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Manhattan Loft Guy

Dec. 11, 2012 - a staging coup: did selling the kitchen of 42 West 13 Street loft work better than selling the terrace?

2 fine features, 2 very different outcomes, 1 obvious reason
This one is for all you folks who doubt that staging a loft for sale can be proven to lead to an increased value. The natural world rarely provides such a clean example as this: the “2,200 sq ft” Manhattan loft combo #3CD at 42 West 13 Street sold on October 29, 2012 and on March 8, 2011. I toggled back and forth quite a bit between the two sets of broker babble and listing photos to try to find a reason for these different outcomes: $2.795mm and $2.35mm. (That $445,000 spread comes to a premium of 19% in less than 20 months.) I will wait a minute for you to do the same, comparing this to this (there are no 2011 large format photos available, even on the Corcoran site, but the thumbnails there are a little bigger than those on StreetEasy).

(... waiting ...)

The first thing that I noticed is that the visual emphasis in the 2011 campaign was about the terrace, while the 2012 campaign had as many kitchen / breakfast nook shots as of any other room, but this was a red herring. Having done the math ($445,000;19%), I just knew there was something I was missing, but I could not tell from the respective listings. Wrong! Based on the testimony of one informed and very reliable source, the only difference between 2011 sale at $2.35mm and the resale at $2.795mm 6 weeks ago was a bit of staging, including a paint job.

The sale prices are facts, as are the (minimal) differences in the physical environments when the loft was sold each time. Fortunately, the two sets of listing photos line up pretty well for comparison purposes.

what staging looks like
Look at the first two interior photos from 2011 on the Corcoran site (pix 3 and 4) and on StreetEasy from 2012 (pix 1, 2 and 3). There is much more furniture in the 2011 living room, and look at the bookcases: full of books in 2011; not very full of art objects (with a few books) in 2012; with many fewer framed pieces on the walls in 2012.

Look at the master bedroom pictures (Corcoran 2011 #5, StreetEasy 2012 #8): a massive bed with small round end tables and a single easy chair in 2012, where there had been in 2011 a large bed, one very large round table (with multiple piles of books and drapery), plus a long side table on the opposite side of the bed (crammed with photo frames), plus a wicker chair, plus two soft easy chairs, plus other stuff just at the edge of the photo. You can’t see that built-in bookcase in the 2012 photo, but I bet you a quarter it had a few pieces in it when it recently sold, compared to the edge-to-edge books in 2011.

There is no 2012 photo equivalent to the 2011 office/den photo (Corcoran 2011 pic #8), but if there were, you just know it would show an uncluttered room. After all, the room is essentially 14 x 15 feet with two walls of custom bookshelves (the floor plan has not changed). In that fairly large room, count how many items in that 8th 2011 photo compete for your visual attention, including an easel I’d be afraid of bumping into if I walked by too close! Obviously, that is the 2011 working office of a very hard-working person (or persons). It is hard to work hard in a room that is not optimized for your work, but there’s a conflict with having that room remain ‘show ready’. Does that 8th picture look like a big room to you?

I am a bit of a staging skeptic (at least in a Missouri sense), although I have recommended it to every selling client and am on record as believing it can be of some benefit to every listing. See my July 28, ruthless stagers, indeed! NY Times nails story about marketing apartments (and lofts!), about that wonderful New York Times feature on staging, with quotes from Some Very Smart People. But I empathize with people who find it hard to live (and work) in a staged environment. As well, with people who will cull their stuff, but don’t want to move out for a week or two as painters re-do the entire place.

Trying to live always in a fact-based world, here is what I said in that July 28 post:

I have never seen a rigorous study that proves that staging actually does what it is supposed to do: get a higher price in a shorter time. I absolutely believe that it works this way (indeed, it seems obvious), but I simply have trouble proving it. Especially when you are asked (as all sellers do) “how do you know that spending $12,500 [as with the Greenwich Village 3-bedroom] will generate more than that in sales price?” The short answer has to start with “trust me, and my experience, on this”, but that can be a tough sell to a data-intensive or show-me client. After all, one of the main themes of Manhattan Loft Guy is the comps are the comps are the comps. Of course, another theme in this blog over the years has been that individual buyers and sellers reach agreement on value that are not necessarily tied to the ‘dictates’ of The Market, as expressed through comparable sales.

I now have a data point, which is not as good as having a rigorous study, but is pretty powerful for being … large. Four Hundred and Forty-Five Thousand Dollars worth of large. (Less a “2,200 sq ft” paint job [done easily when the loft was empty after the 2011 sale, no doubt], but let’s not quibble.)

Think about this dynamic if you still doubt how powerful staging was in this loft: any 2012 potential buyer knew that the loft had sold for $2.35mm in March 2011 and (I am quite certain) would not have been lied to when they asked the inevitable “how has the loft been improved since 2011?”. For those of us in the fact-based world, we’d be doing all sorts of comp analyses to try to determine what the change had been from March 2011 in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market, or in a north central Greenwich Village loft subset, to be prepared to argue with the selling agent; I guarantee you we would not have gotten to 19%.

Yet the 2011-buyers-turned-2012-sellers could simply say “we want $2.795mm” in answer to any questions. If there were any such arguments, they didn’t take long, and the sellers never budged:

July 22 new to marke $2.795mm
Aug 15 contract  
Oct 29   $2.795mm

taking on all comers
Anybody want to argue about the value of staging? Operators are standing by....

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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Jul. 28, 2012 - ruthless stagers, indeed! NY Times nails story about marketing apartments (and lofts!)

to be bookmarked by 98% of sentient agents
Honestly, I would applaud the featured article in tomorrow’s Sunday Real Estate section in the New York Times, Ruthless Came the Stager, even if Elissa Gootman had not spelled my name right (or had not spelled it at all). She hits some very important points about how staging (changing the home that sellers live in into the home that buyers connect with) even if some things can only be hinted at, even with a piece that takes up the valuable real estate of half the front page of the real estate section and a full interior page. And that set of Before and After photos is an awesome set of real world examples (in sliding interactive form here), showing both what can be done and how hard it can be to live with it after it is ‘done’.

always beneficial, though not always worth it
It is a fascinating thing to see the end result of Gootman’s reporting, after having been part of the process. She (and her editor) had their own ideas about the article, which were not clear in our “let’s talk about staging” conversation and follow up emails. Of course if I had written it it would be a different piece, but I make that obvious point as an observation rather than a criticism. The thing that makes the article valuable, to me, is that Before / After slideshow, with the high-end loft on 17th Street being at one end of the market and the brave-but-anonymous Village 3-bedroom being in the heart of the market.

Of course I wish that she had quoted me more often, as I said some very insightful things. (Ha!) One of them is pretty evident, in a reading between the lines (and the pix) way. Staging a property for sale is always beneficial (it will make a loft more attractive in buyer eyes), but it is not always worth it.That perhaps counter-intuitive point is based on two kinds of costs, one of which Gootman tots up and one of which is particularly evident in the Village teenager room photos.

