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Manhattan Loft Guy

Dec. 5, 2012 - if gut renovation loft at 33 Greene Street went for $1,188/ft the roof rights were free

playing with numbers
What is your guess as to what a $4mm buyer would pay to gut renovate a ”3,200 sq ft” classic Soho loft? Let’s say a minimum of $250/ft for ballpark purposes, so figure that the recent buyer of that “sun-blasted” “architect ready” Manhattan loft #5W at 33 Greene Street at the corner of Grand Street in lower Soho is planning to pay another $800,000 (probably more) after spending $3.8mm to buy it. That’s $1,188/ft in pre-gutted condition to get to over $1,400/ft once built out. Did I mention (yes: re-read the title) that there’s a roof deck thrown in at this price? That’s “1,800 sq ft” of private space to be (minimally?) built out, as well.

Let’s look at what that buyer got, before considering what the adjusted price per foot could be, and before considering what the listing info does not tell you about the loft, but that you would find out from the sidewalk, alas.

the demo work is assumed
The listing does not give you the option of using the loft as-is, telling you that there are 3 bedrooms and 2 baths now, but giving you a floor plan as if all demolition had been done, indicating 3 “plumbing locations”, so it does not matter that I cannot figure out where that kitchen is in the single interior photo on the broker website. The numbers are impressive: a south wall of 66 feet that is more window than wall, high ceilings (15’ in one set of broker babble, 12’-14’ on the other babble, and 13’3” on the floor plan, alas), 3 exposures, 6 columns, 1 skylight, and, of course, “3,200 sq ft” interior and “1,800 sq ft” of dedicated roof rights.

The marketing campaign for this build-it-yourself loft had a hiccup, but no one need feel sorry for the seller:

Mar 29 new to market $3.995mm
May 11 contract
June 19 back on market $4.15mm
Sept 26 contract
Nov 20 sold $3.8mm

Yes, it took 8 months to get it finally done, but the sales price was 95% of the first ask. (I would guess from the price increase that the first contract was closer to the first ask.) Before adjusting for the roof rights, the market valued this demolition opportunity toward the bottom of central Soho (corner of Grand Street) at $1,188/ft. While this location is more prime than on the other side of Grand, it is not as prime a Soho block as several that are further north.

Yet that $1,188/ft is higher than all but 10 of the 25 other November loft sales (so far) for which there is a $/ft calculation on the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008, and only 18 of 50 October loft sales are more than $100/ft more valuable.

comping without complications (don’t take these to the bank)
I don’t have the same-building comps to permit the best simple way to value the interior space of this loft, but the bottom end of the Miller-riffing rubric for allocating value between indoor and outdoor space is simple enough for present purposes: assume the “1,800 sq ft” of roof rights are worth only 25% of the interior on a $/ft basis, in part because there is no direct access (you’re going to have to take the building stairs or build your own) and in part because the roof is more than 50% of the interior.

At that reasonable but modest value, the adjusted ballpark value of the interior of loft #5W falls to $1,041/ft, still well above the similar opportunity to build out the smaller (“2,300 sq ft”) Manhattan loft on the 5th floor at 114 Mercer Street (sold at $936/ft on November 20), and right at the level of the smaller (“2,200 sq ft”) Manhattan loft #3 at 5 Great Jones Street (sold at $1,052/ft on October 5). If you could do that gut renovation to as high a standard as the “meticulous” renovation of the “3,000 sq ft” Manhattan loft #6D at 284 Lafayette Street, you’d end up with a loft that cost about what that beauty sold for on November 15 ($1,433/ft).

did they do the diligence that was due?
One interesting thing about the broker babble is that the loft is described not as having, for example, a private roof deck, but as having “1800 SF of Roof Deck Rights. Call for details”.

I assume that the buyers were told whatever the agents knew about those “rights”; I wonder if the buyers’ lawyer got to the bottom of the reason that the New York City Buildings Department disapproved one application to use those rights to build on the roof. That there was one failed attempt to exploit roof rights is clear from this DoB record reflecting a May 2009 application and July 2011 disapproval. I haven’t spent the time with these records (or, obviously, had access to the seller and the managing agent) so I don’t know if the “roof rights” are limited to decking by this administrative action, or if the ability to still build something on the roof (just not that particular plan) still exists.

I really hope the buyers figured that out before they bought. That seems to be important.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Nov. 29, 2012 - 2 years to contract for 139 Spring Street artist's loft

one birthday is bad enough...
It is a little unfair of me to say it took two years for the recently sold “2,522 sq ft” Manhattan loft #3B at 139 Spring Street find a contract, even though the loft was brought to market on October 1, 2010. The trick is that there was a contract by February 17, 2011, but that deal fell through sometime before the loft was brought back to market on October 31, 2011. And it took (only!) another 50 weeks to find the contract by October 17 that (finally!) closed on November 6. If you count the way I do on The Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 (starting days on market from October 31, 2011 because the was a gap of more than 90 days from the prior marketing period), this loft just missed having a first birthday before going into (a successful) contract; but if you count the way the seller probably counted, she started trying to sell October 1, 2010 and did not get a contract that would stick until 106 weeks later … 2 birthday candles worth of marketing. Either way, an odyssey:

Oct 1, 2010 new to market $2.9mm
Nov 20   $2.7mm
Feb 17, 2011 contract  
Oct 31 back on market  
Nov 1   $2.75mm
May 18, 2012   $2.695mm
Sept 15   $2.6mm
Oct 17 contract  
Nov 6 sold $2.36mm

Of course I’d love to know what that failed 2011 contract was, though it is almost certain that it was higher than the eventual clearing price. This campaign involved 5 asking prices, 17 months of active marketing over 2 years, and (of course) those two contracts. An odyssey, indeed, as price discovery was difficult, ending 19% off the first ask.

thin history is hard to read
Price discovery is usually difficult in a building with a thin sales history, and this 9-unit 7-story condo in prime Soho (at the corner of Wooster Street) has no other sales in StreetEasy, and the building page on Property Shark (here, for those who can access that source) implies that this condo was formed in 2002 and that only one other unit has changed hands in the ten years since. (Even though that transfer was in 2008, there is no price record in Property Shark.)

Judging from the fact that at least two of the original 2002 condo owners show on The Shark as having phone numbers at this address well before the condo was formed in 2002 (in one case, from 1978) my guess is that this was a residential loft building back in the day, and that some tenants were involved in the condominium conversion in 2001-2002.

Judging from the condition of loft #3B evident in the thumbnail StreetEasy photos, and on the fact that this “2,522 sq ft” loft sold with only 1.5 baths, this loft (at least) looks as primitive as a loft last upgraded in the 1980s. The agent’s website has better (larger) photos and broker babble that tell the same story. (Don’t go there via the dead-end link on StreetEasy; go here.)

a charming convertible two bedroom one bath apartment with a huge adjoining studio work space with a half a bath. This unique arrangement can accommodate an owner who would like to have a living space in Manhattan plus have the added advantage of having extra space to work on art projects or an owner who is looking to live in a prime location in SoHo and would want to renovate the space to create one spectacular loft

Perhaps the full bath (pic 11 of 14) would be salvaged, but this is otherwise a total gut job. The good news in the floor plan is that the foot print is nearly square, with plumbing stacks in multiple locations. The other news in the floor plan is that the single wall of windows almost dictates that any “bedrooms” be interior.

So we are looking at a condo on a prime Soho corner that sold for $936/ft needing (probably) a complete gut. Price makes more sense with that context, doesn’t it?

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Nov. 14, 2012 - how did 111 Mercer Street get some kind of one-off exemption from Artist in Residence requirements?

inquiring minds want to know
Fascinating piece in the The Real Deal today, In rare instance, Soho building has Artist-in Residence requirement waived, stating that the 4-unit condo residential loft new development at 111 Mercer Street will not have to comply with the Artist in Residence requirements that, at least as a formal matter, apply to nearly all residential lofts in prime Soho.

The article quotes one of the sales agents, and then relies on a statement from the developer, to the effect that

“[the exemption] process took 18 months and involved numerous city agencies with approvals at every level.” The Landmarks Preservation Commission and Department of City Planning required developer Veracity Development to complete a Class A renovation of the building in support of the application, incorporating historically accurate materials, a spokesperson for Veracity said

This, despite the fact that the building has been zoned M1-5A (the manufacturing use that, like M1-5B, prohibit residential use that does not meet the A.I.R. requirements), at least per Property Shark.

I am totally unaware of how a one-off exemption like this could work, and will make some inquiries to find out. [UPDATE 11.14.12: see comment below about Special Use Permit] I went through the various agencies at the state and city level that are involved in my first piece on A.I.R. in response to that seminal New York Times article, in my November 12, 2010, did the NY Times just write a front page obituary for the Soho real estate market?. See that long post for details, but in broad strokes, city zoning (that M1-5A designation) prohibits residential use, but state law provides an exception that can permit residential use if (among other things, such as residential building code compliance) a city agency (literally) ‘certifies’ that the occupant is an artist using the loft for his/her art.

Unless the zoning designation was changed for this single building, I don’t see how this works at only the city level. State law is the source of the exemption for Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists; NYC Department of Consumer Affairs certification is the mechanism for that exemption.

For example, when the political compromise was reached for new developments on open lots in Soho to be developed as non-A.I.R. buildings, I believe that the mechanism for that agreement was a formal change in zoning for those lots by the City. (Examples include 311 West Broadway [Soho Mews] and 40 Mercer Street.) Absent the rezoning of those 12 or 13 open spaces, the units could legally be sold only to artists; in exchange for (and as part of) the re-zoning, the developers agreed to restrictions such that, among other things, ground floor retail is prohibited in these buildings (did you ever wonder why none of the Soho Grand restaurant and bar spaces are on sidewalk level? that’s why).

However this exemption was finagled, I suspect that the building had not been occupied by residential tenants before the recent condo conversion; if there were people living there this would have been controversial much earlier. (If you followed the comment threads on my A.I.R. pieces, you know that is a reference to Team Sweeney.)

I still can’t prove that A.I.R. impacts value
A real estate agent with a listing near 111 Mercer Street is relied on but not directly quoted on a fascinating topic. I am not going to repeat his name here because it is possible that what he said was more impressive than the reporter’s paraphrase, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt. This is not a very interesting (or precise) thing to say:

the AIR waiver, in addition to the new construction and high-end finishes, could be contributing to the difference in price [between his listing and the 111 Mercer lofts].

Yeah, the fact that these brand new lofts will probably be built for the uber-deluxe part of the market just might explain their premium. And “the AIR waiver” for 111 Mercer might also be related to that premium.

Let’s just say the attributed statement cannot be proven wrong, and add that the attributed statement does not make any of us any better informed than we were before reading it.

(For the difficulties in proving the economic impact of A.I.R., see my March 7, 2011,  it is impossible to prove that the Soho artist in residence regulations are a resale problem unless 'victims' come forward.)

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Oct. 27, 2012 - how the pros do it: 497 Greenwich Street loft was bought low, sold high

it took cojones to buy then
The semi-famous folks who just sold the “2,541 sq ft” Manhattan loft #7A at 497 Greenwich Street in the extreme western edge of “Soho” (this micro-nabe does not feel like Soho to me, but I’ve been outvoted) for $3.45mm benefitted from a steely resolve. Not on the sale, which was pretty straightforward: to market on May 24 and in contract at a reasonable discount (7%) by July 4. No, the steely resolve was evident when they bought this Winka-loft: they signed the contract to buy on March 19, 2009, a chilly time in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market, in which relatively few buyers were signing contracts.

