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Manhattan Loft Guy

Sep. 10, 2013 - 133 West 28 Street loft sale shows the squeeze in 2-bedroom buyers


an enthusiastic result

I am as much a fan of broker babble as the next guy (or Guy) and I appreciate enthusiastic attempts to make linguistic lemonade out of limited assets. The babble for the recently sold and hotly contested Manhattan loft #5C at 133 West 28 Street (probably “1,300 sq ft”, like its neighbors, as we’ll see) is enthusiastic, but only about limited things, including “high(9ft)ceilings”, “original hardwood floors in great condition”, “new Bosch washer and dryer” and “the very best neighbourhood in the city for restaurants”. Other than that Bosch drop and a mention of tin ceilings, there’s no bragging about finishes, materials or proper proper names. I’ve highlighted here what is probably the key word in the description: “Two bedroom, two bathroom plus home office”. You don’t need me to tell you what the key numbers are in the history:

April 18

new to market


May 17



July 31



But you may find it useful to have this context: the loft on the same footprint just upstairs sold for $1.105mm on March 15, 2012.

The babble for loft #6C is only a little more enthusiastic about finishes than that of #5C, dropping the “chef’s” modifier onto kitchen “in the truest sense” (a 6-burner Wolfe range, helps, but whatever else that means, it is enthusiastic!), and claiming a “spa-like whirlpool bath” for the master bath. The floor plan upstairs uses the entire rear wall for the master, while allocating some of the windowed space near the entry for a (tiny!) “bedroom”. In contrast, the #5C floor plan splits the rear wall into 2 bedrooms and has that odd “gallery” up front (in listing pic #5; note that this floor has only 2 west windows; the 6th has 4).

In short, neither #5C nor #6C babbles as having wonderful finishes, each more move-in than done-up. The higher floor has a more flexible footprint because of the additional windows on the long west wall, while the lower floor has tin ceilings (if the 6th floor has them, they are covered by that dropped ceiling).

The early 2012 market was certainly a seller’s market, but not as frenetic a market as the current market. Hence, #6C cleared the market at $1.105mm.

My guess is that the #5C asking price was set in specific response to the $1.105mm at which #6C closed, further support for the supposition that the two lofts are similar in condition. Yet, 16 months later, #5C sold for $220,000 more than #6C, a rather energetic 20% premium to the neighbor and $175,000 more than the ask. That’s not all accounted for by passage of time, and I doubt that any significant part of it is accounted for by a preference for #5C’s tin ceiling but fewer windows. Having worked with a number of buyers in the 2-bedroom (“1,300 sq ft”) segment of the downtown Manhattan loft market in the last year and half, my guess is that this premium for #5C is a function of those buyers having fewer choices. Worse, I have the feeling that there are more of those buyers; or, at least, more of those buyers willing to ‘do what it takes’ to own one of these suddenly rare birds.

To repeat: there is no apparent fundamental market valuation difference in favor of #5C over #6C, other than the passage of time.

digressing on a riff (caution: twists and turns ahead)

Let’s make this worse by adding some more context. The loft above #6C sold a year earlier, in better condition than either of the neighbors, with the significant bonus of an “800 sq ft” private roof deck, at a (no surprise) much higher price. The “1,300 sq ft” loft #7C sits in the same footprint as the others (floor plan, here), with 2 bedrooms in back and only 3 west windows. I read the listing photos as showing a higher level of finishes than in the other 2 lofts, though the decor is … unusual; certainly, there is no reason to think that #7C is in any worse condition than the others. That loft sold for $1.58mm on April 28, 2011, 28 months before #5C sold for $1.325mm without 800 sq ft of private garden.

So in the same interior footprint on consecutive floors we have #5C in July 2013 at $1,019/ft, #6C in March 2012 at $850/ft, and #7C in April 2011 needing adjustment for the outdoor space. Taking a big haircut to value the rooftop garden at 50% of the value of the interior of #7C (as a ballpark way to riff with The Miller about such things), we also have #7C at an adjusted $929/ft two+ years ago; if we ballparked that garden as only worth 25% of the interior, the adjusted value for #7C goes up to $1,053/ft. I strongly suspect the 50% value is more reflective of the value I believe The Market assigned, if perhaps still conservative.

That (still future) #6C comp at $850/ft for decent interior space in this building on this footprint would imply someone paid at least $475,000 for the 800 sq ft garden in early 2011, or $594/ft, or 70% of the value of the interior. While this value range is well outside The Miller’s principle that outdoor space is generally worth 25% to 50% of the interior on a dollar-per-foot basis, I continue to believe that outdoor space is something that some people will value much more highly than other people, and will pay beyond what a unicorn Rational Market would.

the importance of counting bedrooms

This coop has 2 buildings, 131 West 28 Street and 133 West 28 Street. I hit the #131 side in my August 15, Flower District mini-loft sells above ask but flat to 2007 at 131 West 28 Street, which considered the “900 sq ft” loft #3A. With an April 17 contract and July 15 closing, let’s say that that mini-loft was in the same market as the larger #5C (May 17 contract, July 31 closing). See that post for details about #3A but the key for present purposes is that it was in better condition than #6C yet sold at $939/ft (8% lower than #6C at $1,019/ft).

I have to believe that this 8% spread (understated as it is due to differences in condition) is entirely allocable to scale: #6C easily accommodates 2-bedrooms (plus a work space in that odd gallery), while #3A does not.

I noted a much larger premium for larger space in my September 3, jaw-dropping views provoke jaw-dropping price for 261 Broadway loft, which featured next door lofts with almost exactly the same light and views, both in well renovated condition, that closed with a 34% premium to the larger space on a dollar-per-foot basis. If you visit the Twitterverse, you may have seen my dialogue with the estimable Tribeca Citizen (@TribecaCitizen, of course) that afternoon. He’s not wrong (“Premium in Tribeca for a room for the kid(s)”) but the scale in that case is excessive. In this case, something north of 8% seems a more reasonable premium for having that extra room for kids, drums, crafts, whatever.

Presumably, the overall Manhattan residential real estate market is experiencing this preference for 2-bedrooms over 1-bedroom units. That will have to be a Note to self … rather than a further digression, as this has gone on (and on) enough.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Aug. 15, 2013 - Flower District mini-loft sells above ask but flat to 2007 at 131 West 28 Street

Go To War Week continues
I can never top Shark Week, but this is the third post in a row about a Manhattan loft that sold above asking price. In the other two posts (August 12, from raw to mints, 14 Jay Street loft doubles in value, and August 14, difficult penthouse loft sells above ask at 399 Washington Street), my emphasis was more on the renovations and change in value (and to their relationship to each other as comps); in the case of the “900 sq ft” Manhattan mini-loft #3A at 131 West 28 Street, there was a bidding war (eventually), there was a renovation (a while back), but the most interesting angle (to me … it’s my blog!) is that loft #3A sold on July 13 at $845,000, essentially flat to the $840,000 that the recent seller paid to buy it in July  2007. This data point, at least, supports the view that the current hyper-local Flower District market is down since The Peak (since the $840,000 value was a half-year pre-Peak).

But first, the mild skirmish that generated the $845,000 sale:
Sept 27, 2012 new to market $875,000
Jan 14, 2013    
April 17 contract $840,000
July 15 sold $845,000
That’s only a “mild skirmish” because the deal followed a price drop by 3 months and because it generated a mere 0.6% “premium” to the (reduced) ask. Whether or not there was more than one bidder (likely, yes), the buyer thought there was enough competition to bid (a tiny bit) over ask. This is hardly the sort of sale to increase buyer anxiety, though it technically fits at least one of the Higgins Factors Leading To BUYER PANIC!!!™, for the same reasons it was only a mild skirmish.
flexibility, at a price
Blame the folks who sold to the 2007 sellers in 2006 for the layout (and give them credit for the lovely renovation). You can’t tell from StreetEasy, but our listing system has the 2006 marketing materials that show that the floor plan has that odd set of closets that sets off the living area from the “den / sleep” area because the 2006 sellers used that space as their master bedroom (notwithstanding the lack of walls-to-ceiling, or door). In exchange for having one real bedroom plus this the “den / sleep” area, you get a main living area that gets no direct light and (after you take 2 steps into the loft) no view of a window, although, as the broker babble explains “the wall of closets separating the living and den can easily be removed creating one large open living space”.
That closet wall separating the “den” from the living area creates two seating areas (as used by the recent sellers) or a second sleeping area, at the not-trivial cost of keeping direct light out of the main area and kitchen. Worked for the 2006 sellers, for the 2007 sellers, and for the 2013 sellers, and (apparently) it still works for the 2013 buyers. (If it doesn’t suit that last group, they will take the closet down [if they all sleep in one bed] or raise it to the ceilings and add a door [if they need two places to sleep regularly].)
there are more proper proper names to drop than you see
The broker babble is conventionally specific, and enthusiastic:
a modern renovation, yet … original charm and prewar details. Large double glazed windows framed with original chestnut … sunny Southern exposure, Chef’s kitchen with granite counters, stainless steel appliances, Miele dishwasher, Viking Pro burner oven, Dacor SS Microwave, Murano style glass pendant lighting, and Brookstone custom cabinetry. Currently configured as a 1 bedroom with living room and a den which could also be perfect for an additional sleeping area or nursery though the wall of closets separating the living and den can easily be removed creating one large open living space. Washer/dryer ….
The former broker babble is still on StreetEasy (without pix or floor plan, but it ain’t nothing) by agents you can count on to lay on the detail:
newly renovated, spacious 900SF loft has great storage and provides lighting in shallow high hats and attractive Techline wall washer low profile tracks on Lutron dimmers….the front windows are original chestnut and are augmented by double glazed insulated double hung windows of the tilt-in to clean variety. The current lay out accommodates one child's room and one master sleeping area in the front of the loft, but is flexible to adapt to other needs as well. The beautiful new kitchen features Miele D/W, Viking Pro burner oven, "Blue Safire" granite counters with dining overhang and Murano style glass pendant lighting. Also featured are a Dacor SS Microwave with screen logic controls; GE Profile SS French Door refrigerator with water filter and inset door dispenser, a Grohe single level fixtured faucet with extra deep sound attenuating Elkay sink, and fully extending Häfele drawer pulls on all of the new Brookstone custom cabinetry. A custom pantry and slate style tiled backsplashes and floors complete this family-style kitchen.The large bathroom features Kohler & Moen fixtures and has a bathtub with enclosed glass door for the shower. A washer dryer ….
Personally, I love that much detail in babble, so long as the stuff is worth babbling about in the first place. Especially at this 6-figure price point, the detail suggests a mint-ier set of mints than you conventional “triple mint” or “meticulously renovated” space.
All this stuff, plus the flexibility to have a second sleep area, for $845,000, or $939/ft, in a still-developing area in east Chelsea.
a snapshot of froth
One last number thing about prior sales. As noted, the renovation was done by the folks who sold in 2006 to the folks who sold in 2007. They sold for $743,500 on November 2, 2006, after doing all that work. Their buyers owned it for less than 9 months, by which time the market value increased by 13%, to $840,000. Those flippers didn’t keep much of that, of course (after paying the $50,400 sales fee, they had a tax bill coming on the regular income of the remainder), but The Market got a flippin’ bump of 13%.
Froth, indeed. But since then … not so much.
we’ve been here before
If you have a really keen memory and have been reading Manhattan Loft Guy a while, you may recall a similar loft, with (perhaps) a similar renovation, that sold here at (essentially) the same price as #3A way back in 2011. The details and local comps in my August 8, 2011, despite failed contract, 133 West 28 Street small loft sells above ask in a refreshingly efficient market, suggest that this hyper-local market has hardly changed in 2 years. That’s weird.
If you read that post, you will see this bit of Manhattan Loft Guy musing:
I have often wondered what was going on in this neighborhood before the flower folk moved in; windows are big, so let in a lot of light; some buildings are not very deep, so light does nto [sic] have to travel very far; but low ceilings are inefficient for bringing light into a space ….
Which leads me to the research of a transplanted Buckeye…
if you are a history buff …
If you are not familiar with the research, photos and musings of Daytonian in Manhattan, you should be. He’s got a fascinating piece on this building that starts with the architecture and moves to an extensive history, ending with this nugget:
In 1982 the upper floors were renovated to become 24 loft dwellings with four apartments per floor.  The owners of $1 million homes are most likely unaware that they are living where radical union members were once involved in stabbings, shootings and violent beatings.
Great stuff! (To answer my musing: thsi loft building had wholesale flowers at street level a hundred years ago, with offices above.) Thanks, tranplanted buckeye!
© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jul. 23, 2013 - not thawed in 2009, Lion's Head loft sells 9% over ask, 54% over 2006

let’s make it this week’s theme
Yesterday I featured a Soho penthouse loft that did not sell under $4mm in 2009 (and 2010!) but recently sold for $5mm (July 22,
no thaw was good news for (eventual) penthouse loft seller at 347 West Broadway). Today we make it an official Manhattan Loft Guy theme, presenting for your consideration the “1,925 sq ft” Manhattan loft #8B at 121 West 19 Street (the Lion’s Head), which just sold for $2.8mm after not selling off an asking price of $2.2mm just as the overall Manhattan residential real estate market was beginning to thaw out of the apocalyptic nuclear winter that began on September 15, 2008.