I have never seen a rigorous study that proves that staging actually does what it is supposed to do: get a higher price in a shorter time. I absolutely believe that it works this way (indeed, it seems obvious), but I simply have trouble proving it. Especially when you are asked (as all sellers do) “how do you know that spending $12,500 [as with the Greenwich Village 3-bedroom] will generate more than that in sales price?” The short answer has to start with “trust me, and my experience, on this”, but that can be a tough sell to a data-intensive or show-me client. After all, one of the main themes of Manhattan Loft Guy is the comps are the comps are the comps. Of course, another theme in this blog over the years has been that individual buyers and sellers reach agreement on value that are not necessarily tied to the ‘dictates’ of The Market, as expressed through comparable sales.

Here is the main ‘expense’ that I think keeps many sellers from staging on a significant level: the stress and strain of living in The Future Buyer’s Home while you are trying to sell. Gootman has specific difficult choices the two sets of sellers made:

  • the 17th Street vegetarian swallowing the cowhide rug
  • a treadmill sent into storage
  • the “very valuable” lamp and parrot having to vacate the Village apartment, along with the family dining table (where did the parrot go?)
  • the 17th Street children trading in their playroom (and train table) for a very adult breakfast nook
  • (and my favorite example) the Village teenager trading in her oh-so-authentic ‘lifestyle’ for a “parent’s dream of what a teeenager’s bedroom could be”

Let’s focus on my favorite: think about how hard it is to get a teenager to (a) be comfortable living in that After bedroom or (b) keeping the After room from drifting into Before condition. (I have never met a stager who can get a teenager to keep clothes off the floor.) That poor kid loses her stuffed animals, and her fan, and her posters; I doubt that sleeping in a full-size bed feels like sufficient compensation.

“Ruthless” is the right word for a stager who can do that to a teenager, or one who can create two “showcases of minimalist design” where there had been regular old children’s rooms on 17th Street.

Selling your loft, staged or not, is a high-stress activity. Even buyers who are highly motivated usually tire of the effort required to keep a space show-ready, the ‘small’ things such as

  • retrieving the kitchen appliances that used to sit on a counter from a cabinet, every time the Cuisinart is to be used or bread is to be made (the coffee maker usually wins)
  • hiding the shampoo, etc, etc, etc after every shower
  • resisting the temptation to post your child’s latest ‘art’ on the frig

The longer it takes to sell your home, the greater the basic stress, compounded by any artificial living constraints from staging. (It doesn’t count if all you get out of the staging is a set of lovely photos, kinda like we real estate agents with glam shots on our business cards who show up for appointments as our everyday schlubs.)

I once had clients who lived in a very small 2-bedroom with two pre-school children. Their motivation to sell was high, and their commitment to de-cluttering was 11 on a 10 point scale. Every day when the parents took the children out for a playground visit or a play date they spent 20 minutes putting every last toy in storage boxes and clearing the kitchen counters. I don’t expect to ever have clients like that again.

I may have to revisit this staging article, as there are lots and lots of things to talk about. So I sympathize with Gootman and her editor, and commend their excellent work. I will close for now with a link to my July 12, a tale of 2 lofts: did (removable) decor add $126/ft to value of one 32 West 18 Street loft?, a post I wrote after talking at length to Gootman and somewhat with this topic in mind. That was a rare exercise of aesthetics for me, looking at two essentially identical lofts with totally different ‘feels’ because of how they were decorated. There was nothing wrong with the one loft, but that other was just spectacular, a difference accomplished with only a few changes in materials, but mostly with minimalist decor and (especially) window treatments.

NY Times web gap?
The jump page of the hard copy newspaper articlehas a text box, You Won’t Recognize the Place, with “some more obscure home staging tips, courtesy of the professionals”, including one identifying me as “a broker who blogs as Manhattan Loft Guy”(!!). I can’t find that text box anywhere on the Times site on-line. Am I missing it??

To be continued...

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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Nov. 14, 2010 - flight or fight? the disappointed seller’s conundrum, 30 East 21 Street and 205 West 19 Street lofts edition

persist? or take a time out?
There’s a hard decision to be made at some point by every loft seller who is disappointed that The Market does not love the loft as it should, second only to the harder decision as to whether to drop the price: do you stay on The Market as an active listing (possibly beating your head against a wall and rendering your listing ‘stale’) or do you take enough time off the market so that when you come back you can be ‘fresh’ again? I parked two September Manhattan loft sales on my to-do list a while back, germinating this post in my mind for another day. That day has come!

In one case, the seller stayed on the market for two years, eventually selling at a slight discount to a price that had been unsuccessful a year earlier (and fully one-third off the original price). In the other case, the seller took five months off the market, then came back to sell at a price that had been unsuccessful a year earlier. Hindsight suggests that that first loft might have benefited from taking time away from the market.

paging Warner Wolf
Let’s go the videotape (errr ... listing histories). The first Manhattan loft is 30 East 21 Street #3B. This is a long history:

Sept 4, 2008 new listing $2.495mm
Nov 20   $2.395mm
Feb 27, 2009 change firms $2.25mm
April 9   $2mm
Aug 25   $1.75mm
Jan 15, 2010 change firms $1.75mm
April 14   $1.695mm
May 24 contract  
Sept 8 sold $1.65mm

That’s three firms, six prices, and 104 1/2 weeks to finally close only 6% off the price that had been offered eight months before the contract was finally signed. Note that by August last year the overall Manhattan real estate market was showing signs of thawing out of the nuclear winter that began almost immediately when this loft came to market (11 days before Lehman’s bankruptcy filing). You’d think that this loft could have attracted a buyer around $1.75mm a year ago, but it took eight (painful) months more.

What I am about to say is unfair, but seems in retrospect to be accurate.

I am not a betting man, but ...
Had the seller gone off the market for a significant amount of time (3 months? 5 months?) in about May 2009, then come back (August? October?) at $1.75mm, I bet that The Market would have responded with a contract at or better than the (much) later clearing price within a month or two. I can’t lose that bet (or prove that I’d have won), but doesn’t that seem reasonable, just from this sequence?

Actually, I can come very close to proving that I’d have won that bet, because the neighbors two floors up in #5B came fresh to market June 25, 2009 and found a buyer in contract by August 13, 2009. Their quickly clearing price was $1.955mm, a mere 2% discount from the asking price and $205,000 more than #3B could not sell at from August 25, 2009. $305,000 more than #3B eventually got, in a contract 8 months after the #5B contract.

That spread cannot be explained by differences in condition. The nugget from the broker babble on #3B is that it has “architectural wonder throughout” while #5B has “a contemporary renovation throughout”. They have the exact same footprints and are laid out similarly, with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. #5B has two potential competitive advantages over #3B, but neither (nor both) should be worth $200k in a rational market: #5B has carved a den out of the main living space, and has two windows on each side exposure compared to only one window on each side in #3B. Frankly, #3B strikes me as the more sleek and beautiful renovation but that is a matter of personal taste, and you might (mistakenly, alas) not share mine.

But come back to those painful dates and numbers. When #5B came to market at $1.995mm on June 25, 2009, #3B was asking $2mm but had been on the market for nine months. Within two weeks of #5B signing a contract at $1.955mm in August 2009, #3B dropped its price to $1.75mm. And did not sell.

