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Manhattan Loft Guy


October 2011

Oct. 31, 2011 - 107 West 25 Street loft sells at $956/ft as old Flower District morphs into Chelsea

changing of the guard
Two things jumped out at me about the sale of the Manhattan loft #6D at 107 West 25 Street at $1.1mm on October 17: the first is how the geographic descriptions in the broker babble omit the history of The Incredibly Shrinking Flower District around the corner (while talking about Madison Square Park, the Chelsea Gallery District, and the Garment District); the second is how much turnover there has been recently in this relatively small coop (“one of the first Garment District conversions to residential use in the early 1980s”), with 9 lofts sold since June 2009 in a 24-unit building (and 3 more for sale).

that (starter) loft
As noted in the #6D listing description, this building was one of the relatively early coop conversions in the neighborhood. Unlike some nearby, the lofts here are generally small, in the 1,000 to 1,400 sq ft range. (Unlike, for example, the full floor lofts of “2,500 sq ft” across the street at 110 West 25 Street.) The people I knew in this building back in the day had only one child, or none.

The “1,150 sq ft” #6D floor plan is typical, with a small and windowed ‘office’ with murphy bed that might have been a child’s room back in the day. (Why did they go to the trouble of angling the master bedroom wall, I wonder.) The feel is more efficient than spacious.

There is no claim of “recent”, but the loft has been “thoughtfully renovated with great attention to detail”. Some may be more impressed by the original tin ceilings, some by custom cove moldings, some by a marble bath, and others by the custom maple millwork in the master. My envy meter goes to 11 whenever I see a Garland range (this one is “professional”, 6-burner, with an outside vent). How old does the track lighting in the living room look to you? 20 years??

turning over
I mentioned that there have been a lot of sales in the building in the last few years, in comparison to its size. Of 24 units, so far 3 have sold in 2011, 5 sold in 2010, and one sold going back to June 2009. On a price per foot basis, they have ranged from the chilly #5B at $812/ft ($975,000 for “1,200 sq ft” on June 25, 2009) to the “stunning” #4C at $1,019/ft ($1.325mm for “1,300 sq ft” on April 25, 1001). (The building record, by the way, was set the prior time that stunning #4C sold, for $1,115/ft at an above-ask $1.445mm leaning into The Peak on October 19, 2007.)

With 3 more on sale, the building could have 50% new-since-2009 shareholders soon.

Sometimes a generational shift like that leads to tension between newcomers and long-time residents over things like building improvements (and maintenance costs), but this building already has a common roof deck, a bike room and storage, so there may not be much to argue about (for those inclined to do such things). Maybe there will be a push for an updated lobby??

They will at least need new leadership, as the recent #6D seller was the coop board president.

a fave
For a small building, 107 West 25 Street has gotten a lot of Manhattan Loft Guy attention. A few months ago I hit that sale of #4C, which took 12 months to get a small discount (June 22, why did 107 West 25 Street loft take so long to sell?); I hit the distressed sale of #6C in my July 17, 2010, how odd is this loft sale at 107 West 25 Street?; and in that #6C post I noted that there was a lot of turnover, even then, with the over four also having been given Manhattan Loft Guy attention:

I hit #3E on May 25 [, 2010], modesty pays as 107 West 25 street sells quickly, up a fraction since 2004. I hit #5D and #2C on March 7[, 2010], 107 West 25 Street closes in six figures, tough comp for neighbors, and I hit #5B in my July 15, 2009 post, 107 West 25 Street buyer discerns deal 15% off list, sits in lap of luxury, so that is 6 of 24 lofts that have sold in the last year.

My earliest blog post about a loft sale at 107 West 25 Street was my January 10, 2008, 107 W 25 goes over ask / back story to NY Times item, in which I talked about how a new neighboring rental tower eliminated a lot of the views from 107 West 25 Street lofts:

trading views for towers = ‘progress’

But that is how this micro-nabe is changing. The gaggle of 30+ story towers from 23rd Street to 29th Street brings more services, more restaurants, more people. Values increase. That’s life in the big city.

fun fact from 1991
Unless our data-base has missed an intervening transaction, the #6D seller at $1.1mm bought the loft in July 1991 … for $175,000.

sewing down memory lane, with rose petals
Not ‘news’: when I moved to a loft in this area in 1993 the immediate neighborhood was very different. None of the tall rentals were yet up along the 6th Avenue corner; there were the same sort of 4- and 5-story buildings as still face the avenue on only a few blocks above 23rd Street; the bully Ghoul-iani had not yet thinned the ‘adult’ businesses; there were many more flea-related spots; there were hints of a past connection to 7th Avenue; and the dominant element was still a thriving wholesale flower industry.

It surprises me to see a babbling reference to the Garment District but not the Flower District about this block. Yes, there is (still!) a sewing machine repair shop on the block (I remember a different one, but this one is across the street; my guess is that if you see one, there used to be 5). The StreetEasy building description notes that this building used to be house the Krisiloff Bros. Sewing Machine Co. so it is likely that garmento-related businesses stretched at least this far east, possibly even before the wholesale flower district … errr .. flowered. (“At one time there were more than 100 flower distributors in the Chelsea district, said Mr. Page, but since the industry peaked in the 1960s, the number has dwindled to about 24 wholesalers and a few peripheral retailers”, per the New York Observer 3 years ago; Manhattan Users Guide says the flower biz has been here since the 1890s; the New York Times ran a nice overview in April 2004.)

You have to cross 26th Street to find the nearest flower hold-out, but the flower shops used to line both sides of the Avenue above 25th Street in my memory.

Times change. D’oh. Sigh.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Oct. 30, 2011 - Sunday diversion / Lady Liberty birthday edition

my country, 'tis of thee
You may have seen that this week marked the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. (Stuff on that is all over the inter-tubes, including here; that h/t goes to Josh Marshall, obviously.)

Of course, that is cool, and the pix and history are a wonderful way to relate to how this stautue came to be and why she stands where she is. (Merci`, mon amis!) But that story, wonderful as it is (I guess that story I heard about French schoolchildren was just a myth [darn!], but note the real story involves government refusals and citizen action), is eclipsed in my mind by the power of a different art than sculpture, and a different principle than republican forms of government.

The Emma Lazurus poem that has been associated with the Lady almost from the beginning is itself a wonderful story (The Wiki helps, here). That poem significantly changed the meaning of the Lady, such that for not quite 125 years she stands for our welcome to "huddled masses yearning to breathe free".

I have to wonder ... whatever happened to that country.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Oct. 29, 2011 - weekend diversion / more Manhattan photos, 'round midnight

circuitous routes
We had so much fun with last week’s night time photos, let’s go to midnight, and beyond ….

The inter-tubes being the wonder that it is, this photo collection by a New York Times photographer came to my attention via a real estate blog in Denver, Colorado. Somehow I missed it in the Times, but someone, somewhere, linked to (or tweeted) a Denver source that I can no longer re-trace, with some Manhattan atmosphere in the hours before dawn.

Yup, the city that never sleeps … never sleeps.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Oct. 28, 2011 - 57 Walker Street loft sells for 21% more than neighbor a year ago

overly restrained babble is pretty much unheard of
Have I mentioned lately that (yes) … comping is hard? When the “1,850 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4B at 57 Walker Street sold on October 12 at $2.04mm, that closing capped a successful and brief marketing campaign: for sale on April 22 at $2.095mm; in contract by June 2. The listing description was all about the space, with very little about the finishes (“open and airy with 12’ ceilings and oversized windows which allow for beautiful North and South light[; l]iving, dining and open kitchen areas have a lovely flow for just relaxing or entertaining guests”). Indeed, the only mention of finishes or condition are these few and spare comments: “has built ins” and “a large steam shower”. Seriously. That’s all the ‘bragging’. 

So it is a mystery to me why it sold for 21% more than #3B, which closed on June 11, 2010 at $1.685mm. The contrast in listing descriptions could hardly be more stark:

The open chef's kitchen is ideal for entertaining with its imported Italian marble center island, six-burner professional Viking stove (fully vented to the outside), and endless custom wood cabinetry. A wide hallway leads to the enormous Master Bedroom suite with huge, double glazed south-facing windows and massive built-in closets. The luxurious Master Bathroom boasts a two-person jetted-air bathtub, custom walnut vanity, Philippe Starck fixtures, and your own washer-dryer. The second bedroom with its french doors and built-in oak shelving is ideal for guests and/or a home office. The beautifully renovated guest bathroom offers Crema Marfil marble detailing and a stand-up glass shower with built-in bench and Kohler fixtures.

There are two possibilities here, only two. Either #3B is, in fact, in a significantly better condition than #4B, or the #4B listing description woefully undersold that loft. Since we are dealing with competent agents, it is extremely likely that the #4B was restrained and accurate (or restrained, because accurate).

How then to account for the vastly different market valuations only 16 months apart?

(waiting …)

(Bueller? Anyone??)

2010 v. 2011
My impression is that the Manhattan loft market values are a bit better this year over last, and the best (and largest) hard data is (only mildly) supportive of that view. Per the Miller Samuel 3Q11 market report, the year-over-year values are essentially flat: in the entire Manhattan residential coop and condo market, average sales price is down 1.5%, median is down 0.3%, and average price per foot is up 3.2%. But The Miller has the loft niche doing better: average sales price is up 4.8%, median is down 2.1%, and average price per foot is up 14.8%.