In an additional parallel to yesterday’s loft, loft #8B also sold above ask (yesterday, 7.5% over; today, 9% over), and was similarly quick this time (20 days to contract, yesterday; today, 25 days). Yesterday's Soho penthouse loft tested the (generally) thawing market for quite a long time, but loft #8B showed far less patience back in the day:

Feb 27, 2009 new to market $2.22mm
June 3 off the market  
Mar 14, 2013 new to market $2.55mm
April 8 contract  
June 26 sold $2.8mm

some upgrades, some premium
I am not sufficiently familiar with the original condition in which Lion’s Head lofts were sold in 2006 by the developer to recognize all the “tasteful upgrades” beyond those claimed in the broker babble (“dining area has a custom built hutch and recessed spotlighting” and “built-in surround sound speakers” and “California Closets and a great built-in shoe cabinet”), but the window treatments seem nice.

I don’t see how a hutch, lighting, sound, and even the most tasteful closets can account for the premium that loft #8B just got over its neighbors, but at $1,454/ft beats the other four Lion’s Head public sales in 2013 handily (StreetEasy building page,
here; #5A on June 20 was at $1,165/ft, #9E on May 7 was at $1,364/ft, #4C on February 28 was at $1,122/ft, and #8E on January 15 was at $1,301/ft) and it appears to be a building record for a non-penthouse unit resale on a dollar per foot basis.


Must be some hutch.

Here’s another way to see how deep the nuclear winter was and how the thaw was delayed at the Lion’s Head. That building page shows that 16 lofts did
not sell here after the September 15, 2008 Lehman bankruptcy, coming off the market between November 6, 2008 and June 12, 2009, including #8B (as noted, off on June 3). The only loft to sell in those days was #PHC on November 15, 2008, which some brave soul signed a contract to purchase a week after Lehman; the next to sell was loft #10G, which held on for a June 13, 2009 contract and closed on August 5 (at only $1,097/ft, but it sold). Perhaps #8B (off the market June 3) would have sold had it stayed available a few weeks longer, as #10G did. But that ask was $2.2mm.

June 26, 2013: $2.8mm.

That #8B sellers paid $1,812,485 when buying from the developer on May 4, 2006. Before expenses, they made
just under a million bucks in 7 years, or 54%. Had they sold in 2009 at their ask, they’d have gained less than $400,000, or 21%; and no one was then offering their asking price.

They couldn’t
know on June 3, 2009 that taking time off the market would help so much (and we don’t know what will happen in 2014 …), but it turns out that they made two good calls, one in 2009 and one in 2013.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jun. 28, 2013 - 129 West 22 Street loft seller rewarded by 24% in 26 months for not renovating

a paired resale analysis
Every “arm’s length” sale is a snapshot of the agreement that a buyer and a seller made about the value of a property at a particular point in time. Econ 101, right? And a pair of such snapshots of the same property at two different points in time tends to show movement. It is those snapshots and that movement that provide the most meaningful data points in The Market. Which is a pedantic way to introduce to you the “2,100 sq ft” Manhattan loft
#5A at 129 West 22 Street, which recently sold at $1.92mm, 26 months after selling for $1.55mm. Count this as hard data, but not for the proposition that the overall Manhattan residential real estate market is up 24% in two years.

You’d think that if the loft had undergone a transformation after being purchased on March 23, 2011 for $1.55mm, or even a slight improvement, the listing broker would have thought to mention that when bringing it back to market on February 17, 2013. There’s no sign of that in the most recent broker babble, which is peppered with words like “spacious” and “boutique” (about the building, of course) and “classic” (about the block) and “expansive” (the living space) and “enormous” (the Master Bathroom) and “intimate” (the”Loft experience”), while explicitly “boasting” about the “19' dining area and open kitchen area”. Not a thing about “renovated” or “meticulous” or “recent”, and not a proper proper name to be dropped, about finishes, appliances, or materials.

As Joe Biden might put it, the
current floor plan is literally identical to the then-current floor plan from 2011, including the “(Current Floor Plan)” notation. The 2011-buyers-turned-2013-sellers put in track lighting in the kitchen and living room, added a light fixture over the dining table, and removed the kitchen cabinet doors, but if there is any other change from 2011 to 2013, I can’t see it in the photos or between the lines of the listings. (Speaking of between the lines of the listings, I have already listed the faint praise with which the 2013 babble damned the loft, but the 2011 version was more direct: “extraordinary opportunity to create your own LOFT in Chelsea”.)

Net-net, the 2013 buyers were looking at the same  “extraordinary opportunity” that their  sellers had, but passed on. That would include updating (at least) the rather dated kitchen (taking off the cabinet doors was a nice head fake) and (likely) the two baths, which neither listing agent thought to picture as part of the sales effort.

That still-current current floor plan is the only sensible way to fit 3 bedrooms into this not very flexible “2,100 sq ft” footprint, absent a gut renovation that moved the master bath and kitchen. There’s the “charm” of the place (at least, it’s attraction): 3 bedrooms under $2mm. But isn’t that 3rd bedroom in an awkward place? It really cuts down the volume in the main living area, which would be 25 feet and 4 windows wide without that appendage.


a contender for the Babbling Hall of Fame
I skipped over a “classic” claim in the current broke babble, above. That fuzzy word also appears in this sentence:

Unique for a Classic loft, there are 12 full sized closets throughout the apartment including several extra storage nooks.

I don’t know what else to say, except that the claim that no other classic loft in Manhattan has 12 closets is rather … er … classic.

a weakness in our data system
The StreetEasy listing data has an anomalous sequence:


Feb 17 new to market $1.75mm
Mar 12 contract  
May 1   $1.92mm
May 15 sold $1.92mm


Sadly, this is not a StreetEasy problem, but one from the listing firm (alas, Corcoran). A well-designed listings system would freeze the asking price when a contract is signed, but ours permitted the listing agent to update the price well after the parties were locked into their deal to make it appear (on quick look) as though the asking price had been $1.92mm and that this was a full price deal, rather than a bidding war result. Why someone would want to do that, I have no idea; but as someone who tries to follow real events in the real market in real time, that irritates me. (I ignored the late [fake] price change for my Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008.)

Back to the beginning: the 2011 buyers at $1.55mm just sold at $1.92mm without doing a darn (significant) thing to a primitive loft. That’s a market outlier to measure market strength then and now, but $370,000 (gross) in their pockets, and 24% worth of bad trending for buyers in Chelsea.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jun. 19, 2013 - unsold at $3mm in 2011, 110 West 25 Street loft goes to war to sell at $3.45mm

times have changed, got it?
Next time someone asks you
precisely how The Market has changed, tell them that the hyper-local market at 110 West 25 Street is up more than 15% since 2011, and probably a similar premium over 2012. The “2,382 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 8th floor at 110 West 25 Street did not sell while asking $3mm from June 1 to September 1, 2011, then zoomed through the recent market: on the market at $3.25mm on January 10, sold for $3.45mm on May 3. (Don’t trust StreetEasy on this, as our listing system shows the listing was public on January 10 and the offer was accepted on January 29, but we don’t have a contract date. Sigh.) Unless they are moving to a larger (more expensive) property in the same market, these sellers are pretty happy they did not sell 2 years ago.

Don’t rely on StreetEasy for the floor plan, either. That one is an alternate, the current floor plan is on the Corcoran listing; the difference is that the two northeast corner bedrooms in the alternate are now the “studio” (with a sink), and they’ve thoughtfully proposed a closet in the current second bedroom in the northwest corner. Though the loft has been “thoughtfully renovated”, they didn’t think need to include the studio in the renovation (note the exposed duct work in the studio compared to the clean lines of the central air elsewhere). The new owner will have to see to that. presumably the new owners like the rest of the stuff, including the


three full marble baths.... [and] open Poggenpohl kitchen complete with Sub-Zero refrigerator, Viking stove, Fisher Paykel dishwasher, double wine fridges, granite counter-tops, and a pantry closet

(The clearing price is sufficient to presume that.)

too many lofts in 2011, or not enough buyers?
When the 8th floor loft came out in 2011 at $3mm, two neighbors had
just sold, at prices not favorable to the 8th floor effort. The 11th floor got $3.01mm on May 16, 2011, but that one was in much better condition than the way I read the 8th floor listing photos and broker babble. (I saw the 11th floor back in the day.) The 4th floor was a great disappointment to those sellers, and (likely) to the 8th floor owners, as it sold on March 7, 2011 at (only) $2.4mm, as I recounted in my April 29, 2011, floor plan envy, as 110 West 25 Street loft cuts + sells, that loft had “more than a little trouble discovering the right price”, having come out at $2.995mm in October and needing two price cuts to get the deal done. I didn’t see that one, but it sounds like at least the equal of the condition of the 8th floor, and likely better because there is no unimproved “studio” on the 4th floor.

Data-driven buyers were not interested in the 8th floor at $3mm in 2011 after the better (higher) loft got only $3.01mm and the equal or better (lower) loft got beaten down to $2.4mm. (Nor were any other buyers, for that matter.)

It was a good thing the 8th floor non-sellers-in-2011 waited out 2012 also, as the neighbors on the
9th floor sold for (only) $3.05mm on April 19, 2012. Didn’t see that one, either, but that one also reads and looks as at least equal to the 8th floor in quality (probably better, in fact). With the 11th floor at $3.01mm on May 16, 2011 and the 9th floor at $3.05mm 11 months later, it looked as though The Market had settled on a very rational approach to valuation in this small (10-unit) coop. So rational an approach as to approach unicorn Efficient Market status.

The Market has changed since that April 19, 2012 sale of the 9th floor, obviously. Once again: the 8th floor came out at $3.25mm on January 10 and had an accepted offer at $3.45mm by January 29. In a rational world, no data-driven buyer would have paid anywhere near that as recently as 11 months earlier (when the 9th floor went into contract). In a rational world, it would have taken a major shake-up for the 8th floor to get a $400,000 premium over the 9th floor (needing a studio fix, in addition).