Do I win my bet?

a different strategy than being stubborn
The second loft under the Manhattan Loft Guy microscope is 205 West 19 St #10R. This seller was also unsuccessful in the Summer (into Fall) of 2009 but ended up eventually clearing at a price that had been unsuccessful in 2009 and only 5% off of where it started.

mind the gap
Note the dividend that staying off the market for a while paid:

July 9, 2009 new to market $2.1mm
Aug 13   $1.995mm
Oct 12 off the market  
March 12, 2010 back! $2.095mm
April 14 contract  
Sept 16 sold 1.995mm

At the same time that the #3B sellers on East 21 Street must have been pulling their hair out after seeing #5B successful above their price, the #10R sellers on West 19 Street were probably frustrated not to strike a deal off the $1.995mm asking price. But instead of changing firms while remaining on the market (as #3B did), the #10R sellers took a time out.

Five months later, they took a risk that the market reaction from those 60 days in 2009 asking $1.995mm was correct (i.e., that $1.995mm was unavailable) and they came back to market above their old asking price. Only a quibbler would note that they were ‘wrong’ about that price, because they had to take a 5% discount to get a deal done. At $1.995mm, their unsuccessful price from August 13 to October 12, 2009.

still not a betting man
I would bet that the #10R sellers would have done less well had they stayed on the market after October 12, 2009. I can’t lose that bet either, but i also can’t prove that I would win it. But it sure looks like a reasonable proposition, no?

© Sandy Mattingly 2010


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Aug. 4, 2009 - bowing to the inevitable price drop, but 25% impresses

lovely loft, big hit
Speaking of lovely Manhattan lofts (as we were last week, July 31, why isn't a Tribeca premium renovation worth at least 250/ft?) with pricing difficulties (as we were yesterday, ditto), there's a new firm and a price on a loft to root for: this baby just oozes custom touches. (I can't say too much without giving it away to a simple Google search, but they are name-dropping designers and magazines here). Coming to market more than a year ago (sorry I missed the birthday; consider this a late card) at nearly $1,300/ft, they held firm at that price for quite a while. Fairly or unfairly, there's a new firm marketing the loft, and a new price -- under $1,000/ft, 25% off the old one. (This is business; it is neither fair nor unfair.)

You never know from the outside what the dynamic was with this price history. Did the first listing agent insist for a year that The Price Was Right, or did the seller resist professional advice to drop the price? Did the seller and the first listing agent get tired of each other, or did the original agent try to extend the listing agreement at a new price? Did the second listing agent have a difficult time getting the  seller to drop by 25%, or was the seller already primed for a significant cut?
ready to deal?
I would think that the new price is sufficient to generate buyer interest, assuming that the bragging and name-dropping in the listing description is deserved. I will be curious to see if the seller will have to discount further to negotiate to a contract, of if it needs only a slight trim after such a big haircut (as with the completed loft sale addressed two days ago, August 2, when you reach the right price ... 105 Fifth Avenue closes, where the final discount-from-ask was slight but the total discount was about 25%).

© Sandy Mattingly 2009
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Aug. 1, 2009 - the importance of managing expectations

why set buyer up for disappointment?
I hope it will shock no one to hear that not all high-priced Manhattan lofts are perfect. Some, indeed, have gross deficiencies. There is an interesting dance to marketing one of these lofts: playing up the good stuff, while warning The Market that there is an 'issue' (or two, or three). This dance has a high degree of difficulty, with potentially severe consequences for missteps: you can fail to attract enough buyers if you over-emphasize a defect (err, "issue") or you can bring buyers to the loft who are viscerally disappointed when the glaring "issue" stares them in the face.

I am led to these ruminations by a lovely loft with a potentially over-the-top renovation in a prime Manhattan loft neighborhood priced around $1,000/ft. There is nothing in the pix or floor plan to suggest that anything that is stated in the glowing listing description is untrue or over-stated. Yes, the kitchen looks top-notch, the finishes and materials appear to be high quality. You'd think a price around $1,000/ft would attract serious buyer interest. Maybe it will. Maybe there are enough hints in what is not said and not shown to prepare buyers for one glaring deficiency.

My guess is that they have mis-stepped here, however, and that a significant number of buyers who show up will be disappointed, and some will react so strongly as to feel that they were tricked into wasting their time visiting a space that would never appeal to them -- glowing description, nice pix aside.

enough hints, or stumbling through a difficult dance?
The space is a duplex with a pretty big footprint (and a hefty price, even at 'only' $1,000/ft) and I am all but certain that there is appreciable natural light from three windows on one side of one level, period. The floor plan shows windows at both ends of that level, and windows at one end of the other level, with skylights at the other end. Two words appear nowhere in the listing or floor plan: "bedroom" and "light". Three of the 8 photos include the same 3 windows, one photo includes what looks like a window on that level with sheer curtains across it, and none of the photos on the other level include the walls that the floor plan shows having windows or show skylights.

If I am right, NO ONE who prefers a loft with light will seriously consider this space but lots of people who prefer light may visit. Some of those people will feel cheated, and the listing agent will have wasted time showing to people who will never bid.

the temptation to generate appointments

Sellers and agents who market lofts with deficiencies like this one are tempted to bring in foot traffic in the hope that people will be swayed by the other (significant) benefits to the space to bid anyway, with that temptation leading them to soft pedal the deficiency. This is a hard call, particularly when the issue is a lack of light. When the issue is that an otherwise modern loft needs a new kitchen, it is easy to signal that ("beautiful blah-blah space babble-babble with a kitchen that could use an upgrade blah-blah") so that people expect to pay for a new kitchen and have already begun to do that math before seeing the loft.

But no math will 'solve' the 'issue' in this loft. i would not be surprised that someone sleeping in the "rooms" that have floor plan "windows" or skylights would have difficulty telling day from night. It is hard to make that a 'plus' factor ("perfect sleeping areas for those of you who work at night"??). As I said, there are hints but they are subtle (e.g., neither of the "rooms" that have "windows" and neither of the "rooms" that have skylights are labeled, unlike every other "room" or "area" in the loft).

I suspect the sellers and agents made a conscious choice about this. The Market will determine if they chose the right steps. My inclination would have been to be more explicit, but I can't prove that this is the right choice. IN-ter-esting.

© Sandy Mattingly 2009

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Feb. 12, 2009 - 99 cent pricing on eBay leads to $400/ft under-pricing by FSBO loft seller in Noho

'interesting' times call for interesting measures?
I came across a FSBO loft listing on NYTimes.com this week for 718 Broadway #6B, which at that time was asking a rather conventional $1.295mm for about "1,400 sq ft". It caught my eye because FSBO lofts in Manhattan remain quite rare. (I hit one way uptown on December 21: FSBO loft in unusual location offers artist provenance + park views .) The loft is said to have been recently renovated with one (just one) marble bath and a granite and stainless kitchen. These FSBO sellers bought the place (one would reasonably think before the "recent" renovation) in October 2006 for $1.156mm.
Before I get too carried away with reviewing past Manhattan Loft Guy posts about this building (see below), here's what I found out when clicking the Visit Our Website link in the NYTimes.com copy: the new price is $850,000 -- $607/ft if it is "1,400 sq ft" -- in a building in which the last sale in this line closed in October more than $400/ft higher (#11B , said to be in mint condition with a "gorgeous" kitchen). Talk about an aggressive FSBO! (Perhaps this is the front of a trend: Noah at UrbanDigs posted February 10 about an apartment being marketed both by PruDE and on eBay.)

but wait, there's more
As they say on late night television, "that's not all ...". When I asked the sellers if they mind me blogging about their active listing, they approved and sent me another link that gives fascinating context for their strategy here. Their inspiration is that items priced on eBay very low ($0.99) got bid up higher than items priced closer to their 'real' value. In this context, $850k is equivalent to $0.99 when #11B traded five months ago for $1.465mm (possibly in nicer condition, but still ...). Like an eBay auction, they have a time limit: they want all bids in by 5 PM on Sunday, March 15.

