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Jul. 6, 2013 - memory lane: pioneer days in Tribeca, revisited


One Year Ago Today on Manhattan Loft Guy

You were warned in my July 4 post that you’ve got a couple of weeks of archived Manhattan Loft Guy material coming up. In my July 6, 2012, watching Tribeca grow up: another loft neighborhood pioneer profiled, I picked up on a profile of a pediatrician who moved to Tribeca in 1983 and who opened her office there to treat kids in 1988. I love the firsthand we-were-there-back-in-the-day focus from someone who really saw Tribeca (and its progeny) grow up. But I also appreciate any excuse to revisit my all-time favorite quote about Tribeca history: “You've never seen so many people under three feet high...”. (Not a spoiler, a tease.)

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jul. 5, 2013 - memory lane: of cobblestones and new condo owners in Tribeca (an unusual conflict)


You were warned in my July 4 post that you’ve got a couple of weeks of archived Manhattan Loft Guy material coming up. Let’s kick it off with a
SEVEN Years Ago Today on Manhattan Loft Guy, my July 5, 2006, You can’t make this stuff up / condo owners rue authentic TriBeCa cobblestones, about folks new to Tribeca in a new condo development in 2006 who found their quaint cobblestoned street to be more irritating than charming.

As you see on The Google’s
Street View, these folks have had seven years to get used to bumping their way down the street (no sidewalk).

Cobblestones were again in the news this week, with
DNA Info’s report about residents of Vinegar Hill (that’s Brooklyn, Manhattan snobs) laying NIMBY over plans to replace some real cobblestones with stuff that will not hurt bicyclists as much, while (says DoT) preserving the aesthetic.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Jul. 2, 2013 - 36 N. Moore Street loft sells with half million dollar renovation

no idea what it cost; but that’s the value added

These are not perfect comps for each other, by any means, but they are close neighbors of similar size and utility: the “1,800 sq ft” Manhattan #2W at 36 N. Moore Street just sold for $2.475mm, while the “1,700 sq ft” loft #4E at 34 N. Moore Street (in the same coop; one is East, one is West, get it?) sold in November at $1.9mm. Apart from 100 sq ft and 2 flights up toward better light, these neighbors have similar Long-and-Narrow footprints (#2W here; #4E here), with 2 windows in front (along with the elevator) and 3 in back, with plumbing along only one long wall and the kitchen opposite the public stairwell leaving room for an interior den or media room, and the two bedrooms in back. Loft #4E has but a single bathroom ((a second can be added), but that won’t account for $575,000 in value (neither will the ‘extra’ 100 sq ft).

As you’d guess even without the headline, loft #2W was a triple mint, “exquisitely” renovated loft; the poorer relation next door at #4E was rather … er … dated. Assuming the sizes in our data-base are accurate (ha!), on a dollar-per-foot basis the $575,000 spread is $257/ft, or a 23% premium in favor of #2W (#4E at $1,375/ft, #2W at $1,118/ft). For those of you who think you could do a triple mint renovation for $257/ft, take heart! Or, work closely with your contractor, as that is what it appears The Market value of such a renovation in prime Tribeca is.

Seems to me as though $257/ft understates the difference between these neighboring lofts, especially considering they closed 8 months apart. There’s a loft of enthusiastic babbling about the nicer one:

Triple mint, exquisitely renovated …. ample room for a third (interior) bedroom, den or home office, now stylishly and cleverly configured with folding lacquer doors. … A complete and total high end renovation was completed with the finest grade of appliances, lighting, flooring, and built- ins, enumerated below. ... custom Poliform closets.... kitchen boasts a generous Silestone island and countertops, porcelain backsplash and floor, and Stainless steel appliances, including a Sub Zero refrigerator, Miele dishwasher, and built in wine storage. Both baths feature radiant heating from the marble (guest) and porcelain (master) tiled floors, and Silestone is again used for the vanity tops. ... four zone central AC and base board heating, W/D, Brazilian cherry hardwood flooring, Italian custom lighting fixtures, and an alarm system.

In pointed contrast, the other one is in an “Authentic loft building”, has a “Spacious” kitchen and “Gracious Ceiling Height”. There are but two listing photos for #4E, one showing the kind of kitchen cabinets common to basic residential loft conversions of the 1980s. One can only imagine the finishes of the (single) bath. That floor plan shows rather quirky back bedrooms, one a bowling alley with a curved wall and a closet in the middle, the other merely conventionally large with an odd run of angled closets.

I saw that one with buyers, but just don’t remember much about it other than that it was viewed as a do-over unit. One
could live there as-is, but no one who paid close to $2mm would. I don’t remember the light from the 4th floor here, mid-block between Varick and Hudson, but there’s only a 6-story unit across the street that, depending on angles, may mean the 4th floor gets much better light than the 2nd.

On the one hand, (the theoretically larger) #2W got $575,000 more than #4E 8 months earlier; on the other hand, that was only $257/ft (in theory). I’d love to know what they paid to get all the mints into #2W, but it is hard to see how they could have done it for much less than $257/ft, and they very possibly spent more than that $462,600.

Mark me down as puzzled by The Market reaction.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jun. 24, 2013 - scary sale of small loft at 19 Hubert Street

where the rubber meets the road, buyers can get hurt
The recent sale of the “1,100 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the
4th floor of 19 Hubert Street is the canary in the coal mine only for Tribeca small loft buyers who have not been paying attention. For active and informed searchers, the sale is just a rude exclamation point. First off, the loft has many charms, and the parade of people who saw it during the brief time it was available probably included many buyers who played with floor plans to see how to get more than a single bedroom into the space. (My guy was one of them.) In what passes for the “affordable” part of the Tribeca loft market, this loft started at $1.395mm and sold for $1.5mm. That’s $1,363/ft in a no-frills coop with dated finishes with a floor plan that may be “a one bedroom, [that] could easily convert to two” in a stretchy-y broker babble sort of way, but in no other sense.

Start with those many charms. Inside, the space has the street cred of old oak floors, long brick walls and tin ceilings, with the 6 north and (especially) 4 west windows bringing the light, and the river. Because that last west stretch of Hubert Street was widened for the Travelers / Citi / Smith Barney tower on the super-block that erased Ericsson Place west of Greenwich, the west view from 19 Hubert (aka 413 Greenwich Street) is largely open, down the wide Hubert to the river. (See the Google Streetview and listing pic #4.)

deconstructing a (very old?) layout
For buyers who can all sleep in the single bedroom, this loft is either in move-in condition, or to be updated, or a gut renovation. (Notice the lack of bathroom photo, or a direct shot of the [merely] “open” kitchen; this is damning with faint praise.) For any buyer interested in that “easy” conversion to two bedrooms, however, the easiest option is far from ideal, and any other option involves re-thinking the entire space.

The easy conversion is to add a second bedroom next to the current bedroom, taking the next north window by adding two walls of carpentry opposite the kitchen. This easy option does add a bedroom, but reduces the size of the main space and does not solve any of the awkward elements of the current (ancient) floor plan.


The current floor plan hearkens back to the day when people moved to Tribeca because the space was inexpensive, and did inexpensive things to these spaces. (Seriously; ask your parents.) Thus, all the plumbing along the south wall was easy to adapt to minimal needs for an individual or couple: bathroom, washer-dryer, and ridiculously long kitchen that may be “open” (faint praise, indeed!) and boast a copper hood, but takes up more than a third of the south wall. (You could wear yourself out making multiple trips from the sink or frig to the cooktop.)

Maybe the three bedroom walls and closet were in the original residential configuration; maybe the original settlers at one point tired of open-loft living. Whenever, those walls were a cheap way to solve a problem, that (intentionally or otherwise) wasted space. If you were to re-do the space to current standards, any architect would start by erasing all the lines on the floor plan and re-think everything. One challenge is that the elevator, fire stair and bathroom placement along the east wall make it difficult (read: expensive) to do the one thing that would give a greater sense of space, immediately on entry: give a view along the north wall to the river as soon as the elevator door opens. What an impressive look that would be!

But then you’d probably have to put the stairway entry in the (now) ensuite bedroom, add a public bath (or half) on the south wall, and condense the kitchen. (Maybe orient the kitchen S-N along the west wall of a new second bedroom.) These are simple (but not inexpensive) solutions, for consideration by anyone interested in a second bedroom, and by anyone thinking of upgrading the current plumbing functions.

But: $1,363/ft in a no-frills coop, before spending a dime on any improvements. Scary, indeed.

My guy identified this loft right after the listing went live (January 16) as a prime candidate in the low-million-dollar range for Tribeca, and based on conversations around getting an appointment and then seeing it with the buzzer ringing for the next appointment, it was obvious that it would not last. Our listing system does not have an “accepted offer” date, but it was probably soon after the only scheduled open house (January 20) and well before the Contract Signed as of February 7.

In the end, my buyer opted not to bid, as the work to be done for that second bedroom could not be justified (to him) with where the loft was likely to trade. We put it this way at the end of January: the loft would be perfect for him (even allowing for a major renovation) if it were only ten feet longer. In the (real) end, it
was perfect for the buyers, at $1.5mm.

It’s a lovely loft. They should be very happy. I’d love to hear what they do to improve it, after having spent that $1,363/ft to buy in to a (repeat after me) no-frills coop.

The last loft to sell in the building sold at near-Peak, with 2 bedrooms, in better condition than the 4th floor. Even with (slightly) better light, as that was the
5th floor, sold for $1.41mm just two quarters before The Peak. StreetEasy has no pictures or floor plan from that listing, though the broker babble is much more enthusiastic (and specific) for the 5th floor in 2007 than the 4th floor in 2013. We have a single photo but a floor plan in our listing system, showing the top floor had an advantage in squeezing the bathroom next to the elevator (jutting out), and two bedrooms along the north wall. Even allowing that the 5th floor traded a little earlier than Peak (only a little, dammit), that $1.41mm is handily beaten by $1.5mm for the 4th floor just now, given the difference in finishes and the existing 2nd bedroom upstairs.

In other words, 19 Hubert is Post Peak, if by “Peak” we mean the first quarter of 2008, the quarter in which the overall Manhattan residential real estate market recorded the highest prices (to date!).

Every time this sort of leaving-comps-behind frenzy happens, the still-active-buyers get more frustrated. Some (most) remain in the market, others may retreat to re-think their approach, goals and/or resources. All are more sober, having seen a no-frills coop loft with a challenging layout go for $1,363/ft. The new normal, until more sellers sell, or more buyers quit, or something else happens to change this currently very dangerous environment for “small” loft buyers in Tribeca.

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and they don’t need to see another dead canary to know which way the market is moving.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jun. 21, 2013 - bidding war for 35 Vestry Street loft ends up only 5%

for brick lovers only
There is a staggering amount of brick in the front room of the “1,561 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the
5th floor at 35 Vestry Street in northwest Tribeca that just zoomed through the market, and by “zoomed” I mean first showing at January 20 open house, contract by February 7. Of course the brick helped, but my guess is that the real driver on this deal was the very efficient floor plan, fitting 2 rear bedrooms and a (not windowed) den into a 22 foot wide classic Long-and-Narrow array of a (modest for a Tribeca loft) “1,561 sq ft” footprint.

