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Manhattan Loft Guy

Sep. 30, 2013 - ch ch ch changes September 30, 2013

change is good, isn't it??
This blog was born in March 2006, back in the Pleistocene Era of "social media" on the inter-tubes, with the creation of this free blog platform for real estate professionals and kind support of Internet Crusade. Two-thousand-plus posts later, the technology options have changed enough that I have migrated Manhattan Loft Guy to a WordPress platform.

I imagine that this will be my last post here on RealTown, though I expect that this site will remain for the time being, as I have not yet discovred a way to import past comments to the new platform and there are a million (approximately) back links that will probably never be updated to the new platform.

If you bookmarked the blog at www.ManhattanLoftGuy.com that should make the switch painlessly and automatically; if you use the "RealTown" root you will need to update.

My first post over there introduces the change, updates my profile, and leads to all my past content. It lacks the lovely MLG logo, but that (and other refinements, improvements, updates) is coming.

Lofty and unending gratitude to the RealTown Team (especially Tim, Ashley & John).

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Sep. 28, 2013 - diversion is more of a (small) rant about Manhattan real estate "penthouses"

creeping nomenclature is all too common
It's the weekend, but instead of the usual diversion having nothing to do with Manhattan lofts, I'd like to do a short riff on a pice in The Real Deal this week,
When Is A Penthouse A Penthouse? TRD quotes some of the usual suspects (including The Miller, of course) about the entirely predictable if nonetheless disappointing practice of those in the Marketing Division of the Real Estate Industrial Complex stretching the bounds of language. Shameless broker babble, just imagine!!

“Now there is luxury living that feels like a penthouse even if you’re not on the top floor, so in order to fall under that [penthouse] category you need breathtaking views and amazing amenities,” said [an agent who will not be named here]. “They can all be of quality but this has something extra.”

Uh ... no. You can call anything you like a penthouse, but (as TRD notes, getting it half right)

The textbook definition points to an apartment or dwelling on the roof of a building, or any specially-designed apartment on an upper floor – especially the top floor – of a building.

 (Note to self ... research the origin; why a "pent" house??)

I have beaten this drum before, probably most recently in my January 30, elevator does not go to top floor at 258 Broadway, penthouse loft sells anyway (eventually, eventually):

There are penthouses, and then there are penthouses. My understanding is that the term originally referred to a residential unit built on the roof, usually having direct (private) access to at least part of the roof, and usually added on rather than part of original building construction. Of course, in the Real Estate Industrial Complex in which all apartments are “rarely offered” if not “unique”, as words tend to be diluted, the term penthouse came to be used for any top floor unit with outdoor space, then to units on upper floors (not just the top most) with outdoor space, then to some upper floor units without outdoor space. Sigh. 

Sigh, indeed. The indications in TRD are that the problem is going to get worse before it (if it ever) gets better. Apparently, overly enthusiastic members of the REIC will continue to stretch the word past its breaking point, as has already been done (without irony, of course) with "unique".

I get the point made by This Smart Guy, but doesn't it seem self-defeating to attract buyers looking for a specific thing by using that smae name to describe something that is not that specific thing?

Calling a unit a “penthouse” can also be a snappy marketing gimmick, enabling brokers to reel in the subset of buyers who confine their searches to penthouses alone, [The] Miller said. 

'Cuz, you know, buyers "who confine their searches to penthouses alone" are probably doing that because they want "penthouses", alone (only).

I don't suppose anything can stop this Alice In Wonderland approach from getting worse. At least for my niche you will see the stretching when a listing is called "loft-like".

End of rant (diversion) for today. Enjoy the weekend.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Sep. 27, 2013 - 50 West 29 Street build-out loft sale not as simple as it looks


here’s one I know something about
The recent sale of the “1,400 sq ft “ Manhattan loft #13W at 50 West 29 Street looks pretty simple: to market on April 10 at $1.475mm, in contract by June 20, and sold on August 22 at $1.5mm. That first period seems a little long for a loft to sell over ask and the second seems a little short for a coop, but all in all a quick sale. But you see from the extended history that it did not sell in 2011 while asking $1.45mm, or in 2012 while asking $1.415mm, as recently as that August. i know what the public listing history does not show: that there was an accepted offer in 2012 that took a really long time not to get to contract. For all I know there were other accepted offers in 2011 and 2012 that did not get to contract, but I do know why that one accepted deal failed. It gets complicated ….

you can’t sell what you can’t sell
You wouldn’t have known this from any of the marketing materials, and my buyer who made the bid that was accepted in 2012 did not know the funky details until due diligence, but there was then no residential Certificate of Occupancy for this (not quite) half of the 13th floor in this small coop. Of course, we were told more or less that “the paperwork is pending with the city” and should be completed “soon”.

