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Manhattan Loft Guy

Sep. 20, 2013 - buyers with cold nerves sell 4 West 21 Street loft at 51% gain


… and the home of the brave

Let’s take another spin at a wheel I mentioned on Wednesday (September 18, masterpiece designed since 2009, 60 West 15 Street loft doubles in value) about the favorable resale position of  2013 sellers who bucked the trend in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market in 2009 by buying. Today’s example of The Few, The Proud, The Brave just sold the “1,500 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4B at 4 West 21 Street for  $1.995mm, a gain of 51% over the $1.325mm these recent sellers paid when they bought on June 2, 2009. Good for them, now (in their profit) and then (for keeping some activity in a still-chilly market). The anomaly of the 2009 price is evident from this sequence of sales, starting with the sponsor sale:

  • July 17, 2006 $1,644,473

  • Oct 24, 2006 $1.885mm

  • June 2, 2009 $1.325mm

  • July 29, 2013 $1.995mm

But for that third sale, this would be an unremarkable sequence: as was not unusual in those thrilling days of yesteryear froth, the original buyer was able to quickly flip a hot new development, and the recent value was only a modest increase over the market value 5 calendar quarters before The Peak. (If anything, that story line would be about the modesty of that 6% spread going back 7 years.) But the third data point makes the sequence much more dramatic, doesn’t it? (I’ve noted some odd histories in this building before; see at bottom.)

Before we look at the opportunity that every potential buyer had 4+ years ago, that only these recent sellers took, let me note that StreetEasy’s listing history is missing a critical early sequence (those first 4 months, taken from the inter-firm data-base), and that I ignore the last price drop on StreetEasy as invalid because it coincided with the contract signing:

May 8, 2008

new to market


June 18



Sept 18



Sept 25

change firms


Sept 30



Oct 3



Oct 30



Dec 16



April 21, 2009



June 2




(That first effort was through a very small firm; I wonder if Streeteasy did not have a feed from it at that time, even though it was a REBNY firm.)

This is a rich history. The second owner attempted to improve on her purchase price but was too optimistic about values in (what turned out to be) The Just Past Peak period. As she did, you’d think that the mid-2008 market would support a value above the $1.885mm she paid in 2006, but her failed effort at $2.1mm and $1.995mm was probably the canary that died unobserved. She changed firms as the world was falling in around her ears Lehman’s bankruptcy completely changed The Market, which she obviously did not immediately understand, but then sprinted to catch up to.

I may never find a better example of Chasing The Market Down than the four price drops over 11 weeks at the end of 2008 (I would be tempted to say Death By Small Price Cuts, but the last three weren’t small drops).  Three weeks after Lehman, she really got it in gear, but was too far behind to catch up for a while.

Hindsight is, as I often say in this blog, a female dog. And second-guessing can be cruel. But that is the lot of a blogger commenting on the market, past and present, with real world, real-time examples. No personal slights intended, but that second owner acted as though she had all the time in the world when she starged trying to profit on her 2006 purchase, and then failed to react quickly or deeply enough, until she got into a set of market conditions that had precious few successful sellers, and no happy ones. In retrospect, she was a very motivated seller, but she didn’t act like it until many thousands of dollars had been burned off her loft.

At the end of the day, she bit the bullet and accepted an offer 16% and $250,000 below her asking price, 37% and $775,000 below her first asking price, and 30% and $560,000 below her purchase price. Let’s do that again, shorter: she finally sold $560,000 below her purchase price. You’d not want to see a more motivated seller than that, ever.

The drama is over-weighted on the sell-side of such a transaction, but the heroes of the story are the buyers. See that September 18 post for data about sales volume in 2009 in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market.(Not a spoiler alert: thin.) These folks are the Teddy Roosevelts of loft buyers. (“When all around you are losing their heads ….”) In a clinical sense, they took advantage of the market and the seller, but gave she seller what she wanted on April 21:(a contract), when no one else would. (Of course, I’d love to know where they started that negotiation, to end up $250,000 off the last ask.)

to the victor …

Now those 2009 buyers get to enjoy the spoils. More power to them that it was as easy for them on this end as it was difficult for their seler on the other end: to market on May 3, in contract by May 18, and sold on July 29 at the full ask of $1.995mm.

The oft-stated rule is easy to state, difficult to apply: Buy Low, Sell High. You need only excel at one to make it work. They didn’t sell so high (at least, not in comparison to the 2006 market), but they bought so low that higher was simple. In retrospect, it looks easy; at the time, it must have looked fraught.

Nicely played, folks; nicely played.

about those odd local histories
I mentioned up top that the #4B sales sequence would not look so odd if not for the 2009 dip. In my June 20, unsold 3 times at $1.795mm, 4 West 21 Street loft finally sells at $1.915mm, I noted that resales in the building had finally begun to get higher prices than the sponsor sales in 2006, after a long history of resellers getting creamed, as recounted in detail in my April 12, 2012, loft at 4 West 21 Street an outlier, closes 9% off 2006. Apart from #2D, which just resold some $85,000 less than the recorded sponsor sale, all 2013 resales appear to exceed the first recorded value, with #4B showing the largest gain, by a hair.

Odd, that.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013



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Sep. 19, 2013 - adding wall for 3rd bedroom did NOT increase value of 49 East 21 Street loft by 36%


nor did time, or dimmers

This is the kind of thing that drives Efficient Market fans to distraction and buyers to drink (or worse): the “1,461 sq ft” Manhattan loft #10C at 49 East 21 Street just sold at a funny number that indicates a bidding war ($2,510,049) well above the last “C” line public sale (#11C at $1.85 on May 6, 2011). Yes, the 2011 market was not as seller-centric as the current market, and yes, #10C has some improvements over its new-in-2005 condition (most visibly, a wall for a 3rd bedroom / home office), but … $1.85mm, then $2,510,049 27 months later. The wall, the track lighting, the dimmers, the custom closets, even the custom air conditioner covers shouldn’t have added $660,049 in value in that short a time … right??

The broker babbling for #11C two years ago was sadly vague, implying the space was in the same high quality condition as when the sponsor delivered it in 2005:

Mint condition, prewar condo loft, 1461SF, high floor 2br, 2bth, open chef's kitchen, separate dining (conv 3br), w/d, 11' ceilings, great light, 10 large windows, 2 exposures and nice open views.

It worked, as that seller got a deal $100,000 over the ask within a month.

The babbling for #11C was much more detailed and enthusiastic, suggesting that every single improvement has been listed:

sun-filled home ... has already undergone a conversion to create a windowed 3rd Bedroom/Home Office. This living room has 4 west facing windows, which are exclusive to the 4 highest-floor C-line units in the building. ... soaring 11’ ceilings…. mint condition, with beautiful African oak wide-plank floors, California kitchen with Bosch range & oven, all stainless appliances, granite counters, Bisazza tile backsplash, garbage disposal, soft closing drawers & superb storage space. ... custom track lights in the living and dining rooms, and along the 12’ long gallery wall leading to the bedrooms. All lights are on dimmer switches. ... Bosch washer & dryer …. closets are all custom built-out for optimal organization. ... custom designed air-conditioner cover and builit-in bookcases in the Master bedroom ....

The respective listing photos show (to my eye) identical kitchens (same fixtures over the island!), a different stain on the floor, different window treatments, but I am not picking up any difference of significance beyond what has been babbled. You can see that the kitchen and baths in these two “C” lofts are standard issue by noting the similarity to the listing photos for the most recent sale in the building before #10C, for the “1,282 sq ft” #4D, which closed on February 26 at $1.775mm.

That’s a lot of bang for the relatively little bit of buck needed to pay the carpenter, electrician, and cabinet maker.

a record setting push

Here’s another way to put the #10C sale in an inefficient context. Loft #4D does not have the light and open exposures of the high-floor “C” lofts, but with similar utility as the larger “C” lofts (2 bedrooms, home office) it sold this year at $1,384/ft. A month before that, the “totally renovated” “1,308 sq ft” loft #3B sold (with “Handmade doors, built-in wood bookcases with antique brass accents.... Custom lighting”) sold for (only) $1.635mm, or $1,250/ft. Among high floor units that boast of light, the “1,375 sq ft” loft #9A sold 14 months ago at $1.985mm, or $1,444/ft. And, of course, #11C sold for $1.85mm in May 2011, or $1,266/ft.

One of these things is not like the others, boys and girls:

  • $1,718/ft in August 2013

  • $1,384/ft in February 2013

  • $1,266/ft in May 2011

  • $1,250/ft in January 2013

Do I have to point out that #10C at $1,718/ft is a building record on a dollar-per-foot basis and, apart from a commercial unit and a penthouse loft, a building record in absolute dollars? (Don’t make me do it.)

The Market clearly thinks that #10C, gussied up, is a superior loft to the others in the building. The degree is rather staggering. The better light is not worth $334/ft compared to #4D 6 months earlier; the lighting and carpentry are not worth $452/ft more than #11C, and the intervening 27 months did not drive the overall market up by 36%. Except that that is what happened.

caveat emptor, indeed

Regular readers will observe that this is three days in a row of posts about surprising changes in value following renovations. The scale of Bang For Buck seems higher with loft #10C than with the lofts I hit in my September 17, 56 Warren Street loft renovation added more value than it cost, or in my September 18, masterpiece designed since 2009, 60 West 15 Street loft doubles in value, if only because the changes in loft #10C are more modest than in those other two cases.

I have to imagine that any bank appraisals of these three improved lofts did not agree with The Market on the value added through renovation or upgrading.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Sep. 18, 2013 - masterpiece designed since 2009, 60 West 15 Street loft doubles in value



cashing out on meticulous + to the 9s


Not every agent has the credibility in the business to be taken at face value when saying things like “Renovated to the nines” and “Come home to the extraordinary”, but the listing agent for the recently sold “3,133 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 4th floor at 60 West 15 Street does. There’s some detailed and enthusiastic babbling to support these claims, of course, as do the listing photos. Like yesterday (September 17, 56 Warren Street loft renovation added more value than it cost), I’d love to know the renovation budget that it took to create this beauty (not to my taste, but a beauty nonetheless) so that I could know how much money these folks made by buying at a very chilly $1.95mm in May 2009, renovating at some significant expense, then selling at $4.05mm 4 years later.