The highlight for brick lovers has to be the puzzling arch in the living room. I can’t figure out why that arch is there. Usually, you see such elements where two buildings were combined, permitting goods or equipment to be moved laterally, but this arch is not on the retaining wall. I don’t think arches originally ran the length of the building, as the columns don’t line up symmetrically for that, and I don’t recall ever seeing a loft building with those kind of arches for support (as opposed to the common barrel vault ceilings, sometimes of brick, which run side-to-side rather than front-to-back). The
2nd floor also has one (and just one), so it appears that there is an arch in this location on each floor. If anyone has a clue for this (perhaps distracting only to me) detail, I’d appreciate it.

The finishes appear to be high quality, enthusiastically babbled with proper proper names, including “Radiant heated floors throughout” (not just in the baths; another odd element). What’s interesting about these nice finishes is that they were state of the art when the building was converted to residential loft living at the turn of the century and have held up well.

As noted, The Market loved the loft: contract within 17 days for first showings, at a moderate bump over the $2.295mm asking price, up to the funny number $2,402,525. Another way to express the market love: $1,539/ft in a no-frills condo just off the Holland Tunnel spillways. That’s a whole lotta love.

There are only 6 units in the condo, 5 full-floor lofts plus the much larger penthouse with an addition on the roof. Each of the other full-floor units has been resold once since the sponsor sales, with the 5th floor now having been resold twice. The most recent sale before the 5th floor 2 months ago was the 2nd floor way back near Peak. The link above shows it came out on March 17, 2008, in near perfect timing, at $1.95mm but you need
this link to see that it closed at only $1.72mm on May 8, 2008. The 2nd floor is a little smaller than the others (“1,501 sq ft”), was built to the same high standard with essentially the same floor plan and identical utility, though missing the light and World Trade Center view claimed on the 5th floor.

Look again at how much The Market loved the 5th floor. On a $/ft basis, the 5th floor in 2013 just traded at a 34% premium to the 2nd floor (at $1,146/ft) 5 weeks after The Peak in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market. Again: a whole lotta love.

the real action was in 2004

As well received as the 5th floor was in the current market, it was actually the folks who sold to the recent sellers who really made out. The recent sellers were buyers on August 19, 2004 at $1.68mm, meaning that they just got a 43% (gross) gain in nearly 9 years. But their sellers in 2004 at $1.68mm paid $972,500 to the sponsor on June 13, 2000, for a gain in only four years of 73%. Nicely played, original buyers; nicely played.

for other action, 2008
Maybe the 2nd floor didn’t do so well so close to The Peak for … er … structural reasons. The 5th floor listing photo of the building is an old one; there’s no longer a open lot just to the east. This
Real Deal piece from August 8, 2012 is about the “long-stalled seven-unit condominium building in Tribeca designed by architect Winka Dubbledam and once eyed by Lady Gaga [which] has sold out, more than five years after it first hit the market”. Part of the reason for the delay at 33 Vestry Street was “in 2008 after construction was forced to stall while foundation work was completed on the existing building next door, at 35 Vestry Street, which was said to be unstable”.

That must have been exciting. A building built in 1915 (as
StreetEasy says) and gut renovated in 2000 “was said to be unstable” 8 years later. I have no idea if that had anything to do with the 2nd floor sale being (only) $1.72mm that May, but it’s possible.

ebbs and flows, flows and ebbs
For those of you who have forgotten your history of the land now known as Tribeca, people used to live here, before these (formerly) manufacturing and industrial lofts were built, and long before they were converted to residential use. The Google tells me that a 92 year old who died in 1892 hosted a post-funeral reception for friends and relatives at 35 Vestry Street, described in
a New York Times death notice from 1892 as her “former residence”.

It was likely that that (wood frame?) residence was torn down in 1907 to make way for the a stable in this by-then very busy commercial area. (The always reliable Wired New York has a reference to the Landmarks material for the Tribeca North district that indicates that a stable was built on this site in 1907. If StreetEasy is right that the current structure at 35 Vestry was built in 1915, that stable didn’t last long.)

That puzzling brick arch may hint at what use the building was built for in 1915, but the sequence here is a (probably modest) house (probably) dating from the mid-19th century, to a stable for a very brief time to open the last century, to an industrial use for up to 85 years, to luxury loft living at the turn of this century.

Plus ca change, indeed.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Jun. 18, 2013 - when bad things ($605/ft!) happen to nice lofts, super storm edition at 79 Laight Street

you get a massive discount, and a project
It is not often that you see weather impacts in Manhattan loft listings or sales, or that you see lofts for sale that have actually been wrecked (as in destroyed) as opposed to having been allowed to decay. The recently sold “2,973 sq ft” Manhattan loft
#1A at 79 Laight Street (United States Sugar Warehouse) fell squarely in the post-super storm flood and was, as the updated listing put it, “damaged by the hurricane and needs a full gut renovation”. Unlike the neighbor in a similar position (addressed below), these owners decided not to fix the place but to leave it to new owners to “imagine what your[ imagination] will do...”. It is not hard to estimate what that choice cost, though only the sellers and their homeowner’s insurance adjusters know the net numbers:

Feb 10, 2012 new to market $2.95mm
Mar 20   $2.78mm
June 27   $2.699mm
Aug 9 hiatus  
Sept 12 back on market $2.595mm
  [super storm landfall: Oct 29]  
April 24, 2013 contract*  
May 15 sold $1.8mm

(*Contract date is from the inter-firm data-base.)

That’s $605/ft for a full service condo converted into residential lofts in 2002. And a 30% discount off last ask; 39% off first ask.

the perils of over-pricing (in this case: you keep the risk)
What happened to the loft (and to all flooded areas) when the storm hit was a tragedy of the Act of God variety; what happened before then was a miscalculation of The Market of the most human variety. They had 10 months to make a deal at whatever The Market would offer; instead, they asked a series of unavailable prices.


when God acts, who pays?
Thankfully, I have never had to find out about flood damage under a standard homeowner's insurance policy, so I don’t
know that the #1A sellers have been paid a hefty sum. Whether covered or not, and at what levels, the #1A sellers were probably in the same boat (ouch) as their next-door neighbors. The #1B owners also decided not to rebuild and stay after that super storm, but their exit strategy was very different when they put their "2,212 sq ft" loft on the market on January 22:

This residence will be undergoing a complete gut renovation that will be paid for and guaranteed by the current owner. Select the layout, finishes and overall style that suits you and undertake the design of your brand new downtown trophy loft.

You’d think that would be a tough set of details to negotiate, but they found a deal by April 1 and closed on April 11 at $2.445mm. That’s $1,105/ft, including an unknown renovation budget. A reasonable guess is that they’d cap the budget in those pre-contract negotiations; let’s guess $350/ft to recreate the loft’s former glory. It was not likely to be $500/ft, which is the spread between #1A (pay for your own darn renovation) and #1B (will pay for your imagination).

Whether the damage was paid for by insurance or left for the #1B sellers and #1A buyers, I have to believe that The Market looked at these two opportunities differently. That is, unless $500/ft is the right spread for a gut renovation.

Although the two lofts are on the same floor in the same building (and in the same condition when marketed, selling within 5 weeks of each other), they are not perfect comps for each other. The smaller (“2,212 sq ft”) loft #1B ($1,105/ft, post-renovation) is a corner 2 bedroom, with a
floor plan that implies that all the windows face the street (i.e., sidewalk). Loft #1A ($605/ft, pre-renovation) fits 3 bedrooms into a long, narrow rectangle floor plan of “2,973 sq ft”, but has only two windows facing west (the river, across the sidewalk and West Street), with all the bedrooms on a light well that our listing notes describe as “very dark”.

I can’t connect all the dots between them, or do the comparative math in detail, but this a fascinating pair.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jun. 14, 2013 - 132 Duane Street loft improves on mint, doesn't quite triple in value


to each his own
We are going to play with some sets of triple numbers here. The “2,300 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the
3rd floor at 132 Duane Street that recently sold for $3.4mm has now sold 4 times in mint condition and once in what had to have been less-than-mint condition. The loft sold for the first time with mints in 2001, at $1.16mm, so it is unfortunate that none of the past listing descriptions (in our listing system; StreetEasy has none from the earlier sales) claims “triple mint”. The recent sale is only 2.93 times the 2001 sale, which is close enough for me to say the value has tripled in 12 years. That 2001 seller was a buyer in 1996, and it must be she who started with the mints, as she paid only $380,000 (trust me, and our listing system on this). If you are stepping ahead of me you have already realized that the 2001 sale was really at triple the 1996 price (3.05 times, for you anal types). That’s a cool pair of triples.

Here are those prices and dates:

  • July 3, 1996 $380,000
  • May 1, 2001 $1.16mm
  • Mar 29, 2002 $1.231mm
  • Aug 30, 2005 $1.975mm
  • May 22, 2013 $3.4mm

Still playing, but now with numbers and dates. I hope we can agree that that 1996 to 2001 jump can only be explained by a dramatic improvement in condition. And we can guess that the 2001-buyer-turned-2002-seller decided she had not enjoyed post 9/11 Tribeca very much (like a lot of people in those days), though she did not take a financial bath to leave. Then there’s a big jump from 2002 to 2005 (and by “big jump” I mean 60%) as a tell that the Tribeca market was approaching froth in mid-2005. Which brings us back to the 2005-buyer-turned-2013-seller, who sold at a 72% premium but had to do some work to get that.

Enough with the numbers (for a while); let’s talk “quintessence” and broker babble. As I said, the 2005 babble is not available on StreetEasy. While spare, the listing description that survives in our system has some detail, with all broker-to-broker boxes checked “mint”:

This is the quintessential TriBeCa loft. Over 2100 square feet of space on a private floor on prime Duane Street. 2 bedrooms, separate den, 2.5 marble bathrooms, washer/dryer, Sub-Zero fridge, Bosch dishwasher, and 6-burner Viking stove. Beautiful exposed brick, 12 ceilings, security system, video intercom, motion detectors, central air conditioning and a key-locked elevator.


Note those kitchen and bath details when you compare the much more enthusiastic recent babbling:

The quintessential Tribeca experience at the highest taste level! Impeccably renovated loft refurbished down to the smallest details, this apartment is a dream home. ... rich Acacia wood flooring from Austrian firm Mafi (only a handful of US residences have this special feature). ... perfectly calibrated sounds from the fully integrated A/V system will welcome you home (Crestron throughout). ... incredible amount of storage that has been brilliantly built-in. ... cook’s dream kitchen outfitted with Miele appliances and custom lacquer cabinetry. ... hidden temperature controlled wine cellar with a capacity of over 600 bottles. … configured as a 1 bed with a customized home office and ... easily converted back to it’s original configuration as a 2 bed w/a baby’s room. ... bathrooms ... are spa quality and loaded with custom Corian surfaces, Duravit fixtures and Toto toilets.

The old photos support the 2005 babble, and the old floor plan is very similar to the alternate (“easily converted back to it’s original configuration as a 2 bed w/a baby’s room”, remember?)
floor plan with the recent listing. The basic structure is the same, 2005 and 2013, but you can see that some of the storage is new and that each bathroom has been reshaped. The kitchen is structurally and in shape the same, though the old appliances and cabinets are gone, and a “storage loft” above a dropped ceiling over the kitchen has been removed, and full kitchen ceiling height restored.