(In reviewing this truly fascinating marketing effort [in my oh-so-wordy Manhattan Loft Guy 'style'] I will offer close criticism, but I do not intend this to be taken as negative criticism. Because they have chosen such a radical approach to marketing, there are many, many questions -- which they may have answers to. Regardless, major props to the sellers for attempting this -- I wish them luck. )

exposure, exposure, exposure and competition, competition, competition
To the extent that this pricing strategy works on eBay, it is because eBay provides sufficient exposure to expose an item for sale to many, many potential buyers, then gives any bidders up-to-the-minute reports on the state of the auction (how many bidders, thecurrent top bid). Here's what the seller said about market efficiency in the world of eBay:

... because eBay is about the closest thing to an efficient market we have on this planet, there is essentially a 0% chance that a 7-day auction will end at anything less than the market price for the item being sold.

(If you’re worried about the market price being less than you’re willing to sell for, you can always set a reserve price.)


In fact, if you start your auction low, I found the chances were actually better that you’d get a price higher than average.

... and about selling an apartment this way ...

Although it’s not exactly an “auction,” by setting the price insanely low you will get a lot of offers that will result in a bidding war… as long as you get the word out about your property for sale.


Fortunately, the only thing you have to do that is get it on the MLS… and there are plenty of services that will do that for a flat fee.

These two elements are hard to replicate for a FSBO loft in Manhattan, where we definitely do not have an MLS equivalent to MLSs all out there in America.

With the search and sort capacities of NYTimes.com being so screwed up these days (when are they going to fix that??), this previously reliable medium for FSBOs is diluted in value. Friend Google shows this loft is also exposed on Apartment Therapy this week, but precious little other exposure (Zillow with a Zesteimate of $1.28mm, and StreetEasy with a link to [an open listing ?? on] ArdorNY have front page links; Ardor's website does not come up on an address search because they don't list the address; my old Manhattan Loft Guy blog posts about the building also make the front page!).

There's another gimmick in the marketing that may provide exposure, but who knows how much? The seller apparently runs a web hosting firm, so is offering free web hosting for life to the buyer, whoever refers the buyer, or to anyone who makes a serious offer. That generated this post on an unrelated web site on Google's second page, but (so far) only one comment. (I wonder if "for life" means as long as you live, or as long as he stays in that business in that form??)

Even with exposure, however, how will this FSBO seller match the fun of competition that eBay can provide? I will grant that $850,000 is his "insanely low" price that should (in an efficient market) start a bidding war. But (remember: nothing personal here) a bidding war on eBay depends on bidders trusting the seller (all eBay sellers are rated) and the other apparent bidders, and on The House to police fraudulent activity (over time, fake bidders should be discovered, but not necessarily in your auction) and to accurately report the bidding.

In the Manhattan real estate world, there are ethical rules even among REBNY brokers that govern best-and-final bidding, so there is a measure of agent-to-agent trust that is essential that process.  Of course, it seems that everyone has had experience with a Manhattan real estate agent (probably) bluffing in a negotiation ("if you don't sign the lease now, there is someone coming in a cab with a check"; "I will get an offer today on this apartment, so if you want to bid, bid now"; "the seller turned down that number last week").

An auction run by a very interested seller who has exclusive access to information about The State Of The Auction is a different scenario than eBay auctions or even a REBNY agent run best-and-final.

committed to selling?
As the seller himself said, "If you’re worried about the market price being less than you’re willing to sell for, you can always set a reserve price". Obviously, he intends to sell above $850,000 after a bidding war. I wonder if he has a reserve price. I don't see fine print in his process equivalent to a REBNY agent running a best-and-final bid, wherethe agent should disclose if all bidders are deemed "qualified" (718 Broadway is a coop) and whether seller reserves the right to not accept any offer in the best-and-final (i.e., not to sell).

Google is not necessarily friendly
Having Googled the address to see what Internet exposure there might be for this listing, I also found a link to an old discussion on Curbed.com about possible development on the parking lot out the windows of #6B. That brings to mind two adages that might not be adages but should be: (1) 'exposure' is a two-way street; and (2) the web lacks a point of view.
718 Broadway has a Manhattan Loft Guy history
I'd have thought the "recent" renovation would have been after the October 2006 sale, but my recap of rich price data in this building way back in November 2006 (4 completed sales this year help with ‘comps’) noted that the October 2006 sale of #6B was billed then as a gut renovation, so it looks as though "recent" in this case means "within the last three years or so".
I then noted that the #6B clearing price was the lowest of four sales in the building from June 29 to October 18, 2006, three of which were in the "B" line, and that there were then 3 other lofts for sale in the building; those three competing loft listings were reviewed in another post in November 2006 comparing lofts and lofts ain’t so easy, which was one of my favorite blog posts because it showed how different lofts can be from one another in the same building. (Of course, that was back when I felt free to comment on other agents' listings, pre-April 9, 2008: end of an era for Manhattan Loft Guy / a new day dawns?).

degrees of inefficiency
My post about the 4 completed sales in 2006 at 718 Broadway commented directly on the efficient market idea (the bold and italics are new, and I corrected one bit of math):
Perhaps the virtually simultaneous $305k difference between 10B and 8B is accounted for by the renovation plus the extra view, but the renovated 6B still went for less than 8B. This is not an exact science….
10D is smaller, but had that stunning renovation, earning its parity with 8D.
So what?
Buyers with easy access to each of these contemporaneous listings in the same building – listings that were different in size, level of finishes and (possibly) light or views – established the market price for these units. Those marketing conditions were as close to an efficient loft market as you could expect in Manhattan.
So one “identical” unit (at least an identical floor plan) sold for 205 [should be $305k] more than another two floors below and another four floors below that had also been renovated – evidently in a bidding war.

I believe that these four building sales in 2006 show that the Manhattan real estate market (at least for lofts) is just not very efficient. In those frothy market days, #6B sold later for $44,000 less than #8B even though #6B had been recently (truly recently) and stunningly renovated, while #8B had a kitchen they admitted needed updating. I'd say that the only advantage that #8B had then over #6B was about 24 feet ofhigher view/better light and that a truly efficient market would have valued #6B over #8B by nearly the cost of upgrading #8B's kitchen to match #6B's ($50k-$75k??) instead of #8B having been valued at +$44k.

The spread between #10B and #6B also shows inefficiency. Although #10B was another 24 feet or so higher than #6B and probably had an even nicer renovation, these differences do not account for the $349k gap in trading prices. That is more than a 20% discount for #6B off of #10B's clearing price. (Of course, asserting that that market at that time in that building was inefficient means that I cannot say which price was 'right', and which was 'wrong'; I can only say that they don't correlate.)