The topic of buyers who sign contracts in a falling market deserves a blog post of its own, but let’s give credit to these particular 2009 buyers. (Note to self … start that post with the observation that “everyone” [all the real estate civilian geniuses on StreetEasy Talk, that is] says they won’t buy in a rising market, but few folks have the balls cojones steely resolve to buy in a market without an obvious bottom.) These semi-famous 2009 buyers understood The Market about as well as anyone (they are both agents, obviously) yet they did not know that The Market was about to begin to thaw when they signed that contract; they knew only that they were dealing with motivated sellers.

That now-long-ago deal started with the 2009 sellers buying from the sponsor in January 2006 for $3,105,662. Keep that last number in mind as you review the successful-at-a-price marketing campaign by those first buyers:

Dec 2, 2008 new to market $3.8mm
Dec 19 hiatus  
Jan 6, 2009 back on market  
Jan 21    
Feb 18   $3.2mm
Mar 19 contract  
April 16 sold $2.9mm

(Remember that last number in the intro to the table?)

I am going to guess that the 17 days off the market was a holiday thing, not a cold feet thing. After all, the sellers had the balls cojones steely resolve to come to market 11 weeks after Lehman’s bankruptcy, a time when the chilling effects of that event on the credit markets, the economy as a whole, and the Manhattan residential real estate market in particular were already evident. Like most of the relatively few sellers who sold in that First Quarter of 2009, these folks were motivated; two $300,000 price drops in 60 days of active marketing will prove that. Well, that and the fact that they took another $300,000 off to reacch a deal with our semi-famous couple.

For those of you scoring at home on this Game 3 evening, that’s a deal at $900,000 off the original ask (24%) reached after less than 100 days of marketing. So there’s balls cojones steely resolve on both sides of that deal.

Fast forward to the present day. Our semi-famous couple just grossed a $550,000 gain in 42 months, perhaps after having put down as little as $290,000 up front. Nicely played, scion and daughter-in-law, nicely played.

how the pros should do it
Figuring out even the big ticket expenses to take off the top of that very gross $550,000 is more difficult than usual, because I assume (but do not know) that there is some firm-side fee rebate for these sellers. Chances are very good that they only ‘paid’ a fee much closer to 3% than the 6% listed in the inter-frim data-base.

I assume that PruDE did this on purpose. If you click on the firm website from the StreetEasy transaction page, you get a No Result; if you click on the Previous Sales link on the PruDE page for this condo, you get a whole string of results, including two for this loft, but you do not get this listing or this sale. I am sympathetic to the discretion, but not impressed by the lack of transparency. You put your names on a deed record rather than using an LLC, and your stuff is public. Particularly if you talk to Page Six about your purchase, bragging about how you’d been making low ball offers around town, as I mentioned when I hit the 2009 purchase in my April 29, 2009, 497 Greenwich Street sale was off a low ball?. (Those 2009 sellers were my “Sellers Of The Day” for having bitten that bitter bullet, by the way.)

Speaking of a lack of transparency, you don’t see this sale on the Closed Transactions page for the only agent identified in the listing as the listing agent, either. (You have to scroll down through a lot of closed sales [maybe 100+], but I don’t think I missed it.) There’s no bio for that agent hinting at how long she has been in business, but I don’t recognize her name. I do recognize the bold-faced names on her My Team page, however, including those of our semi-famous couple.

So, an apparently junior team member is the (sole) listing agent on a loft sold by the head guy on her team, a guy whose name and picture are on each listing on the My Listing page for that junior agent, even though I did not find her name or picture on any of those listings with seven figure prices (the vast majority of the active or in contract listings on her My Listings page).

I assume they set up the (now missing) listing for loft #7A this way on purpose. Again, the head guyer on the team (the actual seller, with his wife and fellow team member)  could have been functionally invisible if they had used an LLC to buy this loft. But they didn’t do that. Instead, they set this up in a way that suggests that they did not have to disclose that the sellers are the listing agents. If that was the reason, that stinks; if there’s another reason, I can’t think of one. (But maybe my imagination is limited.) Indeed, it is quite possible that the buyers were made aware that the sellers included the team leader for the “listing agent”.

We’ve been here before. (See my my May 24, 40 Mercer Street news: nothing says successful new development like a 7-figure gain since 2007, and my June 7, agent sells Chelsea Mercantile loft from San Francisco, about the legal requirements.) The easiest, most transparent, most easily documented way to comply with the legal requirement that an owner/agent be identified is to do that in the broker babble. Ain’t there. Not in the public listing description retained on StreetEasy, and not in the inter-firm data-base, including not being in the “broker remarks” field in the data-base.

I really wish I could think of another reason for there not being a public record linking the had guy on that team with the sale of his loft. Any ideas?

about the loft...
Loft #7A has a 3-bedroom-2.5-bath layout, but the broker babble promises that an additional bedroom and additional bath are possible. I don’t read that babble as promising anything that Winka herself (see my May 5, this very Winka-tect designed 497 Greenwich Street loft was all over the inter-tubes, about that design, and her work, and her loft.) did not design:

west-facing living room spans over 28’ feet ... modern open kitchen, complete with top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances. … formal dining room and windowed home office. The master bedroom suite with a wall of architectural windows, has custom built-in closets and a massive spa-like bathroom featuring dual sink, separate shower and air-jet Jacuzzi bathtub. ... hardwood floors, central heating and air, full sized washer/dryer and is pre-wired for video security

As you see on the floor plan, there is a small balcony off the living room and a terrace off the 2nd bedroom. That’s unfortunate, as having to go through the 2nd bedroom to access the terrace (which extends across the 2nd and 3rd bedrooms) can limit the utility of that terrace when there are lots of people living in the loft. There are no full pictures of the east exposures, but the floor-to-ceiling west windows obviously bring in a great deal of light, but don’t quite clear the nearby rooftops. (The view one floor up will be significantly better.)

This is not an easy building in which to comp. The 22 units took almost for the sponsor two years to sell out from 2004-06 and there have only been 5 sales since, with #7A appearing twice on the list of resales. Only the “1,602 sq ft” loft #4A has sold since the oh-so-chilly sale of #7A in April 2009, so there are no recent comps here.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012



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Oct. 17, 2012 - psst! wanna see a picture of The Trough? look at 477 Broome Street loft sold in 2009 and 2012

(and 2005)
The most casual fans of the overall Manhattan residential real estate market understand the cycles of Froth-into-Peak-into-Freeze-into-Thaw; the rabid can probably draw a graph by hand. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is one Manhattan loft worth, if its sale history shows that graph? (Well, shows it as much as any one loft reasonably can; after all, you are not likely to see a loft that sold at each of the turning points on that graph.) I submit for your consideration, ladies and Gentlemen, the authentic but sophisticated Manhattan loft #33 at 477 Broome Street, which sold as the overall Manhattan market was getting froth-y, again after Lehman’s bankruptcy filing sent the market into nuclear winter, and again last month, well past the thaw:

April 12, 2005 sold $950,000
Aug 30 new to market $1.295mm
Oct 9   $1.195mm
Jan 13, 2009   $1.095mm
Feb 27 contract  
April 29 sold $965,000
Mar 18, 2012 new to market $1.25mm
April 19   $1.115mm
May 24 contract  
Sept 27 sold $1,112,500

That 2005-buyer-turned-2009-seller missed the market by (only) a few months, as there was still a deep buyer pool active after the market had passed The Peak in the First Quarter of 2008. But coming to market less than 3 weeks before Lehman’s bankruptcy filing is a particularly sad indicator of having missed the market. That first price drop was not not enough, and the second was just enough to generate a discounted deal, as the seller chased the market down (to use that classic phrase), but caught up to it.

Obviously, the realized ‘gain’ from 2005 to 2009 of only $15,000 (before expenses, of course) obscures the fact that values in that period in the overall Manhattan market rose dramatically in the three years after that first purchase and then fell even more dramatically. And the gain realized from 2009 to 2012 is just a snapshot of current the current value of a single loft, with no indication of the upward slope of the line in the 3+ intervening years.

Is the overall market up about 15% since the Trough? More or less. And right in line with this loft selling at a 15% premium to the early Second Quarter of 2009.

a babble salad of old & new, classic & sophisticated
The broker babble is so enthusiastic that I was disappointed to finally click on the floor plan to see the small stage on which all that goodness performs. First, the good news:

authentic SoHo cast iron loft space combines the beauty and style of classic 1873 cast iron architecture with ... sophistication and convenience …. fluted columns w/Corinthian capitals supporting soaring 12ft pressed tin ceilings, ... preserved and bleached hardwood flrs and grand 10ft windows.... Fully renovated w/ tasteful upgrades including Bosch kitchen, oversized bath w/ stylish Duravit soaking tub and rain showerhead, and 9 built-in closets containing enough pull-out hanging space, shelving and drawers to accommodate the wardrobe of a fashion icon, the space is a triumph of modern sophistication and classic loft living. Other conveniences include a large overhead storage loft, washer/dryer in unit, alarm system, new video security system and separate utility area

The bad news is the floor plan, with more partitions than walls so as not to shrink the space even further. Obviously, 12 foot ceilings help the volume, though the “grand 10 ft windows” would help more if most did not look at nearby brick. Our listing system has this loft at “1,000 sq ft”, which is quite generous if the floor plan room dimensions are close to accurate. (Living room 263 + bedroom 153 + kitchen / dining 187 + entry / utility / bath 130 = 733 sq ft! Good thing the listing does not quote any figure.) With that “bedroom” fully open to the living room (not to mention, to the ceiling and [around that back corner] to the kitchen), this loft is more One Person Wonder, than a One Bed Wonder. Unless the person sleeping is a very deep sleeper, another person in the loft doing almost anything will risk disturbing the sleeper.

it gets worse, 2009 edition
Remember that $15,000 gain “before expenses” from April 2005 to April 2009? The accountant for that 2005-buyer-turned-2009-seller would also have deducted capital improvements, as the loft was improved significantly in the interim. You can’t tell from StreetEasy, but the listing description and photos in our listing data-base show a loft with white columns (not stripped), walnut floors (not bleached), a basic bathroom and a smaller kitchen. The built-ins also appear to be new, after 2005.

Even in a small loft, a new and bigger kitchen and a new bath would cost enough to put a big hole in the P&L for a loft that cost $950,000 and sold 4 years later at $965,000. Yikes and ... O. U. C. H.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Oct. 16, 2012 - price discovery proves to be a female dog for authentic Soho loft at 66 Grand Street

history is longer than it looks on The Master List
Because I use an arbitrary cut-off of 90+ days off market to re-set the Days on Market calculation on the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008, the recently sold “1,800 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the (not street level) first floor at 66 Grand Street appears on that list as though it had ‘only’ been on the market 278 days before contract. (Until the list is updated again, this loft is on line9 of Sheet1.) But another way to look at the marketing campaign for this “[a]uthentic Soho loft” would include the more than 6 months (and 3 prices) that the loft had been a suitor before that. The full history shows that the sellers and agents had no good idea what The Market thought the loft was actually worth:

Dec 3, 2010 new to market $1.675mm
Mar 22, 2011   $1.595mm
May 13   $1.495mm
June 16 hiatus  
Sept 17 back on market $1.449mm
Nov 3   $1.395mm
Mar 18, 2012   $1.349mm
June 21 contract  
Sept 28 sold $1.215mm

That is 6 different asking prices, 15 months of active marketing (over 18 calendar months), to get a contract that was 10% off the last asking price and 27% off the first asking price. Price discovery was … difficult.

when cons beat pros, that’ll happen
The broker babble goes for the “live/work space for artist or small business” buyer pool, presumably premised on the nearly 13 foot ceilings and the first floor (but not street level) location (where do those double entry doors go??). There are other charms: concrete floors for the part of the loft buyer pool that prefers that to hardwood; exposed brick and utilities; at least one bath with character (those tiles! the freestanding red tub!); a (especially for the money) a lot of space (2 bedrooms, 2 baths, a living room and [widely separated] dining room, and an office).