In other words, the basic structure is the same (the lost storage loft aside) but the ‘skin’ has been upgraded; to use these words, “refurbished down to the smallest details”. That skin includes the Acacia flooring, the new appliances, fixtures, cabinets and surfaces, and those “perfectly calibrated sounds from the fully integrated A/V system”.

No telling what the budget was for this refurbishment, but The Market loved it:

Feb 22 new to market $3.995mm
Mar 14 contract  
May 22 sold $3.4mm

That’s a $1.425mm gain over 2005, of course, some of which is the float from the rising tide of the overall Manhattan residential real estate market, and some of which is from the refurbishment. Which tells me that the most happy seller of this “quintessential” loft was that 2002-buyer-turned-2005-seller, who got that 60% gain in a much shorter time without having to improve on those mints.

small world, stable population, market changes
The StreetEasy
building page will tell you that this is a very small condo (only 4 units, though our system and another listing say 5) and that only one other unit has sold here since 2001, while the 3rd floor has sold 4 times.

That listing that specifies that there are 5 units in the building, by the way, was from a time when The Market did not love the 3rd floor. Of course, the loft should not have taken it personally, as
in those days The Market did not find much to love:

July 9, 2008 new to market $3.4mm
Aug 15 hiatus  
Sept 12 back on market  
Nov 7   $3.3mm
Dec 27 off the market  

I was going to say that the seller probably regretted going off the market those 4 weeks, or in coming back to market the last business day before Lehman filed for bankruptcy, but then I remember that he got $3.4 anyway. Five years later, but still ….

That unsuccessful marketing campaign was notable, in my eyes, for having a more impressive set of broker babble than any of the other campaigns:

Connoisseurs Condo. Prime Tribeca. Green, Serene & Extravagantly Designed Prewar Floor Thru Classic. Orignal [sic] brick work, 13ft ceilings & gas fireplace. Just completed architectural gut renovation by Massim Studio. Sublime White Lacquer Miele Kitchen w/ Brushed Oak Cabinets, Italian Lighting, Enormous Great Room, Surround Sound B & W System. Over the Top quality fixtures & appliances with fastidious attention to function & detail both sensual and technical. Imported Acacia Wood floors absolutely Glow! This loft is one of only 3 NYC residences to feature the custom Austrian wood floor. The skillfully designed and executed Teak Wood Master Walk-in is both Sculptural and Painterly. Enormous Spa Master En-Suite bath offers a SURPRISE Media Feature never seen. This is a small well run building with only 5 floor thru lofts & provides sought after privacy & insures low monthlies. Part-time Super. Pet friendly w/ Tons of storage within home & price includes a Huge additional storage room in basement. Totally Soundproofed!

That babble tells you that no matter how many mints there were before, there were a lot more after that then-recent
gut renovation. And that, my friends, is my last digression before the weekend. Enjoy!


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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May. 31, 2013 - 9 Murray Street loft takes 5 months, 3 prices to sell

alert the media!
My last 3 substantive (loft-y) posts involved lofts that sold quickly with strong prices. Of course, they fit the current conventional wisdom about the market. But not all lofts are above average, to go Keillor on ya. Since you’ve read the headline, you know that the top line story about the recent sale of the “2,652 sq ft” Manhattan loft
#8W at 9 Warren Murray Street is that it took two price cuts and from October to February to get a contract. A second story will be that the loft did not sell in 2011 (a different market), despite asking only 3% above the eventual clearing price. We will round things off down below with the angle that the loft was purchased in a near-Peak market for $200,000 less than the recent sale.

To the top:

October 4, 2012 new to market $3.65mm
Nov 28   $3.575mm
Jan 27, 2013   $3.495mm
Feb 24 contract  
April 29 sold $3.3mm


No need to reach for the calculator function on your smart phone: that’s a deal at a 6% discount to last ask, 10% to first ask.

For those of you who have forgotten how to scroll down, those three most recent substantive posts are:

May 23, Jade loft pod at 16 West 19 Street implies market is up 33% since 2010
May 28, you’d have to see 161 Hudson Street loft to hope to know why it sold 53% above 2009, 9% above ask, and
May 29, 112 Hudson
Street loft zooms through market above ask


an embarrassment o
f riches
The loft is one corner cut short of being a classic Long-and-Narrow, with the typical pair of bedrooms splitting the rear wall and plumbing in the middle, on both sides. The loft benefits from being a wide Long-and-Narrow, with “narrow” in this case being nearly 30 feet, as well as from 4 exposures and 15 windows. With that width, the 4 exposures, those windows, and 11 foot ceilings, there is a lot of ‘volume’ in
this floor plan, including a master suite of about 700 sq ft.  And utility: you get a third bedroom towards the back, a den opposite the kitchen, and an office tucked into the southwest corner in the front.

There was little bragging about finishes in the broker babble (“gourmet kitchen” is the extent of it), but this strikes me as (unusual) agent modesty. I saw it a couple of times at its high price point with buyers, and we were impressed with the quality. (One oddity I am just noticing: the listing says central air, but the photos show window units in the second and third bedrooms and in the den.)

yes, Virginia, 2011 was a different market
You know that the loft just sold for $3.3mm. They couldn’t get close to that two years ago:

June 3, 2011 new to market $3.595mm
June 22   $3.395mm
Oct 12 off the market  


Unless you just stumbled on to Manhattan Loft Guy for the first time, you’ve heard this before: 2011 was a different market than the current set of conditions. If there was a buyer willing to pay $3.3mm in 2011, they’d have struck a deal with these sellers sometime in the 4 months after June 22, 2011.

2008 was a (slightly) different loft
I noted up top that the loft was purchased by these recent sellers “in a near-Peak market for $200,000 less than the recent sale”. “Near-Peak” in this case means June 26, 2008, just one calendar quarter after the quarter in which the highest prices were recorded in the overall Manhattan residential market. That
marketing campaign was extensive and fascinating, but I first want to focus on the condition of the loft back then.

That babble was rather more enthusiastic than the recent, more modest, effort:

No detail has been left untouched in this massive,spectacular loft with eighteen large windows,four exposures,eleven foot ceilings, a separate windowed office and city views.Using highest quality materials, this pristine loft is a true family home with 3 or 4 bedrooms,a custom Poggenpohl kitchen and granite breakfast bar, a separate windowed office and a laundry area. The aparment [sic] has two and a half baths - an imported Italian Travertine Marble powder room,a natural stone master bath with oversized tub and separate shower and a second full bath with WaterWorks subway tile. The loft is wired for home theatre & highspeed [sic] internet.

Although some of the stated room dimensions vary by an inch or two, that
2008 floor plan matches the current arrangement, meaning that there is no evidence of renovation there. Nor is there evidence of renovation in the new babble. My mind is a terrible thing to waste, but I can’t remember what the listing agent said about upgrades when we visited the $3.65mm listing, other than something being done in the office. There are more listing photos for that era in our listing system than on StreetEasy, but the only possible difference evident in any photo is the flooring was much lighter in finish in 2008. The recent sellers might have replaced the floor, rather than simply refinished in walnut rather than oak, but that would make the 2012 babble even more modest than I first thought.

Bottom line: I asked the listing agent directly about changes, 2008 ($3.1mm) and 2012 (then asking $3.65mm) and I recall being unimpressed that much had been done.

Nostradamus, call your office
The buyers I visited with were also not impressed (enough) that enough had changed in the loft to justify that spread. Taking that 2008 sale at $1,169/ft into account, here’s what I told them at the time:

“building sales have topped out around $1,100/ft except for a penthouse + #8SE ($1,401/ft in 2008 for magazine-level finishes); #8W (really "2,652 sq ft") is asking $1,376/ft for no apparent reason; will they sell at $3.2mm or so??”

It took a while (and those two price drops) until the sellers took $3.3mm. I’m gonna call that price “$3.2mm or so” and call it a day.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013



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May. 29, 2013 - 112 Hudson Street loft zooms through market above ask


another one
I can’t tell from my notes and calendar why my buyer client around $1.5mm never got to see the “1,103 sq ft” Manhattan loft in prime Tribeca on the
4th floor at 112 Hudson Street, but the sellers didn’t miss us: the loft came to market on February 20 at $1.425mm, found a contract by March 19 after enough buyer activity to blow past the asking price, and closed on April 30 8% above the ask ($1.535mm). Nearly $1,400/ft is not bad (from a seller’s perspective) for a loft that needs some upgrading, even for a (no frills) condo cater-corner to Nobu.

do you remember the 1980s?
Those of you who are too young to remember much about the 1980s should take the hint provided by the listing photos of the kitchen (pic #2) and two bathrooms (pix #4, 5). If these plumbing rooms were not created then, this loft is some kind of weird homage. These plumbing rooms were efficient and reasonably inexpensive finishings in ‘basic’ lofts of that decade. (Note the stand-alone frig, the quality of that appliance [and its mates], the workmanlike sink and faucet. I’d say those are Ikea cabinets, but I don’t know if Ikea had reached these shores in those days; Sears, then.)

Note the (lack of) bragging about any materials or finishes in the broker babble:

lovely and spacious 2 bedroom, 1 and a half bath (with washer/dryer!) loft home on Hudson Street. The living room boasts tranquil and bright west exposures and the serene bedrooms face east.This is a great opportunity with very low monthly charges. 112 Hudson is an established condominium boutique building with elevator, storage in the basement, common rook [sic] deck, and visiting super. Built in the late 19th Century for a nautical equipment vendor and converted to condominium in 1992, this is a true piece of history.

All bones (and peace), not a word about quality. (Oops! If the condo was not created until 1992, the kitchen and baths look original to then, a few years later than I’d have thought.)

The loft is a remarkably efficient 2-bedroom, 1.5 bath array, fit into
an angled Long-and-Narrow footprint with 3 windows in front and 3 (angled) in back. In just “1,103 sq ft”, the bedrooms are large (not wide, but larger than in some lofts, and in any cookie-cutter “apartments”) and having the kitchen and baths in the middle on opposite sides leaves the entire front as an open living area. Absent someone wanting a larger kitchen or an en suite master bath (which would mean adding a tub or shower to the half bath, and moving both baths east a bit), there is no obvious renovation choice that would change the floor plan

Of course, any 2013 buyer is likely to upgrade the kitchen and (probably) the baths. After buying for $1,392/ft, that is.

don’t believe all the hype
There are 15 lofts on my
Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 200 that were closed in April (so far, as deeds are still being filed) as resales in Tribeca between $500,00 and $5,000,000. Watch this sentence closely: only 4 sold above ask.

This one, by the way, has now sold twice above ask, as the recent sellers had to beat the ask when they bought in
January 2006 at $1.275mm

listing photo hall of fame, washer-dryer wing
I love listing photo #6, and have to assume that the mirrored image of the washer dryer was captured on purpose. Genius!