The somewhat shorter very long story involves lawyers (of course) and expeditors and architects. I never got a full account of the details because it would have cost my buyer some professional fees for his team to explain it to me, but it came down to a difference of opinion between Team Buyer and Team Seller about how quickly and how likely a C of O would be issued by the city and, with the seller’s insistence that a contract be signed while all this was still murky, there were protracted negotiations about an escrow arrangement to account for this complexity. At the end of the day, Team Buyer was faced with the likelihood of signing a contract without the C of O, the possibility that no building permit would be issued for a renovation until the C of O was in place, and the certainty that seller would not agree to an escrow both large and long enough that he felt protected, and would give seller enough incentive to move heaven and earth to get ‘his’ C of O.

Did I mention that there was also uncertainty about the terms on which a bank would lend to purchase the coop shares associated with this loft?

None of this complexity was built into the price negotiation, by the way, as none of it was clear until the due diligence exposed the full facts, in all their convoluted glory. Buyer was willing to go to $1.3mm (seller’s then bottom line number) because this was the available loft that best met his needs within his financial resources, even though he thought (I thought, as well) that this value was beyond the comps, given that the loft was in very primitive condition and would need a gut renovation to truly compare to well-finished comparable lofts. (Take a quick look at the building page to begin to see why.)

Did I mention that there was some risk that the wonderful west light and views could be impaired by development on either side of Broadway between 28th and 29th Streets?

Seller was within her rights to want to offload as much risk as possible on my buyer, to reject the escrow terms proposed by buyer to sign a contract at the agreed price, and to reject a price concession as the last offer by that buyer to do the deal. No deal is a deal until it is a contract, and Team Buyer always assumed that Team Seller was acting in good faith (though in an optimistic fog as to what the city was likely to do, when).

Judging from the speed at which the loft was taken off the market when my buyer finally walked away (after incurring lawyer, architect and expeditor bills for the swamp work involved), Team Seller seems (finally) to have conceded that the loft was not saleable in that condition. Alas.

Team Buyer kept in touch with Team Seller in this (publicly) quiet period, at one point being assured that a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy “in 6 weeks”, to which buyer responded that he would do the deal at $1.3mm if that happened. No dice, alas. Six weeks later … same status (alas).

a new market emerges
My emails reflect that the TCO was (finally!) issued in February this year and that my buyer could not get seller to consider his money until seller had put it back for sale publicly. My guy (finally!) walked away and signed a contract elsewhere, loft #13W was brought to market on April 10, and the rest you know.

Did I mention that this was more complicated than it looks?

Seller ended up getting $200,000 more in the 2013 market than the “deal” with my guy almost a year earlier, so good for her. That buyer just paid $1,071/ft for a loft that needs $200/ft or more in renovation. I still think that’s beyond the comps (even with the ridiculously low maintenance of $522/mo), but this data point now exists for other primitive lofts on gritty blocks in non-prime loft neighborhoods.

That’s how values get reset. Alas.

(My guy has since closed on a much larger loft in much better [newly renovated and mint-y] condition with better views and light, at about $1,340/ft; he’s happy.)

Did I mention that this was a complicated story??

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Sep. 26, 2013 - 28 Laight Street 1-day loft sale looks like a whisper listing

can't be real, perhaps it is one of those
We can agree, I assume, that the public record behind the recent sale of the "2,705 sq ft" Manhattan loft #2D at 28 Laight Street in the Cobblestone Lofts cannot reflect an actual public marketing. StreetEasy has it as new to market on July 2 and in contract by July 3 (our listing system agrees) and it is simply not possible for a buyer to learn of a listing on a Tuesday and sign a contract the next day. (Rather, it is simply impossible to believe that a seller would offer a loft on Tuesday to the general public for $x and then take it off the market within 24 hours unless the buyer was willing to pay a significant premium to the asking price, and even in this era of impossibly quick lawyers, it is impossible to believe that an impossibly quick buyer’s attorney would complete due diligence and contract review in that period.) In this (purported) case, the deal was done at exactly the purported asking price.