The current #6B FSBOs have clearly thought all this through. They are counting on getting enough exposure (and enough bidders) to assure efficient pricing and that buyers will trust them enough to play the game under the rules they have set. Gotta appreciate their faith (and hope). I am happy to do my small part in providing a bit more exposure.

To repeat: good luck to them.


© Sandy Mattingly 2009  



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Oct. 18, 2007 - the virtues of patience as a marketing strategy / 476 Bway gets full ask after 51 weeks

blinking at 'mature' listings
A week ago I asked who blinked at 79 Laight? contract in 13th month. We won't know until that deal closes how close that (seemingly) stubborn seller got to the asking price, so maybe the seller blinked and took a big haircut or maybe the buyer blinked and gave the seller the price being asked.

Then the sales history of #11F at 476 Broadway caught my eye because it had been featured as a closed sale in the NY Times early this month (you might have to play with that image size in order to read what it says). Full research showed a long long sales history, capped by a full price contract closing nearly a year after the last price change.

from May to September, from 2004 to 2007
The owner of #11F at 476 Broadway started to sell in May 2004, asking as much as $3.125mm and as little as $2.85mm before changing firms in March 2006 and increasing the price to $2.995mm in June 2006. They held at $2.995mm from June 2006 until signing a contract 51 weeks later and finally closing last month - at $2.995mm.

macro wisdom vs. micro fact
The common wisdom in the real estate business is that a property that does not sell after being fully and well exposed to the marketplace has a price problem. Sometimes the common wisdom does not apply, with one example at 476 Broadway and possibly a second example at 79 Laight.

back to The Text
Repeat after me: "Fair Market Value" is the price (a) agreed to by (b) a willing seller and (c) a willing buyer, both of whom are (d) fully informed and neither of whom is subject to (e) undue compulsion. That is a basic formulation of a core principle of Econ 101.

Without getting myself too confused here, FMV is relatively easy to discern for commodities (something there are many of that are essentially inter-changeable) in a market with many buyers and sellers of the commodity. FMV is much harder to discern when the asset is more or less unique, there are few sellers of similar assets and few buyers who need or want such an asset.

Sellers of "unique" Manhattan lofts and their agents (enablers?) are the micro-level actors who account for deviation from the macro-level rules. Thus, in the case of #11F at 476 Broadway, the presumed market "fact" was that the asking price of $2.995mm did not represent the Fair Market Value of that asset from June 2006 until May 2007 - because no willing buyer stepped up to it. Yet, in June 2007, a willing buyer agreed to that price and the deal has since closed.

where the rubber meets the road
One could argue that the #11F seller was not a classically "willing" seller before June 2007, because s/he did not adjust the price in light of the market's rejection of $2.995mm as the proposed value of the asset. Rather than being a market seller, s/he was an I-will-sell-only-if-I-get-my-price seller.

One could argue that if that seller really wanted to sell before June 2007, that seller had to drop the price in response to market inaction.

I bet various people did argue with that seller. Some bidders, almost certainly. Probably the seller's agent. Perhaps a spouse. But the seller was stubborn and (ultimately) successful in getting the price.

That's the behavior that makes The Market. Hundreds of micro events aggregating to a macro. Not all of which 'make sense' under macro principles.

It's a bitch sometimes, if you are a seller, or a sellers' agent, or a seller's spouse. Or the reasonable and well-informed buyer who wants to purchase an over-priced asset that cannot be purchased except above the 'market value'.

© Sandy Mattingly 2007
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Oct. 7, 2007 - serenity has its price / 270 W 19 St in contract

successful marketing campaign nearly complete
270 West 19 Street #4B seems like one of those "unique" lofts that is truly distinctive. It has been marketed by Laurie Karpowich at Corcoran that way, which worked to the extent of getting a contract within 4 four weeks. Not too shabby in a possibly 'jittery' market.

Nothing cookie cutter about the description (though I don't love the syntax). "
you are immediately taken by the beautiful courtyard visible from any of your oversized windows or private terrace. With giant elm trees and manicured back yards its [sic] hard to believe you are in the heart of the new Chelsea…" There's more, of course, but that's part of the opening.

The challenges here included only "1,085 sq ft" for a 2 bedroom loft - hardly spacious. That, and asking a new construction price.

Marketing a loft is all about attracting the right buyers with the right set of expectations, then meeting those expectations. "Sun-drenched" better be bright; "classic" loft better have character; "soaring" ceilings better not be 10 feet, etc. Since not all lofts are created equal, some indication of how this one is different is a very good thing.

As I have said now in three open house reviews, they are selling serenity at this loft, and not being bashful about the price. $1.525mm and $820/mo (condo; pretty low!) for "1,085 sq ft" is $1,400/ft, In a building in which the best sale so far has been just under $1,200/ft.

That sale was the loft below this one in June 2006, which was marketed at about 200 miles an hour with descriptions such as "every piece of important "apartment jewelry'", "condo loft has BLING!", "[b]espoke Italian new kitchen and baths and hi-end super-luxe designer details throughout- this is the condo loft you never thought you would find", "[l]ive like you imagined with soaring ceiling heights, pin-drop quiet, blinding open South AND East light". (Raise your hand if you know that "bespoke" means handmade.)

serenity trumps bling??
I guess that bling-bling worked for #3B; selling serenity has certainly worked for #4A. The seller paid $1.195mm when the building was converted in November 2005, so should be very happy with the serene approach.

© Sandy Mattingly 2007
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Oct. 7, 2007 - fire the super-heroes / 35 W 23 is back without Aqua-Lad

change in marketing, no change in firms
I smiled when I came across the listing for the 4th floor at 35 West 23 Street back in August because the web description was so different from the usual broker-babble.

As I said on August 8 in super-sized for super-heroes at 35 W 23:
Check the listing for the unconventional description. I will just say that anybody who can pull off dropping Batman, Bruce Wayne, Lois, and even Aqua-Lad into a Manhattan loft listing with a straight face (and to humorous effect) must have a terrific relationship with the seller. And an accommodating manager.
Curbed picked up on the non-traditional approach about two weeks after I did, Broker Babble: Tranquil Lair, which included a comment about whether Lois Lane would have curled up with Batman, and other sundry Curbed juvenilia.
holy pink slip!
Sadly, you won't be able to check that listing, as it was taken off the market a month ago and is back as of Friday- with a different Corcoran agent and a very different description. Batman, Bruce Wayne, Lois, and even Aqua-Lad have been fired!

The new listing description is, dare I say, prosaic.

three winged bedrooms (possible fourth) and two and a half bathrooms including the master suite with a dressing room and large master bathroom with dual sinks, jacuzzi tub and separate steam shower. The center-piece of the loft is the raised chef's kitchen with granite countertops, Viking stove, Sub Zero refrigerator & freezer and dual dishwashers. The Living Room boasts wall to wall book cases that extend up to the 11" original tin ceilings with state of the art lighting and sound

I am sure they did not do it on purpose, but they used the word "super" once, not as in super-hero, but as in "super sunny". I don't suppose anyone else would notice that, except perhaps me and Hubert Etchison. Sorry, man.