© Sandy Mattingly 2013



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May. 28, 2013 - you'd have to see 161 Hudson Street loft to hope to know why it sold 53% above 2009, 9% above ask

redesigned, not renovated
You only have to toggle back and forth between the
2013 floor plan and the 2009 floor plan for the “2,314 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2B at 161 Hudson Street a few times before you are confident that the structure of the loft has been little changed in the nearly four years since the folks who bought it for $2.41mm sold it for $3.7mm. (I count one closet added in one bedroom and built-in shelves on the other side of that wall; otherwise, walls and closets are the same, kitchen and baths with same shapes and features.)

This is from the new broker babble:

Design details include exquisite custom mahogany built-ins throughout, stunning walnut floors and open dining room. The chef's kitchen has been completely customized and features Poggenpohl cabinetry, with SubZero and Miele appliances.
laundry room, central air with heat and Crestron home automation system complete this impeccable home

Back in the day, they put it this way:

Brazilian walnut floors. ...a chef’s kitchen with black granite countertops, cherry wood cabinets, a SubZero refrigerator, a Fisher Paykel dishwasher and many more custom details. The 2 large baths are finished with honed marble, double Duravit sinks fitted in maple wood cabinetry and Jado faucets. A separate dining area, w/d, central air with heat and built-in humidifier

The pictures do not permit side-by-side comparisons, as there is no large format available for the 2009 listing and little symmetry. I see new some mahogany built-ins, and take their word for that element being “throughout”; I see new kitchen cabinets and backsplash, and note that what was a Fisher Paykal dishwasher might now be one of the Miele appliances. I have no idea whether the “completely customized” (new) kitchen is otherwise different from the (old) kitchen “with many more custom details”, except that the pictures suggest “no” and I actually have no idea what “completely customized” means in a world that already includes Poggenpohl cabinetry and fancy tile work.

I bet that the 2013 babble omitted mention of the built-in dehumidifier, just as I would guess that the Creston home automation system was present in 2009, but kept a secret (at least, in the babble). There’s no mention of the baths (other than that the master is “beautiful [and] ensuite”, so they probably did not improve on the honed marble, Duravit doubles, and Jado faucets.

In other words, if the loft has been dramatically improved since 2009 (apart from the mahogany built-ins and kitchen changes) you’d have to be in the loft to notice. This dramatic improvement since 2009 can’t be missed: $3.7mm. That’s an
improvement of $557/ft, or 53%.

Neither custom Poggenpohl nor forests of mahogany could cost 7-figures, but that is the difference in market value. Holy. Moley.

The brave 2009 sellers came out before The Thaw was much in evidence in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market, made the adjustments they felt they needed to, and got a deal done when there were not many deals being done:

Mar 13, 2009 new to market $2.7mm
April 1   $2.595mm
April 17   $2.5mm
June 30 sold $2.41mm

Of course, those buyers in 2009 were also brave, buying into a market in which others were frozen to inaction. They were rewarded handsomely for their fortitude (less so, I have to believe, for their Poggenpohl and mahogany), as this time was quick, with hot buyer-on-buyer action:

Jan 18, 2013 new to market $3.395mm
Feb 14 contract  
April 24 sold $3.7mm


Let’s do this one more time: three point seven million dollars over two point four one million dollars equals one million one hundred twenty-nine million dollars, or fifty-three per cent.

Holy. Crap.

just for fun …
The 2009 sellers at $2.41mm were buyers at $1.825mm in November 2004, so they did not make out badly. (That was a premium of 32%.) You can’t find it on the internet, but our listing system has a 2004 floor plan that is identical to the 2009 version, and a listing description that sounds like the 2009 version, without the details (“gourmet” kitchen, central air, “stone finishes”, among them). So the loft has doubled in value in 9 years. And the "Architect's residence" is little changed since 2004, in any architectural (structural) sense.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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May. 22, 2013 - did 11 Lispenard Street loft (Tribeca) sell because close to Soho?

interesting (truthful) marketing angle
The “1,782 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the
5th floor at 11 Lispenard Street is so solidly “Tribeca” that it is one short block west of the original Triangle Below Canal block (more on that, below*). Yet it was marketed with reference to another neighborhood, one across a wide moat Canal: “[c]onveniently located near public transportation and steps from the wonderful shops of Soho”. I find this a fascinating marketing angle, in part because of its apparent rejection of the “Tribeca” brand, but mostly because it is true. While clearly in Tribeca, this location just east of the joint intersection with 6th Avenue and West Broadway is not very much of Tribeca.

I know the feeling: when I lived around the corner, just west and south, in the Pleistocene era (Tribeca, early 1980s) restaurants and shops near the southern border of Soho seemed more “local” than those in prime Tribeca (in those days, the blocks around Franklin and N. Moore, and Greenwich and Hudson). Thus, we regularly shopped at DeRoma’s (where Soho Mews is now) for convenience items, and it seemed perfectly logical (though geographically inappropriate) for what we called “the Vietnamese drug store” to call itself
Soho Pharmacy when it opened (in the mid-1980s?) 2 blocks south of Canal.

The Wiki sources the confirmation of this naming story to the local former City Council Member: residents on the next block of Lispenard, just east of Church, formed a block association intended to be limited to that one block and called it TRIangle BElow CAnal, as this one block is [very nearly] a triangle, but the New York Times misunderstood the narrow geography and used “TriBeCa” to refer to the whole region south of Canal. Darn the paper of record! The story is too good not to be true.)

a daunting plan
The broker babble is enthusiastic about the interior, and not just the proximity to Soho, though it overplays the flexibility:

phenomenal LIGHT from 3 exposures! ... classic details ... exposed pipes, soaring 10ft slated wooden ceilings and brick detailing .... Renovated modern kitchen features stainless steel Boffi cabinets, Miele and Verona appliances and concrete and stainless steel counter tops, all with an Empire State building view! ... can easily be reconfigured to a 2 -3 BR layout. ... bathrooms ... with modern, classic finishes

Loft snobs always want more photos of “classic” lofts; in this case, of the “modern, classic” bathroom. But I love these details: the slatted (two “Ts” there) ceilings, especially in pix #2 and #3; the long white brick wall (throughout); and the muddle of electrical service installed on top of walls rather than inside, especially in pic #5.


Speaking of pic #5, toggle back and forth between this bed (not “bedroom”) photo and the floor plan. Can you see what you are looking at? (D’oh!) That bed is in the extreme southwest corner of the loft, with One York visible in that window startight ahead, open to the entire length of the loft. (“Open loft”, indeed!) What you can’t see just to the front right outside the frame of that photo is an unusual element so close to a bed: the elevator!

This classic loft is, of course, a classic Long-and-Narrow with the significant benefit of having 3 windows on the long west wall and the significant deficit of being
narrow (14’3” for most of its length). The limited width is ameliorated by the west windows, but only to a degree. And the flexibility in the footprint is significantly reduced by the placement of the elevator (so close to the front) and the placement of the kitchen (in the extreme northeast corner).

You can’t put split bedrooms on the north wall (in a classic use of a Long-and-Narrow footprint) without moving the kitchen, and the kitchen may not be movable along the public stairwell wall (note the fire door) without fancy dancing and significant expense. I suspect the “sleep area” is where it is on the east wall because of that bathroom (now) being en suite. To give a mid-loft (real) “bedroom” a window would necessitate a corridor along the east wall, away from that bathl.

The challenges in the current array are illustrated by nothing so well as the walk-in closet in the southeast corner … with a window! Personally, I would dispense with having a bathroom en suite, and make that front (open) sleeping area a 3-window bedroom and take out the current “sleep area”, using the first west window for a bedroom. You lose the sense of openness immediately on getting off the elevator, but making a hard right in a new corridor will open up the north expanse as the first long view.

Clever architects may have better ideas, but the problem with this very narrow footprint with utilities at each end is that you need a clever architect to figure it out. And probably dollars, many dollars. Can “easily be reconfigured to a 2 -3 BR layout”?? Puh-leeze.

In fact, the 2010 listing had two different 3-bedroom
proposed floor plans, one with the second and third bedrooms squeezed around the elevator in the front, the other with them along the west wall opposite the stairwell; in each plan the master suite takes the entire north wall, the kitchen is relocated to the other end of the stairwell (next to that existing bath), and new windows are punched in that west wall. Clever; not cheap.

a bumpy road to contract
You need to click
here to see on StreetEasy that this 5th floor loft sold for the asking price of $2.049mm on April 19. I had a buyer interested in the loft in January, when the ask had been $2.15mm since Labor Day. We had figured the seller would be somewhat negotiable, given that all the other lofts in Tribeca seemed to have sold in a blink at this time, and seeing that it had then been offered for 4+ months without a contract.

The agent was kind enough to show without me (having cancelled an appointment the day before that I would have attended), and he showed my buyer a cash offer at $2.05mm on his smartphone email (that was interesting!), suggesting that my guy would have to come in above $2.1mm to beat that. Too much work to justify that bid for my guy, so he passed. Only later (February 20) did we learn that the new price was $2.049mm, suggesting that the “cash buyer” of early January had evaporated. Bummer.

2010 listing suggests another reason we thought the seller in 2013 might be negotiable. He paid $1.78mm on August 4, 2010 for the loft as-is in 2013. Having now sold at $2.049mm, the hyper-local market in this near-Soho-corner-of-Tribeca seems to be up 15% in less than 3 years. Not such a bummer for the seller, after all.

things I learned today
“Pisar na grama” (see main listing photo) means
Don’t Walk On The Grass in Portuguese. I don’t know if I will be able to use that in a sentence today without straining, however.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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May. 14, 2013 - a tale of two 2nd floor lofts on Thomas Street


one sold, one not

It was the best of times for the 2nd floor loft at 86 Thomas Street, as it just sold for $1,325/ft; it was the worst of times for the 2nd floor loft next door at 84 Thomas Street, which failed to sell despite being offered $1,081/ft. (It is confusing times for StreetEasy, which thinks that these two lofts are the same.) Start with the good news, because it is a sunny (fall?) day: the “2,000 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 2nd floor at 86 Thomas Street came to market on December 2 at $2.808mm (Hong Kong pricing??) and found the contract by January 23 at $2.65mm that closed on April 25. That loft featured a “brand new” and “brilliant” renovation, resulting in the loft doubling in value since being purchased by the recent sellers on June 8, 2007 at $1,311,300 (when “rare opportunity to purchase an authentic loft” must have meant total gut job).

Follow with the other news: the “2,544 sq ft” loft next door on the
2nd floor at 84 Thomas Street was on the market for 4 months until February 27, last priced at $2.75mm. These erstwhile sellers bought the loft on July 27, 2006 for $1.925mm, then tried to sell at $2.695mm on September 3, 2008 just as Cinderella’s clock was about to strike midnight Lehman was about to bring the financial markets to a halt, before accepting the severely reduced market and giving up (for then) 3+ months later. You can’t tell, but our listing system shows that this loft was in substantially the same condition when purchased in 2006 as when recently offered for sale. In other words, having bought at $1.925mm 18 months before The Peak, these owners were just a little late to the party when they came out in September 2008, and they are yet to get the big gain they thought they were entitled to. (That loft claims a “chef's kitchen with state of the art appliances and custom cherry cabinetry” and “[n]ew Miele washer/dryer, cedar closet, hardwood floors and equipped with central heat and air conditioning”, though the kitchen, cedar closet and central air are definitely not new.)