Even if they spent $400/ft, there’s a lot of room between buy ($1.95mm) + fix (say, $1.25mm) and the sale at $4.05mm … about $850,000 in value added from 2009 to 2013 by the renovation, and by the change in market conditions in that time. Unlike yesterday's Tribeca renovation story, it is likely that the change in market conditions was an even bigger factor in whatever the gain turned out to be, rather than the renovation itself adding value beyond its cost, but that is an impressive spread by any measure.

buyer fortitude meets seller motivation (low, but they met)

I will get to the loft details below, but in this case the key to their success was sown at the beginning, getting the first part of the Buy Low, Sell High instruction right. Hindsight shows that they made a brilliant move in buying at a time in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market when others were forced to the sidelines, but in real time there were such significant risks that no one else snapped up this loft, especially in the last 6 months it was on offer before they bought it. The 2009 sellers apparently were highly motivated, but with a bad sense of market values in environments that shifted up then down, and they made a critical timing error:

Aug 16, 2007

new to market


Feb 7, 2008

off market


Oct 15

change firms


Jan 9, 2009



Mar 28



April 1



May 28



You see what they did wrong here? Start with asking near $1,000/ft for a choice framed in an interesting manner, either to “great canvas to create their masterwork loft” or to “spend nothing and live the way things used to be” in a market that was … er … unresponsive to that offer but pretty much willing to buy pretty much anything else on offer at the end of 2007. To compound the error, they then sat out the only part of 2008 in which they had a chance of getting a fair value, while the overall market was slowing but without (yet) a significant drop in values.


That significant drop in values began with the Lehman bankruptcy filing on September 15, 2008, of course. A month before they came back to market, still too high. I am not convinced that the last recorded price drop was really offered to the market, as it is suspiciously close to the contract date and because it is not in the inter-firm data-base history. Regardless, in 2009 they were at the wrong price for (at least) 3 months and had to work to a 15% discount from that $2.295mm ask. Some would call that negotiated discount a sign of motivation; others would call it more like desperation; still others, a (finally) realistic assessment of value under difficult conditions. They paid for their miscalculations, finally getting a full 7-figure discount from their hubristic 2007 ask.

That’s the sell-side play-by-play in 20-20 hindsight. The buy-side is where the fun is, especially giving full weight to the reason these 2009 buyers were able to buy for $1.95mm an asset they were able to improve and then re-sell at $4.05mm 4 years later. These 2009 buyers had the … er … intestinal fortitude to make a deal at a time when they could not know that The Market, long in decline, had actually bottomed out.

some sobering numbers

I can’t put my finger on full quarterly numbers right now, but the most recent Miller Samuel 10-year market report has these sales totals for Manhattan (on p5):

  • 2007 13,430

  • 2008 10,299

  • 2009 7,430

These numbers from the 2Q09 Miller Samuel report show the carnage that persisted precisely when these 2009-buyers-turned-renovators-and-2013-sellers met their 2009 sellers:

Number of sales

  • 2Q09 1,592

  • 1Q09 1,185

  • 2Q08 3,081

Those 2,777 buyers in the first half of 2009 either had to buy or were risk-takers who saw opportunities that the nominal ‘buyers’ did not see, or were not willing to risk. Their reward is great in heaven on West 15 Street.

Once again:

  • May 28, 2009 $1.95mm

  • (a renovation)

  • May 16, 2013 $4.05mm

what do you think this renovation cost?

Click the (large format) photos to see what this detailed and enthusiastic babbling is talking about:

Renovated to the nines with soundproof sheetrock, Brazilian walnut flooring, 2-zone central air, 2 Ecosmart fireplaces and Niles Audio system. ... Eat-in-kitchen has 2 Viking ovens, warming drawer, 6-burner stove top, Sub-zero refrigerator, 2 freezer drawers, 144-bottle wine cooler, bar, 2 Miele dishwashers, 2 sink areas & built-in marble dining table. Cool gray guest room has built-in cabinetry & desk. Stunning Mosiaco tiled powder room. Master suite features dressing area, limestone spa bath with Zuma air/jet tub, separate rain, spray system and steam shower, bidet & double-sink vanity.  

The overall look is too shiny for me (the high-gloss floor finish as much as the master closet of mirrors; see pix #5-6) and the kitchen strikes me as more Hamptons than loft, but The Market (and the buyers) could care less what I think. Perhaps the wall and furnishing colors doinduce calm and relaxation” in real life, but whatever the mechanism and whatever the reasons … $4.05mm, or $1,293/ft, in a 2-building coop in which the highest prior sale was $1,147/ft.

comping is, as usual, hard

The last sale in this 5-unit building was the 3rd floor in June 2010. That was babbled as “beyond triple mint” and went for $3.45mm. That was a very confusing sale because it is 4% less than the same loft had sold for in August 2005 (that was the $1,147/ft sale). It is also 15% less than the 4th floor sale in 2013.

This 6-story building is part of the same coop as the 10-story, 9-unit 58 West 15 Street next door. Those lofts have a little smaller footprint than at 60 West 15 Street so that last sale on that side (also in 2010, the 2nd floor at $2.45mm) came to only $980/ft for a loft described as a “recent renovation” with “Incredible attention to detail”.

With this very scattered and spare hyper-local history, the 4th floor at $1,293/ft is less impressive as a comp (an exceptionally well renovated space beating a 2005 sale by 13%) than it is as a flip. Again, the recent sellers at $4.05mm had the … er … cojones to buy at $1.95mm when angels feared to tread, before doing their 9+ renovation.

Nicely played, folks; nicely played.

we know where they’ve been

Having put this listing aside for an eventual post, I looked back at it today and decided to post even though the sale is hardly fresh, for two reasons: it fits yesterday’s theme about sellers adding value through renovation; and I recently hit these buyers so I can indulge my Manhattan Loft Voyeur side. The new owners of this “3,133 sq ft” 4-bedroom masterpiece in technical Flatiron that feels more like Chelsea were the sellers of the “1,140 sq ft” 2-bedroom loft at the busy edge of Tribeca that comes with jaw-dropping views of the Brooklyn Bridge and other icons that I hit in my September 3, jaw-dropping views provoke jaw-dropping price for 261 Broadway loft.

It is difficult for me to imagine a loft-to-loft move that is more extreme than this, including scale (from “1,140 sq ft” with 2 bedrooms to “3,133 sq ft” with 4 bedrooms), to feel (from a small loft that draws you outward with the light and pictures seen through the picture windows, with a private rooftop, to a space with only ‘city views’, space designed to induce calm), to expense (from $1.705mm to $4.05mm).

Nothing says Life Is Good (and getting better!) like a move like this; unless it is a move like this done by buying before selling. (They signed the contract to buy way back in December, closing on May 16, but did not put their penthouse loft on the market until April, closing July 17.)

There’s a lot to enjoy in the new place, as there was in the old loft. The charms of each could hardly be more different. Best wishes for a lovely life on West 15 Street.

another StreetEasy brain cramp

Let’s close by ruining the mood with a mini-rant. StreetEasy continues to make life difficult for Manhattan loft lovers by failing to match the 4th floor deed record to the 4th floor listing. They did a similar thing for the 2009 sale, marking the deed record as “No listing associated with this closing” but then including a link to the deed (and closing price) in the (expired) August 2007 listing rather than to the October 2008 listing that actually got the thing sold. You can figure all this out from the building page because this is a 5-unit building with few sales (and the match of “#4” and “4THFL” is hardly taxing; hence all those hyperlinks in the 2007-09 history up top) but in a larger building this would be more difficult.

Note to StreetEasy: please clean up your stuff.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Aug. 23, 2013 - is 2nd floor loft at 170 Fifth Avenue the most beautiful in Flatiron?


would help if you could see out windows

It is a shame, and a challenge for the sellers and their sales team, that the marketing campaign for the “2,736 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 2nd floor at 170 Fifth Avenue coincided with some kind of building renovation. There are no complaints (or explanation) in the broker babble, but (although the loft “overlooks the beautiful Madison Square Park”) you can’t see anything out the “sixteen 10-ft windows” except the shimmer of netting and the vague outline of scaffold. Granted, the Madison Square view may be limited to those first 3 north windows on the floor plan, as this beautiful building “overlooks” the park from the southwest corner of 22nd Street instead of, you know, overlooking the park, but I am sure it is a nice view. Except when you can’t see past the construction netting.that covered each of the 16 windows when the listing photos were taken.

I wonder if the netting came down between the loft coming to market on February 4 at $3.95mm and going into contract by May 21 at the $3.875mm at which it closed on July 10. In this market, that’s kind of a long time to a deal at only a 2% discount. As I will get to below, this sale is a record on a dollar-per-foot basis in this 11-unit turn of the century condominium loft conversion, and an absolute price record for non-penthouse units, so it is hard to complain about the clearing price.

There is a significant advantage to being so close to the sidewalk, as there is in many Manhattan loft buildings: higher ceilings, in this case 14 feet as opposed to (only!) 11 feet on higher floors (like the 5th). Especially with 10 foot windows covering nearly the entire north and east walls of this Long-and-Narrow footprint (the long wall of windows easily permits a string of bedrooms; in this floor plan even the master’s walk-in closet gets a window).

The broker babble is not shy, opening with “Flatirons [sic]most beautiful loft ...”, but then (curiously) adding little detail beyond “top of the line, gourmet” kitchen and “spa” shower:

mint condition, floor-through corner unit features dramatic 14 ft ceiling height with sixteen 10-ft windows. Designed for comfort and luxury, you will enjoy the lifestyle this 3-bedroom, 2.5 bath home allows. Features: 2,736 SF, 25ft+ width living room with dining area, huge master bedroom with sophisticated spa shower and windowed walk-in closet top of the line, gourmet, walk-through kitchen washer/dryer central AC/heat.

I will take their word for it, but one of the neighbor’s will definitely argue with the opening boast. The photos are jarring, for me, with the hardwood floors and window frames being especially set off by the white void in each huge window. Getting over that, it seems we are being shown a well maintained loft that was well built out by the sponsor before sale in 2000.

a downtown loft for uptown people?

The early deed records for the sponsor sales in 2000 and 2001 do not contain notice addresses for the buyers. I checked because I was curious if many buyers came from uptown apartments rather than moved here from other downtown lofts. (Coincidence, perhaps, but the 2nd floor sellers moved to the Upper East Side.) The reason for my curiosity is the single unconventional element of the layout: that “walk through” kitchen. While I am sure that no self-respecting Park Avenue prewar kitchen would be as open to the living room as this one, or would lack a door at the dining room end like this one, the kitchen layout is hardly classic loft, essentially closed off for aesthetic (not functional) reasons. Note (in pic #6) that the high kitchen walls are not used for storage and that all the utility in this kitchen can be accommodated with an “L” shape (swing the frig and range to the west wall) or with an island.

This layout is intentionally un-lofty. (The 7th floor layout is even more un-lofty, with what look like doors at both openings.)

snark attack

Two additional comments about the 2nd floor kitchen photo, easily skipped by those who prefer principled commentary. If I were directing the listing photo, I would take that blue … er … thing that dominates the front left of the kitchen photo. Maybe I am just cranky this morning, but that decorative element is very distracting. More crank: perhaps it is the filter used for the photo, but does the light finish on the cabinets go with the much darker finish on the floor? Not to my eyes, to which these two wood elements appear very dissonant.

subliminal repetition?