A conservative approach would be to say market conditions year-over-year are ‘essentially flat’. Certainly, there is no observable market activity to account for the 21% spread between #3B in June 2010 and #4B in October 2011, especially when taking into account that #3B was in better condition when sold. The Miller’s 14.8% y-o-y gain in price per foot accounts for no more than $220,000 of the difference, and that (almost certainly) requires downward adjustment for #3B’s better condition.

is it the light, Mars?
Sorry, Spike, but it is not likely that the 4th floor light (described as both “beautiful” and, in front, “a flood”) was worth $355,000 ($192/ft) more than the “beautiful” 3rd floor light. The buildings directly across Walker Street to the north are five stories, with a much larger building to the east on that north side of the block, so the incremental view must be nil, going from the 3rd floor up 13 feet. Same thing in back, to the south, where 54 White Street (and its neighbors) are also five stories high.

The New York Observer (h/t Curbed) outs the #4B buyer as a “pop artist”, in a story that mentions the “flood of afternoon light”, but there is no suggestion that he will be popping his art in that space (so that he ‘needed’ to pay a premium for great light, which doesn't even appear to be present).

and the answer is ...
It turns out that I have a simple but unsatisfying answer to my question above (“How then to account for the vastly different market valuations only 16 months apart?”):

just because

Put another way, The Market valued the brag-worthy #3B in June 2010 at $1.685mm and the not-very-brag-worthy #4B in October 2011 at $2.04mm because the Manhattan residential real estate market is neither reliably efficient nor rational. Period. End.

There is no “reason” for a 21% premium for the lesser loft from last year’s market conditions to this year’s. Other than that two different sets of sellers and buyers negotiated to two very different results. At least one of these results is an outlier, but which one?

it gets worse
Fans of the efficient market theory will be further dismayed by the pre-history of #3B. Keep in mind the very recent $2.04mm clearing price for #4B in looking at this unsuccessful #3B campaign:

June 4, 2007 new to market $2.25mm
Jan 10, 2008   $2.15mm
April 23   $2.05mm
July 22 off the market  

Repeat after me: 2007 was the most active and deepest full year market the Manhattan residential real estate market has ever experienced. And: The Peak of the Manhattan residential real estate market was for sales closed in about the First Quarter of 2008.

How can you reconcile the fact that #3B could not sell in the last half of 2007 off of that $2.25mm asking price, despite the evident intention to negotiate (made evident by the price drops), given that #4B just sold for $2.04mm? Rather than repeat my red (non)answer above, this time I will say simply that I cannot reconcile this past #3B (unsuccessful) price history in 2007-08 with what just happened to #4B, nor can I reconcile the (eventually successful) #3B price history in 2010 (starting at $1.895mm, ending at $1.685mm) with what just happened to #4B.

I’d love to hear from anyone who can do better. Bueller? Anyone??

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Oct. 27, 2011 - tough times in mini-loft market? or just at 21 East 22 Street & 77 Bleecker Street

eerie parallels
One of the fun things about the (typically) weekly updates I do to the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 is the opportunity to notice coincidences, and (sometimes) the beginning of trends. This pair of Manhattan loft sales is much more likely to be an odd coincidence than a trend: the two mini-lofts #1029E at 77 Bleecker Street (Bleecker Court) and #2E at 21 East 22 Street 

  • sold within two days of each other,
  • at prices within $5,000 of each other,
  • after both having come to market within 8 days of each other 17 months ago,
  • starting way back when at asking prices of $700,000 and $750,000,
  • with final asking prices within 4,000 of each other.

Apart from the joys in synchronicity, maybe all that these two Manhattan loft sales tell us is the same old, same old: well-priced lofts sell; others don’t (right away).

The shared history looks like this (omitting several periods off the market; with one contract date* from our data base):

#1029E   new to market May 5, 2010 $750,000
  #2E new to market May 13 $700,000
  #2E   June 3 $699,000
#1029E     Oct 21 $699,000
  #2E   Nov 4 $650,000
  #2E   Nov 22 $649,000
  #2E change firm Mar 20, 2011 $619,000
#1029E     Mar 22 $675,000
#1029E     April 13 $645,000
  #2E   May 10 $595,000
  #2E contract June 30  
#1029E     July 21 $599,000
#1029E   contract Aug 3*  
  #2E sold Sept 26 $555,000
#1029E   sold Sept 28 $560,000

They are rather different lofts, likely appealing to different sets of buyers though likely viewed by many of the same people. After all, they were both available from May 2010 through June 2011, at very similar prices, with the first one getting below $600,000 getting the first buyer.

outdoors or indoors?
The Bleecker Street mini-loft is all about the outdoor space high above Broadway (“[t]he entire East facing wall, encompassing the kitchen, is designed with glass and sliding doors that open onto a HUGE terrace, which is almost as large as the interior space”) and apparently needed to be spruced up to attract a buyer (“[j]ust renovated, painted and staged with all new furniture[; t]his apt is now turn key and ready for its next love”).

The Flatiron mini-loft is all about the flow and efficiency in a challenging (narrowing) floor plan (“Create your own Intimate Living Spaces with Distinct Full Size Bedroom, Dining & Office Areas”) and may have needed some staging to get a deal done sooner, higher. (Lots of furniture, including two couches.)

lerning are learning is hard
It would be nice if I could put these two Manhattan lofts in broader context. But here is all I have....

The Flatiron mini-loft just sold 6.7% below where it had sold on April 3, 2006. You can’t tell from StreetEasy (darn you SE!), but the floor plan was exactly the same then, and the pix in our data base show a less cluttered furniture array. (Hence, my comment about [not] benefiting from staging.) It is hard to make much of the below-2006 sale in this building in which I hit a pair of recent sales of very similar lofts, one much hihger than a 2007 resale, the other below a 2005 resale (Aug. 24, maple beats oak, handily, and 9th beats 10th, as 21 East 22 Street loft close up 26% since 2007). I wondered in that post if there was a “hyper-local bubble in 2005” in that building; if so, perhaps it continued until the April 2006 sale of #2E.

Even if we had square footage of #1029E on Bleecker Street to make a comp analysis easier, this loft will always be a difficult comp because the small-loft-large-terrace combination is so unusual. Worse, even comping with “the building” is difficult because the coop is really a combination of 3 buildings and the floor plans vary so much. (I referred to some of these difficulties in a post about a sale there that veered between drama and tragedy, in my December 6, 2010, perfectly terrible storm hit sale of 77 Bleecker Street loft.)

So maybe you cannot read too much into these two mini-loft sales. But you can enjoy the eerie parallels between them. (I did.)

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Oct. 26, 2011 - NY Mag goes there: do coop boards reject prices as 'too low'?

real sources, with real stories
I am tempted to try to find that Soho loft that leads the short S.Jhoanna Robledo October 23 piece in New  York Magazine that is making the rounds of the blogosphere and twitterverse (The Dealbreakers / If you discover a real bargain, the co-op board may not let you get away with it.), but actual work (and blogging) may prevent that. I am often critical of media pieces on the Manhattan residential real estate market, but not this time: she quotes real people who claim to have observed the phenomenon she writes about, while acknowledging the difficulties in finding hard proof.

The fear is that some coop boards are rejecting some purchase applications for the sole reason that the purchase price is uncomfortably low for the board and other shareholders.

Some of this is simply the result of a bad economy, which causes banks and boards to scrutinize buyers more closely than ever. Sometimes, though—and boards will rarely say so—they’re loath to approve sales at low prices, fearing that other apartments in the building will be devalued by association. “No board will ever confirm it, but I do believe that I’ve seen cases where deals were rejected because the price was not high enough,” says Barak Dunayer of Barak Realty. “If the price is too low, that becomes a comparable,”....

been here, chewed that
I can’t do this better than the last time I noted this issue, way back in 2009 in response to The Real Deal having linked to a Habitat magazine piece exploring this in more detail. My June 19, 2009, power of a coop board to reject a deal as "too low"??, went into this issue at length, as I am wont to do.

Seriously: you should read that whole post if you have any interest in the topic. I will quote myself only once, at some length, in part because I love using the Canute reference:

coop boards protect value like Canute protected beaches

Having been a coop board president in a small Manhattan loft building for ten years, I can't think of any other 'reason' for the board to reject a deal because of price than that articulated by the sighing lawyer: the board absolutely has "an obligation to protect the property value for the rest of the people." My considered judgment is that the solution (rejecting a shareholder's application to sell and get out because remaining shareholders will be struck with a bad comp) has nothing to do with the purported problem (fear that units will be worth less after the sale than before it); even putting aside for the moment the harm the board would do to one specific shareholder and the risk that other shareholders will be left dealing with a fellow shareholder who may be financially strapped (after all, is selling at a 'distress' price) and will be emotionally pissed.


For a board to insist that market value contracts will not be approved actually says this about units in the building: they have no value because they are unsaleable; any price that is low enough for The Market to accept is too low for us to approve.

I go through an extended analysis there about how it is really not in the remaining shareholders’ interests if a board tries to interfere with market transactions, even if it might not be ‘illegal’ for a board to do that. Again: read the whole thing.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011
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Oct. 25, 2011 - under $900/ft for a loft at the other (first) Ice House, 354 Broome Street UPDATED

are developers like thieves?
Yes! (But not in the sense you probably mean.)