“Authentic” is, of course, often babble-speak for ‘primitive’, and that seems to be the case here. No bragging about anything that has been added to the loft in the last 40 years. Did you notice what there is essentially none of in the loft? (Waiting ….)

Natural light.

The floor plan has 4 windows, but my guess is that what little natural light enters this space comes in through the transom over those double doors at the pointy end of the “windowed dining room”. That window, by the way, must be that (2’ x 3’?) aperture about 4 feet above the floor on the left wall in the second listing photo. The other windows are so subtly photographed that you could easily miss them: in pic #3 look behind the flowers; in pic #4 it is behind the [birch tree?] fabric; and the other one is not pictured. Other than the dining room aperture, the other 3 windows appear to cluster around an air shaft. No surprise that there won’t be much light down at the first floor level.

Look again at the floor plan and those pictures. I can’t remember ever having seen a loft from which you would never see outside from virtually the entire living space. Certainly not from the living room, the bedrooms, or the kitchen. I have no idea what that dining room aperture “looks” at, but it can’t be much. And whatever it is, you probably have to stand right in front of it and bend down to see.

Not sure I would have had the courage to have marketed the loft as perfect for medical residents or other people working the night shift, but this space is a tough sell for anyone else. As the 6 prices and 15 months to contract show.

“comping is _____”
Seriously, how many adjustments would you have to get to get valid comps for a (near totally) dark loft? 66 Grand Street is part of a 3-building coop, with very few recent sales to search for helpful comps. I hit the second-to-last sale in this coop in my long ago August 20, 2009, 64 Grand Street closes UP 12% since 2006, which also mentioned the third-to-last sale here. That post featured a loft sale that was (in retrospect) part of the post nuclear winter thaw in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market (hence my treating it as anomalous for closing up 12% over 2006). That was also in primitive condition (“clean canvas and good bones”), but it also had great light and Empire State Building views.

A pretty good comp to examine the difference between light and dark, but for timing to account for the thaw. It might only be a little bit larger than the first floor loft, and sold for $1.64mm in August 2009. But how to adjust (down) for light and (up) for timing? Should be do-able, but complicated.

The even older sale mentioned in that post was the “stunning” and “sun-drenched” 5th floor, which sold in “the frothy days of July 2007” at $2.23mm; similar to the 4th floor but for condition and timing, which together carry the math from $1.64mm to $2.23mm.

I’ve hinted about the most recent sale, by not mentioning it yet. Aside from street address, it is as much the opposite of the first floor as two lofts could be. I can’t even get a reliable estimate of its size (a scandal, yes) but the June 5 sale price of $3.2mm begins to tell you how different that 4th floor at 70 Grand Street is from the first floor at 66. Obviously it is in mint-or-beyond condition, but there’s also this: ”walls of windows facing south & east”. You could dress up the first floor to look like the 4th floor (the walls of windows facing south & east beside) for less than a million bucks, I bet. ($500/ft should do it.)

Would that leave another million as the difference between the walls of windows facing south & east upstairs and the small-aperture+3-air-shaft-windows below? Yes, arithmetically. I am not going to push these not-very-comparable sales that hard.

Personally, unless I could find another dark Soho loft that did sell recently, I’d probably start with 64 Grand Street #7 at $1.64mm in August 2009, then try to adjust for different light and marketing conditions. If that’s what these sellers did, they essentially treated that plus-and-minus calculation as a wash. Of course, The Market told them that that was not the right calculation.

If there is another small loft coop with the diversity of properties and values as 64-70 Grand Street, it does not come to mind.

one disorienting listing photo
Speaking of mind-blowing, I had to toggle between the floor plan and pic #5 many times before getting confident that I knew what I was looking at. I don’t think I have ever seen a listing photo with this much fish-eye ‘play’. The camera is in the corner just to the left of the entry door (see the floor plan). As if you were panning around, you see that blue entry door, the door to the bathroom that is right behind the kitchen, the blue bedroom door directly opposite the entry door, and down the long hall that leads to the living room.

That is a full 90 degree view, looking both straight and fully to your right. Kids today, with their cameras!!

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Sep. 28, 2012 - 27 Howard Street sells above ask with (probably) the best low-floor view in Soho?

all because of Crosby Street
Having looked this week at a one floor difference in height that did not matter (much) in Flatiron (September 27, height makes a small difference as Altair 20 lofts sell at 15 West 20 Street), a two floor difference that mattered a great deal in Tribeca (September 25, height matters for 51 Walker Street lofts, even 2 floors). and a 6-floor difference that had a huge impact on Tribeca (September 24, for 69 Murray Street loft, The Peak was then, and almost now), and even last week at a 5th floor loft that underperformed against a 3rd floor loft  in Tribeca (September 21, flip city: 99 Reade Street loft sold in 2011 sells again, up 4%), today I may bring Manhattan Loft Guy Height Week to a close with a second floor loft that sold at a very strong price because of a terrific view. (Not a feature common to second floor lofts.) In fact (as you know from the headline), the “2,000 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 2nd floor at 27 Howard Street sold above ask; and (here’s the news) at $1,324/ft for a space that, though described in glowing babble, really needs a lot of work. The reason is simple geography: 27 Howard Street sits at the foot of Crosby Street, so this loft has an unobstructed view up Crosby Street, essentially to the horizon.

the condition may surprise you
As I said,, the space needs a lot of work. But you would never know that from the terse broker babble (“STUNNER ...12 Foot ORIGINAL TIN CEILINGS, massive Windows with View up Crosby. Other high lights include an open chefs kitchen, central air, a spectacular master bedroom w/ bath ensuite, laundry, (2 gorgeous baths in total)”). Nor would you know that from interior photos, as there aren’t any. When was the last time that you saw a listing for a stunning loft with chef’s this and spectacular that that did not include interior photos??

I was hoping that the photos would jog my memory from when I saw this loft with buyers in the very short time it was available this Spring (to market: May 16; in contract, June 15), but, alas, I can’t be certain of the details on the interior. I do remember that our conversation on the street afterwards was about whether they liked the bathrooms, because it appeared as though the rest of the space would be renovated. (Maybe the kitchen was a keeper?? Or just the appliances???)

Perhaps it was the residents (tenants, I really, really hope), but the place showed very poorly. That front bedroom was a cluttered mess, and that back “sleep area” was more like a closet. The master bedroom was “fine”, except for challenge of splitting it in two, with problem of the bath on one side and the fireplace on the other; to create a (smaller) master plus second bedroom across that 22 ft rear wall should be simple, but for the choice to leave the fireplace in the second bedroom or close off the “master” bath from the second bedroom and make that poor sleeper walk 50 feet to the front bathroom. Finally, I recall that the floors needed finishing and the ceiling updating.

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln … the classicly Long-and-Narrow space was in move-in condition. (Not.) I went back to check our listing system, which shows that the listing agent input the description for circulation among REBNY firms checking the box “Good” for (overall) Condition, as opposed to the “Excellent” that you typically see for “stunning” lofts.

beats the heck out of a very nearby recent sale, and beats another a block away
27 Howard Street shares a lobby, but not the elevator (!) with 29 Howard, so I assume they are a single coop. I hit a fully renovated loft there that sold early this year for (only) $1,383/ft in my March 19, a question of views for gut renovated 29 Howard Street loft at $1,383/ft. I say “only” because that had the advantages of an elevator, a better (higher floor) view, and that full renovation, yet it sold for $1,383/ft compared to the 2nd floor next door at $1,324/ft.

You can pick out any loft sale you like from the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008  to look for other interesting comparisons to the 2nd loor at 27 Howard Street at $1,324/ft. Personally, I think the much larger (“3,008 sq ft”) Manhattan loft #10A at 129 Lafayette Street is pretty interesting, even if not (yet) blogged about here. That sold for $1,300/ft in very mint-y condition, with “brilliant light and breathtaking open views”, in a full-service condo.

Yes, there is a location value difference for being in Soho, as 27 Howard is, compared to being at the edge of Soho, as 129 Lafayette is, but I would caution you from going too far with that approach. First, remember the major differences in quality of the spaces, including the views and light. Second, look at the map: if it takes you more than one minute to walk from 129 Lafayette to 27 Howard (after you cross Lafayette), you are one of those people who clog the streets of Soho when I am trying to get to or from my office at Broadway and Broome.

from that short street to Memory Lane...
I talked about Howard Street in that post, referencing yet another earlier Manhattan Loft Guy opus from that block, Martin Scorcese, and a grafiitti artist:

Howard Street is one of the littler streets in Soho, with few reasons for foot or auto traffic. You can only get to this building in a cab by going up Centre Street or down Lafayette; any farther west and you can get back here. And there is little reason to do that, unless you live here or have business on that bottom block of Crosby, such as at the Hotel Mondrian.


I hit a nearby loft in my November 11, 2010, nice flipping loft at 49 Howard Street, in which I talked about that quiet stretch of street:

There is a sense that this building was in a foggy region (the fog that on old maps indicated the limits of the known world) between prime Soho, Chinatown and the moat that is Canal Street. Howard Street runs only four blocks, west from Centre Street to Mercer, and there is very little car traffic other than cars with business in the bottom block of Crosby, who need Howard Street to get anywhere. Not much pedestrian traffic, either. Martin Scorcese, who knows a thing or two about Manhattan street life, used this stretch of Howard Street in his 1985 film, After Hours. (If you click on the trailer, pay particular attention to the street view in the scene with the Mr. Softee truck.) I.e., d-e-s-o-l-a-t-e.


Here is what a graffiti artist Ellen Harvey had to say about this particular building in 2000, from the Howard Street side, in a book about her street art adventures written in 2005 (New York Beautification Project):


For some reason, this building in SoHo has avoided gentrification. It is completely covered with graffiti and full of garment workers. It’s a bit like going back in time.


Harvey talks about having to avoid the garment business owner on Howard Street. Her Beautification Project #9 was on this building; when she returned to photograph it the next morning, it had already been substantially covered by still more recent graffiti. She took her photos anyway (see the book excerpt).

With that, Height Week comes to a conclusion.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Sep. 20, 2012 - heavily discounted 133 Mercer Street loft just couldn’t compete

when bad things happen to good lofts
Trust me to explain (below) that the Manhattan loft on the 3rd floor of 133 Mercer Street that just sold for $1.75mm sold off of this listing instead of the 2011 listing that Streeteasy associates with the sale, so that we can start with the way this loft was abused by the market, instead of wondering why seller took a nearly 25% haircut many months after trying to sell. (We’ll get to that … promise.) Here’s the nut: the 3rd floor seller thought his loft was precisely comparable to the loft immediately above him that sold for $2.2mm on February 24, 2011. The market did not agree, persistently and emphatically, eventually deciding that the spread between these two same-building lofts was $450,000. As they say around these parts … comping is hard. The 3rd floor seller would agree (now).

we have to start upstairs
The 4th floor loft was an easy fit for the market at the end of 2010: coming out at $2.325mm on November 17, finding a contract by December 10, and closing at $2.2mm on February 24, 2011. The footprint is classic Long-and-Narrow, except for the array of windows: only one on the narrow rear wall, but one at that end on the long south wall and three windows halfway back on the long north wall; these windows permit the master suite to be up long north wall, with the second bedroom extending across the back of the loft with 3 exposures. All the plumbing is in the middle, including 2 bathrooms and a washer-dryer.