I like to think that we live in a rational world, and that the 8th floor buyers were fully informed about past sales and what they might also be able to buy in 2013. At least two buyers thought the 8th floor was under-valued at $3.25mm in January, and one of them thought the right number is $3.45mm.

Repeat after me: the hyper-local Manhattan loft market at 110 West 25 Street is up more than 15% since 2011, and probably a similar premium over 2012.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jun. 17, 2013 - 142 West 26 Street loft epitomizes "loft", also "bidding war"


(some) details matter

If you took a too-quick look at the New York Post’s Just Sold! feature last Thursday, you saw the (yes!) recently sold “1,700 sq ft” Manhattan loft #12B at 142 West 26 Street at kind of a funny number ($2.253mm). The possibly too-quick bit was the spread between the asking price ($1.899mm) and that funny closing price. But if you noticed that spread, you also saw “on market three weeks”. Funny number in three weeks (pretty much, regardless of the ask) = bidding war! Given the ask (and that spread) … a pretty major war, at that.

these details didn’t matter (much)

That’s $1,325/ft for a no-frills coop loft that is described as “turn-key” rather than, say, no-detail-spared, that features some lovely and brag-worthy plumbing rooms and 3 small-ish bedrooms (remember: “1,700 sq ft”) that are “quiet” for reasons you will appreciate if you’ve peeked behind the curtains (or can infer from listing photo #4). Oh, and for a loft that sold (before getting those brag-worthy plumbing rooms) only 3 quarters before The Peak in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market for $1.445mm, or $850/ft.

Chelsea is not Tribeca: this 12th floor unit claims no view and brags not at all about light. In fact, most of the light in the front room comes from the large skylight, rather than the front windows that face the taller buildings north, across West 26th Street.

Remember: “1,700 sq ft” and 3 bedrooms, so the floor plan is rather efficient, maximized for the benefit of whoever sleeps in the master bedroom and gets to use the (brag-worthy!) master bath; anyone sleeping in those other two rooms has to traipse across to the public bathroom that is as far as it could be without being in the neighbor’s loft. The array is not for those who prefer not to walk past the kitchen to get to the interior, and there’s a long walk before you get to the truly voluminous main space, with its 11+ foot ceilings, skylight, and width.

Intentionally or not, the broker babble about this loft being “an art collectors dream” captures the reality that the glory of this loft is in the interior, completely, as there is little outside to draw a visitor to the windows. Enjoy, instead, your art collection, with the gallery lighting and gallery walls, or enjoy the claw-footed soaking tub and heated floor in the master, or hang out in the (brag-worthy!) kitchen a long (long) way from those windows.

Did I mention that this no-frills coop sold for $1,325/ft?

a sub-niche in a niche market
The buyer I visited with was impressed with the plumbing rooms and the volume; he recognized right away that this loft would sell quickly, above ask. Although he had seen (and lost out on bidding wars for) similarly sized lofts at similar asking prices, he declined to bid here. He recognized that this loft, unlike many he had seen about the same size and asking price, would appeal to people who had to have (or
really wanted) 3 bedrooms. He was indifferent to the 3rd bedroom, and needed only an extra office slash den slash guest room.

If the buyer was not someone with multiple children, that buyer competed against other bidders with multiple children fer sure, fer sure. Did I mention that there was a bloody bidding war? The $364,000 premium over the ask works out to 119% of the ask. Those buyers (and their competitors) were much more committed to the loft than my guy.

2007 was a long time ago
The recent sellers at $2.253mm were buyers at $1.445mm six years earlier. Obviously they upgraded, but there are not many lofts with 2007 and 2013 (or 2012) sales that enjoyed more than a 50% gain. Even without floor plan or photos in the 2007 listing on StreetEasy, it is obvious that the space has been significantly upgraded. It boasted then only of bones: the high ceilings, the skylight, the 11 windows, the corner location; there was only a single bath, and the “like new” appliances in the “open” kitchen set a new standard for damning with faint babble.

But: the space is only “1,700 sq ft”, and the floors in the loft as just sold are “original”. If they spent $400,000 for the upgrade, they got a healthy return. (Note: the ask was only $454,000 more than they paid.)

Nicely played, sellers and marketing team; nicely played.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jun. 15, 2013 - West 28 Street development site in the news (again)

some stories write themselves
Of course I started thinking about the past Manhattan Loft Guy series about how
developing neighborhoods (such as the typical Manhattan loft neighborhoods) develop, that is to say, change, when I saw this piece in the Commercial Observer about potential hotel development on the parking lot at 140-144 West 28 Street (h/t The Real Deal). If I were working with a loft buyer or seller in the high 20s just east of Seventh Avenue, I’d be worried about site lines if a 20-story full lot hotel went up on that parking lot. In checking to see if I have written about residential lofts that might be relevant, I hit the jackpot. Raise your hand if you know that I already wrote about (part of) this very same potential development in my December 20, 2011, development watch: West 28 Street, between 6th & 7th Avenues.

That post dealt with a Crain’s article that sounds like the Commercial Observer’s (this quote is from Crain’s):


The buildings at 146-148 West 28th Street and parking lot at 140-144 West 28th Street offer 170,000 feet of buildable space, Crain's said, and so could make the perfect site for a new hotel

This quote is from Manhattan Loft Guy:


This story is perennial because something is always changing, somewhere in Manhattan. You might think that this is so obvious that only an idiot would take time to make the ‘point’ (thankyouverymuch), but then you would under-estimate the ability of Manhattan apartment and loft dwellers to ignore what is (and is not) around them.

As luck would have it, this specific story is not so much perennial, as cyclical. Having not sold 2+ years ago as a package with the small building next door at 146 - 148 West 28 Street, the owners are trying again. Back then, the combined lots were, of course, much bigger (“12,083 sq ft”) but most of the development rights seem to be with the “7,583 sq ft” parking lot, as the marketing claims “144,876 sq ft” are available for development.

Not that we should take anything that real estate brokerage firms say at face value, but the listing agents are quoted as saying the firm is:


evaluating offers [plural!] now and expects to reach a deal sometime in July. If a deal is not concluded before that time, a bid deadline will be set sometime next month.

So maybe it will happen this time.

swimming with The Shark
Or maybe not (it didn’t last time). The ‘old’ plan was to sell the parking lot with the building next door, but the
Property Shark page for that building suggests the owners are doing enough upgrades to that building to preclude sale as a tear-down. Perhaps development rights from the building have been transferred to the lot? Interesting thing about that building … despite the manufacturing zoning (M1-6), there have been people living there in broad daylight since at least 1992 and as recently as 2012, based on the Voting Registration section of The Shark.

Looking at The Shark on
the parking lot, I have to assume that the 2011 marketing effort was on behalf of a buyer-in-contract, as that lot was not sold to the LLC that already owned the building at #146 until February 2012, for $21.5mm (or $284/ft, assuming a building only as large as the F.A.R. of 10 allows; or $148/ft if a building as large as the “144,876 sq ft” in the Commercial Observer article says can be built there). I am no student of commercial development, but I have to wonder about the economics … guys who paid $21.5mm in February 2012 think they can get “up to $330 per square foot for hotel use and up to $600 per square foot for residential, [as] Mr. Scandalios said”??

I also have to wonder if they are second-guessing their strategy. On the one hand, “[t]here are some investors thinking about the site for residential and its [sic] significantly more valuable as residential, but the highest and best use is as a hotel since it’s zoned for commercial use”; on the other hand, “[t]hough residential development is possible, it would require a zoning change,
a process which could take up to 18 months” (my italics, of course). Let’s see … they bought in February 2012, and are talking about a deal in July 2013 … nearly 18 months.

enough about them, back to Manhattan Loft Guy
Of course, the fun parts of the blog post series, exemplified in that December 20, 2011 post are about View Diligence (with horror stories!) and the fact that stuff … happens. Things change, probably more dynamically in Manhattan than elsewhere, though that's just a theory about a town in which everything has pretty much been all about money pretty much forever (and by “forever” I mean since 1625).

If not now for this parking lot on West 28th Street, then eventually. Tempis fugits, indeed.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jun. 3, 2013 - market different in 1Q13 over 4Q12, says 107 West 25 Street loft, sold after (unnecessary?) price drop

don’t question what works
Couple of things about the “1,475 sq ft” Manhattan loft (with “500 sq ft” terrace)
#2B at 107 West 25 Street that recently sold for $1.785mm:  it did not sell during the last quarter of 2012 from asking prices of $1.895mm (4 weeks) and $1.795mm (12 weeks), then it found a 2013 contract within 5 weeks of dropping again, to $1.695mm. The first sequence establishes that the price The Market was willing to pay in February 2013 was not available to this seller in 2012 (i.e., no buyer at/around $1.795mm), while the latter sequence establishes that there were at least two buyers willing to spend in the $1.7s who were either (a) new to market in 2013 or (b) not interested until price dropped below $1.7mm.

My (metaphorical) money is on the former. Whether “a” or “b”, however, the not so brilliant but still interesting insight is that, no matter that a loft has been fully exposed to The Market for a considerable time, it can “just take one” buyer to make a deal, and just take two buyers to make a deal that makes a seller happy.

lovely space, exactly as is
I was in this space twice with the same buyer when it was asking $1.795mm. There are many positive elements accurately described in the broker babble, with one serious negative that a buyer would have to accept that leads me to think of
Inigo Montoya:

This meticulously built out space was conceived and constructed by an architectural designer and has a flexible contemporary efficient open floorplan, 11’ ceilings & luxury design elements define this mint, 2 bed, 2 bath, loft in the heart of the old flower district. Gourmet Kitchen with Sub Zero, Built-in Bosch oven & dishwasher, Alpes Inox Italian gas cooktop, Gaggenau hood, Valcucine cabinets & limestone counters. Baths have Dornbracht/Duravit fixtures. Master w/ double vanity, glass tile, Zuma soaking tub & separate shower. Second has glass tile, Venetian plaster, river rock floor, linen storage, and Zuma soaking tub. Master bed fits king, has 2 windows overlooking terrace, and designer closets. The open living/dining room is perfect for entertaining, gets bountiful northern and eastern light, has a beautiful Venetian plaster wall, and opens onto the private 500sf brick walled terrace. Professionally designed lighting thru-out. Dark oak floors. Central A/C. Laundry Room with ample storage and W/D.

No doubt: the finishes are lovely, the quality of the workmanship is high, the proper names and materials are most proper indeed, the light is bountiful (if indirect), and the space is meticulously built out. (It actually shows much better than the listing photos, as it is easier to ‘read out’ the [distracting, transgressive of all principles of Staging 101] decor in real life.) But the one thing the
floor plan is not, is “flexible”.

Absent great expense and a major renovation, the only change one can make in the loft as laid out is to take down the walls / dividers setting the bedrooms apart from the living room. There is no space in which to put another (interior) room; you’d hate to describe any in-loft storage space as “wasted”, so let’s say that the space to the left of the entry is …
inflexible, unless converted to an office; the kitchen dining area is disproportionately large in a “1,475 sq ft” loft, but you need that width to get out of the darn loft; you do have the “flexibility” to live in a no-bedroom loft, but freedom ain’t free.

what this floor plan tells you about the 1980s (or earlier)
As the StreetEasy
building page says, this coop was “one of the first garment district conversions, in the early 1980s, to residential use”. (“Garment District”, rather than Flower District, is interesting, given the flower places up and down Sixth Avenue here [and in the 1980s], but this is an apparent homage to the sewing machine repair shops that used to be all over this block.) Like most of the 25 units in the building (“[n]o two lofts are alike”), loft #2B allows for a maximum of 2-bedrooms, as this was (obviously) the sweet spot in The Market in this micro-nabe at that time.

If converted today, this building would probably have no more than 10 units, each well over 2,000 sq ft, but in those days developers did not think of this as a family neighborhood.