Having talked yesterday about the ++ pricing at 27 N. Moore Street (the Ice House) (October 24, turn of the century Tribeca at $1,600/ft, again at 27 N. Moore Street), I am prompted to wonder about the naming conventions of condominium developments. I said yesterday that that Ice House in Tribeca was converted in 1999, but the Condo Declaration was actually filed December 31, 1998 (my bad). Although known as the “Ice House”, the legal name of the condominium association is the more prosaic “27 North Moore Street Condominium”. I assume that the boring name is because there has been an “Ice House Condominium” in Manhattan since the condo at 354 Broome Street was converted in 1991 (that Condo Dec is here). Needless to say, that condo had also been “an actual converted ice house” at an earlier time.

Doesn’t seem fair to me that the Tribeca building has adopted the popular name of an older condo in Nolita, but then (a) I don’t write the rules and (b) nobody cares anyway.

different ways to measure distance
Meanwhile, I am prompted to wonder about the naming conventions of condominium developments because I noted over the weekend the deed filed for the September 12 sale of the Manhattan loft #4C at 354 Broome Street (the Ice House) at $1.475mm or $896/ft, as well as yesterday’s 27 N. Moore Street loft sale at $1,640/ft in the other Ice House. Clearly, these two 1990s residential loft condo conversions are in different neighborhoods in more than geography. The are about a mile apart but in Manhattan residential real estate market terms the distance between them is measured better in $/ft.

two levels, but one singular sensation
There are some singular elements in the “1,646 sq ft” loft #4C floor plan that are challenging: the fact that there is only 1 bedroom is a biggie, but the major (negative) singularity about this loft is the window. No “s”. The window is very large, but baldly solo.

That singularlty all but dictates that the loft remain as open as possible, as any wall will cut off access to natural light. In other words, at 1,600+ sq ft, this loft has very little flexibility. But for the 18 foot ceilings, this would be a (1,000 sq ft??) mini-loft. As it is, there is a very large master suite up top, a suite with no aural privacy if there are two residents on different levels unless the media are all on headphones.

Of course The Market will value spaces like this in the Nolita Ice House differently than spaces at the Tribeca Ice House, even before considering differences in condition and finishes, or in neighborhoods.

Loft #4C is similar in scale, layout, condition and value to the other loft here that sold in 2011. Loft #6B has a den on the lower level but not the long wall of upper closets that #4C has, but is otherwise very similar. That one cleared at $1.599mm on May 3, or $920/ft for “1,727 sq ft”.

The building record seems to have been set by the sale of #5G on September 24, 2008 (did it really go to contract a week before closing? if so, the contract was a brave post-Lehman contract). That “triple mint” duplex with the same basic layout as the others cleared at $1.85mm, or $1,164/ft for “1,589 sq ft”. That seems to have been a very Peak price, even if in September 2008, as the prior sale before that was #5-I on August 8, 2007 at $1.5mm, or $971/ft for “1,544 sq ft”.

If #5-I is a fair pre-Peak sale and if #4C and #6B fairly represent post-Peak values, The Peak represented by #5G was dramatic: at least 20% up (and down). And (again) a far cry from values at the other Ice House.

about those feet...
The #4C listing claims “1,633 sq ft”, which would yield a $/ft calculation of $903/ft instead of the $896/ft that I got, using “1,646 sq ft”. I used that not because south of $900/ft is more dramatic than north, but because StreetEasy associates “1,646 sq ft” with the deed. I am not going to trace these numbers back to the offering documents (this time) as I have done in other instances, but will simply note that I consistently use the deed number that StreetEasy uses … just to be consistent. My understanding is that the StreetEasy deed number is based on whatever number is in ACRIS, though I cannot say that I have proven that.

In a case like this, the difference is so small to be essentially meaningless (unlike, say, with my October 13, rent v. buy, or buy then rent in the loft laboratory of 448 Greenwich Street, where the difference between Gross and Net square feet was significant) but here it does make the cosmetic difference between ‘under $900/ft’ and ‘over $900/ft’.

[UPDATE Nov 28: you read it here on Oct 25; NY Post "Just Sold!" readers read the basic sales data in Nov 24 print editions]

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Oct. 24, 2011 - turn of the century Tribeca at $1,600/ft, again at 27 N. Moore Street

turn of last century
Ranking Tribeca loft buildings can be as imprecise as figuring out which angels are seraphim, cherubim or archangels, but it is hard not to put 27 N. Moore Street (the Ice House) in the first rank of the generation from the last century. I mean, of course, the 20th century, as this former refrigerated building was converted to residential condominiums with first sales in 1999 and the building dates ‘only’ from the earliest years of that century. The recent sale of the Manhattan loft #5A at the Ice House above $1,600/ft is only the most recent sale in the building above that exalted level.

it’s not about the view
What is interesting about the “2134 sq ft” loft #5A is that it sold at $1,640/ft ($3.5mm) on October 3 without having a view. The footprint is basically a Long-and-Narrow with the front living area facing the 9- and 7-story buildings across N. Moore Street, and the back (bedrooms) facing into the light well that was dug out of the structure to make residential loft sized spaces. The value here is all about (a) the space and (b) the building.

The floor plan works as a 2-bedroom, with little flexibility to add a third with a window (there’s more space than windows). That front room has great volume, with high barrel vault ceilings (nearly 11 feet), a front wall of 28 feet that is nearly all windows, and nearly 40 feet of depth. Adding a bedroom in the front left (southeast) corner would destroy the ‘volume’; adding one opposite the kitchen would preserve the volume at the cost of a window-less ‘bedroom’. As I said, the space works very well as a 2-bedroom, so we see that there is a market for a $3.5mm 2-bedroom loft in Tribeca, just as I noted last week the market (next door!) for a $3mm 1-bedroom loft in my October 20, is there a market for a $3mm 1-bedroom loft in Tribeca? (yup: at 25 N. Moore Street).

The Ice House has a doorman and concierge, like the other former refrigerated building next door, but unlike the Atalanta at 25 N. Moore Street (which was converted just a few years after the Ice House), the Ice House has a gym and garage. I am not saying that the gym and garage drive the higher values here than next door, but I am saying that the entire package at the Ice House of space, finishes and amenities makes the Ice House a higher order of angel tan the Atalanta.

in May, same, with a view
The last sale in the building boasted greater utility (as a ‘real’ 3-bedroom), higher ceilings, and spectacular views (“soaring views of Manhattan’s downtown skyline and views of the Empire State Building”), yet the duplexed “2,868 sq ft” #10B at the top of the original building sold for (only) $4.695mm, or $1,367/ft, on May 24, a tiny bit less than #5A far below.

I usually do not traffic in the ultra-lofts of the above-$5mm category, but will note only two things about the last sale at the Ice House prior to #10B: the “3,884 sq ft” Penthouse E sold at a significant penthouse premium on April 20, no matter how you value the 35’ x 15’6” terrace, but that $8.6mm clearing value was a long time in the making (the loft was offered continuously from September 2007 until the sale 7 months ago).

in January, same, with no view
The only other sale in the building in 2011 was another low-floor 2-bedroom. Loft #4B is a smaller version of the #5A floor plan, with (only) “1,690 sq ft” and the same no-view orientation of living room facing N. Moore Street and bedrooms into the light well in back. Despite these (relative) deficits, #4B proved to be the alpha dog of the litter, not the runt, closing at $1,686/ft ($2.85mm) on January 14.

More impressive still, this loft sold at a 10% premium to its prior sale at The Peak (April 30, 2008, at $2.595mm). While that premium is driven in part by being “recently gut renovated to the most exacting standards”, this is the first “gut renovation” I have noticed in which the location of the walls and fixtures seem to be exactly the same bother Before and After.

Regardless of that #4B renovation, the fact that the only three 2011 non-penthouse sales at 27 N. Moore Street were at $1,686/ft, $1,636/ft and $1,640/ft is compelling testimony that The Market prefers the Ice House to a degree unusual for 10+ year old condos in Tribeca. Seraphim and Cherubim rejoice!

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Oct. 23, 2011 - Sunday diversion / one man + camera + helicopter

staying away from baseball today (way up, up, up and away)
How many times have you heard “New York as you’ve never seen it”? Maybe it is true in all cases; maybe not. Unless you are in the habit of hanging out of helicopters over Manhattan canyons, at night, this set of photos that have been making the rounds of the Twitterverse should qualify.

Note: show at Tachi Gallery starting October 27
My Twitter h/t @Corcoran_Group

[UPDATE Oct 25: more photos, with (stirring?) music, are on the home page of the gallery (play the video), but probably only until the show ends in January]

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Oct. 22, 2011 - weekend diversion / baseball in the dark ages (1986!)

oh frabjous day!
On this afternoon before the AL rep takes a 2-1 World Series lead, here is a fun post from a real baseball fan remembering A Big Baseball Day from 25 years ago. (My ... how we have aged!) I had no dogs in either hunt, but I do remember watching both of those games (I assume they were on different networks; were they?), even as one oddly, improbably bled into the other. These might be the single most exciting simultaneous pairs of League Championship Series in my memory, with overlapping game 7s, and much excitement leading to those Game 7s.