The broker babble boasts of light only in the front of the loft (“soft eastern light”) and none of the pictures suggest there is much light coming in from any other window. (There is no photo recognizable as the master suite; the second bedroom photo features more fire escale than light in those windows.)

The overall claim is that the 4th floor was “beautiful[,] elegantly renovated”, with some modest details: an “impeccable kitchen [with] top-of-the-line appliances including Sub-Zero refrigerator and wine refrigerator, Viking Stove and Bosch dishwasher”; a master bathroom with “mosaic tiled steam shower and seat”; plus central air and an in-wall sound system. The bones include 10’6” ceilings and a brick wall running the length of the loft.

The 4th floor suffered some heartbreak earlier in 2010, however. StreetEasy treats the marketing that began on January 13, 2010 by the same agent using the same photos, floor plan and broker babble as a separate listing. They started then at $2.495mm before dropping to $2.295mm. They got to contract by June 30 but that contract never closed, and they were back on the market on November 17, 2010, as above.

comping is …
That sale st $2.2mm on February 24, 2011 was rather relevant to the 3rd floor owner. Here is the full listing history, which surely implies that the seller believed his loft was the equal of the 4th floor loft.

May 26, 2011 new to market $2.295mm
Aug 2 hiatus  
Nov 23 change firms $2.25mm
Nov 28   $1.995mm
Jan 19, 2012   $1.875mm
Feb 23   $1.75mm
May 15 contract  
Aug 17 sold $1.75mm

Contra the 3rd floor owner, this history surely establishes that his loft was not in the same class as the 4th floor.

Part of that disadvantage is structural. The 3rd floor floor plan has but one bath, so no en suite bedroom. The side windows permit a bedroom away from the rear wall, in this case the second bedroom.

Part of that disadvantage has to be the condition, which is not as “beautiful[,] elegantly renovated” as the 4th floor, based on the testimony of the photos and between the lines in the babble. I will quote the guts of it so you will see how modest the babble is:

The living space is open and the use of space is flexible - allowing for a full dining area and a large living/entertaining space and perhaps an office area utilizing the room's floor to ceiling bookcases. The kitchen is open to the enormous room and the front windows border Mercer Street to the East. One window is a full height working door - if you prefer to hear Soho's sounds or enjoy a sunny day. The apartment has one enormous bath with a soaking tub and radiant floor heating and a good sized laundry and storage room. The master bedroom is large with plenty of built-in storage and the second bedroom also has a wall of built in storage.

All the descriptors are about scale rather than mints! (I cheated by italicizing them above.) The market didn’t buy it at $2.295mm. Or $2.25mm. Or the $2.2mm garnered by the 4th floor. Or $1.875mm. After 8 months of marketing, it took 2 months at $1.75mm to get that.

If that $1.75mm value sounds familiar, you probably remember seeing it (way back) in the 4th floor history on StreetEasy. That loft sold for $1.75mm on July 8, 2005. Way back, indeed.

touching your feet
As you see from he StreetEasy building page, the (full floor) lofts in this building have been described as anywhere from “1,750 sq ft” to “1,500 sq ft”, with “1,700 sq ft”  a pretty common claim. In our listing system the range is even larger, from “1,900 sq ft” to “1,500 sq ft”, with stops at “1,800”, “1,700” and “1,650”. But as you will see from comparing the 3rd floor and 4th floor floor plans, the lofts have the same exterior walls.

I am going to make a judgment call here, and use “1,700 sq ft” for all these lofts in Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008, as the plurality result, rather than different sizes for what are clearly the same-sized lofts. That change brings the 3rd floor sale down to $1,029/ft, more in line with lofts on the Master List in less distinguished locations than fashionable Mercer Street (below Prince). Still 10% higher than the well-dressed loft 2 blocks due north that I hit in my September 12, “noted architect” will be disappointed that “incredible” 200 Mercer Street loft went for $939/ft, however.

fun fact
In 1992, the 3rd floor sold for $345,000. I would not be surprised if the kitchen then was very similar to that in the latest marketing.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Sep. 13, 2012 - quintessential artist loft sells for $1,525/ft at 38 Crosby Street

oh that light!
A day after hitting an architect designed Greenwich Village loft that sold under $1,000/ft (September 12, “noted architect” will be disappointed that “incredible” 200 Mercer Street loft went for $939/ft), here is a “2,000 sq ft” Soho “quintessential artist’s loft” that is so quintessential that it has a “bedroom/studio”, a single bathroom, and a glass brick wall. You know the punchline if you glanced at the headline: $1,525/ft. If you glanced at the sub-head, you can guess that that loft-y price for a primitive Manhattan loft may be due to the light from what is, in Soho, a high floor. In fact, I wonder if this loft, the Manhattan loft #9R at 38 Crosby Street (in the condop also known as 476 Broadway) might have the best view of any loft in Soho.

You can’t see the views on StreetEasy (why is that??), but here is the relevant broker babble from SE:

Quintessential artist's loft facing N/S/E and 14 windows! Great space with extraordinary light from three exposures and just under 12 foot ceilings, keyed elevator and two entrances, one of which opens up directly into the apartment. Iconic views of the Empire State, Woolworth and Police buildings, new Freedom Tower and Manhattan & Brooklyn bridges! Approx 2000 SF, with flexible floor plan, lending itself to various configurations. It can easily convert to three bedrooms and two or more bathrooms.

The floor plan is available on StreetEasy, revealing a classic Long-and-Narrow footprint that is unusual for having windows only one narrow wall (east, in this case, bringing the old Police HQ and the bridges) and windows on both long walls, 7 to the north (bringing the Empire State Building) and 2 to the south (hello, Woolworth Building and [no longer named] Freedom Tower). Iconic icons to have out your windows!

Obviously, the sub-text to the babble is that you will upgrade after buying. That’s the beauty of the “flexible floor plan, lending itself to various configurations”, and the implication of “[q]uintessential artist's loft”. And, of course, a “2,000 sq ft” loft with a single bathroom will have some plumbing added.

Now that I have teased you about the views, go to the Town site and watch the large format photo gallery scroll by. (Waiting ….)

Those views are distracting, even in the interior photos. By the way, those interior photos show walls, ceilings and floor in pretty good shape. But they show the kitchen only obliquely, and the bathroom not at all. Remember: this is a “[q]uintessential artist's loft”; those plumbing rooms are going to be replaced, and another bathroom added. Without those windows, the open views, and the iconic icons, thsi loft would not sell anywhere near $1,525/ft.

Crosby Street is da bomb
Compare this loft at $1,525/ft to the WOW loft up the street that I hit in my August 30, WOW, indeed: “wow factor” loft at 66 Crosby Street has late bidding war to close up 60% over 2006, which cleared at $1,554/ft. That one had terrific bones and drool-worthy classic loft elements, though no view better than a (very nice, but still) Soho street view. This one has not much that is classic, but oh those views!

Or, compare this loft to the prewar faker that sold at $1,572/ft  in a full service condo that I hit just last week in my September 7, loft at 65 West 13 Street disguised as prewar apartment sells at $1,572/ft. That one was very well dressed (not to my liking, but still), in a building that commands that price range. This building does not generally command this range.

a 200 foot long building
As StreetEasy tells you, this loft building is also known as 476 Broadway. If you can access Property Shark, you will see the building dimensions given as 50 x 200 feet, but the accompanying building photos show that the Broadway facade is much wider than the Crosby Street facade, 5 double windows to 3.

Most of the past recent sales have been on the Broadway side, facing west, with these sales nowhere near #9R at $1,525/ft:

#8M Oct 20, 2010 $1,108/ft
#11F Sept 28, 2010 $1,267/ft
#6F Aug 12, 2010 $1,064/ft
#2F June 25, 2010 $503/ft (!)
#8F June 24, 2010 $1,128/ft

The last sale on the Crosby Street side was a Peak sale that should have nearly as good views as #9R, as it was just one floor down. Loft #8R was babbled as a total build-out (read between the lines, you’ll see) with beautiful views. With a December 2007 contract and a February 2008 closing, #8R was about as Peak as Peak can be. Yet it sold then at (only) $2.675mm, compared to #9R at 14% higher.

Oh. Those. Views.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Sep. 5, 2012 - third 307 West Broadway loft sells in 2012

a big jolt to the system

Small Manhattan loft buildings have fragile ecosystems, and the smaller the more fragile. Take as one example the 7-unit oh-so-classic loft building 307 West Broadway at the extreme southern edge of Soho. I hit it when the New York Times did a wonderful piece a year ago on a loft, the building, and the micr-nabe circa 1983 (at a time I lived nearby, across the moat that is Canal Street) (in my August 7, 2011, Soho in 1983: $211,000 for 3,300 sq ft; still an artist's loft), and again when a long-time shareholder sold the 6th floor loft in very primitive condition (in my April 16, artist loft clears at $742/ft in south Soho, 307 West Broadway), and yet again when those people profiled in the NY times for their 1983 beachhead in the neighborhood sold the 7th floor (in pretty nice condition), in my May 8, ballyhooed artist loft with unique floor plan + top kitchen sells for $962/ft at 307 West Broadway. Last week the deed record transferring the 3rd floor loft hit the public record.

You don’t have to find the calculator on your smart phone to see that that is 3 of 7 lofts to change hands in 2012, all sold by long-time shareholders. (Get your calculator if you don’t see that is 43% turnover this year.) Yes, nothing stays the same. And, sometimes change happens quickly.

raw price is $2.45mm
Coincidence or not, the 3rd floor just sold for the exact price of the 6th floor, in similar condition but without the “Open View and excellent light”, including “partial river view”. The “3,200 sq ft” 3rd floor came out at $2.65mm on April 12 and found the contract by June 17 that closed on August 16 at $2.45mm. There are as many ways to describe a loft as primitive as their agents; this way is pretty clear: “has not been touched for 30 years”. Thus, it is all about the bones, including the risers:

north, south, east and west exposures, 16 windows, 2 plumbing risers, tin ceilings and 6 wood columns. Behind the existing tin ceiling there are wood beams. The loft has enough space to create 3-4 bedrooms and 2+ bathrooms

The 6th floor was in the same shape, stated less emphatically and more conventionally: “Artist’s Loft .... Create a masterpiece within this 36 x 90 ft full floor plan”. That one took a lot longer to find a buyer, perhaps as a reflection that there were no perfect comps for this sort of loft in this micr-nabe, coming out at June 1, 2011 at $2.8mm and finding the contract by December 7 that closed on April 2 at $2.45mm.

Having that raw price set by the 6th floor, the 3rd floor (probably) just fell into line.

I still am somewhat surprised that the spread between raw (at $2.45mm, now twice) and not mint (“move in condition” with a “top of the line” kitchen) (at $3.175mm) is not smaller. That $700,000 is $219/ft worth of renovation, without considering the time, headaches and risk that a renovation does not work out as planned. Perhaps these renovations are cheaper than I thought.

Are the 4th and 5th floor owners getting ideas?

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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Aug. 30, 2012 - WOW, indeed: "wow factor" loft at 66 Crosby Street has late bidding war to close up 60% over 2006

I [heart] Lofts Week continues....
Yes, I was a little over the top yesterday in my praise for the (mini) loft that sold at an astounding (for the building) price per foot (that was August 29, unique loft at 236 West 26 Street bends the market by selling well above comps). My defense is that I love beautiful lofts (even tiny ones that are impossible to comp). So when I clicked on the large format main listing photo for the “2,300 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4CD at 66 Crosby Street last night, my first reaction was to use a bad word in a good way: “holy [crap]”, said more as benediction than scatology. I hope I am not getting soft in my old age, but once again I find the broker babble that normally sounds hackneyed, true:

Classic loft with "wow factor" on Soho's most coveted street

Seriously: just click on the large format photos. Anyone who appreciates classic Manhattan lofts will be impressed by 14 foot ceilings, an entire east wall of thigh-to-ceiling windows, cast-iron columns, and abundant exposed brick (with arches!). This is one drool-worthy set of bones, for the folks who like that sort of thing. (I do.)

holy [crap] pricing, too
The listing is coy about size, but it was marketed as “2,300 sq ft” when it sold in 2006. At that size, the sales price of $3.575mm comes to a princely $1,554/ft. Wow.