I hope that the 2nd floor broker babble writer did not intentionally copy the marketing campaign for the 5th floor from 2009. Surely he was aware of that last public sale in the building, with broker babble that was even more enthusiastic than for the 2nd floor in 2013, with a leading headline (with proper punctuation) “Flatiron’s Most Beautiful Loft ”. Let’s chalk it up to the work of the unconscious.

I’ve previously described that 5ht floor broker babble as “not only extensive but almost giddy (‘featured in numerous design magazines and books’ will give you the idea)”, but in addition to that and the Most Beautiful headline there is reference to “walls of the finest custom-made cabinetry”, “wir[ing] for audio/video with built-in speakers”, and an “[u]pgraded gourmet kitchen”. None of these elements are evident in the 2nd floor babble or pictures, so its quite possible that the 5th floor was more luxurious, even more “beautifully” than the 2nd (though with a lower ceiling). No doubt, “one of America’s leading designers, Jamie Drake,” would agree.

memory lane leads right to 22nd and Fifth

That 5th floor campaign resulted in the last public sale in the building, way back in 2009, and there’d been only one private sale since then before the 2nd floor came out at $3.95mm 6 months ago. I hit that 5th floor oh so chilly sale in my August 13, 2009, 170 Fifth Avenue closes AT 2007 (maybe), and then revisited it after the private sale of the 6th floor in my March 17, 2010, 170 Fifth Avenue loft sales are confusing.

That 2010 post reviewed sales data at 170 Fifth Avenue going back to 2005 in a (failed) attempt to make sense of them, as that headline implies. Here was my teaser intro:

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

Now we add the 2nd floor to the mix, at a 19% premium to any prior sale. Funny thing is, now it makes sense as an indication that not only are the lofts in this building beautiful (probably among the most beautiful in Flatiron ;-) but that the micro neighborhood around Eataly has out-performed the general downtown Manhattan loft market. After all, while seemingly a stretch for the building, given its history, the 2nd floor at $1,416/ft for a turn of the century luxury condo conversion is hardly a stretch in comparison to loft sales I hit quite recently (below), especially as this one is not only beautiful (etc) but overlooks Madison Square.

$1,688/ft 292 Lafayette Street #2W

(hardly the same quality as 170 Fifth Avenue, in no-frills coop: August 16, oh dear! 292 Lafayette Street loft goes to war, slays famous neighbors)

$1,484/ft 260 West Broadway #9E

(no view, little light: August 17, challenging American Thread loft at 260 West Broadway finally sells (contract took 50 weeks)

$1,442/ft 464 Greenwich Street #4

(yes, a “project”, with a glimpse of the river [today] in a no-frills coop: August 20, 463 Greenwich Street loft is a fascinating project, sells at $1,442/ft)

$1,416/ft 170 Fifth Avenue #2

$1,287/ft 152 Wooster Street #2C

(a pretty primitive [but classic] Soho loft over a parking lot: August 19, 152 Wooster Street loft shows that character matters, competition drives premium)

$1,215/ft 1 Hudson Street #8

(“original condition” loft in no-frills coop with wonderful views and light: August 21, original condition loft at 1 Hudson Street goes well above ask)

Two final comments: (1) that’s just going back a week! (2) look at all the second floor lofts

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Jul. 12, 2013 - memory lane: how well do buyers see? (the decor test at 32 West 18 Street)


One Year Ago Today on Manhattan Loft Guy

You were warned in my July 4 post that you’ve got a couple of weeks of archived Manhattan Loft Guy material coming up. In my July 12, 2012, a tale of 2 lofts: did (removable) decor add $126/ft to value of one 32 West 18 Street loft?, I address one of the oddities about marketing lofts: the same bones and basic condition do not necessarily get the same market response. For comping purposes, the two neighboring lofts are identical, yet the one with better (removable) decor sold at a 7% premium to the other.

My intro a year ago:

While it is interesting that the “3,007 sq ft” loft #2A sold quickly slightly above the ask of $3.995mm, I find it fascinating that it sold for 7% higher than the loft next door in May. This pair of not quite identical lofts on the same floor of the same building that sold within 10 weeks of each other makes me wonder how buyers (literally) see lofts.

And by “wonder” I mean more stand-back-in-awe than scramble-to-explain. Which leads me into an aesthetic discussion the likes of which I may never have had in 6+ years of Manhattan Loft Guy data-based blathering.

Read the whole darn thing, with commentary to support a side-by-side photo comparison.

This post, by the way, was in secret anticipation of a New York Times article about staging, for which I had been interviewed, and which I hit in my July 28, 2012, ruthless stagers, indeed! NY Times nails story about marketing apartments (and lofts!). That’s another keeper; no need to wait until July 28 to read it


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jun. 20, 2013 - unsold 3 times at $1.795mm, 4 West 21 Street loft finally sells at $1.915mm


hard for StreetEasy to follow the bouncing ball

Different day, same (similar) story as yesterday. The folks who just sold the “1,518 sq ft” Manhattan loft #3D at 4 West 21 Street in Flatiron for $1.915mm made sporadic efforts to sell for years, not succeeding at the same (lower) price three times. That is, No Sale while asking $1.795mm for 5 months in 2009, 3 months in 2011, and 2 months in 2012, then Ka-ching! 7% higher than that stubbornly unsuccessful asking price. Not as dramatic as the bidding war I hit yesterday (June 19, unsold at $3mm in 2011, 110 West 25 Street loft goes to war to sell at $3.45mm), but perhaps that is only because the stubbornly unsuccessful asking price was way too high, instead of merely just out of reach.

The whole history of loft #3D has gotten tangled on StreetEasy (that seems to be happening
a lot lately, hasn’t it?), but here you go, starting with the amount paid when half the couple bought from the sponsor, and with * for dates or events taken from our listing system rather than StreetEasy:

Aug 16, 2006 sponsor sale $1,705,568
Feb 9, 2009 new to market $1.795mm
July 1 off the market  
Sept 16, 2011 new to market (FSBO) $1.795mm
Dec 13 hiatus  
Jan 26, 2012 back, with broker $1.795mm
Mar 21 off the market*  
Jan 30, 2013 new to market $1.975mm
Mar 24 contract*  
April 17 sold $1.915mm

That first period while they beat their head against The Market’s wall is most understandable: thin market, just beginning to thaw when they pulled back. The middle is probably one extended campaign, interrupted by a holiday break and the decision to engage a professional. The last,
successful!, campaign was not immediately successful, and did require a discount, but got them what they wanted (out) at a $200,000 (gross gain) over the buy in 2006. Keep that gain in mind, please.

The Market is (finally) smiling on this 2006 new development

My only other post about a sale in this building got into some market metaphysics, in positing that when a loft resale does not make sense compared to when it was purchased, one of these “market” transactions must be wrong. In my April 12, 2012, loft at 4 West 21 Street an outlier, closes 9% off 2006, I suggested that the sponsor (somehow; magically??) got above-market prices when selling in 2006, odd as that sounds, because the 2012 resale price of the “1,658 sq ft” loft #10B seemed like less of an outlier. For present purposes (in relation to the recent sale of loft #3D sale), that post is interesting for the analysis of other original owners selling at losses as late as a year ago, 6 years after their purchases.

The poster child for that group was loft
#11B, which took a nearly $300,000 hit when it sold on July 28, 2011. (See that post for another example, and for a “theory about new development froth”.) Since then, #12C sold June 15, 2012 still below what that seller paid when buying from the sponsor before #2C started the trend of selling at a (gross) gain over 2006 when it sold on January 18 this year, a trend that continued with #3D and with #7D on May 10. So far, #3D has shown the greatest improvement ($200,000, remember?) over the sponsor sales in 2006.

Presumably, all other resales should be above water here, at least unless (until?) the market dramatically changes in the opposite direction.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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May. 23, 2013 - Jade loft pod at 16 West 19 Street implies market is up 33% since 2010

it’s true here, but can’t really be true
This math is true: the “902 sq ft” mini-loft with a pod
#5C at 16 West 19 Street (Jade) recently sold for $1.2mm after not selling after having been offered for sale for 7 months in 2010 at prices that dropped down to $899,000. That last price was available for two months in Summer 2010, yet was too high to attract a buyer then. Two+ years later, $1.2mm was a relatively easy sale. This math is not true: the overall Manhattan residential real estate market is up more than 33% from September 2010 to February 2013 (when #5C found its contract), making pod #5C a rather dramatic outlier.

it’s a pod, pod, pod, pod world
The pods at Jade are, of course, love ‘em or hate ‘em, and there have been enough people to love them for the 57 units to sell out and for there to be an active after market (6 sales so far in 2013). For the right lacquer-loving neatnik who doesn’t cook much (kitchens here are well-appointed, but the opposite of a “chef’s kitchen” due to the lack of prep space), these spaces are very efficient in a Jetsons kind of way. The #5C floor plan is especially nice of its type, a near square at a corner with east and north exposures. The living room is a spacious 26 x 13 feet, accentuated (if I may babble a bit) by the 5 windows around the corner and 11 foot ceilings; the bedroom is 10 x 15 feet. This floor plan would be a generous prewar apartment 1-bedroom; the charm factor is different with that middle pod than with a classic prewar apartment, of course.

I am not convinced that you will “bask in sunshine” from the 5th floor, what with all the brick out the east windows, but perhaps there is enough reflected light off the building across 19th Street to bask in that. I suspect the bathroom is no more “one of a kind” than any other bathroom in the building with panels that can open at the shower end “to permit natural light in”, but saying the bathroom is “one of 57” does not sound like compelling babble, does it?


up 12% since new development purchase in 2007
This recent seller paid $1,074,253 to acquire it from the sponsor in December 2007, which seems a reasonable spread between near-Peak (our listing system has the offer accepted in July 2007, so the new development closing was not an extended affair) and current market. That reasonable 12% spread suggests that it was those 7 months in 2010 that are the real market outlier, rather than the recent sale.

As luck would have it, we have a recent nearby sale that is a highly relevant comp for pod #5C: pod
#3C is trivially smaller than #5C (“894 sq ft”) with more of a single exposure rectangle footprint than the corner square two flights up. That shape and single exposure give it no bedrooms, just a dark “sleeping area” at the entry wall. By any rational measure, #3C suffers by comparison to #5C, with a real bedroom and two exposures, but The Market did not quite see it that way.

Dec 12 #5C new to market $1.25mm
Feb 6 #5C contract  
Feb 21 #3C new to market $1,199,000
Feb 28 #3C contract  
April 2 #5C sold $1.2mm
April 12 #3C sold $1,199,000

The sponsor thought the different layouts and exposure favored #5C by about 8% back in the day ($1,074,253 for #5C in December 2007, $997,885 for #3C one month later). That sounds to me about right, even today, even with them trading at the same price last month. This may be one of those instances in which a later seller can get a better price by simply being unreasonable insistent. Perhaps the #3C seller knew what #5C was in contract for, and would not sell for less (other than a cosmetic discount).