The link looks right, but you may get an intermediate result with this story from SBNation at the top of the list that matches the title in the link, as I did (do as much clicking as you need to; it is worth it):


That was actually 25 years ago last Saturday (not “today” at this point), but by the time I saw it the tining was off anyway. Forgive me for finding it cool that the author is a woman.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Oct. 21, 2011 - 245 Seventh Avenue loft got the memo about 2007 pricing, sells at (small) premium

which number is most impressive?
There are several impressive numbers associated with the sale on August 16 of the “2,258 sq ft” Manhattan loft #3A at 245 Seventh Avenue for $2.8mm: that was the 6th time the loft has sold since 1997; the ask had been (only) $2.7mm, so it earned the coveted green background on the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008; and (my favorite) it last sold at $2.75mm (on January 5, 2007) so it (just barely) made the spreadsheet of now 67 pairs of Manhattan lofts that sold both in 2007 and 2011, lending further (and moderate) support for the proposition stated in the title of my September 27, is the Manhattan loft market back to (up to) 2007? 61 repeat sales say “probably”, “a bit”. This makes 45 of the 67 paired resales that showed a gain since 2007.

a rare loft foyer
Lofts that are nearly square (like this one) and have at least two exposures (like this one) have a lot of flexibility, especially (like this one) when they have at least 3 sets of plumbing stacks. But what really strikes me about the #3B floor plan is a simple thing: it has a real foyer. Many lofts build in a foyer (especially those with direct elevator access), but this one is quite large and functions as the hub: take two steps into the loft and the half bath is behind you, the 2nd bedroom is on your left (overlooking West 24th Street), the kitchen and living room is ahead with 2 exposures, and the master is on your right (overlooking Seventh Avenue and Whole Foods).

Note the proportions. The second bedroom is almost square and bigger than some ‘masters’; the master is bigger than many prewar apartment living rooms; the public space (kitchen, dining, living) is nearly square. The sense of volume is heightened (if you excuse the expression) by 11 foot ceilings and 10 windows (7x4 feet each?). What terrific space!

The obvious place to add a third bedroom is the current ‘dining area’, which would still leave a large and nicely proportioned corner living area. I suspect that few people would share my fascination with loft footprints and appreciate this one so much, but I can live with being a little fixated on odd details....

do I need to watch the Food Channel more?
The most enthusiastic babbling focused on function and celebrity, not geometry (I apologize for SHOUTING):

Not to mention the AMAZING COOKS’ KITCHEN designed and built by a CELEBRITY CHEF where no detail has been over looked. Bedecked from top to bottom in Viking Professional appliances…double ovens, 2 dishwashers, 150 bottle wine fridge, a pot filler faucet, an appliance garage, custom cabinetry and stone counters.

I don’t recognize either of the sellers as a celebrity chef, but perhaps the kitchen was designed and built by a former owner, or someone in the ownership string had a celebrated friend who helped a renovation. In order to fully appreciate the kitchen, you need to check the full-page-view photos on the Corcoran site. I am trying to get over my kitchen envy by trying to figure out the full Viking array. I see the double ovens and 2 dishwashers, but is that a salamander / broiler down near the floor under the ovens? And I assume that the stainless pair on the other side of the ovens is a microwave (bottom) and that garage … right?

There are some lovely features in the loft, including the wall covering in the foyer, the channeled curtains in the living room and master, and the columned built-ins in the living room, but that kitchen makes me drool. (Unintentional humor: note how the dining room wall sculpture in the 5th photo looks like smoke going up the cooktop exhaust.)

is it the light, Mars?
#3B cleared at $1,240/ft, which would be a record for the building if #7B had not sold above ask at $3.08mm in May 2007 ($1,364/ft). StreetEasy lacks photos and floor plan for that sale (I hate when that happens) but the babble is enthusiastic and punctuated:

truly spectacular renovated sundrenched loft has it all!!

There’d be a lot more sky on the 7th floor SW corner than the 3rd floor, and the floor plan and finishes sound as though they are very similar to #3B. The 2007 market thought the 7th floor corner was worth 12% more than the 3rd floor corner, $330,000. That seems to me a very healthy premium for more light and sky, but that is clearly what The Market did then.

There is not as much light in #7A, as that has a Long-and-Narrow footprint, with windows front and back instead of on the corner like the ”B” line, and only 4 windows looking west (at The Merc). The 2011 market thought that “2,002 sq ft” loft was worth only $1,173/ft this past July, 5.7% less than #3B.

I guess The Market loves that “B” line footprint, big foyer and all.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Oct. 20, 2011 - is there a market for a $3mm 1-bedroom loft in Tribeca? (yup: at 25 N. Moore Street)

(in case you were worried)
What is the ‘bigger’ (more impressive) way to describe a 1-bedroom loft: as a $3mm sale, or as “1,886 sq ft”? Both descriptions apply to the Manhattan loft #7C at 25 N. Moore Street (the Atalanta). Both are impressive, but the strange thing about this footprint is that it works very well as a 1-bedroom but has little flexibility to create a second (real, windowed) bedroom -- despite being “1,886 sq ft” and having long north and east walls of windows. (Without major renovation, that is.) There is a market for a luxury 1-bedroom loft in Tribeca. (A surprisingly deep one, in fact.)

Mr. Murphy, please call your office
There is room to stash the occasional overnight guest in the (interior, no window) ‘office’, with “a walnut paneled pull down bed”, but you’d have to move the kitchen to find space to put a real bedroom (with window) and even then the second bedroom would be pretty narrow. I wonder if anyone in the “C” line has done that, perhaps by putting the kitchen where the office is in #7C, if the waste lines are kitchen-grade there.

You can’t see it from the StreetEasy listing, but the (also) “1,886 sq ft” loft #10C sold with a curiously different floor plan in 2007 (you will find the floor plan on the Corcoran listing). Loft #10C is also a 1-bedroom plus (interior) office, but in that case the office is too small for the occasional overnight guest (and in the wrong place). What is curious about these two floor plans is that they are not quite the same; although both are said to be “1,886 sq ft”, #7C seems to have more room on the north-to-south axis. And #10C has just one bathroom, in/conveniently located at the deepest part of the master suite; #7C has 2.5 baths.

at an 8% premium to 2007!
I have added #7C to the spreadsheet associated with my September 27, is the Manhattan loft market back to (up to) 2007? 61 repeat sales say “probably”, “a bit” (get access to the spreadsheet by sending me an email request, as noted in that post), as it previously sold on June 11, 2007 at $2.775mm. That listing description seems to describe the same high-level of finishes as the current #7C, but if there were pictures and a floor plan it would be easy to see that #7C was dramatically changed by the June-2007-buyers-turned-September-2011-sellers.

The floor plan survives in our data-base, and shows a 2-bedroom 2-bath configuration, with a library where the current kitchen is, the kitchen (yes!) where the current office is, and the second bedroom in the middle of east wall. Even though the two full bathrooms are in exactly the same places in the loft, they were completely reconfigured.

So it is a apparently mere coincidence that the current #7C configuration is very similar to that of #10C (at least, as it was when #10C sold, also in 2007). Those #7C buyers then turned #7C into what #10C looked like, certainly paying more for the buy+reno than it would have taken to simply buy #10C, and probably more than it would have taken to buy #10C and make that office larger and more accessible.

odd comps
Conventional Wisdom would be that a very large 1-bedroom loft would face a smaller buyer pool than the same loft with a 2-bedroom configuration, all other things being equal, (usually) leading to a lower price. But the opposite happened in 2007, and the people who bought the 2-bedroom configuration paid less and then turned it into another 1-bedroom. Weird science, indeed.

The June 2007 #7C buyers of the 2-bedroom loft did not take the opportunity to buy the 1-bedroom #10C (with better views!) in 2007 … but they had the chance:

#7C   Feb 8 2007 new to market $2.775mm
  #10C Mar 14 new to market $2.6mm
  #10C April 17 contract  
#7C   April 24 contract  
#7C   June 11 sold $2.775mm
  #10C Sept 20 sold $2.866mm

Maybe the work involved in turning the 2007 #10C 1-bedroom floor plan into the 2011 #7C 1-bedroom floor plan is more than it looks to me. But it would not have involved moving the kitchen, as they had to do in #7C. And maybe the #7C buyers were bidding on #10C in April 2007 but were not willing to pay 10% above ask for it. Whether or not they lost #10C, they signed a contract to buy #7C at $91,000 discount to #10C one week after the #10C contract.

It almost seems likely to me that that is what happened, given these 2007 dates and what the #7C buyers then did to that loft.

I do not think that this curious pair will cause agents to change their advice to buyers who want to do 'unconventional' things to their lofts that might impact the future oh-so-hypothetical Buyer Pool (such as converting a 2-bedroom array to a One Bed Wonder), but it does make me wonder about Conventional Wisdom. Again.