The listing history is odd, as this loft got a contract above asking price, but it took more than 6 months for that to happen. (To market on October 27, 2011 at $3.499mm, in contract by May 8, closed on August 9; contract date from inter-firm data-base, which shows the StreetEasy “no longer available” thing in May was a temporary listing issue.) A $76,000 premium over ask after 6 months on the market gets a double: Wow + Wow.

You would reasonably infer from the September 13, 2006 sale at (only) $2.255mm that the loft enjoyed a major upgrade between then and now. (That worked yesterday, in fact.) But you’d be wrong. A nearly 60% increase over 2006 without a significant change in condition gets a triple: Wow + Wow + Wow.

That babble about the “wow factor” turns out to be quite apt. I am not going to Go For Four, but not only is this $3.575mm loft in substantially the same condition as when it sold in 2006 at $2.255mm, it probably needs a major upgrade. How else to interpret this bit of babble?

approved architectural plans (see alternative floorplan) for potential renovation with reconfigured bedrooms & baths, new half bath, large chef's kitchen & built-in home office

Alas, that alternative floor plan is not available on-line through StreetEasy or Sothebys, though it is in our listing data-base. Basically, the entire west end of the loft is proposed to be redone, with the kitchen moving forward (the new island would contain that middle column) and the all-new bathrooms directly behind the kitchen.

What you also cannot see from the inter-firm data-base is the listing agent’s check-the-boxes description of the loft’s current condition. In this case, the agent’s choice of “good” (as opposed to “excellent” or “mint”) for overall condition as well as specifically for the kitchen and the bathrooms confirms what is implied in the broker babble: this place needs an upgrade.

Then v. Now is almost a tie, except if you measure in dollars
I have already given you the major hint about condition in the broker babble excerpt, above. Here is the core of the babble; be sure to look for one very pregnant “new”:

dramatic space features restored original cast-iron columns, beautiful exposed brick arches, abundant natural light through a wall of 5 enormous new oak-framed sash windows, building-wide central HVAC with 2 thermostatically controlled zones, 14'+/- ceilings & hardwood floors. Open kitchen with 6-burner Wolf stove, commercial-grade vented hood, stainless Miele dishwasher & new double-door refrigerator with bottom freezer. A movable granite island is fashioned from an antique cast-iron drafting table.

The babble from 2006:

great cubic volume with 14' ceilings, and a wall of sunlight streaming in from the five, oversized, 10' windows. Along with cast iron Doric columns, exposed brick walls, and its classic masonry & cast iron facade, it still has the aura of authenticity missing in so many loft homes lately. This long established co-op has low monthlies too. It's currently configured with two sleeping areas and two full baths in nice, move-in, condition; but priced so that you can bring your architect, and your imagination with you

Just from my first quick read of the babble, I wondered if that kitchen with those wonderful appliances could be new since 2006, but then I focused on the very precise “new” for the double-door refrigerator with bottom freezer. As the photos confirm (2006 pictures from Corcoran), that is the same kitchen, apart from the frig and the moveable island. I love precise babble: the other time “new” is used in the excerpted babble above is also significant, as the pictures confirm that the windows are, in fact, new.

There are not enough pictures in both sets to permit direct Then v. Now comparisons, but the 2006 floor plan from Corcoran shows the same set up in 2006 as now (allowing for differences in tape measure skills; the walls and plumbing line up the same as in the new floor plan). So we have a loft that sold for $2.255mm within 18 months of The Peak (let’s call that the Early Froth), then was improved by new oak windows, a new kitchen island and a new double-door frig before selling for $3.575mm.

Facts are facts, but wow. Just. Wow. That spread makes no sense to me.

$1,554/ft for a exceptional skeleton with name brand appliances and a challenging floor plan. The space is nearly square, which usually means there is a lot of flexibility in possible arrangements. But in this case, those huge east windows are the only windows in the space so you will either severely restrict the sense of volume by stealing some windows for a bedroom, or make do with interior “bedrooms” as the current and proposed floor plans do.

I find that this is one of those things that separates Loft People from Apartment People: if you could imagine spending $3.5mm and not getting a window in a bedroom, you are a Loft Person; if this is an absolute non-starter, you are an Apartment Person. (Note to self … come up with other questions for the Loft People / Apartment People quiz; this sounds promising.)

I hit the exact same footprint, though with higher ceilings that double up some space, in my April 15, 2011, 66 Crosby Street loft sells for $868/ft as a very tall project. That #2CD sale at $2.995mm for “3,400 sq ft” still makes #4CD at $3.575mm stick out. I thought then that #2Cd was in a similar condition to #4CD as of 2006, and wondered about whether the layout would survive the new owner:

This loft is a bit of a time machine. Ignore the new kitchen (with Bertazzoni stove), new guest bath, and central air, and you are looking at a space that has been largely untouched since the building was converted to a coop about 30 years ago, at least. The main floor was for working, clearly, while upstairs there are “sleeping quarters” (how quaint!) and a master bath. This level is open to the rest of the space, and with 16 feet ceilings, this arrangement is more like a true duplex than the mere mezzanine you would have with even 14 foot ceilings. The guest bath and darkroom are behind the kitchen on the back wall, and there are no other walls in the space apart from the master bath upstairs and a lateral divider, again upstairs. Talk about volume!

I still wonder. And I still think that #2CD and (current) #4CD are in similar condition, with #2CD potentially more valuable for offering the possibility of keeping that 8 foot ceiling mezzanine space. Did I mention tha I am having trouble understanding #4CD at $3.575mm?

moving up in the world, but just a little in Soho
Rather than continue to beat that deceased horse, I will note that the #4CD buyers are moving to twice the space at twice the money than their previous home. They are not moving far (just 3 blocks west and to the other side of Spring Street) and they probably will do that upgrade. They bought this in 2010, though it now looks like this (they are selling, but you didn’t hear that from me). Two years is a pretty quick transition from a small Soho loft to a larger Soho loft. They obviously like classic loft elements like columns, big windows and brick walls. Bless their hearts for that.

Good luck to them. I predict they do not paint the 66 Crosby brick white and that they re-do the baths to match (at least) the old place. But I will probably never know, alas.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Jul. 23, 2012 - double bold-faced loft sale at 354 Broome Street: a harbinger or just a Bright Shiny Object?

getting tired of the Jedi mind trick
The recent sale of the Manhattan loft #3H at 354 Broome Street was a Bright Shiny Object for Jessica Gould Keil in the New York Post last week, in part because she was able to run a Victoria's Secret photo. (How could the Post avoid a Victoria's Secret photo?) The hook for music fans of a certain age was the connection to The Strokes. The hook for Manhattan Loft Guy was the gain from 2010. (Simple me.) The same loft that sold for $1.025mm in January 2010 just sold again for $1.25mm. Efficient market fans would hope that the loft was dramatically improved in the intervening 2 years, but I have given you enough hints to know that this loft will disappoint the rational market fans.

I can find some differences in the condition of the loft circa 2010 and currently, but not enough to account for the recent 22% gain. This was then:

Triple mint architecturally designed Pre-war loft … . this 1015 sq ft loft features original columns, 10 ft + beamed ceilings, 2 spa like bathrooms (with heated floors), 2 fully outfitted walk in closets and an over-sized master bedroom with en suite bath. The Chef's Poggenpohl kitchen sports Sub-Zero/ Miele appliances ... in ceiling BandW 2-zone sound system, central air conditioning and custom Poliform walk in closets.

This is now:

architecturally designed loft …. generous master suite with custom Poliform walk-in closet, this approximately 1,015-square foot 2-bathroom loft with office/library …. Poggenpohl kitchen includes a Sub-Zero refrigerator and Miele appliances: dishwasher, built-in coffee maker, gas cooktop, and convection oven. ... central air conditioning, an enormous utility closet, heated floors in the bathrooms, in-ceiling BandW 2-zone sound system, and original columns.

The floor plans show that the kitchen used to have a larger footprint and there was a now-absent wall setting off an office in front (then, now). But the two sets of babble imply the same high-end finishes throughout, including the sound system and Poliform closets.

was that then, and is this now?
Of course, I cheated a bit in describing the earlier sale as a 2010 sale. Yes, it closed for $1.025mm on January 25, 2010 but that contract was entered into by November 6, 2009.

The November 2009 market was a post-Thaw market, but just barely. One could make a rational argument that the "2010" sale was not in equivalent conditions to the current market, but $225,000 does not leave enough room for rationality, in my mind, at least.

Regular readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know that I tend to focus on Bright Shiny Objects, usually being sales that are 'interesting' for working against the overall trend lines of the Manhattan residential real estate market. Lately, that has sometimes taken the form of wondering whether a Jedi mind trick is to blame for certain recent sales at higher prices without a matching increase in the quality of the loft. For example:

Not to go all Nostradamus on ya, but I have to wonder if this type of BSO sale is not so much an outlier but the sign of a market in transition, and that the trend line will (eventually) show that The Market began to pick up in mid 2012. Not predicting, remember; just wondering. Now I have another filter for my Confirmation Bias to work through. You've been warned.

building record: shattered!
The last three sales in the building were at substantially lower values than #3H at $1,232/ft. The “[d]ramatic and beautifully designed” #4C sold at $903/ft in September 2011; the “dramatic” loft #6B with “generous chef's kitchen” sold for $935/ft in May 2011; and the (yes, again) “dramatic” loft #5E  with “beautifully renovated and minimal kitchen” (not sure what that means) sold for $911/ft in December 2010. With one exception, you have to go to just after The Peak to see a 4-figure price per foot, when the loft #5G (“Triple Mint Architectural Renovation”) sold at $1,088/ft.

That #5G sale seems to be the building record, as of a month ago, though it was challenged by the 2010 sale of loft #3H (you remember: $1.025mm, or $1,010/ft).

Now look again at #3H on June 27, 2012: $1.25mm, or $1,232/ft. Maybe a Jedi mind trick, after all....