These side by side neighbors went head to head from December 2 until the contract at 86 Thomas 8 weeks later. My buyers saw 84 Thomas but not 86 Thomas (explained below) but even without seeing the lovely renovation at 86 Thomas in person, I have no doubt that anyone seeing both would feel that 84 Thomas was ‘tired’. The floor plan just reeks of a sense that it was created by someone who had more space than they knew what to do with; they obviously never thought they’d need two real bedrooms. (This is also confusing: the floor plan surviving with the unsuccessful marketing campaign is not the actual floor plan, but a proposed 3-bedroom 2.5 bath plan [note the broker babble: “Convertible 3 bedroom(currently 1 bedroom)”]; the actual as-is floor plan is not quite this one from the 2008 listing; since then, the windowed walls creating a stairwell foyer have come down, as have half-walls around the raised living platform, and that wall just to the left at the elevtor entry.)


I feel old in that space, and not in a good way
Rather than leave a massive (65 foot long) open space (accentuated by 12 foot ceilings), an owner put that raised platform in up front, sometime before 2006 (probably well before), creating a “living room” without walls, separated (in altitude) from the (still long) dining / den / play area. Rather than mess around with plumbing stacks, an owner used 4 back windows along a 30 foot wall for a single bedroom, a huge bathroom, and a corridor leading to both, probably long ago. (You don’t
need a photo of Madonna over your black jacuzzi to screem “1980s!”, but it helps; see listing pic #5.)

Nice as the cedar closet is, nice as the kitchen is, very few buyers would walk into this space and feel it is set up exactly as they would inhabit it (hence, the alternate floor plan with the StreetEasy listing). If you start ripping up the raised platform up front and messing with the plumbing in back and in the middle to get 3 bedrooms (as in the alternate plan), you are looking at a gut renovation, or a clever near-gut. Add another $500,000 (or more!) to a purchase around $2.75mm and the math becomes rather daunting.

For my buyers, it was tempting (12 foot ceilings! [count ‘em] 7 cast iron columns down the middle of the loft! a log tall brick wall! big windows on Thomas Street!) but just not worth the trouble at this price. And … they did not love looking at the Western Union building across Thomas, with a row of vents at about eye level from this floor. Which is why we never got to see the lovely renovation next door that went head to head with 84 Thomas and kicked its butt.

looking through the eyes of a hotel visionary
The babble is exceedingly enthusiastic about the finishes and design of the smaller (“2,000 sq ft”) but more efficient loft at 86 Thomas (3 bedrooms plus den, 3 full baths), leaving nearly the entire front half of the loft open. I will leave that babble to you to parse, with the comment that anything nice about 84 Thomas is nicer at 86 Thomas, columns and ceiling height aside. It’s not that I am unenthusiastic about the space, just that I have gone on too long deconstructing 84 Thomas to spend more of your time on what are the obvious charms of 86 Thomas.

The Market loved 86 Thomas: contract within 8 weeks at $2.65mm for only “2,000 sq ft”. The Market could not handle 84 Thomas, asking $2.75mm for 4 months for “2,544 sq ft”. In the one case, an owner vastly improved the space after buying in June 2007, doubling the value by 2013 no matter what the renovation budget was. In the other case, owners who bought in July 2006 at $1.925mm didn’t do much to it, so one hopes that they were not surprised that The Market ignored it at a 43% premium. (In that latter case, you never know, but for an owner
comping is hard … unless a much nicer loft is for sale right next door.)

looking through the eyes of Samuel F. B. Morse
As I mentioned, both of these buildings look across narrow Thomas Street at Western Union, at a low enough level that I’d need to do noise diligence on that long run of vents above the loading docks before I’d enthusiastically recommend even a loft as nice as the one at #86. In each case, the listing photos bleach the bricks visible across the street, which are much more red than white in real life (Google Street View has the color, the loading docks, and the vents,

need a hotelier’s vision (one that “oozes chic and sophistication”) in these spaces, as these are both the odd lofts that are better suited to a purely interior experience, turning one’s back (if you will) on the windows, and the pre-”Tribeca” industry just across.

StreetEasy, call your editor
If this discussion of the two 2nd floor lofts in adjoining buildings has gotten convoluted, any consideration of the two lofts will start from the fact that StreetEasy has jumbled the two sales and marketing histories as though they were one and the same loft. #84 and #86 appear to be separate coops, but maybe at one time they were owned in common, or even shared a tax lot ID. I can’t imagine, otherwise, how StreetEasy could confuse these two. (Again,
this is 86 Thomas 2nd floor, this is 84 Thomas 2nd floor; different listing descriptions, floor plans and photos but the same common history.)

As if it were not difficult enough already to track Manhattan loft sales ….


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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May. 13, 2013 - 45 Lispenard Street loft takes a year to sell at small discount to ask, 11% premium over Peak


‘tis a puzzlement

The Market just loved the “1,800 sq ft” Manhattan loft #5E at 45 Lispenard Street, as we see from the fact that it sold on April 25 at $2.2mm after selling at near-Peak for just $1,988,500. Any repeat sale 11% over Peak shows a whole lotta love. The conundrum, however, is that it took over a year to sell (9 months to contract) at near-trivial discounts from the various asking prices in the marketing campaign:

April 30, 2008 sold $1,988,500
Mar 14, 2012 new to market $2.395mm
May 16   $2.295mm
May 24 co-listed  
Sept 1 hiatus  
Oct 2 change firms $2.365mm
Nov 29   $2.25mm
Dec 21 contract  
April 25, 2013 sold $2.2mm


The highest ask was 9% above the clearing price; other asking prices were 7.5%, 4.3% and 2.3% above the final price. It should have sold off that $2.295mm in Spring or Summer of 2012, right? Particularly as the last broker babble was VERY (sorry about shouting) excited about the hyper-local market: “on the newly acclaimed LISPENARD STREET where sales on this street are BOOMING!!”

a nearly ideal layout

Regular readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know how much I like square lofts. The typical nearly square loft footprint is on a corner, with two exposures, providing a great deal of flexibility for room placement. This floor plan has the unusual benefit of a near-square with windows north and south, truly bringing light into nearly every square inch of the loft whenever the sun shines, not to mention “at night you have wonderful city views from this high floor overlooking Soho for miles and miles”.

You have to work with the plumbing stacks where they are, but the only thing to quibble about with this layout is that the bathroom for the second (interior) bedroom gets the two northeast windows, rather than the “bedroom”. Make no mistake, that is a mere quibble: the layout is as close to perfect as the plumbing allows. I have seen it, and agree that the photos “do not do the space justice”.

Speaking of plumbing, there’s one detail that is delightful that is too small to mention in the babble or to feature in a photo. In that half-bath by the entry there are two windows; I don’t even remember the one over the sink, facing east, but someone at some point spent a lot of money to open that sliver window north (over the toilet). It is so small that you’d easily overlook it on the floor plan, but guys are going to notice right away (trust me, ladies) that the narrow slit perfectly frames the Empire State Building. A delightful detail, indeed.

To recap: the footprint allows 3 sleeping rooms (with one interior and one being used as a library by the sellers), 2.5 baths, a large open kitchen, enough separation to have a dining area that does not cut into the living room, all in a space that is hardly massive for a loft (“1,800 sq ft”) but has the 10 foot barrel-vaulted ceilings and walls of windows that touch those ceilings both north and south. You’d think it would sell quickly, but not having done that ….

reading history as it happens … hard

My buyer saw this loft in the 3 weeks that it was asking $2.25mm. That was more than he wanted to pay for a loft, but he was interested because even photos that “do not do justice” show that this is very nice space, nicely finished. Of course he loved it, though it was still more than he wanted to pay. He didn’t exactly try to low-ball it, but he made an offer that was logical in view of the fact that it had sold in April 30, 2008 at $1,988,500 and that the loft had been for sale for a relatively long time (certainly, compared to other lofts he liked in Tribeca), without selling.

Turns out, of course, that logic does not always apply. The Peak market suggested this loft should sell around $2mm at the end of 2012. The mid-2012 market response suggested that around $2.25mm was not being offered for this loft. He did not regret avoiding a bidding war with the eventual buyers at $2.2mm (it was still more than he wanted to pay), but he was disappointed. The Market seemed to suggest he had an opening (did the November 29 price drop suggest another drop would come??), but The Market is simply the aggregated decisions of individual buyers and individual sellers.

This seller really did want $2.2mm and found buyers really interested in spending that. Apparently, those buyers either weren’t in the market in Spring and Summer of 2012, or could not find the way to Lispenard Street back then.

As much as comping is hard (it is), reading market responses and comps in real-time can be even more difficult.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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May. 9, 2013 - late original buyer at 415 Greenwich Street flips Tribeca Summit loft for fun and profit


nicely played, sir (& madam); nicely played

For people with an ‘investment’ approach to Manhattan residential real estate, this is how it’s done: buy at $3.35mm, sell 14 months later at $4.085mm. Everyone would do that if they could, of course; the trick (usually) is doing that first leg at a time at which others are reluctant to buy. By ‘this’ I mean the “2,318 sq ft” Manhattan loft #8A at 415 Greenwich Street (in the tough-to-launch Tribeca Summit new development of 2006-turned-2008) bought as (one of?) the last sponsor unit(s) on February 1, 2012 at $3.35mm and sold by those original owners on April 1 at $4.085mm. That’s a 22% gain ($735,000, before expenses, of course) in 14 months.

The first step is the hardest, right? Links to past Manhattan Loft Guy posts about this (as I said above) tough-to-launch new development are below, but the folks who just flipped up 22% were not the only ones with the opportunity to own this loft. The listing history is incredibly spotty on StreetEasy (and irrational, with contracts followed by price changes, and all those contracts ...), but here’s what we have, with anything you can’t see on Streeteasy coming from our listing system:


Jan 4, 2006 new to market $3.375mm
Nov 11 hiatus  
Mar 7, 2007 back on market $3.425mm
Mar 20   $3.475mm
May 31 contract $3.525mm
July 25   $3.65mm
April 14, 2008 contract  
May 14, 2010   $3.6mm
Sept 14 contract  
Nov 10 hiatus  
Mar 1, 2011 contract  
Feb 1, 2012 sold $3.335mm

(Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t see any attempts to rent loft #8A in this long presale period: 73 months, from start to finish.)

I mentioned that #8A sale, along with another tortured sponsor sale in the “A” line (#5A), in a post about the resale of #3A. That post, my August 27, 2012, 415 Greenwich Street loft resale clobbers sponsor at Tribeca Summit, nears record, extensively reviewed 3-bedroom sales at Tribeca Summit, ranking 8 such sales on a $/ft basis, and explaining why that February 1, 2012 sale of #8A at $3.35mm probably seemed like a good idea (for the sponsor) at the time. Long story, short: loft #5A had a very similar history to #8A, and (finally!) sold on May 6, 2011 at $3.025mm (see that post for tortuous details, detailed in tortuous Manhattan Loft Guy fashion).

That post was really about the resale of #3A at $3.505mm on August 13, 2012:


A couple of things are obvious. There was more than one very interested suitor for #3A three months ago, and none of them were interested in #8A more than three months before that. In other words, these #3A suitors were not in the market for a “2,318 sq ft” 3 bedroom loft with behind the Holland Tunnel spillways in Tribeca above $3mm when they could have bought #8A for $3.35mm or so.