NTS alert!
I don’t generally pay too much attention to the room count in loft sales, as most lofts 1,800+ are flexible enough to permit even a One Bed Wonder to be reconfigured for additional bedrooms, if the will and budget are there. Note to self: pay attention the next time I come across a very large 1-bedroom loft.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Oct. 19, 2011 - why move to 4,000 sq ft 71 Murray Street loft from 44 Laight Street 4,000 sq ft loft?

not likely for a doorman
It is not quite right to say that the “4,021 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4A at 44 Laight Street (the Grabler Building) that sold on August 17 at $4.06mm (which was the subject of a post on September 26, below) was traded for the “4,002 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 3rd floor of 71 Murray Street (the Hastings Building) that sold on August 22 at $3.96mm. But the Murray Street buyers moved there from the Laight Street loft.

Voyeur that I am, I started out trying to figure out why someone would do that: go from a very large 3-bedroom loft in northwest Tribeca to another very large 3-bedroom loft in south Tribeca. One has 3.5 bathrooms, the other (only) 3; only one has a doorman; only one has a garage; one may be newly zoned for PS 3 in the West Village, instead of the Tribeca school, PS 234; one is very close to the Holland Tunnel, the other is very close to Whole Foods....

Perceptive Manhattan Loft Guy readers may have detected in past blog posts an attitude that could be described as … anal (moi??) … and so can imagine my attempts at a projected analysis that could (might) support the hassle and expense of moving from one Tribeca loft worth just over $4mm to another of the same size worth just under $4mm.

borrowing a shaving device from Occam
Before going much further, there is a wrinkle that may explain this in a way that focuses more on the similarities of the two lofts than on their differences: the 44 Laight Street seller was an LLC, while the buyers at 71 Murray Street were two individuals whose notice addresses were the 44 Laight Street (i.e., they may have been renters, not owners/sellers at 44 Laight Street). This 2009 rental listing for #4A at 44 Laight Street strongly suggests that the 71 Murray Street loft buyers were residents (but not owners) of #4A at 44 Laight Street. That, and the fact that the last 44 Laight Street #4A LLC mortgage document was signed for the LLC by a different individual than the 71 Murray Street buyers.

It is highly likely that the 44 Laight Street residents moved to 71 Murray Street because the owners sold #4A out from under them … that it had nothing to do with the relative merits of a garage or a doorman, or of Holland Tunnel gridlock compared to Chambers Street water main construction.

That simple explanation would explain a few other things, as well. Such as why the 44 Laight Street sellers were in contract so long before closing (from February 15 to August 17; to give the tenants enough time to find their own place??). And such as why the 71 Laight Street closing followed so soon after the contract (August 4 contract, August 22 closing; buyers were in a hurry!). (Not to worry: I will not speculate about where the tenants lived between moving out of 44 Laight and the 71 Murray Street closing....)

last sales: covered!
As it happens, I have hit the most recent sales in both of these buildings.

In my October 20, 2010, interesting price history of 71 Murray Street loft bought by Famous Couple, I found the price history worthy of italics:

To loop back to my start, the 10th floor has sold twice since the original offering, with this price history:


May 14, 1999 $2,036,500
May 31, 2005 $3,420,000
Oct 6, 2010 $3,900,000

The market value nearly doubled from 1999 to 2010, but about three-quarters of that gain was in place by 2005. Fascinating!

You already know that the 3rd floor recently sold at $3.96mm, just a tad better than the 10th floor (with “excellent” light and “dramatic northern city views”) a year ago. Both lofts have the same ‘backwards’ layout, with those “dramatic northern city views” visible form the bedrooms instead of the living room.

The 3rd floor sales history is incomplete on StreetEasy, but the sponsor price is in our data-base (without the transfer taxes, most likely):

May 4, 1999 $1.2mm
Dec 15, 2003 $2.6mm
Aug 22, 2011 $3.96mm

That sponsor sale looks like one of the white-box sales in 1999, so is not directly comparable to the (fully built out) 10th floor sponsor sale. It is a pity that the first resales don’t line up more closely, but with only 17 months between the 3rd floor at $2.6mm and the 10th floor at $3.42mm, it appears as though The Market put a significant premium on the 10th floor way back Before The Froth. Personally, I believe that The Market is up a bit since last year, so the 10th floor at $3.9mm a year ago and the 3rd floor in August at $3.96mm is consistent with the view that The Market still prefers the 10th floor (but not as much??) and that the prices have risen since then.

As I mentioned up top (and as you may even recall) I hit the #4A sale in my September 26, 44 Laight Street, where another flipper scarfed most of the gain, but did he work for it?, in which The Story was in the title. But I also hit the building in my June 2 post about the May 9 sale of loft #2A, stubborn loft seller at 44 Laight Street takes a year to get right (great!) price, in which the title also told That Story. The puzzle of these two “4,021 sq ft” “A” sales is the spread: #2A sold at $4.9mm, #4A at ‘only’ $4.06mm. Read the posts, but the answer has to involve a (much!) higher level of finishes on the 2nd floor, unless The Market is less rational or efficient than even I think.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Oct. 18, 2011 - view is worth (only) 3%, or $36/ft, at 9 Murray Street (approx)

unless that was a rounding error
The Manhattan loft #5NE at 9 Murray Street that sold in August is not a perfect match for the neighboring unit #11NE that sold in April, but the two units are very close siblings. The higher floor is larger (“2,302 sq ft” v. “1,1910 sq ft”) with a slightly different footprint and floor plan, but they are both in the northeast corner of the building; curiously, it is the smaller one that has more bedrooms (3 v. 2). The higher floor has terrific views (“[e]xpansive north and west city, sky and river views from wall of windows in open great room”), while the #5NE babble does not mention views (or even light) at all. I am surprised that the spread between the two sales was not greater than this:

  • #11NE April 5 $2.525mm $1,096/ft
  • #5NE Aug 9 $2.025mm $1,060/ft

I would have figured a much larger premium for the big views (including the river) in #11NE. I’d have been wrong.

The spread used to be smaller, and run in the opposite direction (though the 15 month gap in prior sales does not make for a smooth comparison, it is not likely there was a 10% appreciation in those 15 months):

  • #11NE Mar 4, 2003 $1,349,214 $586/ft
  • #5NE June 7, 2004 $1.245mm $652/ft

Did I mention that comping is hard?

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Oct. 17, 2011 - least expensive Tribeca loft ($471/ft!!) is 5 flights up at 145 Chambers Street

is it the maintenance, Mars? [updated Oct 19 about the mortgage]
There are a lot of factors contributing to the very low market value of the “1,700 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 5th floor at 145 Chambers Street as reflected in its sale on September 23 at $800,000, but first things, first: it is the lowest price per foot for any Tribeca loft sale tracked on my Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008, which includes all downtown loft sales that I have observed in nearly three years between $500,000 and $5mm, and second-lowest price per foot of all 1,500+ loft sales on the list. Wowza.

The two most obvious numerical villains in this story are 4 and $4,354. This 5th floor loft lacks an elevator, so the walk up is 4 flights. The monthly maintenance in this small coop (5 stories, obviously, with no amenities) is an extraordinary $4,354/mo for this unit (for confirmation, it is a similar number for another recent listing and for a current one). Each of these numbers will severely shrink the buyer pool, as will the condition of the loft (assume that the broker babble that this loft “has the feeling of a true artist's loft” means a complete gut job). In addition, there is an odd limitation on how large a mortgage a purchaser could take out, which I will address below.

I don’t believe I have ever seen a loft building with a higher $/ft maintenance obligation that this $2.56/ft. By way of comparison, this coop sits across the street from the new-in-2010 condo The Campbell at 148 Chambers Street, where the 2nd floor is almost as large as the 5th floor at 145 Chambers (“1,612 sq ft”) and has monthly taxes and common charges of $1,456, or $0.90/ft. If 145 Chambers has maintenance at even $1/ft, the ‘excess’ of $1.56/ft ($2,652/mo) would support a loan balance of almost $400,000 at 5%; in other words, carrying the 5th floor at $800,000 with the current maintenance of $4,354/mo is equivalent in monthly carrying costs of adding $400,000 to the mortgage on a 1.2mm purchase with a more typical maintenance of $1,700/mo.

diligence done?
There can’t be a red flag for pre-contract legal due diligence that is a deeper red than the huge monthly maintenance number. There should be a great deal of diligence done in any purchase in a small coop or condo (this one probably has only 4 full-floor units), as there is not much spreading of risk in such a small building.

There seems to be a simple but sobering reason for the high maintenance, the details of which would tell counsel for the new shareholder a lot about how this building operates: this coop pays $15,700.79 each month on its mortgage (detailed below), so each of 4 shareholders is on the hook for $3,925.20 just to pay the mortgage. What is interesting, or odd, or cautionary (depending on one’s perspective) is that [nearly all of] the underlying mortgage [principal] will [still need to] be paid off in June 2015, at which point the maintenance could be reduced from $4,354 to $429/mo [if they pay off the balloon that will be due, or be reduced or even increased depending on what they do with that building debt; see below.].

It is weird (to me) that there is no hint of this in the babble, but it was not my listing. A buyer could have looked at the 5th floor as an opportunity to (a) pay $800,000 for the loft plus (b) to put away enough to pay the proportionate share of the mortgage to maturity (33 months, or another $129,531.60), after which (in July 2015) the ridiculously-high maintenance could be reduced to well-below-average, for the opportunity (c) to pay to build out a beautiful loft (another $300,000+ ??).

This all works ... assuming all your 3 fellow shareholders are good for their maintenance shares in the meantime. Fascinating stuff! Or interesting, or odd, or cautionary (depending on one’s perspective).