© Sandy Mattingly 2012
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Jun. 18, 2012 - hard to comp loft at 115 Mercer Street closes up 10% over 2007 sponsor sale

and up 14% over upstairs neighbor with bad timing

The “2,170 sq ft” Manhattan loft #3A at 115 Mercer Street is one of 7 units in this 2007 residential loft condominium conversion and is now the second resale in the building, a circumstance that makes it difficult to use comp analysis. One interesting data point is the first resale about two years ago, when the neighbor directly upstairs sold essentially the same loft at $2.875mm. Compared to that sale of loft #4A the recent clearing price of $3.275mm for #3A looks pretty good, but this listing history tells me the sellers were disappointed to get only $3.275mm:

Nov 9, 2011 new to market $3.895mm
Dec 13   $3.695mm
Jan 24, 2012   $3.495mm
April 9 contract  
May 30 sold $3.275mm

That’s off 16% from where they started. The three prices in the first 11 weeks show a high level of motivation, as does doing a deal a hefty $625,000 off the first ask, and $220,000 off the last.One might say, they gave it a shot for a huge premium over #4A at $2.875mm in April 2010 but when it did not work they adjusted. And adjusted again. And, one more time.

adjusting for a market slam
The #3A sellers knew (hoped?) that the #4A resale at $2.875mm was anomalous because the sponsor sale of #4A on February 1, 2007 was at $3,156,575. They could see that #4A came out at at a difficult time and was out there in the market a long time:

Jan 6, 2009 new to market $3.3mm
Mar 3   $3.25mm
Mar 24    $2.995mm
June 5    $2.95mm
July 30 hiatus  
Oct 28 back on market  
Nov 13 hiatus  
Mar 3, 2010 back on market $3.1mm
April 19 sold $2.875mm

Clearly, #4A was fighting the nuclear winter in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market for most of that first 7 months on the market, with the thaw beginning at the end of that period. In the retrospect available to Monday morning quarterbacks like Manhattan Loft Guy, these timing and market decisions could not have worked out worse: they started at the wrong time, they took a hiatus at the wrong time, and they did not give it enough time in that brief effort in the Fall of 2009. Then they came back to market in the new conditions of 2010 at a price suggesting a higher confidence in their value, but (it appears) they took the first deal that presented itself. (I don’t see a contract date in our system, but the StreetEasy date of April 21 is 2 days after the closing; that deal must have been struck almost immediately after they brought #4A back at $3.1mm.

In short, that #4A tortured history suggests that those sellers got squeezed by the market in 2009 and may have left money on the table in 2010. I can see why sellers and agents in 2011 would make that argument about the #4A comp when #3A came to market, even though #4A in April 2010 was not actually a trough sale. Clearly, The Market accepted that argument, but not to full extent of $3.895mm, or $3.695mm, or even $3.495mm.

Nice try, that worked “a bit”. It got the #3A sellers 10% more than they had paid in the original sale, $2,978,381 in October 2007. If you did not know that they had been asking $3.895mm at the start, you’d think that +10% over the sponsor price was a good result (even if sales fees and transfer taxes would have eaten up most of that 10% gross gain).

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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May. 24, 2012 - 40 Mercer Street news: nothing says successful new development like a 7-figure gain since 2007

nothing to sneeze at here
It is impressive that the “1,745 sq ft” Manhattan loft #21 on the 5th floor at 40 Mercer Street just sold at a gain of $800,000 over the 2007 sponsor sale, of course. How much more impressed are you to learn that the “1,649 sq ft” loft #3A just sold at a $1mm gain over the sponsor sale, also in early 2007? Maybe I have not paid enough attention to new development loft condos circa 2007, but I can’t immediately think of another new set of Manhattan lofts that have done as well in the market as this Jean Nouvel project.

Here is the data, which is easier to track on the new Streeteasy once you know that loft #3A is condo unit #1:

#3A   Mar 16, 2007 sponsor sale $3,003,837
  #21 April 4 sponsor sale $2,698,362
  #21 Aug 25, 2010 new to market $4.25mm
  #21 Jun 6, 2011   $4.55mm
  #21 Oct 26   $3.995mm
#3A   Dec 20 new to market $4.5mm
  #21 Jan 3, 2012 contract  
#3A   Feb 23   $4.35mm
#3A   Mar 15 contract  
  #21 April 18 sold $3.5mm
#3A   April 24 sold $4.05mm

a corner market premium
Though (slightly) smaller, loft #3A was valued more highly than loft #21 by both the sponsor and the resale market, though loft #21 is two floors higher and splits the two bedrooms (on a $/ft basis, 18% higher in the sponsor sale, 22% higher in the 2012 resale market). They obviously directly competed against each other in both marketing periods; anyone looking at one would have also looked at the other.

The principal relevant difference between the floor plans for #3A and #21 is likely to be that, while both have a long wall of north-facing windows, #3A also has a (short) wall of west windows; not having been in either space I cannot find any other difference in favor of the smaller loft that is likely to impact values to this degree.

economics & agents
The StreetEasy page for loft #3A (not linked to unit #1, by the way) shows that the unit was rented as of December 2009 from an asking rent of $20,000/mo, and that the (now newly re-sold) loft is again available for rent at $20,000/mo. The economics of that situation are obviously heavily tilted in favor of the original owner, who paid a million bucks less than the very recent buyer.

This sequence also suggests that the original owner lived in the unit for the first two years, as it did not hit at least the public rental market until October 2008 and was not rented until 14 months later.

Close fans of the Manhattan residential real estate market will recognize the name of the prime listing agent on loft #3A, and will see that the sales listing changed from PruDE to Town when he changed firms. Fans who are as nosy as I am will check the deed record, and have already noted that that lead agent was also the seller of loft #3A. I assume the buyers knew that the seller’s agent was the seller, though the broker babble does not say so.

That agent is famously successful as an agent, but look how well he did here as a seller. The Shark tells me that he took a mortgage for $2.36mm when he bought in 2007, so he put down (and paid in transfer taxes) about $650,000. Assuming he did not take a bath by moving elsewhere before he rented it, $20,000/mo should more than have covered his nut (mortgage payments plus common charges plus abated taxes). For that $650,000 down payment and the obligation to pay the mortgage and other monthlies, he pocketed walked away from the closing with $1.7mm (on which capital gains taxes are due, but still ...).

Nicely played, sir; nicely played. Maybe he should quit his day job.

I had put this sale aside, to post about it only after I tracked down the rules about agents-as-principals, but I got lucky today. The email to REBNY members with the “Legal Line Question of the Week” arrived today with the answer. Outside counsel to REBNY’s residential real estate division write today:

Title 19 Sections 175.4, 175.5 and 175.6 of the NYCRR [the State’s rules and regulations, codified] do require a real estate broker to make disclosures to the other parties involved in a real estate transaction when the real estate broker has an ownership interest in the property involved in the transaction.

Those regulations do not specify when that disclosure is to be made, but counsel suggests it be made in writing when the NYS agency disclosure form is provided, and if that form is not required, at “first substantive contact”. Personally, I recall having often seen “broker/owner” at the end of broker babble on a sales listing, so I know that at least some agents do it that way. I assume this agent / seller did the right thing, but I think the better course is to put it in the listing description instead of (or in addition to?) relying on a separate written document to be provided.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012
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May. 23, 2012 - playing with 475 Broadway loft comp that is up +58% over 2004

right facts and wrong facts; helpful facts and distractions
I’ve been having a running conversation with a very savvy client about values in Soho, including market trajectory currently and in recorded history. He is wondering about a classic Soho loft that was gut renovated 7 years ago that is now asking nearly 70% more than it sold for then (needing that gut). He is trying to suss out how much of the current market value is based on the renovation, and how much is simple market appreciation over 7 years. The most interesting comp in our discussion is a similarly-sized loft that sold recently at a 58% premium to when it last sold. The conversation is interesting because (like all good buyer conversations) it is fact-based, using actual Manhattan loft sales data; it is really interesting because I think having so much information in this instance confuses rather than reveals.

It is hardly controversial to say that the most recent highly relevant comp for any loft is a much more important data point than anything that happened 7 or 8 years ago. My guy knows this, but in a world in much there is more information than just current comps, it can be hard to stay focused. And harder still for a guy who prides himself on fact-based analysis (yours truly, that is) to argue, essentially, that it is wiser to ignore the past history of the very loft you are interested in because that history (in this particular case) is unhelpful, or even wrong. (Let’s put aside the metaphysics involved in calling a market fact such as a past open market sale wrong. Please.)

That relevant comp is the “2,500 sq ft” Manhattan loft #6E at 475 Broadway, which has sold in this sequence:

  • May 7, 2012 $3.2mm
  • December 13, 2004 $2.025mm
  • September 9, 2002 $1,873,700

That’s up 58% in the 8 years since 2004 (as noted) and up 71% in 10 years.

The “2,500 sq ft” floor plan is on a Long-and-Narrow footprint with a stub in the back where the master suite sticks out. The place is done, with classic loft elements and improvements that include:

  • huge windows
  • 13’ ceilings
  • a gas fireplace
  • wooden inlays
  • wainscoting
  • crown moldings
  • 300 bottle temperature controlled wine room
  • Subzero and Viking appliances
  • maple cabinets and granite countertops.
  • marble bathrooms (with rain shower and Jacuzzi)
  • dual zone AC

(Personally, I don’t view wainscotting and crown moldings as “improvements” in a classic Soho loft [it looks rather UES to me], but to each her own.)

Manhattan Loft Guy snobbery aside, The Market loved this loft, as it came out on January 10 at $3.25mm and found the contract by January 25 that closed on May 7 at $3.2mm. Can’t argue with that.

You would never know it from StreetEasy, but this was the exact same beautiful loft (with the same floor plan) then, as now, though the living room light fixtures have been changed and there is a different tall sculpture next to the fireplace. Per our listing system, this is the broker babble that lead to the sale at $2.025mm:

Dramatic 2500 sq ft high full-floor condo loft offering an expansive living and entertaining space with a wall of oversized windows and 13' ceilings throughout. The loft includes a new top of the line kitchen, dining room, 3 full bedrooms, two of which have bathrooms en suite, and 3 full new marble bathrooms. There are beautiful details and crown moldings, a fireplace, central air-conditioning, and excellent light through oversized windows in all rooms.

Thus, the entire gain of $1.175mm from December 2004 to in May 2012 is market appreciation. (Similarly, the spare listing data in our system from the September 2002 sales suggests that loft #6E was even then a wainscotted wonder, which is consistent with an appreciation way back then of [only] 8% in the 27 months between those two long-ago sale; a big improvement in condition then would have been more rewarded.)

history is a distracting subject
In contrast, the subject loft I have been discussing with my client has a similar trajectory but different history. That loft is a good comp in location, size, light and (now) condition as #6E at the Hohner Building II (aka Soho Tower) and is offered at a similar price per foot as loft #6E. But that one last sold about a year later than the prior sale of #6E needing a gut renovation. Despite needing a gut renovation, it sold then at 93% of loft #6E on a $/ft basis. Some of that 2005 value was about a year’s worth of market appreciation, but 2005 was not nearly as frothy for the overall Manhattan residential real estate market as 2007.

My guy is worried about that loft, that (given the purchase price + renovation cost) it has not appreciated as much as it ‘should’, so he wonders about the values. It has not yet sold at under $1,300/ft, after having been bought in 2005 under $800/ft and built out for (let’s assume) at least $200/ft. That leaves barely another $300/ft as market appreciation from 2005 to 2012 (no more than 30%), which strikes my guy as paltry. And troublesome, because difficult to understand.

Respectfully, sir, you are being distracted by the details, uncomfortably anchored in that 2005 price as a total gut job. My working hypothesis, in considering the roughly parallel history of loft #6E with a different starting condition, is that the folks who bought the subject loft in 2005 and spent considerable money fixing it up overpaid for it in that market, and that the only thing that makes sense to look at now is how that loft compares to loft #6E and its other peer sales.

In this case, the subject loft hopes to achieve in the current market the value that loft #6E got, which seems reasonable based on comparing the two lofts. Forget the fact that going back 7 and 8 years, the two lofts sold in very different conditions at values that are uncomfortably similar, under any rational market analysis. Forget the fact that the current sellers -- even if they get their asking price -- will not reap the gains that the #6E sellers just did, because they had to invest in the renovation that #6E never needed.

As a buyer, focus on current comps. Don’t get distracted by the details of history when there is better hard data to consider. Leave that to bloggers.