Nope. Looks to me like one of those ‘whisper listings’ marketed to only a limited number of buyers the New York Times was talking about as recently as this past Sunday. For Your Ears Only was the big story in the Real Estate section, describing as increasingly common in a broader milieu a practice that seemed to have been restricted to the oh-so-tony uptown world in which only the right buyer with the right bank account and the right great grandparents could buy your property anyway (so why advertise to schlubs?).

I read the piece, of course, but was not going to discuss it here. It is (still) a pretty infrequent situation and it is (still) difficult for me to appreciate exactly which sellers this strategy benefits, but it’s a free country! This first example makes half sense to me (it is just not very common), but the rest seems not so … plenty:

Plenty of circumstances arise in which it makes sense to keep a listing out of the limelight, ranging from celebrities who don’t want to read about their property transactions in the tabloids to sellers who would rather not upset tenants prematurely. Some sellers hope to avoid the hassle involved in getting a property in shape to show. Others don’t want a lot of people traipsing through.

The fact that So-and-So’s property is on the market (and, possibly, in the limelight) can be dealt with in other ways than avoiding a public listing. (Take the Oscars off the shelf, the glowing reviews off the wall, and put the family photos away, for starters.) Maybe there are tenants an owner really has to worry about being upset by setting up a regular appointment schedule for public showings, but some tenants will also be upset by having The One Buyer come by 3 or 4 times anyway. (Leases generally specify some terms on which an owner can access the tenant’s space for resale purposes, usually only at the end of the lease; that will govern whether the property is listed or not.)

The theory is that the current market is so deprived of inventory that a “seller” who really did not want “the hassle” of leaving the unit show-ready every darn morning, and especially every Sunday afternoon, can just leave the dishes in the sink and the kids’ rooms a mess for the few times that The Special Buyer comes to visit. I suppose The Special Buyer finds it easy to understand that the apartment is shown ‘lived in’ out of a special accommodation to The Special Buyer, as opposed to regular buyers in a public sale who will (really?) take points off because the apartment has not been made show-ready for them. I suppose. And sellers who “don’t want a lot of people traipsing through” can instruct their agent to make that happen, in lots of ways. (“Showings only Tuesday to Thursday, noon to 2 PM”; or restricting showings to buyers who have been financially vetted by the seller’s agent, for example.)

I get that there are benefits to sellers. An informed seller can do what she wants, of course, but I don’t see that the benefits outweigh the risk that she won’t get the best price, however. It is one thing to whisper to buyers about a commodity apartment, in a large building in which a person familiar with the building will know the unit without seeing it; that deal can be made confidently by a buyer, so long as the buyer has the opportunity to see it to confirm it meets expectations before signing.

But lofts are rarely commodities, even in buildings with 30+ units.

you have to whisper pretty loudly to get 20% in 14 months
In the case of loft #2D, any carping amounts to mere quibbling, given that the folks who just sold on August 29 at $4.58mm had purchased only on June 4, 2012 for $3.8mm. Unless that 2012 purchase was demonstrably a below market value, it certainly appears as though they got a good deal on resale. (It wasn’t: I hit a then-high-for-the-building sale at $1,167/ft in my April 28, 2012, what has changed at Cobblestone Lofts, 28 Laight Street, since 2005?; two months later the recent sellers at $1,693/ft bought #2D at $1,405/ft.)

As recently as December, The Market thought that this footprint in this same condition on (what passes at this northwest Tribeca location as) a much higher floor was worth $4.1mm with a $300,000 parking space. (That buyer could have bought #6D without the parking space for $3.8mm but paid another $300,000 to park downstairs.) So, yes, $4.58mm for #2D on a whisper seems like it ‘cost’ the sellers nothing.

And it seems as though an educated buyer would know from #6D what #2D would look and feel like before even seeing it.

but then, why bother with photos?
I bet that most whisper listings don’t have to get camera ready, but this one was. (After all, there are listing photos, with furnishings different from when #2D was marketed in 2012.) Leading to the conclusion that these folks were prepared to do a full public marketing campaign until someone made their day.

I don’t think that “asking” price of $4.39mm has any credibility, given that the deal must already have been struck at $4.58mm when the inter-tubes first got wind of this, but the $4.58mm is (as noted above) a demonstrably superior result based on #6D in December and the same #2D in June 2012. Maybe they were going to come out at $4.39mm, maybe not. Clearly, the $4.58mm hit their sweet spot.

Could they have gotten more in a truly public sale? Of course it is possible. But it is quite rational for owners at $3.8mm since June 2012 to believe that a quick sale at $4.58mm was ‘worth it’. The listing photos prove they were committed to selling, so this is likely not one scenario scoped out in the Times (the very famous real estate person who sold her condo after being approached by a buyer agent, and who insisted on all her non-price terms, as well).