Our listing system says that loft
#2B faces north and east, so this “1,100 sq ft” floor plan must slot right in to the zigs and zags in the lower right (southeast) corner of #2B. What a lovely (flexible!) layout one could construct in such a nearly square space (with wrap terraces around the corner) if #2B and #2C had been designed as a single loft!

My guess is that this building was a residential rental building before being converted to coop in 1984, with these same (awkward) layouts then. The sponsor likely did the minimum renovation work to create sale-able spaces (remember: “[n]o two lofts are alike”). People since then have made the interior upgrades that their budgets, tastes and needs required (or permitted).

All of which is a long way of explaining that loft #2C does not have a “flexible” floor plan, though it is “contemporary” (I suppose), “efficient” (absolutely), and (almost, within limits) “open”. Inigo Montoya would have said it more concisely.

The Market corrects what it wants to correct
We’ve been here before: a loft that lingers has a price cut that results in a sale above the last asking price. (The last time for me was my February 25,
market corrects too-low price drop at Chelsea Mercantile, just as it’s supposed to.) This loft did not sell from September 24 to December 14 when offered at $1.795mm, yet it closed on May 15 at $1.785mm after a price drop to $1.695mm on January 3.


we’ve also been here before
Past Manhattan Loft Guy posts about sales at 107 West 25 Street (small building … many posts...):


© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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May. 17, 2013 - a(nother) tale of two lofts, as 121 West 17 Street twin sells right in line


is $25,777 a reasonable premium for one floor higher?
If the “1,135 sq ft” Manhattan loft
#6D at 121 West 17 Street that just sold at $1,300,777 looks familiar that’s because you are thinking of its twin one flight down, which I hit in my March 8, buy low, sell high: simple advice well executed at 121 West 17 Street loft, when that loft sold at $1.275mm. Fans of an efficient market will rejoice over this pair, which overlapped on the market only briefly, are essentially identical lofts in similar condition, and which traded as you’d expect, with #5D needing a slight discount to close and #6D getting bumped up in a bidding war. It is nice when things work out ‘right’.

The story in the #5D post is about a 2013 seller who was a brave buyer in 2009, enjoying a 46% gain for his trouble (and courage). From what I can tell, the #6D sellers enjoyed a much larger gain but over a much, much longer period. The story here is about how well the two “D” sales match up. Go to the March 8 post for the two sets of broker babble for #5D. You’ll find that, with its “modern” kitchen and name brand appliances but “original” bath, it sounds a little better than #6D, which was babbled as bones + light, period:

Classical Lofts such as this one are rarely available. ...an abundance of sunlight. This is due in part to the over sized Southern Exposed windows. ...original columns and wood floors, 11 foot Ceilings, Washer/Dryer, Endless Closet and storage space, a massively-scaled living room and bedroom and an additional home office area that can also double as an additional bedroom.

I didn’t omit anything about finishes or condition; trust me. You will notice that there are no listing photos that feature the kitchen or bath, making it easier to read between the lines that they are … er … primitive, with no Miele, Viking, or Sub-Zero appliances like downstairs. Of course, the whole loft looks primitive (so far as is pictured), with

The funny
floor plan is almost exactly the same as in #5D, with a slightly different angle on that funny little interior room, though #6D has the benefit of double sinks in the bathroom and an island in the kitchen. I am curious about those funny little interior rooms, and wonder if the sponsor built these lofts out that way way back when the building was converted to coop in 1981, or whether two owners (at least) independently decided to add some walls in the same places to create additional functionality.

what a difference one floor makes
I suspect that the only difference between these two lofts that favors #5D is a set of brand name appliances (it is telling, to me, that there is no mention of materials for counters or cabinets). That is a 4-figure upgrade. The second listing photo tells you the advantage that #6D has: those front windows almost clear the roof lines of the buildings across 17th Street, offering much more sky and more direct light. You can upgrade the #6D kitchen with new appliances for a few bucks; there’s no way to improve #5D’s light and sky to match #6D, at any price.

$25,777 seems like a reasonable spread. That was clearly the judgment of people who had a shot at both lofts:


Nov 12 #5D new to market $1.295mm
Nov 22 #6D new to market $1.25mm
Dec 3 #5D contract  
Jan 8, 2013 #6D contract  
Feb 8 #5D sold $1.275mm
April 3 #6D sold $1,300,777


The #5D seller got rewarded for his … er … fortitude in buying in 2009 January 2009, and set a building $/ft record. It does not appear as though there were multiple bidders for #5D, though if they were they obviously maxed out at a discount to ask. The #6D sellers waited a little longer to make the deal, but clearly had more than one offer, and broke the 2-month old $/ft record for the building.

Interesting left over from these two sales: there appears to be at least one other buyer out there interested in a primitive “D” line loft in the building around $1.275mm. Will another owner take the hint?


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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May. 10, 2013 - disappointed seller of 121 West 20 Street loft accepts 25% below first ask


many numbers, just one sale

Facts are, of course, facts: the “1,875 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2A at 121 West 20 Street was sold on March 20 at $2.55mm by the guy who bought it 7 years later for $2.415mm. Dreams are different: back in the day he really wanted a 45% premium, but last year the ask started at $2.895mm on September 13, then dropped to $2.75mm on November 16, then made the deal on January 10 at a $200,000 discount. On the other hand, this was a better deal than if he’d sold in 2009, when he last asked $2.3mm and $2.2mm. Here is the whole chronology:

July 14, 2006 sold $2.415mm
June 18, 2008 new to market $3.5mm
July 28   $2.875mm
Aug 27 hiatus  
Jan 12, 2009   $2.3mm
Feb 27   $2.2mm
May 14 hiatus  
Sept 13, 2012 new to market $2.895mm
Nov 6   $2.75mm
Jan 10, 2013


Mar 20 sold $2.55mm


There is a world of hurt in these numbers, most painful in the spread between the first two. What there isn’t between the first two numbers is a renovation. In 2008, the loft was babbled with:

Master Suite Loft with numerous quality built-ins including a glass-enclosed Home Office, oversized walk-in custom Dressing Room and luxe Master Bath. Downstairs is a Library with rolling ladder, full Bathroom, en suite Bedroom with huge Closet, fully renovated Chef's Kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances, W/D hookup in dedicated closet, Pantry, Gas Fireplace, dramatic open-air Living Room, and many more details that you simply must see to appreciate.


In 2012, the agent used more words, to what seems like the same effect:


oodles of light all day long, and stunning appointments throughout. ... gas fireplace ... over-sized chef's kitchen adorned with all the bells and whistles including top-grade stainless appliances. … spacious master suite complete with beautiful custom built-ins, an oversized walk-in dressing room, opulent master bath and glass-enclosed home office. Among the other highlights of this luxurious loft home is abundant closet and storage space including a pantry, plus a dedicated laundry closet with a washer/dryer hookup currently configured as a wine cellar with cooler


The 2012 floor plan looks like the 2008 floor plan (unless the jacuzzi’s are new; but who added a jacuzzi in that period??). If there were improvements between the buy in July 2006 (at $2.415mm) and the ask in June 2008 (at $3.5mm), they are not evident in the photos, floor plans or broker babble.

June 2008 ($3.5mm) was, of course, just a few months after The Peak of the overall Manhattan residential real estate market; pretty much the absolute wrong time to come out above-market, as the entire market went into deep freeze 90 days later. So cold that it could not sell in the first five months of 2009 even though seller (through his agent) said he was “very realistic, and needs to re-locate. He has listed the apartment for less than he paid for it just two years ago”. Ouch.

Prices wrong, timing more wrong. Ouch, indeed.


another mezzanine

We will get back to ceiling heights, but the floor plan increases utility by adding that master suite above the kitchen on the wall opposite the run of windows, leaving the high ceilings along the window wall for the living room with split rooms opposite (one being the library / bedroom). This is the moderate way to take advantage of very high ceilings, yet still leave the larger part of the footprint with high ceilings and tall windows. (See my March 4, when beautiful things happen to high ceilings / 720 Greenwich Street loft sells big after mezzanine re-do, March 29, Lion’s Head no bedroom mezzanine loft at 121 West 19 Street closes up $25,000 since 2008, and April 29, 95 Franklin Street loft sells with new space (not just newly renovated space) for a smattering of recent posts about different mezzanine scales and values.)

The “1,875 sq ft” quoted size obviously includes the mezzanine. Even including that master suite (short ceiling, open to below) at par, the loft sold at $1,360/ft. Nothing weak about that (except, of course, compared to 2006, or to the 2008 ask).



ruler fail of the day

No way these two things go together:


    • “this close to 2,000 square foot beauty offers soaring 20' ceilings”

    • “2000 sq ft. and 15' ceilings this apartment is designed for living well”


The first is from the 2012-13 broker babble; the second from 2008-09. It’s a great industry, ain’t it?


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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May. 6, 2013 - playing the Euro card to great effect, 66 Ninth Avenue loft sells 31% over near-Peak


pretty extreme bang for buck

The facts are that the “1,735 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4W at 66 Ninth Avenue (in the old part of the Porter House) sold or $2,787,500 on July 3, 2008 and was just resold by those near-Peak buyers for $3.64mm. From those numbers and (particularly) the opening date, you’d think there was some significant improvement in condition. Hard to say. The broker babble lacks the word “renovation” (let alone, one that is meticulous, complete, or mint) and packs a lot of punch with “[t]houghtfully upgraded by European owners with impeccable taste”.


You’d think the most significant of these thoughtful upgrades would be mentioned, and here is the list of features (by implication, upgrades): “whisper-quiet CityProof windows …. Marilyn Minter wallpaper, distressed quartersawn white-oak floors and a refined Valcucine kitchen”. But noooo … the kitchen (at least) is just as it appears in the 2008 listing photos (pic #3 and #6), but for the new floors. The actual upgrades must be both very thoughtful and incredibly appealing, if (apart from the floors, CityProof windows, and wallpaper), rather subtle. Subtle enough that I can’t see them in the listing photos (apart from window treatments) and the agent did not bother to list them in the description. Appealing enough that the loft that sold just after The Peak just resold up $852,500, or 31%.


It took me a while (rube that I am) to realize that the Marilyn Minter wallpaper is not the general finish on the walls, but is what I took to be a mural behind the dining room table. My more worldly readers recognized that as the same “Kicksilver” wall paper at the Mondrian Soho, installed in honor of Fashion Week 2012.  Remarkably, I can get a pretty accurate estimate of what that “thoughtful upgrade” cost, as it appears to still be available on line, in minimum size of 233 sq ft and a minimum cost of $14,700 (retail, presumably with labor for installation on your dime). Bang, indeed, for relatively few bucks.


Speaking of bang and of bucks, the new floor makes an amazing visual difference from the old floor, with its dark (cherry) finish. (And by “old floor” I mean the Brazilian cherry floor installed when the condo was first sold in 2005.) You could probably have gotten 80% of the visual impact by simply refinishing that floor in a light oak, but the thoughtful Europeans replaced the floor with distressed quartersawn white-oak. Installation is the big expense for this job, but the materials might have been acquired for as little as $1.09/ft, unfinished. Again, Bang!


if only we had a nearby recent sale...

The loft 2 floors below #4W sold less than 6 months earlier, with no shortage of enthusiasm:


soaring ceilings and walls of West-facing windows, offering magnificent light and a unique perspective onto one of Manhattan's most sought-after neighborhoods.The interior, expertly designed by renowned SHoP architects, is replete with top of the line finishes including Brazilian cherry wood floors, custom built-ins and open chef's kitchen featuring Italian cabinetry and commercial grade Viking appliances. The serene Master Bedroom boasts ample closet space and an en-suite marble bath. The apartment is pre-wired for audio, media and internet and features custom California closets through-out.