It appears that this former rental building took steps to become a coop almost a year ago, including entering into a mortgage modification agreement that shows a loan for $2,439,729.76 at 6.25% payable monthly from December 1, 2010 through June 1, 2015 ($15,700.79) (see p 3 of 12 of that filing). Presumably, the building could not get a longer term loan modification to bring the monthly costs below the extraordinary level. Some smart lawyer probably figured out for the 5th floor buyers why that structure was used, instead of others.

all this, and a severe (but imprecise) mortgage limit
By the time the 5th floor buyers signed the contract, they would have dealt with the significant limitation in the loan modification agreement that any buyer could put on a mortgage of either $700,000 or 50% of the appraised value of the unit, whichever is less (see p 4 of 12, the paragraph “Coop Conversion”). How do you appraise such a loft, with all these … wrinkles? The value is ‘artificially’ reduced by high maintenance caused by the short-term amortizing loan and by the loan limitation itself, each of which is a real but temporary damper on the value. And how is that limit tested or enforced?

The 5th floor came to market on March 5 at $1.2mm and had to drop the price twice before attracting the buyers who close more than 6 months after launch. One is tempted to say that the ‘appraised value’ may be the $800,000 that these buyers agreed to pay, as there is precious little basis for finding a principled way to back out a theoretical value under these conditions, apart from the simple fact of this deal. If so, the maximum mortgage for the 5th floor at this point is $400,000, meaning that these people needed at least another $400,000 in cash as their down payment, plus the $129,531.60 they will contribute to paying down [interest on] the underlying mortgage by June 2015, plus whatever cash they need to renovate.

[As I say in response to reader Modern in the Comments, the limit on shareholder financiing may help shareholders in June 2015 when they consider whether to refinance over the loan, take out a new smaller loan, or pay it off (perhaps by increasing their own mortgages). Thanks to reader Modern for pointing out what I had missed about the loan.]

No wonder this is the least expensive loft to sell in Tribeca in at least 3 years, on a dollar per foot basis!

Stepping back and looking at this structure, it appears as though the building owner converted the building to coop without doing any additional work. What had been legal rental residential units (with a Certificate of Occupancy, presumably) became coop units with “the feeling of a true artist's loft”. Whatever the prior financing on the building, the December 2010 loan modification agreement rolled it into a 6.25% [balloon] loan fully amortizing in 54 months, meaning that the old loan will be paid by new shareholders[, one way or another]. If this is a poor man’s way to do a coop conversion, some smart lawyer better have figured out what other risks this attitude might pose for buyers.

Fascinating stuff! Or interesting, or odd, or cautionary (depending on one’s perspective).

about that record-setting price...
The last time I was tempted to scan the market for really low prices on a dollar per foot basis was my February 16, Chelsea Mews loft sells before 2nd birthday, barely + under $500/ft, barely. At that point, I went back about a year, to find a select club:

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.

This time I went back all the way to the beginning of my list, finding that the 500 Club has 23 members, and that I would have found another member of the 400 Club for that February 16 post had I gone back to October 2009, which is when the All Time Record Low Sale Loft sold, even lower than the 5th floor at 145 Chambers Street. There are now 3 members of the 400 Club:

  • 144 West 27 St #5R $458/ft (the listing is here)
  • 145 Chambers St #5 $471/ft
  • 148 West 23 St #1J [Chelsea Mews] $492/ft

Here is the full 500 Club from the Master List, going all the way back to November 2008 (hint: it is the $515/ft):

  • 1 Bond St #2C [Robbins + Appleton] $500/ft
  • 476 Broadway #2F $503/ft
  • 251 West 19 St #1D $509/ft
  • 70 Thomas St #5 $511/ft
  • 176 Broadway #PH E $515/ft
  • 176 Broadway #8F $519/ft
  • 154 West 18 St #2B [Hellmuth Building] $534/ft
  • 3 Hanover Sq #20FG $538/ft
  • 41 Murray St #2 $541/ft
  • 80 Warren St #32 $547/ft
  • 16 Desbrosses St #6N $547/ft
  • 118 Forsyth Street #1 $550/ft
  • 303 East 57 Street #6AB $550/ft
  • 9 Murray Street #5SE $551/ft
  • 718 Broadway #2 $569/ft
  • 233 West 26 Street #2E $572/ft
  • 284 Lafayette St #2C $583/ft
  • 275 Water Street #2-3 $586/ft
  • 55 Liberty St #16D [Liberty Tower] $589/ft
  • 56 West 16 Street #2 $591/ft
  • 145 West 27 St #6E $593/ft
  • 459 West Broadway #2S-E $593/ft

Note to self: (one day …) play with the commonalities on this list, apart from the obvious over-representation of Manhattan Loft Guy fave 176 Broadway.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Oct. 14, 2011 - romance sold the loft at 430 Greenwich Street, but it took a while

as Conventional Wisdom takes another hit
One hopes that Conventional Wisdom has enough self-confidence to shrug off the many times that people just ignore it. Sales like that of the Manhattan loft #5W at 430 Greenwich Street might cause an insecure person to doubt themselves, after that loft found a buyer at a tiny discount from ask after sitting on the market for 6 months at the same price. (Conventional Wisdom, of course, is that a loft that has been professionally exposed to The Market for a few months needs a price change to attract a buyer.)

But the “rare and romantic 1,700 sq ft” loft #5W held at $1.85mm from December 22 to a contract on June 25 at $1.8mm, closing on September 16. Persistence requires faith; perhaps romance helps also.

The broker babble is alive with modifiers that are hardly typical of the genre:

[the] loft captures the true spirit and essence of historic Tribeca! …. high ceilings, exposed brick walls, rough-hewn timber beams, original cast-iron columns and light from oversized wood-framed windows. The country-french kitchen .... Hand-carved wooden doors lead to the interior Master Bedroom, a pin drop quiet sanctuary with enormous walk-in closet. ... a classic Provence-inspired bathroom replete with limestone floors, double glass-enclosed shower, and a poetic window seat ideal for quiet reflection. A soulful retreat just steps from ….

in for a penny, in for a pound
Personally, he had me smiling along with the prose until the “poetic window seat”, even before noting on the floor plan exactly where that poetry is read. But one person’s over-the-top is another person’s successful marketing campaign, so YMMV. And … it worked.

Eventually, the right buyer for the space found it, and bought it.

the floor plan lacks romance flexibility
The main challenge to the loft (even for a romantic buyer) is that the not-quite-square footprint has windows on only one side, other than that bathroom window. So the master ‘bedroom’ (a “pin drop quiet sanctuary”) is so quiet because there is no window into which the outside world can bleed sound. The ‘sleeping area’ wedged between the foyer and the plumbing lacks a window, as well as lacking volume (it is 9’7” x 8’10”). Moving the bedroom up the wall to capture a window would probably reduce the ‘volume’ dramatically, but I bet some buyers were tempted to do that.

The challenges posed by the floor plan and the market value for #5W at 430 Greenwich Street have interesting parallels to the (also inflexible) floor plan and market value (higher) of yesterday’s bought-then-rented 4th floor loft at 448 Greenwich Street, just up the block. (October 13, rent v. buy, or buy then rent in the loft laboratory of 448 Greenwich Street.)

In that loft the main challenge was that second room (even smaller than in #5W) was wedged between the kitchen and the bath, with no possibility of gaining even a square inch without a radical renovation of space that is already beautifully finished. Yet that loft sold for $1,123/ft (if the loft is really “1,300 sq ft”) or $1,271/ft (if the loft is really “1,148 sq ft”). As I said, those finishes are nice, but the 448 Greenwich loft lacks the ‘romance’ of 430 Greenwich, even though 430 Greenwich sold for (only) $1,058/ft.

I would guess that the same people who saw one of these neighboring lofts saw the other, in the period in which they were both available (from April 16, when 448 Greenwich came to market, to the June 25 contract for 430 Greenwich). Their utility is similar (both have a single ‘bedroom’ and a small other room) and they are only a block apart. 430 Greenwich has more space; 448 Greenwich has more light. I have only seen one of them, but they probably feel very different.

The Market thought that 430 Greenwich was worth $1.8mm, but only $1,053 ft, and that 448 Greenwich was worth only $1.46mm, but as much as $1,271/ft.

Did romance really win? Or just slap the Conventional Wisdom around??

© Sandy Mattingly 2011
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Oct. 13, 2011 - rent v. buy, or buy then rent in the loft laboratory of 448 Greenwich Street

small (loft) world
I don’t know why I was looking at loft rental data, but I know why the Manhattan loft on the 4th floor at 448 Greenwich Street caught my eye among that data. Buyers I was working with bid on this loft (unsuccessfully) before it sold on September 13, and I had a long back-and-forth with the seller’s (un)broker about how big the loft was, which determined which comps meant what. (More on that, below.) But noting in our data-base that the loft that sold last month for $1.46mm is renting this month at $7,200/mo got me wondering about the age old Rent v. Buy discussion. (This will prove to you that I don’t deal with rentals, so this will be the most rudimentary ‘analysis’.)

playing with numbers (still!)
No mortgage for the $1.46mm purchase has shown up yet on Property Shark, which I would think is more likely to be a filing delay issue than it is an indication that the buyer paid cash, but this buyer is a corporation. I wonder about this math:

(assuming 20% down)

common charges $470/mo
real estate taxes $753/mo
mortgage interest* $7,833/mo

(*on $1,168,000 at 5%)

With a 20% down payment, the cash deficit is $1,856/mo.