Nicely played, folks; nicely played.

I look forward to the next sale in the building to put this super value in fully public context.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Sep. 24, 2013 - room or light? Tribeca or Chelsea? 2 lofts sold above ask at $2.645 million have different charms

new space or old?

I had ticketed two contemporaneous Manhattan loft sales back when there was a summer in New York; now is a good time to check them out. The "1,789 sq ft" Manhattan loft on the 3rd floor of 56 Thomas Street and the "1,493 sq ft" Manhattan loft #12A at 130 West 19 Street (Chelsea House) each have 2 bedrooms. More critically, both sold within 10 days of each other above ask at exactly $2.65mm. The similarities are limited to island, bedroom count, and market value. In fact, I would be surprised if many people willing to spend around two-and-a-half-million for 2 bedroom loft space saw both of them.

On the one hand, there is new Chelsea; on the other, classic Tribeca. The Chelsea entry is in ground-up construction finished in 2006 that is more loft-like than loft, but it has the high ceilings and open kitchen layouts that compete with "loft" listings; of course it also has amenities and (even with an unexpired tax abatement) relatively high monthlies. Floor to ceiling windows provide great light and long views.

The Tribeca entry is a classic Long-and-Narrow with only a few classic loft touches (some brick, 10 foot ceilings that [though dropped] reveal sprinkler pipes, large windows). The recent renovation gave it a skin and finishings that are (to quote the babble because it appears to be true) "simply beautiful", and at a significantly mint-ier degree than the 2006-era new development finishes at Chelsea House.

The most obvious differences are light and views; the more subtle difference concerns flexibility. From the 10th floor on 19th Street, all that glass lining #12A brings natural light into every inch of the unit all day, with roof-clearing views and sky. On the 3rd floor opposite the huge Legal Aid Society building on narrow Thomas Street, the babbled "wonderful light" will all be reflected and the huge windows provide views of nothing but limestone and office windows. The less said about views and light in the back, the better; or, as the babble hints, the space is "quiet".

I am not sure how much value The Market places on flexibility, but that quality is a hallmark of traditional lofts like at 56 Thomas and an anathema to newly built condos designed within an inch of their lives like Chelsea House. The #12A floor plan is perfect for what it is, down to that angled kitchen counter to open up the entry-to-living-space trip. It squeezes 2 ensuite bedrooms and a public powder room into "1,493 sq ft" ringed by glass apart from the back wall and one wall of the second bedroom. Finding even a place for built-ins is a challenge.

The "1,789 sq ft" 3rd floor floor plan, in contrast, has many options, depending on how you feel about light and how much money you are willing to spend. That back wall can fit two (real) bedrooms, but then you'd compress the plumbing rooms up that east wall (not difficult, just expensive). No matter what you do, that vast central part of the loft is a long way from windows; hence, the decision in the new renovation to really focus inward by, for example, installing that large two-sided fireplace that, among other things, visually separates the dining area from the front windows. This space is built to be enjoyed without (much) need of the windows (though the front room may, in fact, be bright), precisely opposite to the orientation of #12A. With no structural supports in the Thomas Street loft and plumbing running a long way on that east wall, there are many options for the array of rooms. The renovators chose a large master suite and a second (interior) bedroom / den that is babbled as making "a wonderful den" for owners who would all sleep together in the back.

As I said, these lofts have such different charms and limitations that I doubt someone who had a good idea of what they wanted would have seen both. They didn't overlap on the market, but they were somewhat close, and in function (2-bedroom) and price they are similar:

Feb 17

#12A new to market


Mar 27

#12A contract

April 22

#3 new to market


May 21

#3 contract

June 11

#3 sold


June 21

#12A sold


"$2.645mm" is hardly the kind of round number that you often see properties close at. In the one case, it was $50,000 (and 2%) above the ask; in the other, $150,000 above (6%). The new #12A owners is already paying almost $1,000/mo more in taxes and common charges, with an abatement expiring in 2018.

One set of buyers were prompted by competition to pay exactly the same price as the other set of buyers, who were similarly prompted but looking for completely different benefits. A happy serendipity for people who spend time poring over closed sale records.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Sep. 22, 2013 - Sunday diversion has to feature The Great Rivera


still baseball season, of course

No need to get into a discussion of whether Mariano Rivera is ‘the greatest closer ever’ in Major League baseball (the 9th-inning [only] closer being a fairly recent development) but we can all agree that he has been One Heck Of A Reliever. Personally, I like to remember the way Jon Miller would intone it on Sunday Night Baseball a few years back: The Great Rivera. Obviously, with Rivera retiring this year and all the tributes in all the ballparks and all over the media and inter-tubes, there is no shortage of Rivera attention, even adulation.