Note the lemonade made out of being on the second floor (“unique perspective onto one of Manhattan's most sought-after neighborhoods”). In other words, #2W had the original finishes, with no thoughtful upgrades (even, CityProof windows). That one is only “1,690 sq ft”, with the only difference with the “1,735 sq ft” #4W I see is that #2W lacks the mechanical/storage room at the end of the kitchen / pantry. It sold quickly, coming out on June 1 at $3.495mm, finding a contract by July 12, and closing at $3.225mm on October 24.


StreetEasy does not have the listing that actually sold #4W on April 5 at $3.64mm, but I would have sworn that it used to. (The link I copied when I noted the closing as a to-blog is no longer valid.) Our listing system shows that the marketing campaign that sold #4W started on September 20 at $3.75mm, found a contract by March 1, and closed at $3.64mm on April 5.


That’s one way to say that the thoughtful upgrades (and being 20 feet higher above the Ninth Avenue and 15th Street sidewalks) were worth $415,000. (No way that they cost anything like that.) Bang! (The nearly 6 months to contract suggests not everyone saw wallpaper with 10 fot high stilletoes as a premium worth paying for ... but still ... BANG!)


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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May. 1, 2013 - penthouse loft at 420 West 25 Street did not sell a year ago, but does now (higher)


2 in a row may not be a trend, but is interesting

I hope that this post, following yesterday’s (April 30, unsold 2010 into 2011, 49 East 21 Street loft sells 18% higher), is more additional than redundant, as simply another (interesting?) illustration of the change in market conditions. In this case, the “1,061 sq ft” Manhattan penthouse loft #9B at 420 West 25 Street (Loft 25) failed to sell just over a year ago at $1.2mm and just sold at $1.26mm. Maybe it just didn’t give it enough time in the last marketing campaign, but this sequence looks to me like two different sets of market conditions:

Dec 20, 2011 new to market $1.2mm
Feb 16, 2012


Aug 22 back on market $1.29mm
Jan 22, 2013


Mar 29 sold $1.26mm

Based on the January 2013 contract value, you’d think there’d have been interest close to (if not above) the January 2012 asking price. Not enough to sell, apparently.

The loft has some strong positives (high ceilings, light, finishes, and roof deck and terrace) and some issues (tiny cozy interior bedroom, location among them) but the combination of charm and issues that worked this year failed to work last year.

obvious charm, subtle feet
Because it is a beautiful day, let’s start with the positives. The loft is well-dressed, and has a huge volume on a moderate footprint, accentuated by the waist-to-ceiling windows and 14 foot ceilings. This 2008 new development planted a flag for deluxe finishes in the west Chelsea area (or, “at the center of New York's favored art scene and within view of the High Line and Hudson River Park”, as babbled, though it could also be described as across the street from a square block of NYCHA buildings).

The finishes are enthusiastically described:

Nordic Ash hardwood floors; individual climate control heat and air; pre-wired high speed internet; and deeded storage. The ultra-modern kitchen is custom designed by Shiffini in Italy and features two Liebherr side-by-side refrigerator/freezers, Bosch gas cook-top, convection oven and dishwasher; and Asko W/D

Then there’s the outdoor space: a 4’2” deep terrace running the width of the loft (25’4”) off the living room and that “737 sq ft” roof terrace up the stairs. It is hard to see how that “planter’s terrace” might feel, given that the building facade is pretty high on this wall (see pic #2), possibly making it difficult to plant anything other than shade-loving plants on this level. No question about the rooftop, however: fully open to the sky, whether with virtual planting (pic #1) or bare (pic #7). Indeed, that rooftop is the whole point of the loft, it seems to me. 

I have mentioned the challenging location, and hinted at some size issues. Start with the fact that you can play with the interior dimensions on the floor plan for a long time without getting close to 1,000 usable square feet. (I know, I know, that is not what is measured, but still ….) I don’t get the decision allocating space between the kitchen and the bedroom. Push that wall two feet west and (with the same size kitchen) and no one is going to complain about the two feet narrower dining area between kitchen and wall of glass; yet two adults in the (now) 11’4” x 10’7” bedroom would appreciate the ability to both get out of bed at the same time.

A rant about virtual staging (you’ve been warned). If you have ever been in a room that measures 9’4” x 10’7”, you will have your doubts about the virtual (pic #6) and in-real-life (pic #5) bedroom photos. They have to be of opposite side walls, right? Otherwise, the real life closet would be behind the mirror in the virtual photo. Yet, that wall is only 9 feet long and has a door in it. If so, that virtual bed must be an … er … unusual size. I bet anyone standing in that room who had already studied the listing photos would be disappointed (at best), if not irritated.

Now that I have been provoked, here is another thing I do not understand:

upper mezzanine features an expansive 737 sq. ft. private terrace and seating area easily converted to accommodate a home office, media or guest lounge

Where does that “upper … home office, media or guest lounge” go? Around the staircase?? That would be awkward.

mismatching data
StreetEasy often has trouble matching listings and deeds when one uses a convention like “#PH9B” and the other “#9B”, which is why you have to do some extra clicking to match this deed to this listing. That’s a standard matching problem, easily solved. What is not easily solved is the sales history of this loft. According to StreetEasy, “#9B” was sold by the sponsor on April 23, 2009 for $2,087,412, which would be quite a hit for the recent seller at $1.26mm. But that “#9B” measured “1,461 sq ft” (not “1,061 sq ft”) and was marketed with a floor plan with a real bedroom on the lower level and a concomitantly larger roof terrace up on top.

Dollars to doughnuts, the now-missing bedroom (and bath, and walk-in closet, and roof) got transferred to the next unit over, somehow, someday.  (That floor plan explains why the present #9B bedroom is so cozy; it was a “second” bedroom.) Makes it hard to keep track of things, darn it all.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 18, 2013 - Lion’s Head loft at 121 West 19 Street takes a long time to lose 9% since 2007 resale


our long national nightmare is over

This is not new news, as the contract was signed unusually long ago, but the “1,920 sq ft” duplex Manhattan loft #3B at 121 West 19 Street (Lion’s Head) finally sold on February 28. My headline news is that the poor folks who bought the loft for $2mm leading into The Peak just sold it for $1.825mm. My subhead news is that these poor folks were trying to be “sellers” for a really, really, really long time, starting after owning it for just a year. Of course they had trouble discovering the market value, sitting through so many different permutations in the post-Lehman market (a difficult time to start, no?). Not many Manhattan residential listings have this record of not selling, not selling, and not selling:

Sept 13, 2007 sold $2mm
Oct 8, 2008 new to market $2.5mm
Mar 14, 2009


April 24 change firms $2.299mm
June 26   $2.1mm
July 17   $1.995mm
Feb 23, 2010


April 22 change firms $2.275mm
May 27   $2.15mm
July 12   $2.1mm
Feb 10, 2012   $1.995mm
July 3 contract  
Feb 28, 2013 sold $1.825mm



Were these folks crushed for cash after Lehman crashed? As The Miller graphed so recently in a Three Cents Worth post on Curbed:

I don't think many people realized how sharp the drop in supply was after the market corrected with Lehman bankruptcy in late 2008.  Inventory collapsed as sellers could not see a quick rebound in the future and got out as quickly as they could in order to wait for the market to improve.


Not these folks! With the rest of the inventory in Manhattan “collapsed”, these folks persisted for 45 months (less two periods of hiatus in advance of changes in forms, lasting just over 3 months), at wildly varying prices. Let’s pause to spell that out: these folks persisted for F O R T Y - F I V E  M O N T H S.


OK, they didn’t act as though they needed the cash, despite selling (trying to) into a collapsing market, as they started at a price that did not reflect reality. Whatever else you may think of the original asking price, starting at a 20% premium to a near-Peak value did not demonstrate much motivation to sell into a (repeat after me) collapsing market, a market that continued to collapse for the 5 months that 20% premium was proposed..


Note the parallels in that history: they asked $1.995mm from July 2009 into February 2010 and from February 2012 until getting the contract 5 months later. They asked $2.1mm for 3 weeks in the Summer of 2009 and from July 2010 into February 2012 (There’s no typo in that sequence; the year “2011” does not appear on the history because they stayed on the market without a price change from July 2010 into February 2012.)


Note how hard it was for the 2007 buyers at $2mm to ask a price below their purchase price: only from July 2009 into February 2010 and from February 2012 into July did they ask below their purchase price (12 of the 45 months), and then only $5,000 below what they had paid.


Note that in a listing history full of mysteries, the most inscrutable mystery may be the gap between contract in July 2012 and closing in February 2013. Under any circumstances, that is an unusually long time to be in contract, even for a coop (of course, Lion’s Head is a condo). One would assume the deal was in jeopardy at some point, contract notwithstanding, but from the outside of the curtain there is no way to do more than speculate. I want to refrain from speculating too much, but I do wonder how tempted the sellers must have been as late 2012 turned into such a strong sellers market, at least for other sellers.


not all feet are equal

Despite a book value of “1,920 sq ft”, the #3B floor plan maxes out as a 2-bedroom+den. Babbled as “spacious”, a more refined (if unconventional) claim might be “voluminous”, as much of the “space” is from cubic feet fit under the 16 foot ceilings in the living room and bedrooms. The front of the loft has the mezzanine den (plus mechanical room) over the kitchen and second bath.


While that living room seems to be quite large, note the limitations in the main listing photo (in large format, it is actually pic #8 on StreetEasy). The loft is nearly 2,000 sq ft, but the most sensible use for the last residents was to put a small (!) dining table at the bottom of the stairs. That photo shows another unusual feature, one that only people experienced in deconstructing listing photos might observe: the windows show as opaque. In real life you are likely to be able to see out of them, but for “sales” purposes, no. This is probably related to the babbled benefit of “quiet”, as there is almost certainly a wall uncomfortably close to the #3B wall of 10 foot windows. (You get a better sense of what lurks outside from the main listing photo in the first resale campaign.)


Careful readers of Manhattan Loft Guy realize that I hit another mezzanine loft at the Lion’s Head recently, one with a happier seller. In my March 29,  Lion’s Head no bedroom mezzanine loft at 121 West 19 Street closes up $25,000 since 2008, that headline tells the essential story. That recent seller (loft #4C) had been a buyer at The Peak (not pre-Peak, like #3B) yet eked out a value above Peak (not a $175,000 decline, like #3B). In that post I observed:


I don’t see another Lion’s Head loft that resold close to Peak and then again recently, so it is hard to say if other lofts here are worth more than they were at The Peak. (The closest is #9D, which is not that close as far as dates, but might project as similar: sold pre-Peak on April 20, 2007 at $1.3mm and again a while ago on March 12, 2012 at $1.41mm.) I could make the argument that the hyper-local market in this building is at or above Peak.


Can’t make that argument any longer, at least without taking #3B into account. (The 3 units in contract but not yet closed appear that they will mark #3B as an outlier.)


Fans of this Lion’s Head (an inanimate celebrity in 2006) should follow the link in this excerpt from my March 29 post:


I have not hit the Lion’s Head in a while, perhaps because there were only 3 public sales in 2012. I did do a major recap on sales in the building in my Dec. 23, 2011 - Lion's Head loft resale up a tad since 2006 at 121 West 19 Street, however. Lions’ Head fans should check that out, with its recap of 6 2011 sales and a discussion of how 2011 pricing related to the sponsor sales in 2006.


estimating bath size is difficult from the outside

It is impossible to know the full financial impact on the #3B sellers from having owned the loft at $2mm and sold 4+ years later at $1.825mm. I don’t know their mortgage payment, or for how long the unit was vacant when they rented the space. I do know that they rented it at least twice. Our listing system has better data than StreetEasy, showing that #3B was rented in September 2010 for $9,500/mo (StreetEasy correctly shows that it took from April 2010 to get that deal) and again in December 2011 for $9,000/mo (again, StreetEasy correctly shows that it took from July 2011 to get that deal). (That tenancy may explain why the closing was delayed so long after the July 2012 contract.)