(assuming they put down enough to be cash neutral)

common charges $470/mo
real estate taxes $753/mo
mortgage interest** $5,975/mo

(**on $822,000 at 5%)

They would have to put down $638,000 (44%) in order to be neutral on a cash basis.

(Scratches head ….)


If, instead, the Inc. took no mortgage but paid cash, they paid $1.46mm (plus expenses) to ‘earn’ $5,977/mo, or $71,724/yr (less a brokerage fee). That’s 4.9% per year.

It is not my money but it seems like a business would have a better use of $1.46mm to directly support the business (whatever it is) to generate a 5% return. What am I missing here? (A lot, I am sure, so be gentle...)

“1,300 sq ft” or “1,148 sq ft”?
I mentioned up top that I had buyers who bid on this 4th floor loft at 448 Greenwich Street. They bid based on comps for ‘similar’ sized lofts, as this full floor loft has a floor plan that permits no flexibility (without substantial renovation and expense). It is a master suite plus office (nursery?). I hit the loft above this one way back on January 29, 2008, in a post whose title hits the problem with this (identical) floor plan: limits of the loft form / 448 Greenwich St. That was back in the day, when I hit still-active loft listings; given the 4th floor’s recent sale at $1.46mm you will not be surprised to learn that the 5th floor did not sell at (off of) $1.995mm even from late 2007 into 2008.

The tight floor plan and that second room of only 7 x 9 ft (I believe it cannot be a legal “bedroom” unless all dimensions are at least 8 feet) made this loft not very comparable to other lofts in the 1,200 sq ft range, at least  in the eyes of my buyers (and to my eyes). I had a fascinating back-and-forth with the seller’s (un)broker about the size of the space, with each of us surprised that the other had found a different measurement for the 4th floor loft in the offering documents. He argued “1,300 sq ft” was the appropriate size for comping purposes (that number appears on Schedule A to the Offering Plan); I argued “1,148 sq ft” (that number appears on Schedule B to the Condo Declaration). He argued that agents ‘always’ use gross sq ft; I argued that all my comps were based on various Condo Dec numbers, also noting that the interior dimensions of the space suggest a box that is 17’6” wide and about 68 ft long, or (only) 1,190 sq ft before taking out the elevator and common stairway space.

Long story, slightly less long: we thought the maximum value based on true comps and the smaller size was $1.4mm, so did not increase the bid in response to the no-counter-counter from the seller. (The ask was then $1.595mm.) Eventually, seller sold to that Inc. at $1.46mm, a price I simply cannot support based on $/ft comps unless one used the (to us, artificial) “1,300 sq ft”.

Obviously, this kind of dispute should never happen (a difference of ‘opinion’ about size, of 13%) and that it did not matter if the only questions were what was the seller willing to take and what is a buyer willing to pay. But it was unsettling to go through that process with those buyers, especially to find that someone else valued the loft enough to pay $1.46mm for it.

rent v. buy on Madison Square
All that buy v. rent stuff up top reminds me that I am aware of one more very recent set of data points, in a very different Manhattan loft neighborhood than 448 Greenwich Street in northwest Tribeca, suggesting a very different spread of rental values versus sale values.

The Manhattan loft #8F at 225 Fifth Avenue had been offered for sale for a long time at $1.9mm sale. The best and most recent comp (#8S) suggests that a successful sale could be had around that $1.76mm clearing price -- a full $300,000 more than the 4th floor at 448 Greenwich Street sold for. #8F was then offered for rent (listing, here); and our data-base says it was rented for $7,300/mo -- only $100/mo more than the 4th floor loft in Tribeca, with much higher taxes and common charges ($2,422/mo in the listing, though that is probably out of date).

I am not going to go too much farther in talking about these two lofts, except to underline how the spread between buy v. rent dollars is substantially different for these two lofts. Paying cash for #8F at $1.76mm then renting it out at $7,300/mo is a much worse deal for an owner than the arithmetic above for the 4th floor. Instead of ‘earning’ (potentially) 4.9% per year on a cash basis in Tribeca, the owner on Madison Square would earn on a cash basis only 3.3% per year.

(common charges $980/mo)
(real estate taxes $1,442/mo)
rent $7,300/mo

That’s it for today, folks!

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Oct. 12, 2011 - 111 Fourth Avenue combination loft closes after 19 months at 30% off original ask

can you see a premium for a combined space?
It should not be a surprise if the sellers of the Manhattan loft combination #2HIJ at 111 Fourth Avenue expected to be paid a premium for having put together 3 small lofts in a building full of small lofts. After all, as recounted by VToy in the New York Times last month, the Conventional Wisdom is that 1+1=2.5, meaning that larger combined units are thought to be more valuable than the same units as separate units. (Note to The Miller: remember, my beef with VToy’s point in my September 10, deconstructing NY Times article about combining apartments to increase value, was not that she was wrong about the conventional Wisdom, just about her participation in the Real Estate Industrial Complex in Manhattan by the examples she used to ‘prove’ the CW.)

While it is hard to see that the CW was right in this case, it is painfully clear that the sellers were very wrong about the market value of what they had created. To the tune of taking more than 15 months to find a contract, at a 30% discount from where they had started:

Feb 23, 2010 new to market $2.65mm
April 26   $2.475mm
July 29   $2.25mm
Jan 27, 2011   $2.1mm
April 21   $1.975mm
June 4 contract  
Sept 21 sold $1.85mm

how big, more or less?
Loft dimensions in our data-base for this building are irritatingly variable, but it appears that the #2HIJ combination includes “2,225 sq ft”, with “1,000 sq ft from the “I” line (as with #3-I), “675 sq ft” from the “J” line (as with #6J), and “550 sq ft” from the “H: line (as with #7H). Unless the 3-unit-combo also acquired former hallway space, the recent sale at $1.85mm comes to $831/ft.

Comping this space is complicated by this sobering bit of broker babble:

in its Original old condition and need complete renovation

lots of small space sales
In the time between #2HIJ came to market in April 2010 and when it closed a few weeks ago, 10 lofts sold in the building, at prices per foot ranging from $814/ft to $1,398/ft.

#6F Aug 17, 2011 $700,000 $933/ft private sale
#1A July 7 $580,000 $967/ft renovated
#2N June 10 $662,500 $828/ft private sale
#3L June 1 $566,500 $871/ft no bragging
#8G May 17 $769,003 $1,398/ft renovated
#6B April 7 $750,000 $1,111/ft lofted BR
#3B Mar 3 $550,000 $814/ft no bragging
#3-I Dec 8, 2010 $1.07mm $1,070/ft renovated
#2G June 24 $655,000 $1,191/ft private sale renovated
#3N June 3 $750,000 $937/ft renovated

(Notes: #6F sold to the neighbor in #6G in a private sale; #2N and #2G are other private sales; #6B has an extensive renovation including substantial lofted space; and where no size is given on StreetEasy I used the size of another from that line to calculate $/ft, from StreetEasy or for our data-base; the old #2G listing has a full description)

no science, a bit of art
It is not easy to extrapolate from these sales to assess whether there is an evident combination premium in the need-to-gut #2HIJ at $831/ft.

On the one hand, it is similar in value to #3B but lower than #3L, neither of which claimed a renovation or bragged about the finishes, but in neither case was there a warning of Gut Job Ahead. On the other hand, #2HIJ at $831/ft is well below the small lofts sold with some bragging about renovation, but those values are all over the map.

Assuming a ballpark of $200/ft for a gut renovation of #2HIJ, the adjusted market value of $1,031/ft is higher than #1A ($967/ft) and #3N ($937/ft) but still lower than #8G ($1,398/ft), #6B ($1,111/ft), and #2G ($1,191/ft). Increase that hypothetical renovation investment to $300/ft, and the #2HIJ adjusted market value is still less than #8G and #2G and just a tad higher than #6B, a loft that was sold without any bragging about its finishes.

Net-net: if there was any market premium paid for #2HIJ because it is a large combination, I can’t find it. The wide spread in values of the 10 smaller lofts sold suggests that there are things about this building that I don’t know (and have not taken the time to learn, including which measurements are right ... if any), but that spread makes it very difficult to comp out #2HIJ.

Net-net-net: whether these sellers over-valued the loft combo because it is a combo, or whether they just over-valued it, they did over-value it: it took 19 months to close at a 30% discount to first ask. You do hate to see that happen.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Oct. 11, 2011 - 129 Lafayette Street loft beats 2008 price, caps B-line frenzy

(there’s a trick involved)
Yes, when the Manhattan loft #2B at 129 Lafayette Street sold on August 31 at $1.375mm, that price was an improvement of 18% over the last sale, in 2008. But that 2008 sale at $1.168mm was in the chilly part of that year; in fact, coming to market on September 16, 2008 (the day following Lehman’s bankruptcy filing), it is a wonder that it sold in that year at all.