It ain’t ‘rational’, and it may not even be how this sequence went down, but it is logical in a reverse engineering sort of way.

Back to my consideration of sponsor prices compared to non-sales in 2010 compared to sales in April 2013 …. Am going to provisionally believe that the 2010 market rejection of #5C is the anomalous part of the sequence, rather than the 12% spread between December 2007 and April 2013.

If I see this again in this building, I might try to back out what happened to other pods in 2010, but that’s enough for one post today.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013



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Apr. 30, 2013 - unsold 2010 into 2011, 49 East 21 Street loft sells 18% higher


that was then …

There are a variety of ways to show the change in market conditions in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market. Looking at individual downtown Manhattan loft sales as I do nearly every day turns up gems like the “1,461 sq ft” Manhattan loft #5C at 49 East 21 Street. The Market was not interested when it was available for 4 of the 6 months between October 2010 and April 2011 at $1.825mm and $1.775mm, but it caused a stir when offered at $1.995mm on January 9 this year, going into contract in 3 weeks after a spirited bidding war, and selling on March 15 at $2.16mm.


Not only is the clearing price an 8% premium over the ask (I assume the January 8 ask of $1.895mm was a typo, fixed the next day, but even so, the point is the same), but it is at least an 18% premium over the price that no one was willing to pay two years ago. Is the overall market up 18% in two years? No, but this loft demonstrably is.


lux finishes, odd layout

It took me a while to realize what I don’t like about the floor plan. With “1,461 sq ft”, that should be more than enough space for a spacious 2-bedroom layout, but it plays small. At first I thought my main problem was with the entrance (open front door, face closet; turn right, into the loft, and face the hallway to the master bedroom door). But that can be solved by pivoting the closet 90 degrees left, along the wall rather than perpendicular. That would also open up the vista on entry to include the long wall opposite the kitchen.


My main problem is caused by the kitchen being in the middle of the loft. As lived in, the dining area (see pic #2) is opposite the kitchen rather than in the space marked “Dining” on the floor plan. That’s a logical usage (it makes the most sense to me, and obviously to these sellers), but not required. But then what use do you make of the “Dining” area? Or, if you make the “Dining” area an actual dining area, what do you use that narrow space opposite the kitchen for?


I’d probably put the dining area as in the second listing photo and use that “Dining” area as a den or entertainment area (small couch facing the wall-mounted big screen on the back wall?). But you don’t get that classically loft-y sense of volume from an open space that is roughly 12 by 40 feet because the kitchen forces a break.


Odd. I did not click on the alternate floor plan until after drafting the few paragraphs above, but that idea solves one problem by enclosing this awkward space at the cost of shrinking the otherwise open 40+ foot length. That might be the best result, especially if “Home Office” becomes a dark nursery or an occasional guest room. At that point the “1,461 sq ft” footprint increases in utility.


not to quibble, but what do I know?

My cavil about this space not being spacious aside, The Market obviously loved the loft (remember: quick contract with bidding war to +8%). The buyers get two bedrooms with two baths and the kind of finishes typical for a high-end condo conversion circa 2005, in a condo with full time doorman and common roof deck, and the associated common charges to spread those costs among a small number of owners.


Other recent purchasers here got the same service and similar utility (with a home office that is tempting for storage) in a more efficient layout that The Market did not like as much as it did loft #5C. The “1,282 sq ft” loft #4D directly competed with #5C, asking the same $1.995mm from December 21 until contract on January 26. But that deal was at a discount, closing at $1.775mm on February 26.


That comes to $1,384/ft for the smaller #4D, $1,478/ft for #5C in head-to-head competition for 17 days. Turns out that in this building, at least, The Market likes the ‘wasted’ (challenging?) larger layout of #5C over the ‘efficiency’ of #4D, perhaps because some people just don’t like to walk through a kitchen to get anywhere. To each her own.


oxymoron, please call your office

In today’s adventure in broker babble that breaks grammatical boundaries, I submit for your consideration


Lofty 11-foot ceilings and open living areas create airy, intimate spaces.


Is it so airy because it is so lofty? How much air is too much air before you leave intimate space?


And a visual: if the living room is only 12 feet wide and that huge piece of furniture is at least two feet wide (pic #1 and especially pic #3), is the living room intimate, cozy, or just cramped?


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 23, 2013 - huge 40 West 22 Street loft sells at $916/ft as canvas, actors' theater


not a mix of metaphors

In babbling that the “4,150 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 5th floor at 40 West 22 Street as “your canvas awaits” the agent committed metaphor; in saying that the loft “is currently designed as a residence & actors' theatre, rendering the space intimate & grand at the same time”, the agent is making factual assertions, possibly hyperbole. The visual metaphor of canvas suggests what the space can become; the literal description of usage as a theatre suggests the demolition that precedes the becoming. Someone (probably, some two, or more) had no difficulty envisioning the future here: this gut job came to market on September 4 at $3.65mm and found a contested contract by November 18 at $3.8mm. (The sale closed February 7 but was not filed until March 19.)

This is a gut job, with the lines on the floor plan to be erased (losing the kitchen and kitchenette, the 2.5 baths, and the not very many interior walls), as the space is an “authentic Flatiron full floor loft with approximately 4,000 +/- square ft & beautiful bone structure” (“bones” being, of course, a frequent Manhattan loft metaphor). The skeleton is a classic Long-and-Narrow, roughly 40-something by 90-something, with 11 foot beamed ceilings, 4 squared off structural columns with lovely caps running down the center, with plumbing at various points along the long east wall, with 5 of the 9 side windows noted as “covered” on the floor plan (and pictured as barricaded in at least the 4th listing photo).


comping is fun (difficult, but fun)

I am pretty impressed that this loft sold at $916/ft needing a complete re-do. I would guess that someone buying close to $4mm will budget near $300/ft (at least) for a renovation, which will (soon) take the value into the $1,200/ft range, or better. A couple of data points ….


This gut sale compares very favorably to the slightly smaller loft in a more prime Manhattan loft neighborhood, the “3,000 sq ft” 3rd floor at 150 Franklin Street, which sold for $2.9mm on March 8. The StreetEasy listing for this loft has no information, and leads to a dead-end on the broker website, but a former rental listing implies that this loft needs updating (“so much charm and personality .... the classic cast iron 3000 square foot full floor space”, with no mention of finishes) though not necessarily that it is a gut job.


Nearer to 40 West 22 Street but farther in time than the 5th floor sale, the “3,272 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 3rd floor at 136 West 22 Street sold for $3.21mm last August (that was a March 2012 contract, compared to November 2012 for the 5th floor). I hit that one in my September 17, 2012, market corrects (slightly) too deep price cut for spectacular columns at 136 West 22 Street, in which I noted that values in (a small sample in) that building were consistent in 2011 and 2012:


So The Market was consistent in valuing the 5th floor in 2011 and the 3rd floor in 2012. Both below $1,000/ft for well designed and very efficient lofts that (yes) blend classic loft elements with modern design and technology.


Note that my description of “well designed and very efficient lofts that (yes) blend classic loft elements with modern design and technology” does not match the 5th floor at 40 West 22 Street and is a poor summary of the relevant differences between the two lofts. The 3rd floor at 136 West 22 Street was babbled with loft-y superlatives:


Luxurious …. mint …. [with the classic] warmth of wood beams and columns and exposed brick walls …. chef kitchen …. Amazing (and so many!) custom designed closets (including walk-in) ….


This condo beauty sold for $976/ft last August; the canvas/theatre coop at 40 West 22 Street went for $916/ft just 6 months later. Again, I am pretty impressed with the 5th floor to-gut value, and now wondering if West 22nd Street in western Flatiron should really be that much more valuable than West 22nd Street in eastern Chelsea.


a real actor’s studio

The Google tells me that the 5th floor studio was probably very active, and probably hosted some real up-and-coming actors in the New York theater world, some of whom probably up-and-up’ed pretty high, a the seller had an active career as director and actor from the 1940s into the 1980s (his acting biography is here) and The Wiki notes that he studied under Lee Strasburg and “directed plays with Jane Alexander, Dominic Chianese, Jerry Stiller and Ernest Borgnine, among many others”. His studio still has a website, though we know it has since been closed (he was born in 1924, so it probably did not relocate).


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 15, 2013 - "recently renovated" 7 East 17 Street loft sells 18% over 2011 sale (as "newly renovated")


there are no rules

Of course there are no rules about how many calendar pages can be torn off before a listing should no longer be described as “newly” or “recently” renovated. In the case of the “2,774 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the #5S at 7 East 17 Street, the loft sold on february 28 at $3.85mm as “recently renovated”, with babbled details such as an entire wall of “restored exposed brick”, a “state-of-the-art open Bulthaup kitchen with its premium appliances, Miele stovetop island”, a master “bath with his/her sinks, a soaking tub and separate steam shower”, and 2-zone central air conditioning.


When it sold on June 1, 2011 at $3,258,400 it was “newly renovated”, and you won’t be surprised to note that the 2011 babble bragged on “a gourmet Bulthaup Chef's kitchen with a Miele stovetop island”, a “beautifully restored, exposed brick wall, “[s]olid wood plank walnut flooring, separate steam shower“, and two-zone central A/C. The photos in the two listings do not match, but I don’t see anything different in the structure in 2011 and 2013, including the glass wall in the master bath. The only difference in the floor plans of note is the addition of closets in the room behind the kitchen (then, now), with the apparent difference in kitchen layout not being borne out by the photos.


In other words, the same loft that sold as “newly renovated” in June 2011 for the funny number $3,258,400 just resold on February 28 at $3.85mm as “recently renovated”, but the only thing more “recent” than 2011 that I can see is the addition of 2 closets. Nicely played, sir LLC; nicely played.



a hyper-local nightmare of comps

This condo was a very odd new development beginning in 2008. From the StreetEasy building page you will see sponsor sales at ridiculously low number s between October 2008 and December 2010, which I have to guess involved insider deals with people who already lived there, and who may be owners in the sponsor LLC. The “S” units are at 7 East 17 Street and the “N” units at 10 East 18 Street. I addressed the fact that different floors have different splits between S and N in my February 27, tapered Flatiron project loft at 10 East 18 Street sells for $905/ft, in which I (slyly?) referred to the fact that loft #5S would soon sell, and that loft #5N has a very strange footprint.


You can see from StreetEasy that in 2011 The Market valued the #5S renovation as worth about seven figures more than similar raw space. The “2,678 sq ft” loft #3S sold as “flexible raw space” for $2.1mm ($784/ft) just days before the slightly larger #5S sold for $3,258,400 as “newly renovated” ($1,175/ft). That was a refreshingly rational pair of contemporaneous sales that differ only in condition, with the difference of almost $400/ft reasonably and refreshingly accounted for by a quality renovation.