But if you missed Ian O’Connor’s piece from ESPN-NY you should do yourself a favor.  Much like a certain religious figure I could mention, Rivera does not appear to present himself as a saint, or even as someone better than you, me, or the next guy.Yet he really seems (I hope the hype is real) to value the interactions he has with people (regular people, if you will). While he has the rare ability to seem genuinely interested in each person as a person, and to take some time to go out of his way to interact with people who might appreciate the opportunity to talk to him, the key (for me) to the O’Connor piece is the impact he has on the ‘regular’ people he talks to.

Rivera puts his fame to good use by talking to people in such a way that they feel inspired by him to deal with the (often trying) circumstances of their lives. Read the piece.

One thing it reminded me is that each of us has the ability to (as they say) commit random acts of kindness and that we may never know the impact they may have on people. Whether it is to inspire them to commit similar acts, or to just remember you well, these deposits at The International Bank of Karma are things you may be able to draw on later.

Permit me a personal story …. A day or two after I read the O’Connor piece and started thinking about  featuring The Great Rivera in a diversion not focused on his pitching career, I was in a favorite bar with my daughter and her friend. Our lubricated host took the occasion to remember, and thank me, for a simple act I had long since forgotten. It seems that 20+ years ago, back when I had regular Sunday Plan seats at Yankee Stadium, I gave him my pair of tickets one afternoon so that he and his wife could take  their then-infant son to his first Yankees game. No way would I remember something like that, but he remembered well enough to try to impress my daughter (23?) years later.

The point is not about The Wonderfulness Of Me (I could not use the tickets; they didn’t cost much), but that every day we have opportunities to relate to people in what are (to us) small ways that can, somehow, some day, be the basis of a wonderful memory for them, or even better, to make a true difference in their lives.

Use your power for good, my friends.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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


… and the home of the brave

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

  • July 17, 2006 $1,644,473

  • Oct 24, 2006 $1.885mm

  • June 2, 2009 $1.325mm

  • July 29, 2013 $1.995mm

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

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

May 8, 2008

new to market


June 18



Sept 18



Sept 25

change firms


Sept 30



Oct 3



Oct 30



Dec 16



April 21, 2009



June 2




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

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

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

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

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

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

to the victor …

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

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

Nicely played, folks; nicely played.

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

Odd, that.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013



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


nor did time, or dimmers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a record setting push

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

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

  • $1,718/ft in August 2013

  • $1,384/ft in February 2013

  • $1,266/ft in May 2011

  • $1,250/ft in January 2013

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

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

caveat emptor, indeed

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

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

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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



cashing out on meticulous + to the 9s


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

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

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

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

Aug 16, 2007

new to market


Feb 7, 2008

off market


Oct 15

change firms


Jan 9, 2009



Mar 28



April 1



May 28



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


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

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

some sobering numbers

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

  • 2007 13,430

  • 2008 10,299

  • 2009 7,430

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

Number of sales

  • 2Q09 1,592

  • 1Q09 1,185

  • 2Q08 3,081

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

Once again:

  • May 28, 2009 $1.95mm

  • (a renovation)

  • May 16, 2013 $4.05mm

what do you think this renovation cost?

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

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

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

comping is, as usual, hard

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

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

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

Nicely played, folks; nicely played.

we know where they’ve been

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

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

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

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

another StreetEasy brain cramp

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

Note to StreetEasy: please clean up your stuff.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Sep. 17, 2013 - 56 Warren Street loft renovation added more value than it cost


known unknowns abound

I am not unusual in always being interested in the impact that renovation has on value; most people who try to follow a residential real estate niche share that interest. I flatter my niche, perhaps, in thinking that this is a much more complicated topic with Manhattan lofts than it is with more (shudder) cookie cutter apartments or even (gasp) tract homes. (Not go all emo on ya.) While this angle is interesting, it is always frustrating to not know the input, i.e., the renovation cost, that resulted in a certain output, i.e., post-renovation value.


In the case of the “2,200 sq ft” Manhattan loft #3E at 56 Warren Street I can see the big-picture changes between the condition when the loft just sold for $3.58mm and when it was purchased by the recent sellers shortly before The Peak in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market at $1.935mm, but I can’t do more than guess at the cost of those changes. I am highly confident, though, that the recent sellers did not spend anywhere near the $1.645mm increase in value after buying at $1.935mm.