This sequence implies that #3B had an empty period between leases, and that they’d have had trouble covering mortgage plus taxes plus common charges even when rented; if so, the full story was even more sad than this simple equation:






The mirror has two faces, and The Market has many data points. 2012 was not A Sellers Market for all sellers.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 17, 2013 - 161 West 15 Street is nothing special, other than priced right for the market


not everything is a gut project, or done to the 9s

I mean no disrespect to the “1,170 sq ft” Manhattan loft #6B at 161 West 15 Street (Jensen-Lewis Building) by saying that it is nothing special. It is your basic loft, with tall ceilings, a kitchen slapped against a wall, a tight corner exposure “offering dramatic city views and great light”, an interior sleep area, a jacuzzi and shower stall, and no bragging whatsoever about finishes. There is no obviously required upgrading, so it works for the 1-bedroom Chelsea move-right-in loft buyer pool in the low $1s. The market got it, quickly: for sale on January 21 at $1.275mm and in contract within 10 days, meaning that the full price deal that closed on March 12 was reached almost immediately on the loft coming to market.


The recent sellers bought the place in 1996 for $347,500, according to our listing system, and the chances are very good that it was in the same shape then, as now. (Maybe the appliances were updated, but I doubt it.) Any listing description with the word “jacuzzi” always suggests 1980s to me, so that bright brassy bath may predate even the recent sellers’ ownership.


When was the last time that you saw a kitchen with no cabinets, other than in a very primitive loft? Obviously, some of those metal shelving units could also serve as working counter space (otherwise, there’s just the top of the dishwasher) in addition to meeting all of this kitchen’s storage needs. See what I mean by “nothing special”?


what a difference a year makes

This nothing-special loft just sold for $1,090/ft. This compares very favorably to the last loft sold in this building, which is a wonderful comp as it is the loft below, with the identical footprint. The (yes) “1,170 sq ft” loft #5B was much more enthusiastically babbled about when it sold 13 months before #6B:


open cook's kitchen this artistically designed home is a true gem. Custom resin counter tops and appointments throughout. The maple and cherry custom kitchen cabinets are fitted with Bendheim glass panels adding warmth and a luxurious touch. The same woods have been laid on both the foyer and bedroom floors with custom maple cabinetry in the bedroom carrying through


The photos are only thumbnails, but the 4th picture shows a real kitchen, and the 6th a well-finished (more modern) bath. Maybe the contrasting wood flooring patterns in the foyer (pic #1) and bedroom (#5) killed the market, or maybe this history is just yet another reminder of how different the current market is from only a year ago:

Sept 8, 2011 new to market $1.295mm
Nov 12   $1.249mm
Jan 3, 2012 contract  
Feb 16 sold $1.15mm


That’s $983/ft for a pretty well-dressed loft with essentially the same light and views as #6B. That’s an 11% premium for the inferior loft in the same building, 13 months later. Loft #5B has essentially the same layout (floor plan, here) as #6B, with essentially the same utility. (What’s up with the curved “bedroom” walls in this building?)

There was another sale in the building 13 months before #6B. I hit the “1,440 sq ft” Manhattan loft #5A in my March 16, 2012, spectacular renovation does not prevent 161 West 15 Street loft from closing down 7% since 2006, in which the title told an interesting story, but not the part relevant to #6B and #5B. Yes, loft #5A was well renovated (beyond even #5B) and it sold for a loss to its purchase in 2006, but for present purposes it is interesting that it sold after a long time on the market (18 months), with many (6) price drops. It had a bit of a challenging floor plan, but the clearing price of $1.375mm on February 6, 2012 was not only devastating to the sellers (see 2006 reference) but surprising to Manhattan Loft Guy. I didn’t have the #5B sale at $983/ft when I wrote about #5A last year, but $955/ft for a better-dressed #5A doesn’t seem right. (Or, at least, not rational.)


Loft #6A at $1,090/ft is yet another sign that buyers are getting squeezed in 2013. Not that active buyers need any reminders ….


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 1, 2013 - loft at 217 West 19 Street dances to 13% gain over Peak


another Beat The Peak contestant, not an April Fool’s Day fool

The “2,400 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 9th floor of 217 West 19 Street is a worthy Beat The Peak, as it was sold for $4.4mm on February 5 by the woman who bought it on April 30, 2008 for $3.9mm. A quibbler might note that the prior sale was not quite The Peak, as you all know that the highest prices in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market were observed in deeds signed during the First Quarter of 2008, but such narrow parsing is defeated by two numbers: $3.9mm and $4.4mm. If the $3.9mm is truly post-Peak for being 30 days too late in early 2008, it is close-enough-to-Peak that the subsequent $4.4mm renders the March v. April issue academic.


A skeptic might wonder if the magnificent loft, so enthusiastically babbled for the recent sale, had been improved since last selling 5 years ago. After all, the StreetEasy data associated with the recent sale does not show the prior listing, and the recent broker babble is quite enthusiastic:


3 bedrooms (one currently configured as a state of the art home theater) and two designer tile baths with steam shower, soaking tub and Dornbracht fixtures. 104 Feet of wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows display breathtaking Midtown views crowned by the Empire State Building. A 52 foot long terrace runs along the southern side of the apartment. Designed for the most discerning buyer this home showcases non structural interior walls, maple floors, and an open Bulthaup kitchen with center island, Sub Zero and Viking appliances, Vantage programmable lighting and electronic blind control system, prewired audio/video system and a flexible layout with glass pocket doors. Other features include a private vestibule entry, separate laundry room with washer/dryer, 2 zone A/C, walk in closets and central security system


I [heart] skeptics

A useful thing to be skeptical about, of course, given the half million dollar “gain”. But you can take those quotation marks down and be frustrated about StreetEasy’s inability to match the recent “#9” listing (with a history of prior sales in 2008 and 2002) with the 2008 listing for “#9FL”, which contains this bit of now familiar babble:


3 bedrooms (one currently configured as a state-of-the-art home theatre) and 2 designer tile baths with steam shower and soaking tub. 104 feet of wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows display breathtaking Midtown views, crowned by the Empire State Building. A 52 foot long terrace runs along the southern side of the apartment. Designed for the most discerning buyer, this home features ebonized maple floors, Bulthaup Kitchen with Sub Zero and Viking appliances, Vantage Programmable Lighting Control System, prewired audio/video and electronic blinds throughout. Other features include a laundry room, 2 zone A/C and central security system


Not much daylight between the two listing descriptions, after all. And not much honor in the plagiarism very sincere flattery of the first broker babble in the second. If there are any changes in condition between 2008 and 2013, such changes did not merit mention in the second babble or a claim of “recently upgraded [anything]”. So we come back to two numbers: $3.9mm and $4.4mm.


I would wonder, seeing a two-sale sequence that doesn’t fit the conventional narrative, if there was something about the earlier campaign to suggest the prior value was artificially low. Not in this case, as that 2008 seller pushed The Market for more but didn’t get it:

Jan 12, 2008 new to market $4.1mm
Feb 9   $3.995mm
Feb 29 contract  
April 30 sold $3.9mm


Again, we come back to two numbers: $3.9mm and $4.4mm.


The same loft that The Market deemed worth only $3.9mm very very very close to The Peak just sold for $4.4mm. That’s impressive. Much more impressive, in fact, than the last Peak-to-now Bright Shiny Object on the next block I highlighted in my March 29,
Lion’s Head no bedroom mezzanine loft at 121 West 19 Street closes up $25,000 since 2008, where the title tells how small a story that was. In contrast, this loft tells a big story in one number: $500,000.


I would also wonder, seeing a two-sale sequence that doesn’t fit the conventional narrative, if there was something about the building or the micro-nabe to suggest a reason for the half million dollar spread. Can’t think of a damn thing. The block is as prime Chelsea now as it was then. If anything, the sparse sales history in this small (12-unit) building built in 2003 suggests the recent sale is rather robust, rather than the prior sale having been anemic for mysterious reasons.


spare history makes comping hard, of course

The last sale in the building was way back on May 31, 2012, only 10 months ago in calendar but seemingly a long time ago in market time. The “2,027 sq ft” #7S lacks the Empire State Building views, has only a small terrace, and has lower utility in line with its smaller footprint (2 bedrooms, a study, 2 baths). It sold for a paltry $2.5mm. Worse (for people who like their data points to line up “rationally”), the sale before that really was a long time ago, when the “2,400 sq ft” 8th floor sold for $4.65mm on October 5, 2010. More than the 9th floor, yes, but it has much more outdoor space: the babble claims “2,035 sq ft” in two terraces, one north, one south (floor plan, here), compared to the mere “205 sq ft” for the 9th floor terrace, as noted in our listing system.


There are several ways to ballpark the value of the outdoor spaces for these 3 lofts, the best being to allocate a large premium to the smaller spaces of #9 and #7S (50% of interior value) and a smaller premium for the over-large #8 twin terraces (say, 25% of interior, to make the math simpler). #7S comes to an adjusted $1,204/ft (assuming that terrace is 100 sq ft) in May 2012. The 8th floor in October 2010 yields an adjusted $1,599/ft. And the 9th floor 8 weeks ago … (wait for it) …an adjusted $1,759/ft, and an adjusted $1,559/ft back in April 2008.


I am going to stop playing with these numbers, as the near-Peak adjusted $1,559/ft for the 9th floor is (again) looking to me as somewhat low (especially compared to the 8th floor at an adjusted $1,599/ft in October 2010), but I am inclined to chalk that up to the difficulties of directly comparing loft without (much) outdoor space to lofts with a great deal of outdoor space. But that’s another angle for (perhaps) another day; it is certainly one digression too far for today.


So let’s (almost) end by coming back to two numbers: $3.9mm and $4.4mm; and two dates: April 30, 2008 and February 5, 2013. I will be scratching my head over this for a while.


a short trip down memory lane

I am surprised to see that I have hit this building with beautiful lofts only once, and that was more a drive-by hit than an extended analysis, from back in the day when I blogged about then-current listings. And it was the then-new listing for the 9th floor that caught my eye in a paired analysis in my January 18, 2008, dueling $4mm open houses at 217 West 19 Street + 32 West 18 St. That is all.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Mar. 29, 2013 - Lion’s Head no bedroom mezzanine loft at 121 West 19 Street closes up $25,000 since 2008

always interesting to play Beat The Peak

The recent sale of the “1,069 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4C at 121 West 19 Street (in the Lion’s Head Condominium) is yet another reminder that I should do a summary post collecting how well or poorly high ceilinged lofts with mezzanines have done in The Market. (Note to Self …, of course.) This loft will fall into the Favored category based on value, which is likely based on a floor plan that, although narrow with a single exposure, puts the (relatively modest) mezzanine at the entry, away from the windows. But the more specific story about this loft is that it re-sold in an essentially Peak sale at $1.175mm and just closed a tiny bit higher, at $1.2mm.

The Lion’s Head was famously one of the most successful new development residential loft conversions in the Early Froth Period, with buyers lined up around the block to attend the first opportunity for sales before the sponsor sales closed in 2006. Let’s start the history with that sale:

May 9, 2006 sponsor sale $651,680
Nov 14, 2007 new to market $1.175mm
Dec 14 contract  
May 13, 2008 sold $1.175mm
June 12, 2012 new to market $1.395mm
Sept 18   $1.295mm
Nov 30   $1.25mm
Jan 31, 2013 contract  
Feb 28   $1.2mm

(That 2007 listing, by the way, is extremely precise in describing the space and the two levels. With that data, my calculator tells me that the mezzanine extends over 44% of the footprint.)