Other sales at these twin addresses are not so easily reconciled. The two penthouses sold by the LLC sponsor last year requiring comp adjustment not only for condition (both were raw) but also for outdoor space (both had huge private rooftop space). I won’t riff with The Miller about this, as I suspect the spread between outdoor space values and improved interior space is different from the spread between outdoor space values and raw interior space, and I have no rubric for that bit of comping magic.



if geese are a gaggle …?

There’s an odd locution in the recent #5S broker babble that is both new to me and cute, in a good way. Not sure I will ever have the courage to use it, but the “[o]ther highlights include...” sentence lists “a generosity of closets” among those highlights. I could quibble about whether the number and scale of closets are truly generous for a space this large, but that “a generosity of closets” locution is endearing. I hope it was intentional, rather than a malapropism.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013



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Feb. 27, 2013 - tapered Flatiron project loft at 10 East 18 Street sells for $905/ft

the single bathroom is a tell
There are not many Manhattan lofts that are as large as the “2,874 sq ft” #5N at 10 East 18 Street (at the north end of the condominium 7 East 17 Street) that only have one bathroom. (I can’t think of a single other such loft, but there are probably a few such dinosaurs still roaming the world.) Any potential buyer seeing that this loft has just the one bathroom will assume that they should bring a professional friend when they visit, but it is always nice when agents are as specific as this, as stated in the broker babble:

Space WILL NEED a renovation so bring your Architect or Designer and create a traditional OPEN LOFT or a 3 bedroom 2 bath apartment with your taste and preferences!

The only thing missing from that sentence is “a complete renovation”, but there is fair enough warning, as is. Of course the asking price is also a strong warning about condition (Caution: Gut Renovation Ahead!), starting at about $1,000/ft, then dropping ….

The loft took rather a long time to sell, considering there was only one not terribly large price drop, then a negotiation to a similar not terribly large discount. I have to believe that the reasonably well-priced campaign took a while to find The Right Buyer because there are not many people for whom the footprint is exciting. here’s the history, before we look at the … er … challenges in the shape (omitting some short breaks):

Mar 13 new to market $2.895mm
May 30   $2.75mm
Nov 7 contract  
Dec 18 sold $2.6mm

That’s 8 months to contract only 5% off the 5-month old price and only 10% off the original price. But there was a probably a thin market for this thin loft.

not a classic Long-and-Narrow
The floor plan shows that loft #5N is very long and very narrow, but is hardly a classic Long-and-Narrow because it gets almost comically narrow as it tapers toward the south. If you zoom in on the plan you can see the dimensions so that you can check my math: the loft is nearly 150 feet long! Only 21’7” at it widest (the entire front half), it telescopes not once but four times until it all but disappears into a 28 inch space just wide enough for a toilet.

Maybe you have to look at too many loft floor plans in your life to find this comical (guilty!) but have you ever seen a floor plan that makes you laugh? Grin, at least? How about, shake your head in wonder? (I will take that.)

I can’t find large format photos anywhere, and what photos you can see are hard to read. I have no idea from the photos, for example, how much light gets in through those 5 windows on the long west wall in the front half, or through those 6 east windows in the back half. Not can you tell from the floor plan where the plumbing stacks are, except for the 3 spots running to the rear where the kitchen, wash-dryer, and (lone) bathroom are. (Please god; there must be plumbing stacks somewhere up front, right??)

Consider the challenges of this floor plan, even assuming you could put additional plumbing anywhere you like along the nearly 150 foot length and that you erased all the interior walls to start over: the best light is almost certainly from the 4 windows up front, at the north (really, probably 3 windows plus fire escape door, which I really hope permits light), but the elevator juts out very close to at least one of those north windows, shrinking the ‘volume’ in your (likely) Living Room; if you use the widest (front space) for bedrooms (to take advantage of the east windows), you could have easily 3 real bedrooms, but would need a long hallway to transit from the living room around 40 feet of bedrooms, to the vast middle of the space, where you’d begin a series of family / media/ office spaces until you got close to the kitchen, where you’d have the dining area.

There’s not many choices to be made, unfortunately, with so little flexibility, even assuming the Loft Gods have provided ample plumbing possibilities.

One way to look at this is that loft #5N is probably the largest loft you’ve ever seen with not very much volume. Nothing is wasted, per se, but it seems to me difficult space to fully inhabit joyfully. Especially if those side windows don’t provide much light. Note that, unlike  a classic Long-and-Narrow, there are no south windows, at the (laughably) narrow end.

how could you comp such a space?
The sellers and agents obviously did a pretty good job pricing this very odd loft, as ti sold at 90% of the first ask, even if it took a while. There can’t be many similarly challenged lofts out there; nor can there be many buyers willing to take on the challenge of this incredibly shrinking loft.

Depending on light and plumbing flexibility (those drums, beaten again), there may be considerable upside. Don’t tell anyone I told you, but if you click around on the StreetEasy building page you will find your way to the space that fills out the 5th floor “key plan” on the loft #5N floor plan. That space is significantly wider than #5N at its widest, never gets as unconventionally narrow at its most narrow, and dresses up real nice. Nice enough that it seems to have been quickly snapped up about $500/ft less than #5N sold for.

If you did click around on the StreetEasy building page, you may have noted that the 8th floor, at least, is divided very differently than the 5th floor. Like me, you’d wonder why the 5th floor is split in such an odd way. You’d also have noted that the north loft on the 4th floor was sold by the sponsor 2 years ago at $2,049,228, but then you’d be as frustrated as I was in not seeing a listing for that sale, or a floor plan, or even a square footage claim.

For those of you who can access Property Shark, that building page shows that #4N was only “2,317 sq ft”, so was likely to be much more rationally laid out than #5N, hopefully without that telescoping section of #5N. Even so, note that #4N must have been in pretty primitive shape then as it sold for only $884/ft. The 7th floor has a much different set of footprints than the 4th, 5th or 8th floors, as The Shark shows that loft #7N is only “2,016 sq ft”, probably the most rational (least telescoped) floor plan of the “N” clan.

(Countdown … 10 … 9 … 8 …)

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Feb. 18, 2013 - did virtual staging cost 9 West 20 Street loft $100,000?

rather: is there a theory that explains an anomalous spread?
At the risk of over-determining this apparent paradox, the very recent (January 31) sale of the “2,154 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 7th floor at 9 West 20 Street at $2.5mm calls out for an explanation, given that what appears to be the same loft in the same condition immediately below sold for $75,000 more only 5 weeks earlier. On the one hand, The Market preferred the 6th floor unit to the (only) slightly higher floor unit; on the other hand, at this scale the spread is only 3%, so possibly mere market noise. Readers know that Manhattan Loft Guy is not one to shy away in the face of possibly over-determining apparent paradoxes, so let’s look at the joint histories, then at what we know about the two lofts (less than what we’d like, but we probably know ‘enough’).

The joint history starts with the fact that this building was converted to condominium lofts in 2002, with the lofts sold with the same basic level of (for its time) high-end finishes. The sponsor sale prices are included, as they imply that the units were identical when sold then:

June 20, 2012 #7   new to market $2.75mm
Sept 21 #7     $2.595mm
Oct 23   #6 new to market $2.675mm
Nov 9   #6 contract  
Dec 7 #7   contract  
Dec 24   #6 sold $2.575mm
Jan 31, 2013 #7   sold $2.5mm

These neighbors went head-to-head, if only for a short time. And only for a short time because the 6th floor zoomed through the market in 17 days, though asking a (slightly) higher price. Can we assume that every potential buyer for the 6th floor was aware that the 7th floor was being offered for sale for less? (Yes we can.) Can we assume that the 7th floor seller would have happily taken a $20,000 discount to strike a deal any time after September 21? (Yes we can.)

fools, rushing
My rational side insists there has to be a reason why the first buyer of this pair preferred one to the other. That side also has trouble figuring out a rational reason. It may have to do with demolition costs (and bother).

You have to go to the Corcoran site to see the current 7th floor floor plan (StreetEasy has only an alternate plan.) Note the 4 bedroom layout (especially, the dimensions of the bedrooms along the east wall) and the (mostly) closed dining room. You have to go to an earlier listing to find the 6th floor floor plan. Note the different bathroom array, the (more efficient) 3 bedroom layout in the back of the loft, and the (larger) open kitchen.

One theory is that the $75,000 premium in favor of the 6th floor is due to the market preference for a more open kitchen and dining experience and for 3 bedrooms rather than 4. That bedroom issue seems especially counter-intuitive, but the fact is that the 7th floor was marketed with an alternative 3 bedroom proposal.

Another theory is that the 6th floor ‘showed well’ (in industry parlance) while the 7th floor was shown as empty, a generally more challenging visual puzzle for many buyers. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with the 7th floor loft. It has significant utility in the “2,154 sq ft” footprint, with 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, central air, a washer-dryer and a dining area. The photos support the babbling about finishes (“huge chef's kitchen ... luxurious limestone baths”). But it was empty. The virtually staged photos help a web viewer (some), but not someone standing in the loft in real life.

In contrast, the 6th floor (seen here in that earlier listing) has similar utility (3 bedrooms, 2 baths, central air, a washer-dryer) but marble rather than limestone baths and some “custom built-ins”. The small format photos are hard to ‘read’, but they don’t make an obviously stronger impression than the 7th floor photos, apart from the fact that they show a lived-in loft. Perhaps the 6th floor has a more luxurious feel due to things like the built-ins; no way for me to tell from the outside.

A third theory for the 6th floor premium is that it was not so much that the 7th floor did not show well empty as that an empty loft suggests a more desperate seller. This does not explain why the 6th floor buyer would have bought the 6th floor first, at a price certainly available to any 7th floor buyer, or why the 6th floor buyer would not have bought the 7th floor at the eventual 7th floor clearing price. In short, I don’t like this theory, but throw it out there because I am intrigued by the Empty Loft implications....

Finally, I read this same-building, same-footprint, same-quality head-to-head competition as suggesting that the 3-bedroom market is deeper than the 4-bedroom market, which is another way of expressing my first theory above. Obviously, this theory is capable of being tested empirically, but not by me with a limited loft data set. For a buyer who only needs 3 bedrooms, the 6th floor layout is a much more efficient use of space than the 7th floor, either as sold or with the proposed alternative. (Look at what a difference it makes whether the two bathrooms are adjoining, as on the 7th floor, or opposite, as on the 6th; fascinating ….)

Only the 6th floor buyer knows. The rest of us can guess.

unfortunate babbling snippet of the day
Agents don’t change the text of their listing descriptions often enough, there’s no doubt about that. The 7th floor babble contains an unfortunate and prime example of text that should have been changed on … oh … October 24 (the italics are mine, in case any readers are working with slower President’s Day holiday brain speeds today):

Unbelievable and unmatched value in Flatiron, Manhattan's hottest and ultra-chic neighborhood. This is a fantastic and unique opportunity to purchase an entire floor of this beautiful, pre-war, boutique condominium, just off Fifth Avenue.