Let’s start with dates and dollars, then move to broker babble and photos. The recent sellers bought in the single most active market in Manhattan residential real estate history, closing just a few months shy of the quarter in which the highest prices were recorded, though it took their sellers a while to figure out that dynamic environment:

Sept 21, 2006

new to market


Oct 16



Jan 12, 2007



April 17



May 24



Sept 26




May 1, 2013

new to market


May 17



Aug 13



The starting point is easily described: “
consider this raw and design a major home [?] that suits your needs”, with some additional photos and a floor plan surviving on the Corcoran website beyond what is on StreetEasy. The loft is a classic Long-and-Narrow with windows front and back, plus 4 presumably dark windows on an air shaft on the long wall opposite the public stairwell. Back in the day, it featured 2 bathrooms and a washer dryer, with a working artist studio at the north end.


babbling that goes on, and on ...

The ending point is easily summarized (the 2007 buyers did, in fact, design a “major home”), but it was just sold with the longest bit of broker babble I believe I have ever seen. Distilled to focus on the prose that describes the difference, Then and Now, we see:

Chef’s Kitchen ... abundant cabinetry; an enormous Island with a 4’x 9’ honed Calcutta Gold Marble slab countertop; a Bertazzoni five-burner stove; a Jenn-Air microwave/vent; and integrated Bosch dishwasher and French door refrigerator. A solid 10’ folding door leads to ... Den/Media Room with custom built-in bookcases, a large flat-screen TV, and a marble tiled Second Bathroom. … Master Bedroom ... features built-in cabinetry with a flat-screen TV... en-suite Master Bath flaunts a magnificent mirrored arch over a Caesarstone wall hung vanity, honed Statuary Marble tiles, a large walk-in rain shower with mosaic glass tiles, a separate 6’ Zuma soaking tub for two, heated towel racks, Grohe fixtures and a Duravit commode. The Second Bedroom features a unique large sleeping loft, akin to a gigantic bunk bed, and again custom built-ins .... [with] a vast walk in closet that could be converted to a home office or third full bathroom. [and a] Third (windowed) Bedroom, more custom built-in closets, and a large laundry closet with side-by-side Bosch washer and dryer.


... central AC, ... ample custom bookcases and closets throughout, Caesarstone window sills, Lutron light dimmers, dual front/rear intercoms, and Bluetooth sound system in living and media rooms

(I am pretty sure that the “hot water radiator heating, solid wood maple flooring, exposed brick walls” were in the Then version, as well as in the Now version.)

Net-net, a total renovation to a floor plan with 3 bedrooms where the former artist studio had been and the new plumbing in the places the former (primitive) plumbing had been. The proper proper names and materials indicate a high-end renovation (as does the recent sale price, of course), but the potential range of expense for these materials, these brands, and labor for a quality job is very large. But even if it was $400/ft in cost, that gets the 2007 buyers only to $2.815mm, compared to the $3.58mm at which they just sold.

Whatever they spent on renovating, they also benefited from the current market conditions. I just don’t think the difference in coop values at the bottom of Tribeca between September 2007 and August 2013 is anywhere near a 27% market appreciation. Nicely played, folks; nicely played.

we’ve been here before

If you have a better memory for old Manhattan Loft Guy posts than I do, you will remember that I hit the loft below this one when it was offered as a “raw and original condition” project, essentially identical to the condition of #3E at the same time. In my June 8, 2007, Tribeca buy & build opportunity under $800/ft at 56 Warren, my information about initial pricing was off, as #2E came out (only slightly too low) at $1.895mm and found a contract in a month, closing at $1.975mm only two days after #3E closed at $1.935mm.

By my lights, that 2% spread reflects a delightfully efficient market for primitive lofts in extreme southeast Tribeca in mid-2007, with that $40,000 “premium” in favor of #2E being either simple market noise, or a reflection of a frothy market that improved marginally between the #3E contract on May 24 and the #2E contract on July 18. Take your pick; I don’t care.