Neither the #3A buyer at $3.505mm not the sponsor seller of #8A at $3.35mm is laughing, but there is no (rational) explanation for this pair of sales. It is just one of those The Market Is Funny Sometimes, In’it? moments. (Funny peculiar; not funny ha-ha.)


The nuclear winter that characterized the overall Manhattan residential real estate market after Lehman’s bankruptcy in September 2008 lasted much longer in this building, no doubt because the original developers went belly-up (probably around May 2009, reading between the lines, as I said on August 27, 2012, of the):


StreetEasy building page [, which] will give you dates of closings and corporate sellers if you want to see precisely when the break occurred, how many lofts were closed in the first efforts, and how many were after the sales efforts were revived. Knock yourself out.


(I hit on the 2010 sponsor “discounts” here in my July 15, 2010, more developer haircuts, as 415 Greenwich lofts cut to close.)

Point is, there wasn’t much buy-side competition for remaining sponsor units as recently as early 2012, as proven by the #8A price of $3.35 on February 1, 2012, following #5A at $3.025mm 9 months earlier. Those buyers were taking a risk that other buyers were clearly not willing to take.


“A” lot of activity, of late

This post is about the #8A buyers-in-2012-turned-sellers-in-2013 rather than about the #5A buyers in 2011, but note that the #5A buyers bought an even greater risk in May 2011 ($3.025mm!). Things began to look up for them when our (now) friends stepped up to buy #8A at $3.35mmin February 2012, and things continued to look up for both of them when #5A resold at $3.505mm. Things are
really looking up for brave “A” line buyers at Tribeca Summit now.

The new prices show that the ‘old’ risks that had been tamping down values in this specific building are now priced out of the market. What a long strange journey for #8A, a rather profitable one for the intrepid February 2012 buyers.

When the #8A buyers-in-2012 came to market on November 20, they were really pushing the market, as the last “A” to sell at that point was #3A at $3.505mm 3 months earlier. Obviously, that worked, and fairly quickly:


Nov 20, 2012 new to market $4.295mm
Feb 2, 2013 contract  
April 1 sold $4.085mm


The neighbors downstairs in #6A (who were original original buyers, on June 12, 2008 at $3,487,586) sensed the same momentum, and went head-to-head with #8A. That resale was also pretty quick, though at a relatively large discount (in light of subsequent events) unless there is a huge difference in view from the 8th floor:

Dec 8, 2012 new to market $3.995mm
Jan 14, 2013 contract  
Mar 13 sold $3.86mm


With that data point in hand I am even more impressed with our #8A friends. They weathered the head-to-head competition from a neighbor who tried to did undercut their price and held out for a premium over the undercutting neighbors’ ask, and for (what they may or may not have known was) a larger premium over the undercutting neighbors’ contract.


Once again: nicely played, sir (& madam); nicely played. Your (former) neighbors appreciate how you re-set the market.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013



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May. 2, 2013 - 85 Leonard Street loft doesn't quite zoom, but sells above ask


nearly $2mm gain in 4 years

The “2,434 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 4th floor at 85 Leonard Street (the condo name, Kitchen, Montross & Wilcox Store, is a mouthful, explained below) enjoyed an enviable but hardly unique experience of selling above ask this month, though it did take some time. I think this limb will be strong enough to hold me: I believe this sale completes the single largest gain on resale in my Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008, which is both enviable and (likely) unique. Let’s start in the present and work back.


a very specific floor plan, in classic form

The full floor loft is a classic Long-and-Narrow, with the classic floor plan to match: 2 bedrooms split the rear wall, windows only front (3, huge) and back (3, modest), plumbing on both sides in the middle permitting the bedrooms to be en suite and a half bath opposite the kitchen, with enough length to add a large closet on one long wall in the middle and a “study/[small!] interior 3rd bedroom” opposite. (When I say the “study/[small!] interior 3rd bedroom” is small, I mean smaller than the master bath; the placement of the plumbing on both long walls optimizes this loft as 2-bedroom+small!-study, rather than permitting a 3-bedroom layout; remember, the 2 full baths are en suite.)


Ceiling heights are given, unhelpfully, only as “tall” and “impressive”, which I estimate to be synonyms for “under 11 feet” in this case. The light is “magnificent” and the rest of the broker babble is long on modifiers but short on detail:


gut renovated loft: the grand entertaining/living space with a fireplace abuts a sleek kitchen with Viking and Bosch appliances, stone counters and refined smokey wood cabinetry. A gallery leads to the study/interior 3rd bedroom, a laundry room (with full size LG washer and dryer and a sink, with an abundance of storage, and an elegant powder room. The Master Suite features a large walk in closet and a sumptuous en suite bathroom with a large shower stall and free-standing sculptural soaking tub. An additional bedroom suite completes the picture. Ducted central air-conditioning, tall ceilings and hardwood floors


Maybe it was the holiday season, but the marketing campaign was relatively long for being so successful: to market  with turkey hangover on November 30 at $2.95mm, then not in contract until the champagne hangover wore off on January 11, finally closed (with a StreetEasy mismatch) on April 1 at $3.16mm. Ignoring the storage room that came with the loft, that’s $1,298/ft for a condo in a magnificent building that, although fairly babbled as “surrounded by the best Tribeca retail, restaurants and transportation” is hardly prime Tribeca.


old gut, new glory

Reading between babbling lines can be tricky, but note the word about timing missing from this bit: “this gut renovated loft...”. In a new condo development in which sales did not close until 2009 (StreetEasy building page, here), the “gut renovation” almost certainly refers to the sponsor’s work, as anything done by the recent seller would likely be promoted as “recently” or “newly” renovated, or with elements such as “brand new [kitchen, etc]”. There’s no detailed listing description from the sponsor’s marketing anywhere I can see on the intertubes, but the original new development floor plan for the 4th floor survives in our listing system, with the same telltale angles in the recent floor plan (bedroom doorways, zig-zagged bedroom walls, even the master tub) were in the developer’s floor plan.


But for that, and for the fact that our listing system has the developer’s marketing prices for the 4th floor, I’d be tempted to think that the loft had not been “gut” renovated when it was bought at this ridiculous price by the recent seller: $1,289,783, on December 8, 2009. Let me repeat that ridiculous price, slowly: one million two hundred eighty-nine thousand seven hundred and eighty-three dollars. Had the sponsor intended to sell at a ridiculous price, or offered a white box or raw space, the long, sad and sparse details would not look like this (from our system):


Aug 20, 2007 new to market $3.4mm
May 2, 2008   $2.95mm
April 6, 2009   $2.65mm


There is a similar (incomplete) scale to the part of the 2nd floor marketing campaign that survives on StreetEasy:


Nov 7, 2007 new to market* $2.95mm
Jan 17, 2008   $2.75mm
July 21 contract  
Jan 21, 2009 sold $2.225mm


(*Our listing system has an earlier start to the 2nd floor campaign, consistent with the 4th floor: August 2, 2007 at $3.2mm.)


Thus, there is no reasonable doubt that the developer was selling gut renovated lofts beginning in 2007 (rather, lofts that were not finished in gut renovated condition until late 2008 or 2009).


There is also no doubt that this developer got creamed. Instead of selling the 4th floor at $3.4mm as soon as work was done to get a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, the developer received $1,289,783 on December 8, 2009; instead of selling the 2nd floor at $3.2mm, $2.25mm on January 21, 2009. StreetEasy has the first floor unit (which included the basement and a mezzanine, totalling perhaps “7,000 sq ft”) selling on October 27, 2009 at $2.67mm, the 3rd floor not going until March 1, 2010 at $2mm, and the top floor (with rooftop addition and outdoor space) not going until May 21, 2010 at $4,276,285.


can’t blame the carpenters for everything

These sales are obviously well below expectations, and timed about as poorly as they could be timed. As far as expectations are concerned, the 2nd floor history tells you that the developer was way too optimistic, even for Peak market, needing to drop from $3.2mm to $2.95mm and to $2.75mm before biting a half million dollar bullet to get a contract in July 2008 (still two months before Lehman’s bankruptcy). That summer represented the last best chance, in retrospect of course, to take the (most) money and run. But the January 2009 first closing tells us that the developer was not done … er … developing the building in time.


Whether bad luck, bad pricing (certainly, in part), or bad (delayed) work, the results were disastrous. Net proceeds from the 5 sales: $12,061,468. StreetEasy has what they paid to buy the building in December 2005 ($11,003,955). Do you think it cost more than a million dollars to (a) carry the project from December 2005 to May 2010, and (b) to gut renovate as much as 18,000 sq ft, and (c) to pay 5% sales fees on the 5 (eventual) sales? That last piece is the easiest to ballpark and, likely, the smallest piece; but $600,000 in commissions goes a long way in starting this project down a deeply red path.


My. Oh. My.


in which we learn about sperm candle columns

To end on a happier note than a developer bath, the “tansplanted Buckeye” who had the smarts to “never stop[] being a tourist” after 30+ years here and the pen to write a lovely blog has an extended piece about the building, published on June 3, 2011. I highly recommend the piece, as it layers architecture, history (a clerk with silk-lined pockets!), and culture about this building and this block in Tribeca, and I highly recommend the blog, Daytonian In New York. (Note to Self … add to blog roll.) New York needs more “tourists” like this.


The history of 85 Leonard Street provided by Mr. Miller reminds me about one under-appreciated (subtle?) element in very old loft buildings converted to residential use: the importance of elevator placement. Buildings as old as the Kitchen, Montross & Wilcox Store (begun in 1860) predate elevators; if an intervening commercial owner put one in, they are often in the least expensive and most commercially efficient location, which happens to be the worst placement for residential use.


You know what I mean. The worst examples put the elevator at the front facade, usually taking up one front window line, and often (when installed, at least) opening directly onto the sidewalk. (Thus, the ubiquitous “Shaftway” signs you see up the front of loft buildings of a certain age, warning firefighters that there is no floor behind those “windows”.) That elevator placement is great for a commercial user to load and unload from sidewalk directly up into their space, but awful for later residential owners, who lose a window (often 1 of only 3) and width in the front of the loft.


I don’t know when the elevator was installed at 85 Leonard Street, but it is placed so as to optimize residential use, at the cost of some first floor space for a proper lobby. As you see on the 4th floor plan, it is tucked behind the public stairway, opposite the kitchen, in the long middle of the loft in which various utilities line each long side. This is the kind of thing a new residential conversion can accomplish, in a building not previously provided with elevator service.


That’s a happy note! One to quit on....


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 29, 2013 - 95 Franklin Street loft sells with new space (not just newly renovated space)


the mezz makes the man, er, loft

One of the hoary things you hear Manhattan real estate boosters say is that real estate here is so valuable because “it’s an island, they are not making more of it”. Of course that is not true, as this cool feature from a walking tour company shows (see the lower Manhattan coastline grow from 1660, to 1766, to 1803, to 1834, to 2004), but you’d think it would be more true in lofts with, you know, fixed exterior walls (more so in apartments, of course). I’ve done a bunch of posts about mezzanine spaces, some that work well, and others that don’t. The “2,031 sq ft” Manhattan loft #6A at 95 Franklin Street that just sold for $2.75mm is noteworthy for having a mezzanine that works well, and a mezzanine that is bigger than it was when it was bought by these sellers in December 2004 at $1,527,375. “Making more of it”, and dressing it well, worked out pretty well for those folks.


