 Street (the Chelsea Quarter), who I profiled in my December 11, 129 West 20 Street hums country tune, times the market perfectly, kinda, sorta. That seller sought a 10% premium to an 18 month old purchase price in July 2008 -- that awkward market period between The Peak and The Winter. In that instance, the seller took a long hiatus (April 2009 to August 2010) before coming back a little higher than where he’d left off, and selling quickly (contract in 25 days) at the same price he’d purchased at in January 2007.

Did I mention that The Market is not fair?

The Chelsea House #7B seller was trying to do pretty much the same thing, but to stay off The Market for only 6 months (to October 2009, a market that was definitely showing some signs of a thaw by then) and asking less than he’d paid in August 2006.

No dice.

He fought the market (again) at $1.4mm from October 2009 into May 2010, before fleeing (again). Trust me, there were lots of lofts that sold in this period at a premium to where they had sold for in 2006. I never ran that data to find 2006 paired sales, but the pairs I found starting with a 2007 sale (March 5, 2010, data dump: 27 Manhattan lofts sold in 2007 + recently) should suffice on that point.

proving you really want to sell
So this guy got a deal by starting over 3 months ago $200,000 below where he had bought the loft in 2006. A lot of sellers have trouble overcoming that refusal to take a loss thing. As I said in my October 24, real estate market psychology: about seller refusal to take a loss

In all cases with these psychological barriers, a good agent will help a buyer or seller recognize and compensate for the tricks his or her mind is playing on his or her judgment. It is up to that buyer or seller to decide, of course, if he or she really wants to buy or sell within the confines of the then-current market.

Props to the agent and seller for breaking through the disappointment with The Market to take the deal The Market offered.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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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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