If there is a smarty-pants that remembered that 2007 post (from back in the day while I still discussed active listings), those pants will surely remember that I hit the last market sale in the building before the recent #3E sale. Those pants may even remember that my April 27, 2012 post, truly "one of a kind" bathroom sells for $2.35mm, loft at 56 Warren Street comes with it, about the sale of loft #5E featured a cameo by #3E, which had (then) recently not sold. That’s a fun post, but for present purposes the short story is that loft was a difficult comp because the design was so idiosyncratic, but it sold for $2.35mm in the year after our model,

Loft #3E[,] did not sell at $2.695mm or $2.895mm when offered over about 12 weeks last Summer, despite being “[n]ewly renovated ... with an eye to every detail” and having custom this and custom that.

if only we had a matched set of raw-to-prime sales (oh wait…)

In more concrete market data, I noted in that post 17 months ago that our 2007-raw-comp was also in play, following its make-over:

It appears as though loft #2E is about to sell (it just went into contract) off an asking price of $2.85mm, also with a 3BR+ floor plan much more similar to #3E than to #5E. That closing price will tell us how The Market values a built-out 3BR+ floor plan over the open-as-open-can-be #5E. (Note to Self …) It looks like a premium in the range of 15%.

In fact, #2E closed at $2.7mm on July 17, 2012, making the spread between “a built-out 3BR+ floor plan over the open-as-open-can-be #5E” in 2012 14.89%. (I was pretty close!)

The 2007 buyers of raw #2E built that loft out with a slightly different layout than the new #3E (#2E floor plan, here), with the differences in bedroom and bathroom arrangement being immaterial. I didn’t see #2E, and that babble was neither as long or as detailed as the Homeric #3E babble, but it did claim for #2E last year an “Elegant Luxury Renovation”.

The known unknowns in comparing #2E last year and #3E this year include the how-luxury-is-luxury? angle, with the properly naming proper proper names and materials in the #3E babble suggesting that the upstairs loft had a more expensive renovation. I have to believe that The Market thought so (d’oh! $2.7mm v. $3.58mm), as not much of the spread between them should be due to the 13 months between their respective contracts. And by “not much” I mean that The Market for like-to-like is not up 32% in 13 months.

I really hope the recent #3E sellers spent a lot more on their primitive loft in 2007 than the 2012 #2E sellers did on their primitive loft in 2007. And I wish I knew what the respective budgets were. The $720,000 


[oops ... thx reader KTG for the math catch] market preference for #3E speaks pretty loudly.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Sep. 16, 2013 - 1 Bond Street loft goes over $1,500/ft for 3 windows


the limits of a (lovely) form

Last week it was the problems caused by the elevator placement in a Manhattan loft with a classic Long-and-Narrow shape (September 13, 77 White Street loft lacks “bedrooms” because elevator is in the wrong place). Today, the recently sold “1,600 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4D at 1 Bond Street (Robbins & Appleton Building) has some wonderful (er … “authentic”) loft elements, including high ceilings, wood columns, some brick, and “over-sized south-facing windows”, but it also has an odd shape, a kinda sorta square with 3 corners cut off, which makes for a rather challenging floor plan. Yes, it is “1,600 sq ft”, but has room for exactly one bedroom because the south wall is shortened on both ends of what would have been the square, so there are only 3 of those over-sized windows. The finishes appear to be high quality, as they are enthusiastically and specifically babbled, well photographed, and helped push the price to $2.415mm ($1,509/ft).

That is one heck of a value for a space so challenged in shape.

It took the market a while to get there, abetted by patient, if not stubborn, (and flush) sellers. The sellers held firm to their price from October 6, 2012 (asking $2.65mm) until negotiating a 9% discount to get to the contract on May 1 that closed on August 20 at that $2.415mm. Obviously, in those 7 months, lofts at all values were flying through The Market, but these folks could (literally) afford to wait; as we’ll see below they had already bought a new loft before putting this one on the market, and were likely waiting for renovation there to be complete before getting serious about selling on Bond Street.

Back to the odd space. Having only 3 windows is only one challenge posed by the shape of loft #4D. Look at the shape of the master suite and the matching listing photo (#5). The cut-away in the southwest corner means that you will never see that window while lying in bed, and with the radiator on that (short) south wall, there is very little use that can be made of that nub.

Of course, you don’t really want to see out of these “over-sized south-facing windows”, as they look south over the narrow Jones Alley at the rear of the neighbors that front on Bleecker Street. (You see only brick out the windows in that bedroom photo; the same would be true if you got a closer look at the pair of living room windows.)