The glory of the loft is the ceiling height (17 feet), that and a long north wall of 6 “huge” windows. Apart from the ceiling height, the listing and floor plan have no measurements or dimensions. Having seen it, I can say that the mezzanine works surprisingly well for covering so much of the footprint. This upper level is proportionately much larger than the mezzanine that The Market loved and that I hit in my March 4, when beautiful things happen to high ceilings / 720 Greenwich Street loft sells big after mezzanine re-do. Here, maybe only a quarter of the footprint has those 17 foot ceilings, with about two-thirds of the space being doubled-up, with very un-loft-like 8+ foot ceilings. It works, in part because the mezzanine is almost completely open, with steel frames and glass barriers forcing people to use the stairs. The challenge that comes with the space, then, is that the master suite is largely exposed visually (though there are those wood panels up in front of the bed) and completely exposed aurally. The only privacy is from the other bedrooms (one up, one down).


There is also the live-with-it-or-HATE-it challenge of the spiral stair access to the upper level, and the tactical choice whether to force the user of the upstairs bedroom to spiral down to use the downstairs bath, or to share the master bath.


creating space out of thin air, for fun and profit

You can’t see the original floor plan or listing description from when the recent sellers bought loft #6A from the sponsor in 2004, but I can (it is in our system). The original floor plan for the loft as sold by the developer had a laundry and half bath on either side of the kitchen, a full bath downstairs where the present large one is, a mezzanine that was limited to the back (south) wall, over the kitchen, entry and that full bath accessed by a straight stair at the end of the kitchen, with no other walls. The full ceiling height was available to well more than half of the footprint. The recent sellers about doubled the size of the mezzanine, adding a full bath, and installing a spiral stair.


Property Shark has this loft at “2,031 sq ft”, which is the number I use on the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008. I have to believe that is a measurement based on the footprint + (smaller) mezzanine, especially as that fits my ballpark estimates, that the original mezzanine was about well less than half of the footprint, and the new mezzanine at about three-quarters. Let’s guess that the footprint is about 1,500 sq ft, add a third to get about 2,031 sq ft as of December 2004; add about 67% and you go from 1,500 to the “2,500 sq ft” claimed in the recent broker babble. Works for me.


beautiful work

As I mentioned, the large mezzanine works because it is open and airy, but it doesn’t work for everyone, because not everyone wants that open and that airy. The loft has beautiful finishes (remember: I saw it), including that “Abundance of Customized Closets”, the best of which (in that dressing area) are not pictured. It took The Market a while to appreciate the loft, and/or it took the sellers a while to appreciate at which price point The Market might appreciate the loft:

July 9, 2012 new to market $3.2mm
Nov 10   $2.995mm
Feb 8, 2013


Mar 20 sold $2.75mm


It is almost impossible to make the adjustments to rigorously comp this loft, starting from figuring out how big it is now (maybe “2,500 sq ft”), then figuring out an appropriate loft discount for there being un-loft-y 8+ foot ceilings over much of the space, then finding a similar size loft with a similar proportion of mezzanine and a similar level of finishes (ha!). As I say, almost impossible to do rigorously. At “2,500 sq ft”, the clearing price comes to $1,100/ft, well below “nice” Tribeca lofts, as it should be because nice Tribeca lofts of this (real) size feature master suites with windows and walls that go to the ceiling. At “2,031 sq ft”, the value bumps up to a more reasonable $1,354/ft, but that is almost certainly an artificial number based on a layout that no longer exists.


Did I mention (today) that comping is hard? These sellers and this brokerage team would agree, seeing that loft #6A took 7 months to find a contract in a pretty busy sellers’ market.


one picture of a motivated buyer

I saw this loft before that price drop with pretty motivated buyers who needed 3 bedrooms in Tribeca. They probably had the same reaction as many 3-bedroom Tribeca buyers (the spiral stair and the open master were deal breakers) but here is how motivated they were: the elevator was out of service when we got there, so we walked up 5 (tall!) flights of stairs, and “we” was me and the 4-months pregnant half of the buyer couple. She will remain my poster child mother for what a truly motivated buyer can do, non-monetarily.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 19, 2013 - 5 years later, small loft at 261 Broadway sells (angels rejoice)


I spoke too soon yesterday

One problem with doing daily blog posts about closed Manhattan loft sales is that one post can get eclipsed by another; what seems like an unusual specimen one day can diminish the next. If you remember that yesterday's post was about a loft that took the better part of four years to sell (April 18, Lion’s Head loft at 121 West 19 Street takes a long time to lose 9% since 2007 resale), you can guess where this is going, and guess about how long it took to get there. Long story, short (it will get long again, but bear with me): the "754 sq ft" small Manhattan loft #4A at 261 Broadway just closed, after having been (essentially) continuously offered for sale since October 2007. (In this case, "[essentially] continuously offered for sale since October 2007" means every damn day for 59 months other than about 4 months off the market broken up into 3 pieces.)


Yesterday's sad stubborn seller started when the market took a dramatic turn for the worst ("collapsed", said The Miller recently about that time); today's contestant from teh City Hall corner of Tribeca started a full year earlier, just as the overall Manhattan residential real estate market was entering it's most active period. This is a story that starts with a seller coming to market at exactly the right time, but (alas and alack) at an unavailable price, even for the Good Olde Days:

Oct 16, 2007 new to market $825,000
Feb 29, 2008   $795,000
Mar 4 hiatus  
May 1 back on market  
July 16   $750,000
Mar 12, 2009   $725,000
July 29 hiatus  
Sept 8 back on market  
Sept 16   $700,000
Dec 17 hiatus  
Jan 20, 2010 back on market $719,000
May 14   $699,000
Nov 7   $730,000
May 23 , 2012   $680,000
Sept 11 contract  
Feb 25, 2013 sold $670,000


Have I mentioned (recently) that The Market is not fair? Check this out: this loft sold within 8% of its asking price since March 2009. But the best market was between the first price (23% above the clearing price) and the first price drop (+19 %). Missed that opportunity, easily.


it can be easy to read between the lines

The real enthusiasm in the broker babble is directed at what is outside the loft:


Low market price plus beautiful new kitchen cabinets and corian counter tops and bathroom upgrades.


Large 1 bedroom lofty apartment flooded with sunlight from with four huge windows facing east. Beautiful protected direct park views from everywhere in the apt. High ceilings, hardwood floors, two walls of closets, very large kitchen with beautiful new cabinets.


Bathroom has merely been "upgraded" and the kitchen has "new" cabinets (not custom, or cherry, or Italian, or any bragging along those lines) and a (new?) corian counter. The good stuff is the protected view over City Hall Park. That, and the "low market price", which was repeatedly deemed by outsiders to be neither low nor market.


It is hard to say definitively without having seen it or without large format photos, but this has the feel of a "nothing special" loft (with special views), like the one I hit in my April 17, 161 West 15 Street is nothing special, other than priced right for the market. (Other than that that one was priced right and sold quickly, of course.)


competing with neighbors, but not well

At the beginning of the #4A campaign in 2007, this loft went head to head with loft #5A, immediately above in the same footprint (d'oh). That one claimed a "renovated" kitchen and bath, with a touch of Viking. It didn't fly off the market, and needed a price drop to make a deal as the market crested: to market on September 12, 2007 at $825,000, a price drop on February 12, 2008 to $795,000, a contract on March 22, and a deed transferred on June 10 at $772,500.


A little later, #7A went head to head with #5A, not finding a buyer from September 2008 into June 2009 (no shame in that) at $795,000, but finding quick success in 2010 (to market April 20 at $775,000, in contract within 6 weeks and sold at $755,000 on August 30). That one was priced higher than #4A for a reason, or for several reasons:


Fully renovated kitchen with ample butcher-block counters, frosted glass cabinets and stainless GE appliances. ... Fully renovated bathroom.


(I am not the only one who saw #4A as a "nothing special" loft.)


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 16, 2013 - 9 White Street penthouse loft created $2.5mm in value after 2010


how to increase value without increasing space

I had a bit of an email conversation this week with a Manhattan Loft Guy reader about the “3,500 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the top of 9 White Street, which had been bought for $3.615mm three years ago and just had a deed filed reflecting it was resold on March 12 for $6.1mm. I didn’t catch the deed, as it exceeds the $5mm upper limit established way back when for my Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008, but it is an interesting paired sale in its own right and it is a loft I previewed for a buyer before it sold at $6.1mm. (Note to Self … maybe it is time to increase the upper limit on the Master List.)


Before getting to the respective bits of broker babble, comparing the floor plans is very instructive. The 2010 layout could not be simpler: the main space on the lower (5th) floor is a largely open classic Long-and-Narrow (in this case uncharacteristically wide, at about 35 feet) with but 3 windows north (in front, over White Street), 4 in back, and a single side window in the southwest corner; not a single interior wall broke up this vast space then, though there was a bathroom and a closet on either side of the stairway in nearly the middle of the space, and the public stairwell encroaches on the otherwise perfect rectangle, with the kitchen tucked into the southeast corner behind the stairwell; there is a terrace off the back of the 5th floor (“153 sq ft”); up the middle stairway there is a master suite built on perhaps 20% of the roof, with a roof garden to the south and a simple roof terrace to the north (“2,350 sq ft” in total). That is “2,503 sq ft” of outdoor space in total (nearly all on the roof). to go along with the “3,500 sq ft” of interior space (nearly all on the lower level), arrayed (in part) as a classic penthouse, the master being an appendage above the building proper, with direct access to rooftop terraces.


bones is bones

That 2010 babble touted the bones, of course, with little detail about finishes and a do-it-yourself invitation:


Immense open-plan space with incredibly dramatic ceiling height, along w/ central skylit stairs, leading to the upstairs Master Suite that offers a huge adjoining planted outdoor roof Terrace. … Light-filled and airy, excessive Living and Dining room has a classic wood-burning-fire-place and windowed kitchen .... Currently configured as one large bedroom suite on the top floor, but one can easily convert the entire space to a sprawling three bedroom home. You can now finally envision, and design your very own PH duplex w/ tremendous outdoor terrace space.


In the later marketing campaign we learn that the “incredibly dramatic” ceilings are 13 feet, and these other details about the bones:


tin-pressed ceilings, classic fluted columns, exposed wood beams, and wide-plank salvaged oak floors that have been waxed in ebony to achieve the perfect hue


but a well-dressed skeleton sells high

The new floor plan retains the master suite arrangement but adds five rooms and a new plus a half bathroom to the 5th floor, with a high level of finishes, of course:


gorgeous French doors constructed of steel and hand-blown glass lead to two sky-lit dens and an intimate office. … windowed chef's kitchen ... features open thick-slab wood shelving, zinc countertops, abundant glass-fronted cabinetry, a six-burner Viking stove (vented to the outside), and a large separate pantry. ... sculptural sky-lit steel staircase ... sun-blasted Master Bedroom Suite ... features a wall of custom-fitted closets and a sumptuous windowed bathroom with deep claw-foot tub, sky-lit shower, double vanity and poured concrete floors. ... south-facing, landscaped roof garden replete with mature trees, perennials, climbing wisteria, and unobstructed views of Lower Manhattan. Back downstairs are two additional bedrooms, each with fully fitted closets, and a large classic bathroom with washer-dryer. Additional amenities include central air-conditioning, custom lighting on dimmers, and an elegant powder room ....