Interesting decision by the seller to switch agents but not firms. Obviously, the firm-based (and web) marketing oomph is exactly the same then, as now. My surmise two months ago was that the super-hero campaign was so quirky that it suggested the owner and agent had a very good rapport, but - if so - that got strained without a sale. I don't remember the former pictures all that well, but the ones now up seem new to me (and fewer), so maybe they are simply simplifying the marketing.

was it the characters or the number?
Melissa Monteforte from Corcoran has been brought across the river from 718 to do the marketing, at the same price as the unsuccessful super-hero campaign of February into September.

I guess the seller decided that the unit did not sell in that period because of the fanciful marketing rather than because of the price. (As I noted on August 8: "third floor sold in 2004 for $2.15mm. Etchison marketed this unit (through Halstead ) when it was sold in 2003 for $1.95mm (it's been a few good years, eh?). I don't see any 4th floor building permits since 2003, but maybe it wasn't super-hero ready then....")

or something else?
I noted in August that "The "3,400 sq ft" floor plan will not be for every loft lover, as it has way more walls than many people like, but it packs a lot of utility." Interesting that the current campaign does not include a floor plan on the web, to show all those walls, and rooms. It may impress buyers as too many walls (so, too much work at the price).

I suspect it was the price, but we'll have to see. Seller may be getting antsy.

© Sandy Mattingly 2007
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Jul. 17, 2007 - end of uber-lofts? (uh no)

scaling down amenities + dollars
Funny how journalism works, when two items can make a trend.
The Real Deal ran a short piece last week about who some developers are scaling back some services or amenities to reach a lower price point or a lower monthly expenses.
In re-reading Fewer amenities, more sales just now, I was a little surprised to see that there are only two examples given, and an equal number of (soft) marketing quotes. (To be fair, bloggers need fewer than two examples, sometimes no examples at all.)
For example, in September Citi Habitats will be marketing Carriage House Chelsea, a 24-unit, high-end condominium at 159 West 24th Street, with only a few perks [??]. There will be a part-time doorman, 24-hour monitoring system and eight automated, fee-based private parking spaces that are likely to cost an additional $175,000 to $250,000 per year. The units are expected to start at $700,000 for a 600-square foot open loft space, $100 to $200 less per square foot than condos with considerably more bells and whistles, said Cliff Finn, managing director of Citi Habitats Marketing Group. The monthly maintenance will be 20 to 30 percent less than the more amenity packed buildings, he added.
I am not sure what they mean by a “high end” condominium with “only a few perks” – especially with 600 square foot units. In a small building you may well not have a doorman, gym, cold room off the lobby, or other “high-end” amenities, but you need a pretty high level of interior finishes to be “high-end”. No idea if this Carriage House Chelsea will have those finishes. But with 600 square foot units, this will appeal to a different market segment than buildings with larger units, including the Chelsea Stratus at the other end of this block (with media lounge, billiards, fitness center, basketball court, dining area with catering Kitchen, landscaped rooftop terrace with a dog run).
I don’t think this approach will work in Tribeca, for two reasons. Acquisition costs are probably too high to do anything other than a new uber-loft, with bells and whistles to drown out an orchestra. Second, the TriBeCa loft buyer who wants “new” probably wants the bells and whistles. Carriage House Chelsea looks as though it may attract more first-time loft buyers (who else is buying a studio?).
The other example cited in the Real Deal article is way uptown, at 257 W 117 Street, where changing the amenities package permitted them to drop the common charges from $1.10 a foot to $0.75 a foot. I suspect that this is what you need to attract downtown buyers to uptown properties.
Why do the same thing downtown if there is a strong market for the amenities (as there is)?
© Sandy Mattingly 2007
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Jan. 22, 2007 - NY Times on Seller Stress Syndrome

how hard is it to stay ‘show ready’ for months?
There was a big article in Sunday’s NY Times Real Estate section (The Home That You Can’t Call Your Own) that dealt with the stresses that sellers live under while their Manhattan loft or apartment is offered for sale.
battle metaphors (invasion and Marine barracks)
Teri Karush Rogers did a nice job in getting so many sellers to bare their souls (and their angst); to top it off she closed with a nice quote from me (later on that). Rogers set the scene, contrasting the (obvious) pain of moving to the (insidious) pain of preparing for strangers with money that you want traipsing through your apartment, opening your closets and cabinets:
Tethered indefinitely, they must endure invasion (and banishment) at an hour’s notice, countless rejections by strangers, scrutiny of voyeuristic neighbors and, more frequently these days, the erosion of their own expectations.
Battle fatigue can set in quickly under the strain of keeping one’s home in the meticulous condition of a Marine barracks.
relationship metaphors (searching for a mate)
One seller, Melissa Alcruz, compared her three-month ordeal with a search for a mate. “You have to make the apartment look good, but you can’t look too fussy or high maintenance — your house can’t look like a museum,” said Ms. Alcruz, 37.
Homebound by a difficult pregnancy, Ms. Alcruz nevertheless compulsively cleaned her floors and windows each day while enduring more than a dozen showings and two open houses per week and swallowing backhanded compliments like, “Wow, they did a really great job for a so-so apartment.”
skirmishes, but toddlers may be beyond metaphor
When it comes to controlling clutter, initially and before each showing, parents of young children engage in an ongoing skirmish against action figures, Legos and Exersaucers. It can involve a grueling daily slapstick routine of hiding and retrieving toys, highchairs and strollers.
“We literally took luggage carts of toys down into the lobby of the building every Sunday for open houses — toys, ottoman, laundry baskets, everything we could possibly move out of the apartment — and we would bring it back up” from a storage closet in the lobby on Sunday night, said Ms. Ain, who has a 21-month-old daughter and lived through four months on the market.
“During the weekday showings, I would scramble to get the big toys and stroller out,” she said. “It became very harried. I happened to have a toddler who was not a great sleeper, and I was very emotional and overwrought.”
choices, always choices
Personally, I find that sellers are much better at doing ‘the drills’ that are required, and do them more willingly, if they understand from the beginning that the agent is not making Rule To Make Their Lives More Difficult. When the sellers understand that the readiness of the loft or apartment can be a factor in helping them sell more quickly and/or at a higher price, they “get it”, and they choose it.
It can come to appoint where the sellers are near exhaustion with the effort – or just having a bad day or week. If they have covered all this before, it is easier for the agent to ask the seller how they would like to proceed: do we take it off the market for a while, or do we cut down on appointments for a while, or do we pay to have some housekeeping help for a while, or …?? Most people, if they can get a good night’s sleep over it, continue to make the compromises necessary. Or they are encouraged (not by the agent, exactly, but by the market’s feedback) to drop the price if they can’t maintain the condition.
Agents often under-estimate what is required to keep a loft or apartment “show ready”, especially if there are toddlers or teenagers involved. Some folks are intrinsically neat, but most of us are not.
I has one loft listing for which I did a showing while the teenager (home from school mid-afternoon) was asleep in his room instead of at the library as expected. We left that door closed that day.
I had a seller audibly exhale once we were done with showings, gasping that she could now leave her underwear out again if she wanted to. Sellers are wonderful, God bless ‘em, and almost always hold it together.
Back to the big finale of Rogers’ NY Times article….
If the agent understands that the sellers are under great stress and can tell when they are ready to blow, the agent is more equipped to handle the situation positively.
when all else fails
So when I see a seller is in the red zone, I would rather they not limit appointments or reduce their attention to being “show ready”. I would rather they blow at me (even if I have to lie to myself that is nothing personal ;-)
Sandy Mattingly, an associate broker at Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, encourages his clients to dump their angst on him.
“Part of the agent’s role is to be a blotter for that so they can get it out of their system and go back to running on a smooth level,” Mr. Mattingly said.
Does that feel better? Now let’s sell the loft….
(C) Sandy Mattingly 2007
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Nov. 29, 2006 - marketing 201 / sun and clouds out of alignment at 236 W 26