MLG history, on a day for US history
Sharp-eyed Manhattan Loft Guy readers will remember that I hit the prior loft to sell here in 2012, in my Jun. 22, 2012 - 2nd floor loft at 9 West 20 Street beats well-dressed 5th floor loft from 2010. That post reveled in two 2-bedroom configurations of this Long-and-Narrow footprint by including the 5th floor sale in September 2010, and went back to the three lofts with the highest sales prices in the building, up to the current date, leading up and and at The Peak of the overall Manhattan residential real estate market. Which is a perfect segue for ….

anomaly of the day, circa early 2008
The 6th floor did not sell when offered at lower prices right at The Peak:

Feb 14, 2008 new to market $2.499mm
May 7   $2.399mm
June 17 off the market “temporarily”  

This makes these sellers among the very few owners who were fortunate not to sell in early 2008 but who eventually sold.

The 6th floor presents anomaly upon anomaly. Kinda like celebrating President’s Day on neither the 16th president’s birthday nor the first president’s birthday. Enjoy the day!

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Feb. 5, 2013 - when life threw 2012 loft buyers at 49 East 21 Street a curve, The Market almost bailed them out

of course, a Market gain can be a seller (net) loss
I can’t pretend to explain the 5% gain from April 2012 to January 2013 or to know why the April buyer became a January seller, but in the spirit of Sergeant Joe Friday, here are the facts about the “1,308 sq ft” Manhattan loft #3B at 49 East 21 Street that sold (yes) twice in 9 months:

Jan 27, 2012 new to market $1.55mm
Feb 14 contract  
April 24 sold $1.55mm
May 19 new to market $1.795mm
June 4   $1.75mm
June 26 contract?*  
Jan 10, 2013   $1.635mm

In the spirit of The Naked City, something happened between last year’s Valentine’s Day contract and May 29 to cause the LLC buyer to change plans, but there are 8 million possible stories so I won’t guess. (i think it unlikely that even a Lake Wobegon LLC would plan on a fast buck here.)

From 30,000 feet up, The (hyper-local) Market improved by 5.5% between February and the later contract (*probably June 26, but the inter-firm listings system does not have a contract date), which seems like a ridiculous proposition, but that’s what the facts are (ma’am). But down at ground level, none of that market gain resulted in profit to the recent seller. That January 2013 seller paid a 6% sales fee plus New York City and State transfer fees (that’s $127,939 just in big picture expenses), not to mention the 1% “mansion tax” as a buyer at $1.55mm in April.

As I said, no smart LLC would try such a flip in order to make money. This round trip cost at least $70,000, which was probably lucky. A prudent buyer who needed to immediately flip would probably not plan on that 5.5% market appreciation.

fans of staging should avert their eyes
One of the key tenets of staging is, of course, that properly arranged and colored listings out-perform merely as-lived-in listings, and that empty units under-perform even (merely) lived in listings. No slur intended to te May listing agent or photographer, but the second listing photos are both empty and dreary. The photos from the January 2012 listing are vibrant and homey (if over-decorated).

Come to think of it, perhaps the takeaway from the fact that the empty listing (to me, dreary) garnered the higher price means that it is the April sellers who should avert their eyes. It’s just a guess (sorry) but perhaps the loft showed better empty than it did with all that stuff the (stylish) prior owners had filled it with. Or (as long as we are guessing here) perhaps the April seller and listing agent should avert their eyes for having priced too low and then failed to give The Market enough time to fix the too-low price.

I am sticking with my story that the 5.5% "gain" makes little sense, even as market noise, given the circumstances.

Your guess is, of course, as good as mine. Operators are standing by to record your guess.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Dec. 27, 2012 - hard to argue with success, as owner sells 29 East 22 Street with NO BROKERS (no “please"?)

much as I’d like to
I can appreciate that owners want to “save” money by not listing with an agent, and even that some owners are able to do it. (Most owners who go FSBO put less money in their pocket, but that’s a longer story.) The owner who sold the “1,600 sq ft” Manhattan loft #10S at 29 East 22 Street on November 21 took pretty horrible photos but got it done: to market on May 27 at $1.75mm, in contract by June 25, and closed a month ago for $1.7mm. That’s 4 weeks to contract at $1,062/ft in a 20-unit coop in which the last sale overlapped with this one, as the larger (“2,300 sq ft”) loft #5N got only $2.3mm on September 5. My calculator says that #10S at $1,062/ft sold at a higher price per foot than #5N at $1,000/ft, without taking into account the sales fee on #5N.

Bad photos or no, dollars are dollars, and more dollars are more dollars. Nicely played, ma’am; nicely played.

some (one!) would criticize everything but the result
The seller babble was hardly poetic, but (again) you can’t argue with success. Potential buyers were told that this loft was all about the bones, and the sun, and the new windows. The rest the new owner would be responsible for, this implies:

Very sunny spacious coop loft apartment. 1,600 square feet, 2 bedrooms and extra room/bedroom/office, 2 bathrooms,kitchen, dining room, and living room. Washing machine and dryer in apartment, new windows, air-conditioning units, spacious closets and beautiful common rooftop deck with Manhattan skyline views. Centrally located in the heart of Gramercy with convenient access to restaurants,groceries, pharmacies, dry cleaners, parks, buses and subways.

The floor plan has funky angles and changes in height that are consistent with a sensibility from the 1980s (or earlier), with the major limitation being a single exposure. Fortunately, the south wall of windows is the longest wall in the loft, so fits two bedrooms while still leaving room for a 27 foot living room. (The third “bedroom” is interior.) If anything other than the windows is newer than the 1980s, it is not apparent from the babble or the photos. One more time:

Nicely played, ma’am; nicely played.

That last sale in the building was the subject of my September 18, 29 East 22 Street loft sellers take the money and run (up 41% since 2010 purchase), and I also hit that loft #5N when it set that low, in my May 11, 2010, 29 East 22 Street loft closes off 40%. There’s a long and ugly story to be told about that loft, but the main take-away for present purposes is that the “2,300 sq ft” #5N was professionally exposed to the same market in which #10S was offered (though they only overlapped briefly) and sold at a lower dollar per foot value. #5N came out on March 21 at $2.395mm, found a contract by June 7 (a week after #10S came out), and closed on September 5 at $2.3mm.

As offered, the much larger loft #5N had similar utility as #10S, with 2 bedrooms plus and interior room, and 2 baths. The babble notes the kitchen is “modern” but is otherwise silent about finishes, hinting broadly that there is updating to be done even for someone who did not take the hint from the two alternative floor plans to do a major renovation (hint, hint). If you look at the old listing in my May 11, 2010 post you will see that #5N was not changed in between sales in 2010 and 2012, and that it then explicitly needed TLC (no hinting required there).

Again: #5N at $1,000/ft, before expenses; #10S at $1,062/ft, before expenses that (presumably) did not include a sales fee.

a building for do-it-yourself-ers
Apart from #5N in 2010, the 3 sales at this 20-unit Flatiron coop from mid-2009 through 2011 were all done without public marketing, making a more extended comp analysis than #10S v. #5N v. #5N more difficult. Loft #7S was sold to the downstairs neighbors for (only!) $1,333,750 14 months ago; those #7S buyers bought #6S in September 2009 at $1.245mm from sellers who did not use a broker, and in between loft #4N sold for $1.765mm in October 2010.

Without public marketing there is no way to know the conditions of these lofts, or even their size. (StreetEasy thinks #4N is 100 sq ft smaller than #5N.) But they were likely not much more primitive than #10S or #5N, and they all sold at much lower values than #10S.

Nicely played, ma’am; nicely played.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Dec. 21, 2012 - failure to flip: over-pricing in 2008 leads to loss in 2012 over 2007 for 15 West 20 Street loft

memory lane tripping
I wrote the headline above based just on the rather extensive sales history of the “2,259 sq ft” Manhattan loft #8A at 15 West 20 Street (Altair 20) (details below), before discovering that I covered the key old history back in the day. In my February 18, 2008, 2 new on West 20 Street / building yin vs yang at 15 W 20 + 9 W 20, I dealt with this loft as a new listing (in those golden days of yore, when Manhattan Loft Guy talked about then-active listings), with updates bringing that history to the end of 2008. The problems the seller had in 2008 were similar to the problems the seller had in 2012, but at least this time the seller made enough moves in a deep market to catch a buyer (as you’ll see soon, 2008 did not work out):

Mar 27 new to market $2.775mm
Mar 28   $2.9mm
May 5   $2.795mm
July 31   $2.695mm
Aug 25 contract  
Nov 13 sold $2,562,500

If only he had been this reasonable and responsive, and had stayed available, in a still-deep market as the overall Manhattan residential real estate market was reaching its peak back in the day:

Feb 16, 2008 new to market $3.25mm
Mar 20   $3.095mm
April 11   $2.995mm
May 18 off the market  

I’ve said several times that I do not like to call sellers “greedy” for asking prices The Market is not willing to pay. It’s their loft and they are free to ask any price they like, no matter how ineffectual. Back in 2008, the #8A owner tried three different ‘wrong’ prices before giving up before trying a fourth price, or staying around long enough to attract a bid.

If anyone is inclined to call that owner names, the spread between the 2008 asking prices and the clearing price 6 weeks ago is its own reward, but here is another ‘reward’: the owner bought the place from the sponsor June 28, 2007 for $2,672,906. Instead of selling at a gain of 22% within a year, it took this seller until last month to sell at a 4% loss.

It’s a free country, and the seller made the choices he did in 2008, and in 2012. Bummer, that.

more memory lane, but this one’s fresh
If this loft #8A seems familiar, it is because loft #8A was The Party Of The Second Part in my post December 17, the stuff you can’t see earned 7th floor loft at 15 West 20 Street a 13% premium over 8th floor, which focused primarily on the premium loft #7A earned over #8A. In that one, it was #7A that was the outlier, compared to #8A and two other sales in the building this Summer. The suggestion from the two summer sales, #8A sold at a reasonable price last month, despite being at a loss to the 2007 purchase from the developer.

As I said, bummer, that.

I still can’t account for the premium that #7A got over these three neighboring loft sales. These lofts were sold brand new in 2007 and I see no indication that there was any difference between them that a buyer would pay a dollar for, unlike the same building loft sales I hit in my last post, December 19, 27 N. Moore Street loft at (the other) Ice House cracks $1,800/ft, where there were some differences in quality thogh not enough to account for those price differences, either. (Again, thx Reader U on that one.)