And leave it to the 2005-buyers-who-renovated-then-sold-in-2012 (they hope) to rue the appreciation from then to now, however paltry. Bummer, for them. Irrelevant (when there is more relevant information), for you.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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May. 8, 2012 - ballyhooed artist loft with unique floor plan + top kitchen sells for $962/ft at 307 West Broadway

famous in New York Times, and Manhattan Loft Guy
Talk about using the Real Estate Industrial Complex, Manhattan Media Division to your benefit! I have to wonder if there is any connection between the fact that the “3,300 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 7th floor at 307 West Broadway that just sold was brought to market within two months of having been the subject of a lovely piece in the New York Times about Soho, back in the day. I hit that Times piece in my August 7, 2011, Soho in 1983: $211,000 for 3,300 sq ft; still an artist's loft., which gave me the chance to walk down memory lane, as I knew well the brick-strewn lot across the street from #307 (which a reader corrected me was the former St Alphonsus Church site, lost to foundation problems from the underground stream). Whether the Times piece coincided with or prompted the idea, the long-time, old school artist types who built this loft and lived to negotiate construction indemnification agreements with the developers of the Soho Mews next door put the loft up for sale on October 4. (Maybe, after the lovely publicity, they had people asking if they would sell.)

They shot for the moon in pricing, but accepted the stars:

Aug 7, 2011 NYT  
Oct 4 new to market $3.75mm
Jan 11, 2012 contract  
April 23 sold $3.175mm

no stars below
The 7th floor loft is in better condition than the loft immediately below, which was being offered for sale when the NY Times piece was published, as I noted in my August 7 post. As I said then about the 6th floor, then asking $2.8mm, “[t]hat loft appears to be in truly primitive condition, with just one bath, compared to the 7th floor with its nice (modern) kitchen with a huge Viking cook top“, and

Of course, that loft has not yet sold, so the asking price is just the ... you know ... asking price. But $2.8mm might well be a reasonable starting point for negotiations for a “3,300 sq ft” loft in much more primitive condition than the 7th floor.

Wherever those negotiations for the 6th floor started, they ended at $2.45mm. I hit that sale in my April 16, artist loft clears at $742/ft in south Soho, 307 West Broadway, when the 7th floor was in contract but not yet closed. That spread of $725,000 between the 6th and 7th floors is fascinating, at $220/ft enough by itself to do a reasonable gut renovation. But I suspect that the 7th floor buyers will not gut the place, as the front of the 7th floor (featuring the “top of the line eat-in kitchen with chef’s appliances … [and] a spa like master bath”) looks to be in quite good enough shape to retain. I can imagine a buyer redoing only the back of the loft into 2 or 3 massive bedrooms and open space to take advantage of the north and south exposures. (The proposed alternate floor plan is about as simple [and inexpensive] a re-do as possible, requiring a new [or newly finished] floor and only the carpentry to put up 3 walls.)

Net-net, I am surprised that the 7th floor did so well in comparison to the 6th floor.

unique is in the eyes of the beholder
Lofts in the building are full floor, a nicely proportioned Long-and-Narrow footprint. On the 7th floor there are 5 south windows and 4 north windows, in addition to the front and back extensive walls of windows (arched in front!). One never knows what someone else thinks is “unique”, but the babble has this as “a unique floor plan that will intrigue”. Whether that is that because of the angled walls or because there is finished space up front and artist space in back, does not really matter; neither is a unique feature. But brokers will babble ….

The 6th floor listing contains several “view” pictures that offer perspectives that would also be available one flight up. I wondered in that April 16 post about one of the “views” offered in that listing:

There are more photos of the nearby environs than there are of the interior, which makes sense to a point. That point ends with the pic #6, looking southwest at the intersection of West Broadway and Canal Street, with its aggressive painting to prevent box-blocking suggesting the reality that the intersection tends to get backed up, with attendant horns. I applaud the presentation of reality; I wonder about the image as a sales item.

The 7th floor has the advantage of the arched front windows, which offer “Hudson River views to the west”. Maybe the extra 12 feet in height really makes a difference here, as you would think the 6th floor would have highlighted a river view (if it existed) given the prominence of the canal Street ‘view’.

If you like your wood columns au natural and the beams exposed you will prefer the 6th floor look; if you like white columns in white rooms, without exposed beams, you will prefer the 7th floor look.

one more time: an editing mistake or bad pun?
I didn’t get the NY Times headline back in August. (The loft-owning artist did not seem to need a muse.) Only for that April 16 post did I go back and notice the mis-spelling in the Times piece of Soho Mews condo as Soho Muse. Presumably, that is the source of the unfortunate headline pun, but I wonder if Constance Rosenbloom did that on purpose, or if she simply got the name of the 311 West Broadway condo as the wrong homonym.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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May. 5, 2012 - this very Winka-tect designed 497 Greenwich Street loft was all over the inter-tubes

so I had to track it down
I don’t know why it came up like dandelions, but I saw a bunch of tweets last week about an Archi-tectonics designed loft in Soho, with links from many, many design websites, including this one and this one. Never one to let sleeping lofts lie (let alone sleeping lofts that are both high-fashion and all over the inter-tubes), I had to go to the architect’s site and then try to find the loft. The good news is that I found the loft. The bad news is that architects describe and take photos of their work without regard to my interests; indeed, the prose on the Winka site is nearly impenetrable (to me) and the pix obscure rather than reveal the space she started with. Darn.

they are not paid to write (I should know; I am not, either)
As with many architect firm sites, you have to scroll through their projects to find a particular job, in this case the Schein Loft. Start here, then select Work, then Schein Loft under Residential Projects. I would do you the favor of cutting and pasting the key text here, but the web formatting prevents that. And the description text box is so small that you can only see 4-5 lines of text at a time, requiring scrolling, and more scrolling.

The key facts are that this “3,200 sq ft” 8th floor loft has part of the “folded glass facade” of the new “smart loft” built around and on top of the 8-story warehouse building:

the horizontal plane of the traditional urban fabric is questioned by the insertion of a diagonal surface that bifurcates the facade plane. Here the [building] code was re-coded; the mathematical tool of inflection was introduced to provide a 3d glass zone, a “glass waterfall”.

The loft

has windows all around; the views are accentuated by the open layout, a layout which arranges the loft in a series of overlapping zones, rather than enclosed rooms. A sculptural metal and wood spine arranges the different private spaces adjacent to its organic structure.


There is no floor plan on the site (huh??) and it takes a while to read the pictures enough to get a sense of the space. The first interior shots are the front, obviously, with the diagonal glass curtain wall (and seating arranged away from the windows). That 4th pic begins to give a sense of how that spine splits the open space (and breaks the ceiling), with private “zones” (not rooms) such as that bedroom to the right. Perspective flips in the 5th pic, to see the public areas of the loft on the other side of the spine, here the kitchen and dining area zone. Pic #8 brings us back to the private side, with the bedroom bedzone separated by sliding blue glass from the bathroom.

(I am not sure where the text comes from on the HomeDSGN site [presumably, from Archi-tectonics], but it is not quite the same as that on the architect site; it is, however, easier to read and features a few more photos, also easier to scroll through.)

not exactly this loft
The name of the architect and the building photo were enough to identify this loft as in 497 Greenwich Street, not coincidentally a residential loft conversion/construction project by the same architect. With thoe owner’s name and the 8th floor designation, I could identify the loft as this one, bought on October 4, 2004 from sponsor for $3,309.313, apparently as a white box.

Seriously: does everyone lie about square feet? Note that the architect’s project was a “3,200 sq ft” loft but that the condo unit that is clearly the right one is “2,795 sq ft” (the name and floor match, and there are no “3,200 sq ft” lofts in the building).

We have the floor plan and spare description from the sponsor marketing, which show a Long-and-Narrow footprint, 44 x 72 feet to the outside walls, with terraces at either end and 2 or 3 windows on each long side, and no walls apart from the single bathroom. It is almost exactly like this larger unit’s floor plan from the floor below, The only difference I see in that “3,052 sq ft” loft is that the 7th floor is wider at the east end, though perhaps it is meaningful that on the 7th floor the front glass wall is straight, suggesting that the 8th floor may be set back a bit; whatever, the developer (and architect!) thought the 7th floor had 257 sq ft extra feet, compared to the "2,795 sq ft" 8th floor unit. The 7th floor has the same 2 windows on the long north wall as the 8th floor, but lacks the 3 south windows upstairs.

Now that you have seen the floor plan on the 7th floor, look again at the architect photos. They are almost maddening in their lack of overall sense of the space, despite the observation that “the views are accentuated by the open layout”. Also look at the photos associated with the 7th floor (Click for large photos, of course), and compare them to the 8th floor architect photos.

I won’t say that the two lofts have completely unrelated, but they are certainly very different. For all the archi-talk about the 8th floor, I find the 7th floor materials much lighter and the 8th floor spine to be a relatively massive element, visually overwhelming. “Interesting”, of course, but that is such a double-edged word.

Regardless of matters of taste and aesthetics, it is always interesting fascinating to get photos of two same-building lofts that started life looking the same but were built out in such different styles.

a more conventional loft in the same building
Not that I am stalking her or anything, but it happens that the architect herself bought one of the units in her 497 Greenwich Street project and that there is a floor plan and photo collection of what her loft looks like now. This one must be in the old part of the building, and features straight lines, an open feel, and a much lighter palette than the 8th floor.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012
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May. 4, 2012 - designer of renown will not be pleased that 114 Mercer Street loft sold for $989/ft

perhaps they won’t tell him

The broker babble for the “2,250 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4R at 114 Mercer Street calls Martin Raffone a “renowned New York designer” and the loft “ a warm, modern living environment- a quiet sanctuary away from the vibrant street scene below”, which has been “ featured on HGTV's Top Ten Lofts and praised in many publications for Mr. Raffone's sublime design which manages to combine the rough architecture of the original loft with elements of nature and modern day living”. Of course there are proper proper names throughout, of brands and materials (with a curiously frequent mention of poplar). This prime loft in prime Soho sold at $2.225mm, only $989/ft. Both the seller and the designer must have been disappointed by that, though one hit was only reputational.

Among the lofts of similar size in downtown Manhattan that sold recently at higher prices on a $/ft basis are:

Among the smaller lofts that sold recently at higher prices on a $/ft basis in downtown Manhattan are:

The loft #4R sale at $989/ft makes no sense. I assume the first official asking price was some kind of clerical error that took a few days to catch and fix, but the rest of the history makes sense (as far as it goes on StreetEasy):

Sept 16, 2011 new to market $2.295mm
Sept 21   $2.645mm
Nov 2   $2.529mm
Dec 5   $2.25mm
Jan 12, 2012 contract  

This is a history showing a motivated seller with some unhappy holidays. A six-figure price drop after 6 weeks was followed by a $279,000 price drop the week after Thanksgiving, which did not generate a signed contract until nearly two weeks into the new year. Auld Lang Syne, indeed.

comping is hard, but it should not be this hard
You have noticed that the StreetEasy listing page for loft #4R does not have the sales price linked to it. The reason is that both StreetEasy and the our data-base mistakenly link the #4R sale on April 4 at $2.225mm to a 4th loft in the same coop with the street address 543 Broadway. Follow me into the weeds a bit to work through this confusion.

Remember the discussion of the single coop with two entrances in my April 25, pushing slightly above the ask, as 140 Thompson Street loft sells on non-A.I.R. side of West Broadway Arches? At least in that coop there are unique letter designations for individual lofts, whether on the 140 Thompson Street side or the 468 Broadway side. The coop that includes #4R at 114 Mercer Street is one long building, with an entrance on Mercer and the main entrance at 543 Broadway; I don’t know if the two halves are joined in the basement or the roof level, but there is no crossing the residential floors 2-10 from one side to the other. If this were a condo there’d be little chance for confusion among units as each would have a unique tax lot, but in a coop the 4th floor unit at 543 Broadway just might be confused with the 4th floor unit at 114 Mercer Street. In this case, with very confusing results.