how not to sell a sun-drenched loft
The new listing from Corcoran for #601 at The Capital Building, 236 W 26 St, caught my eye this morning, since I was recently in the building to see the unit directly upstairs and it is always interesting to see multiple units in the same line in a loft building (a la the D Sale at 55 Hudson St -- Tribeca trifecta on the market / if you need a "D", 55 Hudson is for sale).
But what first caught my eye is the disconnect between the first word in the listing and the first picture on the website. (Either I am screwing up the formatting or Corcoran is blocking my ability to cut-and-paste photos from their website. Click on the listing info above to get the pictures.) How many people will look at the first photo and think "sun-drenched"??
Picture #3 is even worse.
windows, windows, windows, and windows
Which is a shame because the unit is sun drenched. Compare the floor plan to the pix and you will see that nearly all of two walls in the 35x17 foot LR are windows, facing south (35') and west (17') well above nearby roof lines.
Having recently been in (different Corcoran agents) The Smiling Blumsteins' listing upstairs in #701 I know that this is a "sunglasses" loft -- when the winter sun is low it is very bright here. So the #601 marketing reflects (no pun intended) the learning of Marketing 101 by addressing right off one of the key distinguishing features of this loft: it is more "sun drenched" than just about every other Manhattan loft on the market. (BTW, #701 is a combined loft extending to the east past the bedroom in #601, totaling 2700 sq ft, and is a beautiful loft. Open House Sunday noon – 1:30)
out of alignment
But Marketing 201 teaches that all marketing efforts must align. It is hard to sell a sun drenched loft to uninformed buyers by taking pictures on a cloudy day.
Bad luck to have a cloudy day. This will not be a big problem for buyers with agents who know the building -- because the floor plan alone will tell them that the sun drenches -- but how many such agents are there? It is classic bad marketing not to re-take your pictures to align with the objective facts -- especially if you lead your marketing with one objective fact.
as long as I have my knife out...
And another thing, while I am in a (hyper?) critical mood. In addition to the "gorgeous light from south and west windows" being contradicted by the marketing photos, the "open professional chef's kitchen" is essentially AWOL. Look again at Picture #3. I assume that really is an "open professional chef's kitchen" at the end of that loooong vista, but does that photo strike you as an "open professional chef's kitchen". Not to me, it doesn't.
The agents with #601 are experienced downtown agents who appear to be successful. Let's see if they re-take the pictures.
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Sep. 26, 2006 - puzzling price policy / slow death near Union Square

why drop a price?
I have been watching a loft listing at 4 West 16 St (#8A) since it came to market in April, because I listed a unit in this building last year. I thought the original asking price of $1.35mm was pretty aggressive in April, even with what looks like a nice renovation (mine was in 20 year-old original condition, but a little bigger, on a higher floor and on the quiet [rear] of the building).
After not selling in two months, Pat Levy at PruDE dropped the price by $75k, and then by another $50k this week, to $1.225m.
price should help sell (d’oh!)
Which leads me to wonder “why drop a price?” The chorus will answer “to sell the apartment!!” but I was thinking on a different level. Or, on that level, but with emphasis on selling the apartment. The question-within-a-question then becomes “what price change will help sell the apartment?”
As I tell people to whom I pitch a listing, the asking price is the single most important element in setting buyer’s expectations about a listing. Does a $75k price change increase the likelihood of selling the apparent? I don’t think so, but others may have different opinions.
how to ‘suggest’ a seller is negotiable?
One theory appears to be that a small price drop makes sense because if suggests that the seller is negotiable without having to be desperate about that. I don’t agree. I think the fact that a Manhattan apartment has been listed for four months or more is enough of a hint to buyers that he seller may be (should be) negotiable about price.
One theory is that a price change makes sense if it brings ‘new’ buyers to the listing. I agree.
bring in new buyers
The hard part in doing this is to assess where the typical buyers establish price ranges. In this case, an original asking price of $1.35mm is – to me – not so radically different from the intermediate ‘ask’ of $1.275mm to bring in buyers who had not yet considered #8A. Anyone willing to spend $1.35mm is probably already considering anything price at $1.275mm.
In fact, the new price this week of $1.225mm is not very different from $1.275mm either. This is so, even though a move from $1.35mm to $1.225mm might have been enough of a spread to being in ‘new’ buyers – if it had been done directly.
The problem is that doing two price drops to get from $1.35, to $1.225mm risks boring people who are out there and familiar with the inventory. (To buyers who are just beginning to look, there is no problem with the new price being boring, but there are not as many new buyers each week as old buyers.) And anyone paying attention to days-on-market will realize that the listing is borderline ‘tired’.
sellers don’t like price drops that ‘take away’ money from them
Sellers hate to ‘give away’ money – even money that they never had in their pockets (like the $125k that the 8A seller has “lost” by dropping the price to $1.225mm). As a result, many sellers are tempted to drop the price by a minimal amount – if at all.
Which leads to death by small increments.
Most agents have stories about an apartment that finally sold well below where they thought it should have sold for. Often, these stories feature price histories with many small changes. (E.g., the 2 BR that went from $1.2mm to $900k in increments of $50,000.) In retrospect, the agents say that a larger intermediate price change (say, from $1.2mm to $1mm) would have resulted in a higher and quicker sale.
I know it is painful – for sellers and for agents.
pain, all around
I went through this with a seller recently. Our $2.5mm asking price looked good at the start – especially compared to three other apartments in the building. When we finally changed the price, I strongly recommended that we needed a ‘dramatic’ price change in order to capture a different set of buyers. The new price of $2.1mm did that, and we are about to have a signed contract.
In that case, the market place (bless its cold heart) told us that the $2.5mm was not a price that would get us the best price available in the marketplace. So we bit the bullet.
Not to pick on Pat Levy at PruDE, but I don’t think that moving #8A in two steps to $1.225mm will be as effective as doing it once. And – in this market of large inventories – it may not yet be even at the right price to attract the best price available in the market for that unit.
I will continue to watch what happens. Good luck, Pat.
© Sandy Mattingly
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Sep. 3, 2006 - vast loft like apartment at the Stewart House (not!) / marketing mumbo jumbo

Loft-"like" sticks out (badly) in a loft neighborhood
I was cruising the NYTimes.com site (what you sometimes have to do without a true MLS in Manhattan) and came across this listing described as a “[v]ast loft like 2 bedroom apartment”. It happens to be in a neighborhood that has real loft buildings, south of Union Square, but this one is most definitely not a loft building, nor is this apartment “loft like”. But the agent wants the cachet of “lofts” so that is how she is selling it. To me, a peculiar choice.