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Dec. 17, 2012 - the stuff you can't see earned 7th floor loft at 15 West 20 Street a 13% premium over 8th floor

(I can’t see them, either)
Did the hyper local Manhattan loft market in one Flatiron 2005 era new development improve by 13% in … (wait for it) … 6 days? Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, the “2,259 sq ft” Manhattan loft #8A at 15 West 20 Street (Altair 20) sold on November 13 for $2,562,500 after a contract was signed by August 25, and after testing the market since March at 3 higher prices, yet the seemingly identical “2,259 sq ft” Manhattan loft #7A sold on November 7 at … (wait for it) … $2.895mm after coming to market on August 24 and finding a contract by August 31. And by “seemingly identical” I mean two lofts with identical floor plans (#8A here, #7A here) that were built out to a high standard by the 2005 developer, that were marketed with broker babble promising equivalent levels of finishes, and the pictures of which show (to my eye, at least) identical finishes and materials, though some palette choices vary.

My head is spinning over this $2,562,500 and that $2.895mm. How could a seller persuade a buyer to pay 13% more than the neighboring loft contracted for within a week?

One obvious response is that the high buyer did not necessarily know what the low buyer had agreed to pay. But this price history makes it plain that the first contract almost certainly was at least $200,000 below what the second buyer agreed to pay:

#8A   Mar 27 new to market $2.775mm
#8A   Mar 28   $2.9mm
#8A   May 5   $2.795mm
#8A   July 31   $2.695mm
  #7A Aug 24 new to market $2.895mm
#8A   Aug 25 contract  
  #7A Aug 31 contract  
  #7A Nov 7 sold $2.895mm
#8A   Nov 13
sold $2,562,500

Any rational reading of the market from April well into August is that the market did not contain a buyer willing to pay $2.9mm or $2.795mm or even (probably) $2.695mm for a 2-bedroom plus home office plus 3 bathrooms in this still new condo, despite #8A being enthusiastically and specifically babbled about like this:

Perfectly designed... in a prewar 1904 loft building. Sunlight from two exposures and 10-foot ceilings …. burnished hardwood floors, open dining area, and a stone-clad working fireplace. The Valcucine kitchen features custom cabinetry, appliances from Sub-Zero and Miele, and special touches like warming drawer, built-in coffee machine, and pot-filler. ... master bath is particularly well-appointed with imported stone, oversized glass shower, built-in flat-screen TV, radiant floor heat, and private W.C. Generous closets, multi-zone central climate control, and a separate laundry room

On August 25, perhaps knowing that the #8A owners were very close to a deal, the #7A seller came out at a price that had been rejected for #8A for 5 months. I see the word “customized” in this babble, but I don’t see any particular thing that is different in #7A than in #8A:

Brilliantly designed, this stunning, customized 2-bedroom plus home office is turn-key and ready for the most discerning buyer. As you walk off of the key locked elevator directly into the residence, you will be welcomed by natural light beaming throughout this beautifully appointed home. The 10-foot ceilings create a spacious and open environment. This residence includes three full bathrooms and a full-service kitchen both complete with the finest materials. Additional amenities in the home include a working fireplace and laundry room.

Of course, you know that #7A got that “rejected price” in 6 days. (In case you wonder if StreetEasy’s dates are correct, like I sometimes do, the interfirm data-base proves it: new listing on August 24, open houses immediately set for August 29 and September 2, and the contract by August 31.)

there was some fresh relevant public data
You see that last #8A price drop to $2.695mm? Here is what the seller almost certainly knew before dropping that price:

The #2,322 sq ft” loft #4B, with a floor plan that is essentially identical to the two “A”s, sold for $2.715 on July 25. If the #8A seller did not know by July 31 the price at which #3B was in contract, that sale closed on August 2 at $2,665,800.

(I say “almost certainly knew” because even though the respective deeds were not filed [“public”] until after #8A went into contract, it is a commonplace courtesy among agents to share clearing prices on closed sales not yet publicly filed.)

Needless to day, the fact that two “B”s had closed within about a week of each other at $1,169/ft and $1,148/ft almost certainly convinced the #8A seller to come down to $1,193/ft from $1,237/ft to troll for buyers in August. (I say “almost certainly” because I often temporize, but isn’t this connection too obvious for words?) In the same vein, these highly relevant (same-building, same layout and utility, contemporaneous) data points probably helped the #8A seller accept $1,134/ft as the best he was going to do in a hard fought negotiation with a stubborn bidder (note that telltale $500 in the #8A sales price).

These three sales are very easy to rationalize; indeed, the give faith and succor to rational market fans.

In that context, #7A selling at $1,281/ft is insane. Put more prudently, #7A is a dramatic outlier; so dramatic as to drive rational market fans insane, in fact. (I am not so much a rational market fan as a believer in rationality and market noise, but I appreciate these dramatic outliers at least as much as the next guy.)

a final wonder
I am not certain which conversation I would have liked to have overheard more: when the #8A seller found out where the #7A deal was, or when the #7A buyer found out where the #8A deal was.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Nov. 15, 2012 - $2 million later (!), 43 East 19 Street penthouse loft is ready for its close-up

New York Times goes big for a big loft with a big renovation
Don’t you wish you could get a look at more lofts that are featured on Manhattan Loft Guy when sold, to see how they have been renovated? (I know you do.) Here today, courtesy of the New York Times feature Great Homes and Destinations, is an article and a slideshow showing the just-completed two million dollar renovation and redesign of a loft that I hit when it sold back in the starting-to-thaw days of mid-2009. Of course they don’t present the loft in before-and-after fashion as I would like, or describe structural changes as opposed to design choices. But The Loft That Mediabistro Built, in today’s Home & Garden Section is pretty darn informative, and the slideshow has some jaw-dropping photos (and price tags).

Perhaps most jaw-dropping to me is that top line After number ($2mm renovation!) in the context of the top line Before number: these folks paid $3.905mm for what was generously described as a “4,100 sq ft” penthouse loft with a “2,050 sq ft” private roof deck, as recounted in my July 26, 2009, big loft, big roof / 43 East 19 Street penthouse closes under $4mm for (maybe) 4,100 sq ft + 2,050 sq ft terrace. Back then, I compared the 8th floor penthouse sale (with deck) for $3.905mm to the “triple mint” 7th floor sale in June 2007 for $4.395mm. (Interesting aside: that post was before I started riffing with The Miller after his post about how to value outdoor space, and I see that in my July 26, 2009 post I just ballparked [guessed!] that the roof deck was worth $250/ft; those were the [primitive] days!)

Before meets After; After wins
In its prior condition, the loft was more about bones and space than finishes and skin (“3 grand Egg & Dart columns, 12’ ceilings, wonderful original detail and hardwood floors throughout” is about as enthusiastic as the former broker babble got about the interior condition). The old floor plan shows a space easy to demolish to start over (note how few walls there were), and start over they did (“SHoP Architects ... gutted and rebuilt the loft in shiny surfaces: stainless steel, lacquered walls and glazed concrete”). The footprint is too much a fairly squat rectangle to be a classic Long-and-Narrow, most windows are on the narrow ends, though the 3 east windows allow great flexibility, and it is (still) not clear whether there are plumbing stacks other than in that north west corner.

What is clear from the new photos is that the kitchen has been moved and an interior stair built.

That kitchen is … er … a classic in its own right. (Use the Full Screen function for the pic, please.) It is less an open kitchen than it is a kitchen with a living room around it (only 3 sides, but still). Not your standard millionaire kitchen on Park Avenue, for sure. The owners are clearly not shy, not modest about their intention in re-creating this loft: they set out to make a place “that everyone would be jealous of”. I think they can cross that one off the To-Do list, so long as “everyone” is used in the Pauline Kael sense to mean “everyone” who loves Manhattan lofts.

into the Before and After Album
This Flatiron penthouse has been given much better photographic treatment, from my perspective, as the only other loft that comes to mind in the Manhattan Loft Guy archives that has had Before and After treatment, though not as good treatment in an anthropology sense. In my April 18, 2011, ever so rare before and after shots of 39 Worth Street loft, I lucked into a New York Times piece in which a former NYT Styles editor revisited the loft she sold to a high profile wunderkind designer. That piece, and her persinal connection to the space, gave me food for thought:

Former owner Brubach captured the fact that homes embody dreams, lofts probably more than "apartments":


Like most new homeowners, Wang and I came with fantasies of change. His: “Having lived in New York, where you’re always out and your friends are always out because no one has enough space to entertain, I imagined an apartment where I could have my friends over and on the weekend not have to leave because I feel claustrophobic,” he says. “Where I would learn how to cook or do crafts projects.” Mine: I would host big parties and bring together people from different fields; I would cook intimate dinners for friends who would linger late into the night; I would retreat from the city’s assault on my senses, read, and write.


(Note how similar their “fantasies of change” were!)


He gutted her kitchen; she tries to understand:


The kitchen was central to both of our scenarios. Wang has moved all the appliances against a perimeter wall, with a marble-topped island nearby. “I have always loved an open kitchen,” he says. I’ve never understood an open kitchen. Or maybe it’s just that I’m too nervous a cook and an open kitchen leaves me nowhere to hide.

Is this “fantasies of change” thing innate to lofts? Note that the new owner told the New York Times in late 2007 when she sold a business and put $9 to $11 million in the bank that wanted some … stuff:

“I thought, ‘O.K., a car and driver and a new apartment and a whole new life.’ In fact, I can only afford two out of three.”

Today’s article mentions that she dropped the car-and-driver idea (“still driving her 2002 Subaru Forester”). New apartment? Check. New life? I guess, if only because she sold her business, and now has money, dependents, and things (in each of those cases, “lots of …”). Sounds as though this loft represents something for her that I am not qualified to get into:

you ask the couple if it makes them anxious to live with so much high-end gear.

“I was brought up to worry about stuff,” said Ms. Touby, who was raised by a single mother and described her childhood as chaotic. “So I’m anxious all the time. We’re both pretty anxious people.”

And there’s this nugget:

When pressed on what she spends time worrying about, she answered quickly.

“Losing it all,” she said. “Or being forgotten.”

Hence (I will just add) such conspicuous consumption (a place “that everyone would be jealous of”) and the … er … brass to welcome the New York Times platform so conspicuously, so soon (the redesign was finished all of 8 days ago, capped by a big party that the owner “wanted ... to go on forever”).

and after After on East 19 Street?
I wish these folks a long and happy life in this loft, truly. But I can’t help but wonder where they go from here. Can you imagine that $30,000-seats-25 sofa anywhere but in a massive loft? (See pic 8; I assume it is a sectional, but still.) The hammock is obviously easy to move (you just unhook the 4 eye hooks, d’oh!) but where else might it really fit? (You need 12 foot ceilings, to start.)

Either they live here forever, or you are likely to find some fine (very large scale) furnishings on eBay in 10, 15 or 20 years. Good luck bidding!