The old pictures are not great (or large), but it appears as though the staircase is the same; can’t tell if the old ceilings had pressed-tin, but the skylights, beams and columns remain; no way to know if the mature growing stuff in the garden was recently installed as mature or has been growing since before 2010, but you get the feeling that things up there have also been improved. The rest, of course, is brand new.


hindsight is, here, a Greek canine

Yes, the current market is stronger than the market of 3 years ago. Back then, the loft had a little bit of trouble with price discovery, leading to an extended history typical of sellers who overplayed their hand even when the hand was strongest, but atypical for the tragically poor use of the On/Off switch:

June 29, 2007 new to market $4.95mm
July 16 hiatus  
April 14, 2008 back on market $4.6mm
June 5 hiatus  
May 5, 2009 back on market $4.2mm
Aug 8 hiatus  
Sept 14 back on market  
Sept 19   $4.1mm
Dec 12 contract  
Feb 24, 2010 sold  

Did you wince when you got to the 4th line? I did, as the loft was off the market for the 3 strongest and deepest quarters ever for the over Manhattan residential real estate market. So we don’t know what this penthouse of possibilities was worth at The Peak, only that it was worth exactly $3,615,000 three years ago, after having been buffeted by cruel market conditions in 4 consecutive years and after suffering from mistiming of epicly Greek tragedy conditions.

guessing numbers for my fun (their profit)

Let’s assume for the sake of round numbers that the renovation that began in 2010 cost $400/ft (interior, with any roofdeck work folded in somehow). That $1.4mm puts the 2010-buy+reno-turned-2013-sellers at $5mm or so, all in. As you know, they sold for $6.1mm, though they wanted more:

Sept 21, 2012 new to market $6.95mm
Oct 24   $6.5mm
Nov 26 contract  
Feb 28, 2013 sold $6.1mm


That’s a small seven figure gain (if they spent as much as $400/ft), 2010 to now, or at least 20%. The overall market is not up that much in these three years, but the tautology says that a very well dressed very large true Tribeca penthouse with enormous outdoor space was worth it. Ballparking the outdoor space as worth 50% of the interior space (which is pushing it with outdoor space so large), you’d get an adjusted price per foot of $1,284/ft ($6.1mm / 1/2 2,503 + 3,500). Still pretty good for a coop in a tiny no-frills building; indeed, (as I vaguely recall) one with an old-fashioned cage elevator that might freak out much of the “luxury” buyer pool.


Bump the value of the outdoor space down to 25% of the value of the interior (a reasonable way to riff with The Miller about such things) and the adjusted price per foot jumps to $1,478/ft. A very impressive valuation.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 11, 2013 - penthouse loft at 363 Greenwich finally sells, only 29% above 2004


The Market contains a multitude of data points

One of the nice things about being with one of the largest residential real estate brokerages in Manhattan is that our listing system has some very rich past sales data about Manhattan lofts. Take, for example, the duplexed “3,006 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4A at 363 Greenwich Street along Restaurant Row in west central Tribeca. That StreetEasy page has the recent sale at $4.9mm, the July 2004 sale at $3.8mm, and the October 1999 sale at $1.28mm; our listing system reaches back into the mists, also having the September 1992 sale at $462,500. Unfortunately, I can’t be confident in the photos and floor plan associated with the 20th century sales in our system, so I can’t be sure when this loft was dramatically upgraded. The dollar sequence implies between 1999 and 2004, and certainly not after 2004.

Even assuming that the loft was in the same lovely condition in 2004 as in 2012 (as seems most likely), the recent premium of only 29% over almost 9 years seems unnaturally small. I don’t have the data set (and you don’t have te patience) for me to do a 2004-era comps analysis, but it seems obvious that either the 2004 clearing price was ‘too high’ or the 2013 ‘too low’. Given that the 2012 market was both deeper (in terms of number of transactions) and more transparent (in terms of availability of quality comp data) than the 2004 market, my hypothesis is that the 2004 sales price was ‘too high’. Certainly, the loft was professionally exposed to the busy 2012 buyer pool long enough for rational and informed price discovery to occur:


April 18, 2012 new to market $5.5mm
Sept 4   $5.25mm
Feb 9, 2013 contract  
Mar 14 sold $4.9mm

The Market emphatically refused this loft above $4,999,999. I don’t track downtown Manhattan loft sales above that threshold in my Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008, so I can’t easily count the number of sales above $5mm, but I think we can agree based on general news reports that that market niche was relatively robust in the last year. Hence, the refusal of The Market to go that extra digit in this case can be seen as intentional; possibly even rational. In other words, I have increased confidence in my hypothesis about $3.8mm in 2004 being ‘too high’.

what makes a loft “zen”?

Perhaps Curbed has already done a demonstration of the kinds of elements that cause real estate agents to babble that a space has “zen” qualities, but this broker babble makes a bold claim, through a neologism.

ZenSational in Tribeca ... soaring ceilings and 2 amazing terraces with nothing but the sky above - loft like lower level with open renovated Chef's kitchen, woodburning fireplace in living room with west facing windows, ... master suite ... achieves a totally spiritual quality, the ultimate in design for relaxation - the spa-like master bath has skylights which is a great feature ….

If “zen” means A Nice Place In Which To Relax, then “ZenSational” must mean A Really Nice Place In Which To Relax, or A Really Big Place In Which To Relax. (If you hang in the Twitterverse, you may have seen a weekend dialogue about this locution started by @TribecaCitizen, which I expanded to include other recent creative bizarre bits of babble, such as "5-sided hexagon" and "stand-up sleeping loft"; you must get on The Twitter if this snappy repartee tickles you.) Personally, I don’t see anything especially zen-like in this loft, unless it is the fact that the master bed is on a slightly raised platform. “Spa-like” I will grant for the master bath, based on the palette, materials, and sky light (streaming light is, indeed, “a great feature”), though the scale is hardly massive and I don’t see a deep soaking tub.

ballparking the outdoors

I did not mention (other than in the babbled excerpt) that loft #4A enjoys outdoor space (“amazing” terraces), “950 sq ft”. I will start with the idea that these spaces, directly accessible from either end of the upper level of the duplex, are worth 50% of the value of the interior space (as regular Manhattan Loft Guy readers know, that’s the upper end of the typical range, per The Miller). That yields an adjusted price per foot for loft #4A of $1,408/ft from the recent sale at $4.9mm, which is hardly out of line for lovely loft space in prime Tribeca (zen-like or not), especially in a condo with low monthly expenses.

That implied $1,409/ft compares nicely, in fact, with the last sale in the building. The “1,974 sq ft” loft #3A sold on July 13, 2012 at $2.525mm ($1,279/ft) after being “thoroughly (!) renovated”. I am willing to consider that spread of 10% between the smaller #3A 10 months ago and the larger #4A last month as within the range of market noise for an increasingly squeezed buyer pool, especially with the relative scarcity of quality outdoor space in Tribeca of this scale.


My bottom line: the 2004 sellers should be feeling a certain euphoria, beyond a zen-like satisfaction, about recent developments. The recent seller may have experienced a certain level of stress. Such is life.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 9, 2013 - 73 Worth Street loft goes a little above ask, a lot above 2010 (of course)


doing the Buy Low, Sell High thing

I never tire of these stories: a Manhattan loft with a past sales history that says interesting things about past market conditions, or buyers/sellers who achieve the real estate ideal of Buy Low, Sell High. One of the numbers in this history of past sales of the “2,176 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4C at 73 Worth Street is not (in Sesame Street lingo) like the others:

  • June 21, 2005 $1,379,728
  • Oct 6, 2005 $2.375mm
  • Sept 10, 2010 $2.1mm
  • Mar 15, 2013 $2.52mm

If you identified the 2010 sale as … er … incongruous, you are correct, Sir (Madam).

If you were tricked by the 2005 double sale, there is an explanation. The 2005 pair actually make sense if you understand that this new development on a very busy corner of municipal Tribeca had a very difficult birth, with a developer going bankrupt, a partially completed building for a significant time period, and original contract holders having been given rights to rescind. Our listings system shows that the contract leading to that June 21, 2005 closing had been signed on November 12, 2002. In between 2002 and 2005, the building went through the hell I first mentioned in my July 9, 2010, what happened on the 5th floor at 73 Worth? 3rd sale this year, and (eventually) came out, seemingly in good shape. Original buyers who stuck it out but who did not want to actually live there had the opportunity that the original #4C buyer had, to flip near a 7-figure gain.


hyper-local markets can be building specific

If the 2010 sale price for #4C was a one-off event, I’d consider it a mere headscratcher and close with some quip about The Market being irrational. After all, the overall residential real estate market in Manhattan experienced higher prices in 2010 (well post-Thaw) compared to 2005 (the very beginning, if not preceding, the Froth). But there was something about this building that caused The Market (not just a single buyer) to treat the building very differently than the overall market in these intervening years.


I hit one example in my June 26, 2009, 73 Worth Street closes by biting a very large bullet in one bite, as the “2,571 sq ft” loft #4B sold with a “June 2009 clearing price ... 7% below the[] purchase price way back in August 2005”. I noted then that “[a]ccording to the building page on StreetEasy (here) there have been no sales in this building since 2005 -- not for lack of trying”. That was the first resale in the building since 2005; the others (remember “not for lack of trying”?) started to pop in early 2010.


Two of the three same-floor sales that I hit in my my July 9, 2010, what happened on the 5th floor at 73 Worth? 3rd sale this year (above), showed the same pattern as loft #4C:  2010 sellers who got less than they had paid in 2005. Loft #4C fits that pattern, but with an even longer marketing campaign than the 3 5th floor neighbors. Look for yourself here, but the highlights is that it started in April 2006, had several periods of hiatus yet was continuously offered from November 2007 into November 2008 (remember: Lehman filed for bankruptcy on September 15), and was again continuously offered (with one 2-week break) from February 2009 to September 2010 when it (finally!) sold.


some numbers were scary, apparently

But for the consistent building pattern of 2010 prices below 2005 prices, you’d chalk this up to an unusually extended Thaw. I don’t know the details, but something about the building financial condition was scaring buyers in (at least) 2009 and 2010. Long-time (current??) Manhattan Loft Guy reader Jess provided a link in a comment to my June 26, 2009, 73 Worth Street closes by biting a very large bullet in one bite, about relatively large assessments, so that hints that the due diligence required here was deep, and fraught. 2010 buyers were getting a market discount for risk; the 2013 buyer of #4C got no such discount.


“Reasoning” backward from clearing prices, the #4C history implies that The Market no longer fears this building and that the 2009-2010 era financial issues have been resolved (or, are baked in to the operating budget and common charges). With all the 2005 resales at healthy premiums to sponsor prices, the then-newly-operating building was not scaring anyone in 2005.


Anybody care to share the details of why this 30-unit condo was so scary in the intervening years?


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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

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