It is a second floor unit in The Stewart House, 70 East 10 St, which is a fine postwar coop building with a high level of service. What it is not is a loft building. It was built as a coop in 1960 (not as a rental, and later converted) and it looks every bit the 1960 apartment that it is: white brick, low-ish ceilings (8.5 feet??), standard apartment-sized windows.
That’s the main picture in the listing, but check out the pictures in the NYT listing offered by Beth Chase. Please tell me immediately if you think “loft like” when viewing these photos.
Marketing the to wrong buyers?
If I have a buyer looking for anything "like" a loft, I am not taking the buyer to the Stewart House. And anyone who likes the units in The Stewart House is not going to look at lofts. Curious marketing choices….
As it happens I was in this building with a “non loft” buyer about a week ago, looking at a Corcoran listing by Janice Figueroa and Michael Jones. The unit we looked at (see listing data here) was pretty much the opposite of a loft – though it had its own charms as an “apartment”. It is in very good original condition (meaning, nearly 50 year old bathrooms and kitchen). Indeed, the telephone on the far nightstand that you can just barely see in the picture below is a rotary. (If you don’t know what a rotary phone is, ask your mother.) If you go see this unit, say hello to Janice for me.
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Aug. 31, 2006 - Lofts are sexy marketing loft-like apartments

I often get email blasts from agents about their listings, some of which are over the top, some just barely alive. For purposes of this discussion, I am amused by the apartment listings from non-loft neighborhoods that describe the apartments as “loft-like”.
Over-selling to other agents?
Maybe it is just me, but I figure that people who would be interested in “loft-like” apartments in Manhattan would be very interested in actual lofts. And if they were interested in real lofts, they would not be looking for apartments in … say ... the Upper East Side. But enough professional agents disagree that I can keep a collection of listing announcements for “loft-like” apartments that do not seem very much like lofts to me. But maybe they do to people who really like Upper East Side (standard) apartments.
How many points for an open litchen?
Take the Hampton House, a 32 story condominium tower built in 1985, that is at 404 East 79 St. Looking at pictures of listings on the web for this building, the ceiling heights look pretty standard at less than 9 feet. Foroogh Zarinehbaf at Nest Seekers Apartment 4A has offered for sale (though “temporarily off the market” as of last week), with inter-broker emails describing it as “loft-like”. It looks like a pretty standard (cookie-cutter) UES 2 bedroom layout, with an open kitchen, with about 1100 square feet. About the only thing in the description, floor plan or photos that is at all “loft-like” is an open kitchen.
I don’t think so.
A loft antonym?
Then there’s the 1950s East Side former rental building at 150 East 56 St that is about the least “loft-like” buildings imaginable: white brick, small windows, low ceilings. But Matthew Yee at Corcoran is marketing 11B to agents as a giant loft-like 850 square foot one bedroom apartment. In addition to the (obligatory) open kitchen, this one has a large open space for the kitchen, dining area and living room (20x 28 feet), which could be loft-like with a higher ceiling, with bigger windows, with a whole lot of other things it does not have.

No suspense, but I don’t think so.

The incredible shrunken loft (not)
Finally, a nice try. Unit 2C at 331 East 92 St is a studio that looks like no more than 250 square feet, described by Steve Lopez at Benjamin James as an elegant loft-like studio with soaring high pressed tin ceiling, beautiful exposed brick wall,, which is a mouthful (especially for a tiny studio). Soaring ceilings sounds like a loft. Lots of authentic lofts have pressed tin ceilings and/or exposed brick walls. And – of course – open kitchens (how could it be otherwise in a tiny studio??). But there is nothing loft-like that can be encompassed within 250 square feet.

Partial credit for the nice try, but I don’t think so.
Hint to buyers: if you want something "like" a loft, don’t shop on the Upper East Side.
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Sandy Mattingly is Manhattan Loft Guy; now with The Corcoran Group (http://corcoran.com/ ; but see the disclaimer at the bottom of the page), he can be reached most easily at Sandy@ManhattanLoftGuy.com or 917.902.2491, and followed on Twitter @ManhattnLoftGuy (note "mis-spelling"). After 7+ years, the blog has moved. Links here on RealTown will work for the foreseeable future, but new posts (and all the old content) has migrated to ManhattanLoftGuy.com.

Recent Posts

ch ch ch changes September 30, 2013
diversion is more of a (small) rant about Manhattan real estate "penthouses"
50 West 29 Street build-out loft sale not as simple as it looks
28 Laight Street 1-day loft sale looks like a whisper listing
room or light? Tribeca or Chelsea? 2 lofts sold above ask at $2.645 million have different charms

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apartment types
bubble talk
caution: no real estate content
change is a constant
economic "analysis"
general weird stuff
In the news (me)
loft features / amenities
loft features / kitchens
loft features / outdoor space
loft features / "space"
loft features / views
lofts in 'other' neighborhoods
Loft neighborhoods / Chelsea
Loft neighborhoods/ East Village
Loft neighborhoods / Flatiron
loft neighborhoods / NoHo
Loft neighborhoods / SoHo
Loft neighborhoods / Tribeca
loft neighborhoods / West 30s
lofts outside New York??
loft style
Manhattan real estate business
Market Data - aggregators
Market Data - reports
Market Trends
Marketing Manhattan apartments
New York, New York, New York
On The Market
open houses
pricing analysis
The Process - buying an apartment
Psychology of the market
public art in Manhattan
truth IS stranger...
what makes a loft a "loft"
internet and blogosphere
renovation opportunities + rewards
One Bed Wonders
new this week

Favorite Links

Manhattan Users Guide (be sure to search the archives)
The Gotham Center for NYC History
Matrix the Real Estate Economy
Hopstop (door-to-door subway instructions)
MTA subway site, including maps + schedules
NYC Dept of Education site
NY State Assn of Independent Schools (find private schools)
the local TriBeCa newspaper
"the weekly newspaper of lower Manhattan"
Brooklyn, but a great blog
Patell & Waterman's History of New York
The Soho Memory Project by a long-time resident
Tribeca Commons, an economist considers history, development + more
NYC Past photo tumblr
Manhattan Loft Guy Facebook page (use dropdown menu for Timeline)
the MLG Master List of loft sales, to Nov 2008
Tribeca Citizen
Malcolm Carter
Brick Underground, "vertical living demystified"
Daytonian In Manhattan a tourist's wonder with a local's eye
Urban Digs (numbers, graphs & charts, oh my)
True Gotham (very) occasional front-line dispatches
DNA Info, local news via the inter-tubes
The Real Deal, our industry rag
Coop and Condo (a lawyer writes with a funny pen)
Crain's New York real estate
Tom Fletcher’s NYC Architecture
Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York
Architakes, one guy's take
Scouting New York (location guy with camera)
Forgotten NY
Soho Alliance
Soho Journal
Chelsea Now (area news)
the essential. if ephemeral, New York
The Broadsheet Daily (especially for BPC, FiDi and Tribeca residents)
The Atlantic Cities


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