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Nov. 6, 2012 - 21 East 22 Street loft sells after long, painful price discovery

2009 was not such a trough here
This one has to hurt: not only did the “900 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4F at 21 East 22 Street take 18 months to sell, it sold for a tiny premium over the price this seller paid in a very chilly market. Imagine the pain in starting in February 2011 in search of a 23% gain and ending a few weeks ago with a 6% gain (this table may help your visualization):

Dec 11, 2008 new to market $790,000
Feb 28, 2009 contract  
June 25 sold $780,000
Feb 3, 2011 new to market $959,000
July 1 hiatus  
Sept 30 back on market $929,000
Nov 1   $885,000
June 20, 2012 contract  
Oct 16 sold $825,000

That’s rather remarkable: a contract signed in the First Quarter of 2009 should have faced the headwinds of the nuclear winter in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market; that same loft coming to market 2 years later should have enjoyed the recovery. (I don’t see much enjoyment, measured at $45,000.)

The good news, however, is that this is a lovely little loft with very nice finishes in prime Flatiron, so the new owner will likely enjoy it.

very lovely and little (very little)
Our listing system has #4F at “900 sq ft”, the same figure as StreetEasy has for the recent listing. Can you find any where near that many feet on the floor plan? I can’t. In fact, using the interior dimensions provided it is hard to get much beyond half that. The few feet that are there are (yes) lovely, and with 11 foot ceilings and that one wall of windows, this loft probably feels bigger than it is. (Without feeling quite like 900 sq ft, I must add.) The recent broker babble is similarly cramped:

Gorgeously renovated, 11’-plus ceilings, immense windows, fully-integrated Crestron wireless lighting/audio control system, limestone bath with double sinks, whirlpool tub & glass shower, new custom kitchen with Carrera marble counters, Monogram fridge, Bosch dishwasher & Bertazzoni stainless range, custom built-ins and elegant finishes throughout.

I prefer the more enthusiastic babble from 2008:

A truly fine renovation, this prewar loft home offers both gracious and grand living with 11.5 foot beam ceilings, huge oversized windows, full size dining area, top of the line kitchen including custom Brazilian rosewood cabinetry, white marble counter tops with Bar, stainless steel appliances, and limestone floors.

Glass sliding doors enclose bedroom area, plus Venetian plaster walls, ebony wood built ins, and generous closets and functional storage throughout.

The Spa style full bath has a separate thermostatically controlled waterfall glass enclosed shower stall, stone counters w/ double basins & a whirlpool tub.

Fully outfitted with all the advanced technological wiring for surround sound Plasma TV and audio entertainment system, light filtering solar shades, and recessed halogen lighting, and all these can be operated by hand held Creston Brand central control.

There is a lot of utility and function crammed into this small space: custom kitchen with rosewood cabinetry, spa bath with shower and tub, ebony built-ins, and remote controlled sound, lighting and shade systems. Of course, with but 3 small closets, the space accommodates a neat lifestyle (to say the least), but the (right kind of) living is rich.

As unhappy as the recent seller may be, the 2009 seller could not have been thrilled, either.

what do they say about hindsight?
(Not the 20-20 part, the canine part.) On the one hand, you’d think from the 2009 and 2012 sale prices that the 2009 seller would have been happy to have avoided the deeper trough that afflicted many sales in early 2009. But I did not give you that seller’s earlier attempt to sell; it was short, but not sweet:

Feb 7, 2007 new to market $975,000
June 15 off the market  

I have to wonder if that seller looked back (after selling for $780,000) and wondered what might have happened had he persisted into The Peak, which turned out to be within 9 months. Even the canine hindsight cannot tell us what would have happened then, but selling conditions in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market have still never again been as strong as they were in those 9 AWOL months.

If you have read past Manhattan Loft Guy posts from this building you know that prices have varied significantly for lofts both smaller and (perhaps) larger in this collection of mostly-small lofts.

I am not going to do it today (you’re welcome!), but one can find an argument here that #4F could have sold about $100,000 higher at The Peak. I will just collect here the roster:

Did you VOTE yet??

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Oct. 11, 2012 - 5 terraces on 3 levels sell for $3.7 million at 29 West 19 Street (some interior loft space included)

outdoor living, no tent required
I am trying to look past the decor and focus on the interior space in the recently sold “2,042 sq ft” Manhattan loft Penthouse at 29 West 19 Street, but it’s hard: the decor is not especially loft-y and the exterior space is the “wow factor”, if not “the ultimate ‘wow’ factor that every loft lover is looking for”. So let’s start with the floor plan, which shows a lower duplex that is long-and-narrow, with 2 bedrooms in back (one of those bedroom is labeled “dining room”), an extravagantly large kitchen in the middle, and a not especially spacious living room up front; upstairs there is a master suite in back and a den up front; the fun stuff is outside, about 518 sq ft on the roof of the upper level, nearly 550 sq ft on two terraces on the upper level, and another nearly 440 sq ft in two terraces on the lower level. Every room has direct access to one of these 5 terraces, and the total of outside space (1,508 sq ft, if you have misplaced your calculator) is rather dramatic, a “wow” factor, even.

The camera loves that front terrace off the living room, as 3 of the 10 listing pictures are of that terrace, with its substantial furniture, retractable awning, grill, and bar. Pity that we don’t see how well the other terraces are used, particularly that rooftop terrace, which is the largest of the 5 exterior spaces and which sits on top of  the upper level, about 20 feet higher than the featured terrace. It is hard to say whether the view is dramatically better up there than in any of the lower terraces (if the broker babble is a guide, “no”).

an embarrassment of riches?
The entire space, inside and out, is about 3,500 sq ft. I am not going to do a full Miller riff about the relative value of interior and exterior on a dollar per foot basis, as I don’t have recent data about interior values in this small (4-unit) condo that was a new development in 2005. On the one hand, the exterior space is rather too big compared to the interior to be a plus factor above the typical range of outdoor space being worth 25% to 50% of the interior; on the other hand, it should have a high utility value, for having direct access from every room, and in each case being large enough to be very useful. But how much exterior space does a loft owner need? (More pertinent, perhaps, how many outdoor spaces does a loft owner need?)

How big would a party have to be to get many people climbing the two sets of stairs from the kitchen floor that also has the grill and the bar on the front terrace? With the lower level having a nearly 40 foot length of living room into kitchen into dining room, with terraces at each end, of course, the space is set up for entertaining … on a grand scale.

Maybe the highest and best value of that roof is as a garden / green roof idyll, but I have to wonder about the challenge of even a green-thumbed owner to fully exploit so many different exterior spaces.

The guess that there are relatively few buyers at any time for whom this array of terraces would be a significant plus factor is supported by the listing history. This Penthouse loft took a while to sell, though it did not need more than one asking price to do it, as it came out at $3.865mm on January 17, was in contract by July 24, and sold on September 14 at $3.7mm. The sellers waited, patiently, it seems, for another couple who would appreciate this floor plan.

up 24% over 2005
Sometimes sponsor sales are not a good base from which to compare a past market to the present market, as the sponsor selling multiple units at the same time was not working in the same market as that buyer would upon selling as a one-off. In the case of the Penthouse at 29 West 19 Street, it is clear that the sponsor had a lot of trouble figuring out the value of all this outdoor space back in 2005.

StreetEasy does not have the marketing data from the 2005 sponsor sales, but our listings data-base shows that the other units sold near their original asking prices, with the 3rd floor unit, for example, having had one small increase in asking price before selling at full price. The Penthouse marketing history was rather different: the ask started at $1.795mm, was quickly raised to $1.895mm around the time the others were going into contract, then was taken off the market for 6 months. When it came back in January 2005, the ask had zoomed to $2.95mm and a contract was signed in May that closed in September 2005 (at $2,973,290, reflecting a tiny discount from ask plus the customary transfer taxes paid by the buyer).

Of course I wonder where these sellers are going, after having lived with such extravagant terraces for 7 years. Perhaps they needed more (interior) space. As is, this Penthouse is a 2-bedroom with a den in the master suite, a modest living room, a dining room that is nearly as big as the living room, and a nearly 200 sq ft kitchen. Perhaps they got tired of entertaining.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Oct. 8, 2012 - Bull Moose loft is first post-thaw sale without outdoor space at 42 East 20 Street, up 54%??

it has been a long time
As my buddy Noah at Urban Digs is fond of pointing out, the ideal way to do comps is to use a recent sale in the same building of a loft of similar scale. That task is more difficult when the last sales in the building were in very different market conditions. The recently sold “1,704 sq ft” Manhattan loft #7C at 42 East 20 Street (the Bull Moose Condominium) should have posed a challenge for the sellers, because the last market sale of a loft in the building other than penthouses with outdoor space was way back in July 2009 (#6C), as the overall Manhattan residential real estate market was beginning to thaw out of the post-Lehman nuclear winter. But never fear! The sellers got it right: to market on May 15, a full price contract by June 1, closed on September 19 at $2.25mm.

Obviously, the sellers and their photogenic agents got it really right. But the prior sales would not have been much help, with that #6C sale as one of four that closed in the chilly part of 2009. As you can see through the StreetEasy building page, two Bull Moose lofts a good bit larger than #7C sold just under $1,000/ft in 2009, while #6C and #5C sold at $856/ft and $840/ft. Timing aside, #6C and #5C are very comparable units to #7C, though not identical to #7C.

These loft were sold by the sponsor in 2003 with high finishes, the proper proper names for materials and appliances that you see in the #7C broker babble. There is nothing in the #7C broker babble about views that might differentiate it from the views downstairs, and the evidence from the #7C listing photos is that there is nothing (special) to see out any windows of these 3 lofts.

The floor plans for the “1,607 sq ft” #5C and #6C should be identical to each other (#6C’s is here) but a little smaller than that of the “1,704 sq ft” #7C. Basically, the “C” line is the same 2-bedroom+2-bath utility in a (dare I say) cookie cutter array, with the line on the 7th floor being a little longer (and having that weird cut-in to the right of the front door). We could get into an interesting (if academic) discussion about whether the ‘extra’ 97 sq ft in #7C are worth the same as the rest of each space if #7C were offered for sale at the same time (in the same market conditions) as #5C or #6C. (I would provoke you by arguing the extra space is borderline worthless.) But that is not what happened, so let’s stick to the facts:

Sept 19, 2012 #7C $1,320/ft
July 20, 2009 #6C $856/ft
April 30, 2009 #5C $840/ft

good things come to those who are brave?
This tells me that those brave 2009 buyers each got a very good deal.
No way that the overall Manhattan residential real estate market is up 54% since The Trough, but these numbers say that these 3 “C”s are.

Just another reminder that trend lines are made up of disparate data points; the #5C and #6C data points would be pretty far from the (thin, yet oh so chilly) 2009 trend line.

Note to self … use this set as the jumping off point for a post about market bravery, mostly about buyer behavior in a frigid (possibly still falling) market such as early 2009. Hint: sideline sitters are reluctant to buy in markets with rapid appreciation and reluctant in markets that are very thin and/or declining. Discuss … (another time).

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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

Recent Posts

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