Note that StreetEasy has the deed record for a 4th floor loft sale at “543 Broadway” with a notice address for the seller of “114 Mercer Street”, but associates that deed record with a listing for a 4th floor loft at “543 Broadway” that went into contract on February 25. But that deed at $2.225mm makes no sense in light of the long sales history featuring 11 months to contract, 4 price drops, and a final asking price of $1.725mm. (More on that loft in a bit.)

Note that the StreetEasy listing history for #4R at 114 Mercer Street ends on March 15 (not coincidentally, the end of a 6-month listing period that began on September 16, 2011), with a hanging contract from January 12. That #4R listing history does link to the prior sale of this loft, on March 3, 2006 at $1,699,999, with a deed record that identifies the buyer as having a notice address of “114 Mercer Street 4R” and the same name as the seller on the April 4 deed record for the 4th floor loft sale at “543 Broadway”.

For proof that some sales in this coop reflect a notice address of “543 Broadway”, see the deed record for the 9th floor in October 2009, or the deed record for the November 2007 of “Two Front” at 543 Broadway.

I don’t know what StreetEasy is going to do when the 4th floor at 543 Broadway (in contract since February 25) closes. Perhaps that will be a “no listing associated with this sale” deed.

In a world with a real Multiple Listing Service, this kind of crap would never happen. The #4R sale would be linked to the #4R listing, as updated by the listing agent. The #4R sale would never be linked to the 4th floor pending contract by that listing agent. Sigh....

a personal lament
I started a blog draft today based on the 4th floor $1.725mm listing and the #4R sales price at $2.225mm. It took me a long time because it is such a bizarre history: imagine a loft that sells 29% above the last asking price after 11 months and 4 price drops. Unimaginable! But (apparently) true. Until it wasn’t.

It would have been one heck of a post, introducing a Manhattan Loft Guy Cabinet of Curiosities (aka Cabinet of Wonders, aka Wonder-Room) in which to place #4-#4R with the spread between the last asking price of $1.725mm and the closing price of $2.225mm. Note to Self … be attentive for other (real) cases that can fit in my Cabinet of Curiousities....

I praise the deities that I clicked around the Streeteasy building page for this coop looking for comps before finishing that draft post. I have now also fixed the Master List, but still have to find and fix some past posts that have referred to the 4th floor listing as selling at the #4R price.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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May. 1, 2012 - higher floor, higher price: artist loft at 81 Grand Street sells high, 4 flights up

new kitchen, though
It is hard to tell from the broker babble exactly how much renovation would be needed, given the condition of the “classic” Manhattan loft that just sold on the 5th floor at 81 Grand Street. New kitchen aside, they were marketing bones here, not skin:

Imagine a classic Soho loft and it's all here: top floor with 2 amazing skylights, original floors, exposed brick, and 10 foot high ceilings in this sunny floor-through walk-up. The expansive size (approx 1400 sq ft) is configured as a one bedroom with a spacious open plan living room, but could easily be a two or three bedroom

The prior listing adds the detail that the bathroom is “luxurious [and] renovated”, while going beyond “classic” to claim “artist” status:

a Gracious, Spacious Top Floor Artist’s Walk Up Loft in Prime Soho. Upon entering this "Classic", featuring 10 foot ceilings, you are greeted by the light from 2 large skylights ( 6’x5’ & 6’x4’) & welcomed by the warmth of the original exposed brick & original hardwood floors. ... Open Plan Layout with updated Kitchen, Home Office/Guest Room, Artists Studio, & Super Sunny Master Bedroom with a walk in closet

Reading between the lines, the plumbing rooms are new, the rest is “classic” in the hasn’t-been-updated-in-years sense of classic. Certainly, there is no mention of mints. So this listing history is evidence of success, especially considering there is no elevator to take you to this 5th floor classic Soho loft:

Jan 31, 2011 new to market $1.395mm
July 25 hiatus  
Sept 16 change firms  
Jan 12, 2012 contract  
April 10 sold $1.33mm

Does this sequence remind you of any particular listing history? How about the one from yesterday, in my April 30, Flower District loft at 133 West 28 Street sells at small discount after 11 months, 2 firms, only a $5,000 drop, where the sequence for that Chelsea loft was a little shorter (11 months in total, not the 14 months here) and more exciting (a failed contract on that one), but also involved a change in firms but no (significant) change in price. Here, the deal got done at an even lower discount than yesterday (5% vs. 8% off the ask yesterday).

Of course I wonder why it took 12 months to cut a deal with a 5% discount. And, of course, I wonder what lead to the change in firms but not a change in price. Just like yesterday.

a deal at $950/ft, or at $844/ft?
This 5th floor classic was marketed as “approx 1,400 sq ft”; at that size the clearing price of $1.33mm comes to $950/ft. Among other comps, that price-per-foot puts this loft

The question in the sub-head is because the $/ft for the 5th floor depends, of course, on the feet. (We know the dollars.) There are two other fascinating comps that are very relevant to this sale. They are fascinating because they are in the same building, sold recently, and were in very different conditions from each other. They sold as though the footprint for lofts at 81 Grand Street is “1,575 sq ft” rather than “approx 1,400 sq ft”, so I have them on the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 at $762/ft and $794/ft, but at “approx 1,400 sq ft” they would be $857/ft and $893/ft. Since they sold at $1.2mm and $1.25mm, they are both below the 5th floor sale, regardless of size, but I need to consider what the ‘right’ size is for the 5th floor on the Master List, and going forward....

bad comps
Those two same building sales were in January and last August, so do not need serious adjustment to comp against the 5th floor. I hit the January sale and discussed the August sale in my February 21,
Soho gut job for $762/ft, as 81 Grand Street loft sells after 14 months, 5 price drops, where the headline told part of one story. You will see in that post my problem with that pair of loft sales: the 3rd floor sold at $1.2mm needing a total gut job, but the 4th floor had already sold at $1.25mm in mint condition; the spread is too small for a rational market fan to accept.

I am reduced to insulting those sales (“bad comps”) because they don’t work very well compared to the 5th floor. The light might be a bit better up there (especially with the skylights), but it is one flight up from one of these sale (the one in mint condition) and 2 flights up from the other. And the condition of the 5th floor seems to be pretty squarely in the middle of the gut-needing 3rd floor and the mint-y 4th floor.

But the 5th floor loft did not sell that way. It sold at a premium of 11% to the gut-needing 3rd floor (possibly rational, as a direct comparison) and at a 6% premium to the mint-y 4th floor (not rational as a direct comparison, in any world). &^%$*(#) comps! (Pardon my … french.)

a theory I do not love
My lot in life (at least on the blogosphere) is to look at sales when they sell, then trying to back out a theory for why they sold where they did. Reasoning backwards is always awkward, but using data points of actual sales requires hindsight. The fact that I can come up with a theory that ‘explains’ what happened does not mean the theory is an accurate description of the market mechanisms at work.

That navel-gazing is the prelude to the suggestion that the market of potential buyers for the 5th floor may have been persuaded that the 3rd floor sale in January ($1.2mm for the gut) was the more relevant comp than the 4th floor 5 months earlier ($1.25mm for the mints). That rationalization would account for a gap in favor of the 5th floor compared, at the cost of ignoring the 4th floor sale.

Might the actual 5th floor buyer have looked at things this way? Maybe. Or, perhaps that buyer really liked the location, tolerated the condition, and struck the only deal that could be struck with a stubborn seller. The market can only be rational (if at all) on a macro level; the idiosyncratic decisions by individual buyers and individual sellers can be expected to be all over the proverbial map.

a new poster
In this case, I still think that these 3 sales in the same small building within 8 months cannot be rationalized, but I am happy to add a (mental) photo of 81 Grand Street to my (imagined) wall of posters, this one captioned Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?


© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Apr. 25, 2012 - pushing slightly above the ask, as 140 Thompson Street loft sells on non-A.I.R. side of West Broadway Arches

well babbled: “this one is ready to go”
Do you notice those lingering listings that have broker babble that has never been edited, such as “priced to sell!!!” or “won’t last!!!”? (The extra exclamation points are for emphasis, I suppose.) After 6 months and a few price drops, agents really should change the text in those cases. The “1,571 sq ft” Manhattan loft #5D at 140 Thompson Street (the eastern part of West Broadway Arches) was not one of those: they said “this one is ready to go” and they were right. It came to market on November 8 at $1.695mm and found the contract by December 20* that closed at $1.7mm on April 10. Ready to go, indeed! (!!)

(*Contract date is per the inter-firm data-base; StreetEasy has it a few weeks later.)

The brief and successful marketing campaign emphasized “magical views and wonderful light” and being “[f]ully renovated to a high degree of understated elegance along with authentic details”.  Only the views and light are slightly distinguishing factors from the last sale in this line, as loft #2D sold on October 14, 2010 at (only) $1.585mm with a “masterful renovation  [that] is elegant, serene, and filled with character” including a top-of-the-line kitchen. There is a lot more light from the 5th floor, as is particularly evident comparing the main #5D listing photo in large format (angled, but 5-story buildings and sky) with the same window shot for the 2nd floor (best viewed on the Corcoran site, using the partially obscured Click Here To View button)

If anything, that floor plan on the same footprint on the 2nd floor has more utility than on the 5th floor, with a study / den that is an easy (interior) guest room, compared to the small (open) office space on the 5th floor as the only ‘extra’ space. (Note the different placements of bathrooms in the two lofts; something you often see in loft buildings but rarely in apartment buildings.)

Accounting 101
How to compare the two same-line loft sales in the same building? Loft #5D just sold for $115,000 more than #2D sold for in October 2010. Market conditions are broadly similar (that “flat” word) in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market. Condition seems roughly similar, based on the listing descriptions and pictures. Loft #2D gets a plus for being more flexible, with that closed second room being a potential bedroom. Loft #5D has a definite premium for being 3 floors higher in a mid-block setting looking at similar buildings, and getting considerably more sky.

The buyer markets for these two lofts do not completely overlap. People who have to have an extra sleeping  room would not consider #5D. For buyers who are indifferent to that #2D benefit, I suspect that the #5D floor plan is more appealing, as it has greater volume in the main room, and the bedroom doors, when opened, provide an even greater sense of space. While that is a subtle difference, the 5th floor sailed through the market, while the 2nd floor struggled to get that $1.585mm.

This may be one pair of sales in which the extra height from even a floor as low as the 5th makes all the difference in market value. In this instance, $38,000 per floor.

an A.I.R. oddity in Soho
West Broadway Arches is a single condominium composed of a building on West Broadway (#468) and this building on Thompson. [UPDATE May2: note the dialogue in the comments about the zoning for each "half" of the building, and whether there might be some truly non-A.I.R. units on the West Brodway side.] Many residential loft conversions aggregate more than one building into a single condo (like this, or like The Chelsea Mercantile) or into a single coop (like 80 Warren Street). However, West Broadway Arches is the only such residential aggregation that I am aware of that has materially different zoning for the original components. That distinction must provide fascinating management issues for the condo, as 468 West Broadway owners should all be certified artists; while 140 Thompson Street owers can include butchers and bakers, as well as (fine, artisanal) candlestick makers.

I mentioned this oddity in my post exploring why sales data are surprisingly unhelpful in looking for economic impacts of the Soho A.I.R. controversies (in my March 7, 2011, it is impossible to prove that the Soho artist in residence regulations are a resale problem unless 'victims' come forward), but I am surprised to find only one prior Manhattan Loft Guy post hitting a sale in this condo. That was way back in my  December 11, 2006, a year of pricing dangerously / 140 Thompson loft in contract, about a loft that lingered, and how that compared to other lofts in the building.

© 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.

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