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Manhattan Loft Guy

Oct. 18, 2010 - another late bidding war, as 55 White Street loft sells at 104% of (reduced) ask

odd things stick out
Individual sales show the ebbs and flows of the Manhattan real estate market, as odd specific data points don’t exactly fit the general narrative. If that is too obscure a way to start a post (even for Manhattan Loft Guy), try this: you would think that if the Manhattan loft #2C at 55 White Street was going to sell for $1.925mm, it would have done so off the original October 2009 $2.1mm asking price (you’d be wrong), or would have done so off the reduced $1.975mm asking price since January (again, wrong), as even the higher price was only 8.3% above the eventual closing price (i.e., well within negotiating range).

Contrary-wise, you’d think that if the sellers had to drop the price to $1.85mm (as they did in April), The Market would react by generating a deal below (or at most, at) the last discounted ask. Wrong again.

quintessence on the eastern fringe
This loft is babbled as a quintessential Tribeca loft, and I am sure it is: high ceilings, Corinthian columns, huge windows and a classic (even quintessential) Tribeca loft prior history, 55 White Street was a well-regarded classic conversion when it was converted to condos in 1999 - 2000. Here is the skinny on the building from nyc-architecture.com, which is in danger of becoming a Manhattan Loft Guy fave:

After the Civil War, many of the Greek Revival homes and shops that previously occupied this part of town were torn down in favor of larger industrial buildings, and, like SoHo to the north, Tribeca has substantial offerings of cast-iron architecture. On the south-west corner of Franklin Place stands 55 White St. (1861; James Kellum & Son), a building deemed sufficiently handsome by iron founder Daniel D. Bedger to display its facade in his 1865 catalogue. At the time the building had keystones crowning the tall arches, Corinthian capitals atop the columns, and faceted quoins on the pier at the corner of Church St. Early occupants were Samuel I. and Elliot Condict, who had a large saddlery here; in later years draper and textile firms tenanted the space.

Here’s more historical goodness, excerpted from the Landmarks report on the building from 1988, with some cool pix, taken from some charitable fellow’s Flickr stream.

The babble has it “2,000 sq ft”, while the city considers it “1,869 sq ft”; using the city data the July 27 clearing price of $1.925mm comes to $1,025/ft. The layout is terrific, with split bedrooms and three (corner) exposures, but the limitations are the low floor and the block. Yes, this is part of the historic district “Tribeca East”, but this eastern fringe block (between Broadway and Church) is among the gritttiest Tribeca blocks extant and feels like a world away from the prime blocks of Tribeca further west.

The sellers paid $976,000 to the sponsor in March 2000, so they came within an eyelash of doubling their money in ten years, which some of you will have figured out as about 7% compound interest using the Rule of 72.

a nearby recent comp was not very comparable
When #2C came to market on October 1, 2009, a very different loft in the building had sold within two months. #PH-B cleared at $2.52mm, requiring some major adjustments to use this as a comp for #2C. Aside from the floor differential, #PH-B was said to have an “outstanding architectural renovation” and had a wrap terrace said to be 675 sq ft (love those set-back [true] penthouses!). That one babbled at “2,063 sq ft” for the interior, but to be consistent with #2C, the city calls it “1,801 sq ft”.

If we use The Miller’s approach to valuing outdoor space by figuring this wonderfully configured 675 sq ft terrace as worth 50% of interior space, that August 2009 clearing price for #PH-B comes out to $1,179/ft (again, using the city’s numbers). When offered new in October 2009, #2C’s $2.1mm ask was $1,124/ft. That’s a small spread between the #PH-B sale price and the #2C asking price, especially considering that #2C was probably in good ten-year-old condition, while #PH-B is five floors higher with an “outstanding architectural renovation”.

In other words, #2C came out rather aggressively. To which The Market reacted with a yawn. Until six months later, when a second price drop generated a bidding war and premium contract after another four weeks. Go figure.

Department of Redundancy Department
We’ve been here before, of course. Most dramatically with the late bidding war after 9 months on the market and six price drops in my September 15, bidding war after 9 months, 6 price drops at 244 West 23 Street loft. I stopped by the Department of Metaphysics in that one, offering this conundrum:


Looking at this another way, if the loft [that was #5B at 244 West 23 Street ] was worth $1.4mm in May (a ‘fact’ established by the arm’s length transaction), then it must have been worth $1.4mm for at last some time before hand. (What changed from January 1, for example??)

But, if the loft was not worth $1.4mm in February (a ‘fact’ established by the failure to sell off the $1.41mm asking price), then how could it have been worth $1.4mm in May?

I was also beating this drum way back in August 2009, in bidding war erupts VERY late, as 49 Warren St gut job closes. In that one I observed that

Someone who evidently had not made an offer [for #3E at 49 Warren Street] off of the $1.385mm asking price in March or April ended up agreeing to pay $1.375mm four weeks after the price had been dropped to $1.3mm. I bet that the seller was (pleasantly!) surprised.

we’ve also been at 55 White Street before
There's more historical goodness in my November 9, 2008, 55 White Street #4C closed, finally, around $1,000/ft, in which I [heart] Christopher Gray from the New York Times real estate feature Streetscapes (he called 55 White Street "the most architecturally imposing work on the block") and link to some Google treasures about this address. That long-ago post is interesting in retrospect (at least) as a $1,000/ft condo sale in Tribeca (as in only $1,000/ft, and the early part of a trend), and as a contract signed within a day of Lehman’s bankruptcy filing.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010
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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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