If you were inclined to quibble that the 2008 sale was not really a Peak sale because it did not close in the First Quarter of 2008 (the quarter in which the then-highest sales on record were recorded in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market), note that the contract was signed November 14, 2007. I would guess that nearly all condominium sales with mid-November 2007 contracts closed before March 31, 2008, so the peer group for that #4C sale on May 13, 2008 is truly a Peak group.

I don’t see another Lion’s Head loft that resold close to Peak and then again recently, so it is hard to say if other lofts here are worth more than they were at The Peak. (The closest is #9D, which is not that close as far as dates, but might project as similar: sold pre-Peak on April 20, 2007 at $1.3mm and again a while ago on March 12, 2012 at $1.41mm.) I could make the argument that the hyper-local market in this building is at or above Peak.

the mezz works

Did I mention that The Market liked this mezzanine? To me, to a remarkable degree, essentially valuing the entire square footage at par, despite the fact that 44% of the footprint has ceilings up and down that split (only) 15 ½ feet, and despite the fact that the “bedroom” is open to the loft at the opposite end from the windows. Remarkable, indeed, at $1,122/ft. 

The most recent sale in the building was the “1,576 sq ft” #8E at $1,301/ft on January 15, but I can back that one out as being preferred due to the higher floor (“bring your sunglasses”) enough to get within a reasonable range for market noise, especially as the sale before that was the identical #6E on September 28, 2012 at only $1,180/ft. Look at #6E (floor plan, here), with the same finishes as the others (of course) and 12 foot ceilings throughout, instead of #4C having 15 foot ceilings in 56% of the space and 7+ foot ceilings for both levels in the remaining 44% of the footprint. $1,180/ft 6 months ago, $1,122/ft more recently.

Yes, The Market loved this mezzanine.

 My March 4, when beautiful things happen to high ceilings / 720 Greenwich Street loft sells big after mezzanine re-do, is my current recent go-to post about the value of mezzanines, in that case a dramatic increase in value from a re-do of bi-level space, in a loft with a wide window wall that is much more conducive to gracious mezzanine living than the long-narrow #4C. On the other hand, there is the very different market reaction captured in a post that I linked to and described in that march 4 post:

… my January 14, when bad things happen to high ceilings: 250 Mercer Street loft sells at $650/ft, in which the title tells the main story. That one involved ceilings that were not as high as loft #1J (even if only 14+ feet) and a very narrow loft with the only windows on one very narrow end. That unfortunate loft actually traded for less than another loft (with a smaller footprint) in that same building that did not have “extra” mezzanine space, as though the mezzanine in that case was a negative value factor.

I am filled with wonder about the contrasting market treatment of loft #4C, so I will say again: The Market loved this mezzanine.

down memory lane

I have not hit the Lion’s Head in a while, perhaps because there were only 3 public sales in 2012. I did do a major recap on sales in the building in my Dec. 23, 2011 - Lion's Head loft resale up a tad since 2006 at 121 West 19 Street, however. Lions’ Head fans should check that out, with its recap of 6 2011 sales and a discussion of how 2011 pricing related to the sponsor sales in 2006.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Mar. 25, 2013 - huge renovation premium for (awkward?) 251 West 19 Street that last sold in 2010


market didn’t mind dropping more ceiling

The math on the recently resold “1,630 sq ft” Manhattan loft #1D at 251 West 19 Street is pretty impressive: sold on February 27 at $1.76mm after a renovation by the folks who paid $830,000 for the loft as a bring-your-architect special on March 29, 2010. That’s 35 months and a premium of 112% ($930,000) for that renovation. Nicely played, sir and madam; nicely played.


The bare bones listing from 2010 bragged about a ceilings of 16 ½ feet, a brick wall, and a then-current configuration of “two split lofts” accessed by a pair of stairs, one near the entry, the other near the windows. The new configuration has essentially the same structure but instead of two stairs to two lofts, there is a single stair near the entry and a “balcony” connecting the “bedroom” and the “study” near the windows; the open area in the middle is about the same (limited) size as before, but the former (odd) high-ceilinged space above the foyer is now a walk-in closet on the expanded mezzanine level. In other words, the structural changes from 2010 to 2013 are relatively modest.


The broker babble about the “extensive” is relatively restrained, though the market reaction was hardly restrained. Yes, there was “no detail overlooked”, but the kitchen is described as merely “modern, sleek white with all the amenities, storage and washer/dryer you could hope for” and the bathrooms as just “sleek and modern with high end materials and fixtures”. (There had been 1.5 baths, the recent listing says 2.5, but the floor plan shows only 2 full, no half bath.) Among the details not overlooked are a “split air AC system.... and built in state of the art sound system”. Not much bragging, right?


But let’s review: $830,000 on March 29, 2010, $176mm on February 27, 2013.


The post-renovation space is a bit larger (“1,725 sq ft” now claimed, compared to the “1,630 sq ft” that was probably in the original condo offering), due to the new balcony and walk-in closet. It is hard to say if there was additional construction beyond the new balcony and walk-in closet, but it appears not. The demolition may have been limited to removing the front stair and blowing out the old kitchen and 1.5 baths. If they spent $300/ft on the new space, that would be a renovation budget of (only) $517,500.


Again, let’s review: $830,000 on March 29, 2010, $1.76mm on February 27, 2013. If I have ballparked the renovation budget reasonably, they added $417,500 in value above their cost. (Throw more to the renovation, the ‘extra’ value is reduced but still considerable.)


Again, nicely played, sir and madam; nicely played.


do you like those ceilings?

I can’t quibble with The Market reaction to the as-renovated (don’t make me repeat the math, again), but I have to say I don’t love the mezzanine space and am surprised that The Market did. Somewhere in prehistory the loft had 16+ foot ceilings with a Long-and-Narrow footprint that was 17 feet wide but not the entire length of about 62 feet. There being only 2 very tall windows at one end and a single small side window is a major limiting factor.


The old floor plan was fairly ridiculous, with two silos. The new one is an improvement, but that front “study” still cuts those huge windows in half, leaving but one silo in the middle. Without that front study mezzanine, this loft would be a larger version of the rectangle lofts with a single exposure at 130 Barrow Street (discussed in a post about a lovely version of this layout, my October 22, 2012, renowned designer created 'masterpiece' loft for himself at 130 Barrow Street, parts with it for money).


As a narrow rectangle loft with a single exposure, loft #1D does not lend itself to a mezzanine that retains ‘volume’ in the way that worked very well in the loft I hit in my March 4, when beautiful things happen to high ceilings / 720 Greenwich Street loft sells big after mezzanine re-do. That ground floor loft with high ceilings was a long rectangle with a long wall of tall windows, so taking up the far wall with a mezzanine did not destroy the boost of space provided by windows. That footprint was probably a little smaller than loft #1D (around 900 sq ft) so is an interesting match to loft #1D as it got $1.7mm after a renovation. (Of course, #1D got $1.76mm.)


Obviously, the fully built-out mezzanine (from “bedroom” to balcony to study) adds a great deal of utility to loft #1D. It doesn’t matter if a loft snob like Manhattan Loft Guy approves. One more time: $830,000 on March 29, 2010, $1.76mm on February 27, 2013.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Mar. 8, 2013 - buy low, sell high: simple advice well executed at 121 West 17 Street loft

how bad was that nuclear winter, grampa?
The last time the “1,135 sq ft” Manhattan loft #5D at 121 West 17 Street was offered for sale the ask was $1.34mm; this time, $1.295mm. Last time, the clearing price was $870,000; this time, $1.275mm. Last time, the marketing campaign was launched in that awkward period a few months after The Peak in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market and a couple of months before Lehman filed for bankruptcy protection and The Market went into deep freeze; this time, the loft came out in a hot market.

The 2009-buyer-turned-2013-seller made money in real estate the old-fashioned way: he bought low, then sold high. In order to do that, he had to do what few buyers were able to do, which was to buy into a falling market without confidence that the fall would end soon, or that market conditions would improve in time for him to benefit. (I’ve said this before: no matter how often Manhattan real estate spectators say people are foolish to buy when prices are rising, few actual buyers have the … er … intestinal fortitude to buy when prices are dropping.)

same screens, same floor, same loft
The recent marketing campaign as reflected on StreetEasy is odd, in that it has only 3 photos. The broker babble is more matter-of-fact than enthusiastic, supported by no photos of the kitchen or bath:

light flooded, approximately 1,250 sq foot home, features 11' ceilings, original columns and over-sized South facing windows providing brilliant sunlight throughout this gracious space. With a washer/dryer, generous storage areas and hard wood floors, this renovated loft features a modern kitchen with concrete counter top and top of the line appliances, as well as a large renovated bathroom.

The 2008 babble was more specific:

a wall of huge windows, south light, interesting city views and open sky. True loft living approx. 1,135+/- sq. ft. with high ceilings, original columns, original hardwood floors in excellent condition. 5D has been totally redone retaining the loft elements with the influence of Myia Shoji who designed and built the Shoji screens and many closet treatments. The kitchen is modern and succinct with Meile, Viking and Sub-Zero and a very deep kitchen sink. The bath is unique and original with a Toto toilet and Bowery sink. There is a Miele washer/dryer, Videx video intercom, Luceplan kitchen, bath and entry light fixtures. There is an entry, office, dining area, large loft living space and large bedroom. The apartment has excellent storage over storage features.

Although only 3 listing photos from 2008 survive on StreetEasy, our listing system has 12 photos. It is hard to tell from StreetEasy, but the loft had the same configuration in 2008 as it did when sold recently, even though the 2008 listing floor plan is different from the current floor plan (the 2nd photo from 2008 on StreetEasy matches the current floor plan, with the “study” behind the couch wall and the kitchen through the sliding Shoji screens).

I can’t be certain that the “modern and succinct[!]” 2008 kitchen survived into 2012 without seeing a 2012 photo to match up with the 2008 photo and its more specific description, just as I can’t be certain that the “unique and original” bathroom from 2008 has been unchanged, but I am pretty confident that is the case. In other words, that the loft as sold for $870,000 on January 30, 2009 is in precisely the same condition as the loft as sold for $1.275mm on February 12, 2013.

That is a gain of $405,000, or 46%, in 4 years. As I am sure we can agree that the overall Manhattan residential real estate market has not experienced a gain of that magnitude over that period, this loft is an outlier. And probably an outlier on the 2009 sale rather than the current sale.

back to The Ice Age
I can’t tell exactly what happened to the seller in 2008, as our listing database has only this tantalizing history, with no match to the (eventual) sale January 30, 2009:

  • July 17, 2008 new to market $1.34mm
  • July 28 open house set for Aug 4
  • Sept 2 open house set for Sept 7
  • Sept 2 open house set for Sept 10
  • Sept 9 open house set for Sept 14
  • Oct 17 temporarily off the market

As I am sure you recall, Lehman’s bankruptcy filing was on September 15. It is not fair to say that thereafter all hell broke loose so much as it would be better to say that thereafter pretty much nothing broke loose, and it was hell. I suspect it is not coincidental that the last scheduled open house was the Sunday before Lehman’s bankruptcy petition.

What’s odd is that the trail goes cold in our system, but that the seller managed to sell (painfully, very painfully) on January 30, 2009. You’d think that a desperate seller would keep flogging the market with open houses (at least, through an active listing) until the deed got done. (And if you think that perhaps the seller was not desperate then, I give you one number: $870,000.)