Evidently, those 2008 sellers were pretty motivated, persevering at a time when transaction volume plummeted in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market:

Sept 16, 2008 new to market $1.395mm
Oct 22   $1.295mm
??? contract  
Dec 23 sold $1.168mm

Their LLC buyer in 2008 had a more favorable market trend to work with:

May 10, 2011 new to market $1.495mm
July 16 contract  
Aug 31 sold $1.375mm

The conclusion is pretty inescapable that had the 2008 sellers started just a few months earlier they’d have sold before Lehman very near (above?) their asking price. But then I would not be able to lead a post with a premium-over-2008 tease. (You know it is no great feat to have a 2011 sale exceed 2007; aftr all that happened about two-thirds of the time in my now-66 pairs in September 27, is the Manhattan loft market back to (up to) 2007? 61 repeat sales say “probably”, “a bit”. The trick is a 2011 sale beating 2008, but with a post-Lehman start this one is not a fair fight.)

an un-loft-y floor plan, the runt of the litter
The spare floor plan for loft #2B is decidedly cookie-cutter, more “apartment” than “loft”. But the 14 foot ceilings and huge windows provide a sense of volume that would be missing from an apartment with thee room dimensions yet 9.5 foot ceilings. Indeed, I suspect the space is a revelation on initial entry. With “1,212 sq ft”, loft #2B has a logical yet inflexible layout: the living room and bedroom both have relatively large dimensions, and putting the kitchen away form the door allows for that auxiliary (no window) space to serve as an office or occasional guest quarters.

The other two lines in this 2004 condo conversion from a light manufacturing building are both much larger than the “B” line, with the “A” at “2,363 sq ft” and a corner layout with two long walls of windows (like #4A) and the “C” at “2,017 sq ft” and one main exposure (west) and lesser exposures south and east (like #5C). The “B” is the only floor plan that is conspicuously ‘apartment’-like.

even those 2008 sellers did all right
Yes, those 2008 sellers of #2B sold in a weak market at the end of that year, but they only paid $763,687 to the sponsor on January 25, 2005. They seem to have benefited from having signed a relatively early contract in this new development, as some other “B” line sponsor sales were at much higher prices:

#4B Jan 3, 2005 $962,246
#8B Jan 18 $992,793
#9B Jan 5 $1,069,962
#3B Jan 26 $1,120,075

Buying #2B at $763,687 made all the difference when they needed to sell in late 2008, as they managed a 53% gain in 47 months. In contrast, the original #3B owners were in at $1,120,075 only a day after the #2B sponsor sale. That much higher staring point made them less amenable to market-dictates, as when they tried (briefly) to sell #3B in a beginning-to-thaw market:

April 16, 2009 new to market $1.295mm
July 30 off market  

$1.295mm as a B-line benchmark
It is probably a coincidence that the unsuccessful in 2009 asking price for #3B was the same as the selling price for the very first “B” to flip. The original #5B owners (who paid $789,143 on January 25, 2005) found willing buyers immediately, closing their flip on April 5, 2005 at $1.295mm. That was a gain of 64% in ten weeks, for those scoring at home.

Let’s just say that the second #5B owner was just slightly ahead of her time, at that $1.295mm. You already know that #2B sold for (only) $1.168mm in late 2008 and that #3B did not sell in mid-2009 at $1.295mm. The next “B” that did sell was #9B on April 24, 2009, at $1,272,812, not quite the benchmark level. #4B nudged above the benchmark on April 5, 2010 (five years to the day after the #5B sale), at $1.3mm.

That makes the recent #2B sale at $1.375mm the current record holder for the “B” line, even if only 6% above that way-back-when #5B flip.

Everything. (Of course.)

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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Oct. 10, 2011 - 20-26 N. Moore Street loft comps out needing $200/ft renovation

a different kind of paired resale analysis
The brief and highly successful marketing campaign of the Manhattan loft #5E at 20-26 N. Moore Street is fascinating on several levels: it is easy to read between the lines to see that this loft needs a lot of work; yet it sold quickly 6% above ask; clearing $505,000 lower than the loft just below that sold in recently-renovated-and-done condition. Of all, that last is the most interesting to me, but let’s start at the beginning.

At this level, and the level below, the “2,700 sq ft” east line of this 2-building-2-entrances coop has little light and no view to speak of. (The floor plan for #5E is here; the identical footprint of #4E is here.) The back of the loft looks at the rear of the 7-story 140 Franklin Street, while the light in the front is reflected off of the newly-repainted white 17-story Atalanta, across N. Moore Street at #25.

The east windows on the 5th floor just clear the roof line of the two buildings that the famous Walker’s grounds, because 20-26 N. Moore Street has higher ceilings than 16 or 18 N. Moore Street, and a much higher first floor. (See this PShark building pic of 18 N. Moore, abutting 20-26 N. Moore on its east side.) If they are lucky, the benefit of eastern light in #5E is outweighed by the ‘view’ of rooftop mechanicals on the eastern neighbors.* (Use the “click on full screen” button that is partially obscured on the Corcoran listing to see what the living room light looks like, with a wall from 140 Franklin Street and the rooftop of 18 N. Moore Street.)

So what charm there is in these spaces will be based on what the interior space is like (even more so in the case of #4E, which lacks east windows), or what it can be made to look and feel like (in the case of #5E).

Maybe the buyer of loft #5E will keep some kitchen appliances, more likely not. Nothing else in the current set-up will survive. It looks and sounds like a loft that has not changed in 25 or more years: 1.5 baths, “currently used as a 2 bedroom with work room and 2 artist studios”. Figure a total gut and re-build. The opportunity quickly attracted a deep-pocketed market:

May 17, 2011 new to market $2.649mm
June 14 contract  
Sept 22 sold $2.805mm

value as built: around $3.3mm
Keep that $2.805mm clearing price for a gut renovation opportunity in mind. For not only did the newly renovated loft #4E go to contract weeks before #5E came out for sale in 2011, but it had sold in a needing-extensive-renovation condition in April 2007 at $2.725mm. (As such, #4E made my list for my September 27, is the Manhattan loft market back to (up to) 2007? 61 repeat sales say “probably”, “a bit”.)

No photos or floor plan survive on StreetEasy from that 2007 sale, but our inter-firm data-base has a floor plan. Although it was marketed in that near-Peak period as having some charm, the floor plan shows that it was totally gutted before selling again this year. None of this from 2007 survived:

Recently renovated, with personality, this ideal artist's live/work is now completely open space. Kitchen, nestled behind a glass block wall, has black granite counters, cherry cabinets, new appliances including DW and microwave.

That 2007 buyer of #4E at $2.725mm did, as I said, a gut renovation. The result is both “elegantly” and “beautifully” renovated, with

open Boffi kitchen, Ann Sacks bathrooms, separate laundary room with full size washer/dryer, custom millwork, architectural lighting and california closets throughout [sic, sic]

Of course I wonder what they spent in gutting #4E, but the more interesting question is how the value of #4E (both “elegantly” and “beautifully” renovated) at $3.31mm compares to the to-be-gutted #5E at $2.805mm. The Market in 2011 thought the difference in condition (and the east windows on the 5th floor, to be fair) was worth (only) $505,000, or $187/ft. I’d be surprised if you could do all that good work in #4E for $187/ft. Thus, I am surprised at the (small) gap.

Note that it took #4E a while to find a buyer for all that good work:

Sept 28, 2010 new to market $3.595mm
Jan 26, 2011   $3.395mm
April 18 contract  
June 28 sold $3.31mm

Unfortunately, there is no “click for full page view” on the Corcoran site to really appreciate the work, but these pix look pretty sweet. It is not a literally before-and-after set with the current set of #5E pix, but it is close. Call it before-and-what-could-be-after.

just playing around here with numbers
If you think that the minimum for a nice gut renovation is in the ball park of $200/ft (as an architect commenter did way back in December 2007), you have to scramble to account for the too-small-gap between the market valuations of fully done #4E at $1,226/ft and to-be-done #5E at $1,039/ft. The 3 east windows in #5E count for something, but we are talking about views along a brick wall and over a rooftop, so I doubt they are worth as much as 10% to the overall value.

Note this quote from an appraiser in yesterday’s New York Times article about views and new construction perils (see the fn):

“If the price of an apartment is being driven partially by its view,” said Michael Vargas, the president of Vanderbilt Appraisal, “then we have to consider what the impact is once the view is lost.” Good views can contribute 10 to 15 percent more to an apartment’s value, he said.

I don’t see the 3 east windows as a big driver for the value of #5E, but maybe the #5E buyer turned out to be someone interested in #4E who felt that #4E lacked light.

The #5E buyer has months of renovation ahead, during which s/he will be paying to live elsewhere, while also paying to own #5E, while also paying to renovate #5E.

What else can I say? The (small) spread surprises me. I bet it thrilled the #5E sellers.

* Following up on yesterday’s post about new development possibilities and (temporary) views (October 9, diligence due + negligence committed as West 15 Street lofts + East 15 Street apartments lose views), the two Walker’s buildings were sold last year, in a transaction that The Real Deal reported as including (with my emphasis) “combined 15,263 square feet in the buildings plus the 7,471 square feet in development rights”. Maybe those development rights (if exercisable at all under zoning and historic district limitations) will one day take away even that eastern light on the 5th and higher floors ta 20-26 N. Moore.

© 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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