I can’t even imagine an explanation for a seller’s mindset to stop public marketing yet take a deal at a 35% discount 3 months after giving up publicly. Desperate times call for desperate measures, of course. But I am not going to play that mind game.

a wall of poster children
I will add this old data point from #5F in January 2009 as an additional poster child for how cold it was for sellers during that nuclear winter. And I will keep this opportunistic 2009 buyer in mind when people wonder why anyone would buy in a falling market.

I have described other poster children from the nuclear winter. The one with the saddest face is probably still from my January 6, 2011, 345 West 13 Street loft is candidate for sale of the year, but the year was 2009 (a sold price sequence of $3.875mm, $3mm, and $4.4mm, with the middle one [obviously] being the well-chilled one). Another with a smile-turned-upside-down is from my August 9, 2011, agony + ecstasy at one 65 West 13 Street loft (with a sequence of $2.22mm, $2.2mm, and $3,182,500).

Finally, in my May 15, 2011, from fire sale in nuclear winter to +27% at 155 Hudson Street, I talked about how The Market has two sides, a seller for every buyer. In every example of a sales price depressed by nuclear winter conditions there was an opportunistic buyer with intestinal fortitude to match up with a seller in dire straits. (That one involved a frozen purchase at $1,753,500 and resale at $2.23mm.) So, too, does every profitable resale have two sides: the entry price and the exit price.

gotta sell high to make it really work
That guy also did pretty well on the sale side, at least compared to the prior sale in the building. The “1,000 sq ft” loft #7A has a less flexible footprint (harder to squeeze in a “study”, though a layout with greater utility can be imagined) and what looks like a more conventional high quality finish than #5D. Not to mention, two exposures, “magnificent” light, and windows that clear the rooftops nearby so should provide charm and water towers, as well as all that light. That one sold for $1.18mm last May, $1,180/ft for those without a calculator or not paying attention.

If I were the #5D seller, I would feel pretty happy getting $1,123/ft, or $1.275mm, for a (slightly) larger loft with less light, no view, and an idiosyncratic style.

Nicely played, sir; nicely played. On both legs of the round trip.

Count-up: 2,000 … 2,001 … (just kidding)

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Feb. 28, 2013 - ridiculous patience rewarded with sale of 263 Ninth Avenue loft at small discount

offered in October, contract in October
You know that bit of Conventional Wisdom about how a listing that stays on the market for months without a price drop, it is at the wrong price and will need a price drop to sell? The “2,955 sq ft” duplex Manhattan loft #1C at 263 Ninth Avenue (The Heywood) just collided with that CW and walked away without a scratch. I don’t even need a table to simply present this listing history: first offered at $2.4mm on October 14, 2011, in contract at $2.3mm on October 1, 2012, and (finally) closed on December 13.

That’s 54 weeks to a contract at a mere 4% discount from ask. If I didn’t already know that 2012 had a healthy number of transactions in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market, I would suspect a thin market as the culprit for such a strange history; as it is, I will go with a Modified Thin Market Theory, that there are not many buyers in this part of Chelsea at any one time looking for a nearly 3,000 sq ft (legal) 1-bedroom. That seems just the ticket, as opposed to, say, blaming the seller for not getting the Neutral Colors Memo from the Home Stagers of America, Inc. (Personally, I love that red hallway; we had one that was not as long when we sold our West 26th Street loft in 2005.)

unique lofts need attract fewer buyers
“Unique” is a horribly over-used word in the Real Estate Industrial Complex, frequently used when “unusual” will do, and too often used when an agent thinks there is something (anything) “special” about a listing. A nearly 3,000 sq ft (legal) 1-bedroom loft might qualify on any standard as “unique”, once you add the further elements of (a) ground floor, (b) duplex, and (c) sidewalk (parking lot?) “views”. Let’s go with “unusual” to describe this floor plan, unless you are a fan of a Dana Carvey “special”. Whatever, special / unique / rare lofts that are such because they do not fit the standard narrative for that market segment may have trouble in The Market.

Such lofts may also break with Conventional Wisdom by, for example, needing Just One Buyer and, therefore, sitting on The Market for an unconventionally long time at the right price without (yet) finding That One Buyer until … it does. And That One Buyer buys.

The downstairs photo shows the window wall in the lower part of the duplex, with those very small windows way up on the wall, and nearly all of this space well below the street level. That limits the usage down there, especially for parents who want to raise kids in the light. That’s a pretty big space for ‘just’ a recreation room and/or office … over 1,200 sq ft of less-than-favored space is a pretty big office.

Note that there’s a half-bath (okay, powder room) on each level and that the single full bath is in the master suite. This is a loft that (probably) makes up the left over parts of the first floor footprint when the architects got finished drawing in all the other residential lofts on this floor for the 2005 conversion. It is not set up for people to sleep (or bathe, or shower) in any room other than the master suite. A one bed wonder, in other words, even with “2,955 sq ft”.

nice pix you got there
The finishes look conventionally high end for The Heywood, with the 13 foot ceilings and 8 foot windows and doors emphasizing the best feature of the loft: volume. I have to guess that the wine fridge and small cabinet (to the left of the pantry in the kitchen photo) was added by the first owner, or installed by the developer on request, as it is just a little too out of line with the rest of the kitchen to be architect-designed (however functional it may be).

All in all, the loft shows (in the pix) as advertised:

Huge and dramatic proportions, with grand scale and beautiful design, this elegant loft gives you more space then [sic] you ever dreamed of in Manhattan.

Did you notice the funny thing about the windows in the pictures? In all photos but one, the windows are pictured with the blinds fully drawn (in the living room) or half-drawn from the bottom (in the bedroom), obviously obscuring what is on the other side. Only in the 5th picture is one set of blinds opened, obviously to capture the tree in that angled photo. (Even the long view of the windows, pic #3, taken from the entrance, avoids a straight shot through any window.)

No one who has spent much time looking at listings on the web will be misled by these photos, so i don’t mean to criticize. Just to wonder. These are professional photos, well presented. That is part of Penn South across Ninth Avenue sticking out at the top of the bedroom photos, so this unit appears to be at the southeast corner of the building. I am just wondering why they didn’t put bottom-up blinds in the living room, as they did in the bedroom. That has to be the Ninth Avenue sidewalk just outside (and a little below; is this floor a few steps above the grade?) the living room windows. You’d get some more light, and perhaps even some sky, if the living room windows were visible at the top, just a little. Or so I’d think.

But who am I to complain about the marketing package? They got a deal at a small discount from ask.

Loft #1C competed head-to-head with the smaller (“2,138 sq ft”) duplex loft neighbor #1E. With the same utility of living/dining plus bedroom and 1.5 baths upstairs, office / rec room / whatever-grows-without-light plus .5 bath downstairs, loft #1E was a quicker sale, though at essentially the same value:

Feb 11, 2012 new to market $1.835mm
May 5   $1.795mm
June 11 contract  
Aug 17 sold $1.7mm

At $795/ft, #1E beat #1C by a hair ($778/ft), but” a hair” is just as likely to mean market noise as it is an invitation for a “reason”. If pushed, however, I would guess that #1C is optimal only for someone who really wants a big underground space, but let’s not play the fool’s game of trying to ‘explain’ 2% differences on a dollar per foot basis.

is it a fave yet?
This makes 5 posts about Heywood sales, pretty good coverage for a 50-unit building that was sold new in 2005 (one sale!) and 2006, and (therefore) took a while to kick into resale mode.

Welcome to the club, 263 Ninth Avenue! (The good news is, there are no dues, no dress codes.)

(Countdown … 10 … 9 … 8 … 7 ...)

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Feb. 25, 2013 - market corrects too-low price drop at Chelsea Mercantile, just as it's supposed to

Conventional Wisdom, vindicated
Regular readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know that I often observe that, absent a thin buyer pool, The Market will correct a price drop that is ‘too low’ by having multiple bidders push the clearing price above the asking price. The price history of the “2,129 sq ft” Manhattan loft #9-I at 252 Seventh Avenue (“the coveted "I" line of the prestigious Chelsea Mercantile”) will not surprise readers who have been paying attention, as it reflects a customary pattern for a loft that has trouble with price discovery, of To High, Still Too High, (oops) Too Low … Fixed:

May 1 new to market $3.695mm
June 19   $3.55mm
Aug 3 hiatus  
Oct 9   $3.45mm
Nov 13 contract  
Dec 17 sold $3.5mm

Of course the odd thing about this sequence is that it took any price drops at all, as the clearing price is a mere 5% off the initial ask, and a language-fracturing even more mere 1% off the first price drop in June. The whole affair took only 4 months of active marketing, with the August-September hiatus for inacive marketing but active soul searching.

was it the unfortunate extra bedroom, Mars?
As the broker babble says, this unit is in the “coveted” I-line, and it is easy to see why this footprint would make others jealous. The floor plan is close to a perfect one for a 2-bedroom 3-bath layout, with 9 windows along the long north wall and 5 on the shorter east wall, splitting the master (north and west) far from the second bedroom (east and south).

Two problems: the loft was marketed empty, always a dreary presentation at this scale; and (as you already know fi you glanced at the floor plan) they ruined the layout by squeezing in a 3rd “bedroom / study”. That room is a decent enough space, at 8 x 13 feet, that adds the utility of a 3rd bedroom at the cost of delaying a visitor getting a sense of space. Instead of the visitor seeing the 3rd and 4th windows more than 40 feet away after taking but 6 steps into the foyer, that visitor now sees the door to that 3rd bedroom off in the distance and does not feel the volume or see the light of the huge great room until passing the kitchen, and even then only at an angle.

Of course it is a simple matter to take down 21 linear feet of walls and door (as any 2-bedroom buyer would) but the impact of that extra bit of carpentry on the sense of space must be dramatic.

sussing out The Market is easier in retrospect than prospectively
It is not hard to guess the sellers’ approach to pricing loft #9-I. My guess (I will bet you a quarter) starts with the June 2011 sale of loft #15-I at $3.65mm. That one was of similar quality to #9-I (as a “sophisticated renovation”, though in the original configuration of 2-bedroom only) but cleared nearby buildings to add the significant premium of “open city views”. My bet is that the #9-I sellers figured their $3.695mm asking price was justified by the passage of time since #15-I sold, the better views up there notwithstanding.

Attentive readers know that I hit that June 2011 sale in my July 7, 2011, why did Chelsea Mercantile loft sell within 3% of The Peak?, a post in which I was obviously impressed at how well loft #15-I held its value compared to a prior sale at The Peak. In that post I distilled some sales data at The Merc that supports that #9-I babble that this line i, indeed, coveted, noting that the (then) “current value of $1,658/ft for #15-I is clearly a strong value compared to past sales of similar high-floor units” and that “none of the other (same building) sales in the first quarter of 2008 approached the #15-I value”.

Coveted line though it is, “I” lofts with clear views are simply more valuable than lofts with light that face building facades to the north and east. I can’t say that the spread between #15-I at $3.65mm in June 2011 and #9-I at $3.5mm 18 months later is excessive, even allowing for hte passage of time. Though I am tempted to think that the spread would have been smaller had #9-I been only a 2-bedroom and if it had been shown as lived-in.

That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

This story, by the way, has the fortunate consideration of (possibly) accounting for hte #9-I difficulty with price discovery. That starts from the premise that #9-! was priced correctly from the start (a $3.695mm ask in a coveted line of an iconic condo should yield a $3.5mm deal more easily) and looks for reasons The Market had trouble doing the right thing (to cop a Spike Lee joint). I suspect The Market had that trouble becaus the loft was empty and showed particularly poorly due to the ‘extra’ room. Now that I have come around to my beginning I will stop before I repeat the entire analysis.

(Countown from 10....)

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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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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