“1,600 sq ft” would be quite a large apartment uptown, or could be a spacious loft, if in a different form. But with this shape and single exposure, loft #4D has one bedroom, one interior office slash guest room, and no place else to put a third sleep area. Don’t think about using the “dining area” nook, as you’d then have to close off the open kitchen, which is the most brag-worthy part of the loft.

a state-of-the-art open kitchen with chestnut cabinets, stone counters, a Braun range, new Bosch dishwasher, Subzero refrigerator and built-in wine cellar

But there are several weird things about the kitchen, as marketed. Unless there are multiples, that “built-in wine cellar” is not “in” the kitchen, but is stuck on the end of that long wall of closets along the entry (see pic #4). A small thing, but in that photo the kitchen walls are white, while in the next photo (#5) the closer-up kitchen has green walls. In that photo, it is easier to see how the cabinets are flush to the overhead soffit on the east wall but not on the north wall. Looks awkward to me, the kind of thing I’d expect to see in a loft with a primitive kitchen rather than one that boasts state of the art with high-end materials. It would have been an easy thing, even with standard cabinets to bring that north wall forward a few inches, or to have pushed that soffit back to match the cabinet depth.

Let’s not quibble too much (note to self …) as this fact proves that everything worked out pretty well in the marketing: sold at $2.415mm, $1,509/ft.

Noho to Soho, eventually

I mentioned up top that the #4D sellers were flush. And by “flush” I mean able to buy a $3.175mm loft that needed a significant renovation while carrying the Bond Street loft for 16 months. They bought the “3,200 sq ft” full-floor Manhattan loft on the 7th floor at 307 West Broadway for that $3.175mm on April 23, 2012, 6 months before putting loft #4D on the market.

I hope it does not feel to them that I am stalking them, but I noted that the 7th floor at 307 West Broadway was in contract when I hit the sale of the 6th floor in my April 16, 2012, artist loft clears at $742/ft in south Soho, 307 West Broadway.  I described the condition of the 7th floor at that time as coming with a renovation after purchase:

[it] is in move-in condition, with chef’s kitchen, spa-like master bath, “ a unique floor plan that will intrigue”, and (let’s face it) a floor plan with an artist’s loft that will be improved with some non-trivial budget

(Their new loft is something of a Manhattan Loft Guy fave as I hit it,without identifying the building, when it was featured in the New York Times on August 7, 2011, in my August 7, 2011, Soho in 1983: $211,000 for 3,300 sq ft; still an artist's loft.)

It seems pretty likely that it took at least from April to October last year for the Noho-sellers-Soho-buyers to be confident that they could put the much smaller Bond Street loft on sale and be able to move into the finished West Broadway loft by the time Bond Street sold. They carried $5.5mm worth of lofts  while doing a substantial renovation of at least the back half of a “3,200 sq ft” loft. That’s “flush”.

Here’s a hint as to why they did it (in addition to having enough money to be able to): the  new loft has 4 exposures and 21 windows, with open views from many of those windows, including Hudson River views. In Noho, of course, the had 3 windows on a single exposure, with a “view” of bricks.

curiously, not at the beginning of Bond Street, now

One final note for today. I’d love to know why the Robbins & Appleton Building is officially 1 Bond Street (or, 1-5 Bond Street), when it is not at the corner of Broadway. You’d think the corner building would have an alternate address on Broadway and another on Bondt Street, as is typical of corner  buildings. I wonder if “Bond Street” originally had a western terminus at Jones Alley, rather than at Broadway. I can’t think of another reason for this atypical  building numbering.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Sep. 14, 2013 - diversion about nomenclature in a different sport during BASEBALL season (sorry)


words have meaning, no?

Thoughtful piece that I missed last week by the thoughtful guy who has the impossible job of being ombudsman for ESPN, So what if ESPN refused to use the R-word? If you’re already familiar with The Issue of how to refer to the Washington franchise of the NFL, you’ll probably still learn something (if nothing else, about ESPN’s self-defined role in the world); if you’re not up to speed, this is a good place to start.

To me, it’s a no-brainer, though one with potentially big (negative) consequences for ESPN as well as with huge potential (positive) consequences for the world and (ultimately) for ESPN. To me, it’s as simple as it is put by ESPN’s Dan Graziano (see the Lipsyte piece for the quote and a link): the name should never have been used in the first place because it has always been used as a slur by members of a dominant culture against a minority.


You can talk about tradition and loyalty all you want (many have, and continue to), claiming a connection to The Team Name That They Don’t Mean As A Slur, but that kind of pretzel logic doesn’t do it for me.

This is almost too simple ... suppose there was another dictionary definition beyond the one on Meriam Webster online for “k*ke”, one that offered a “(b)” usage

K * K E

(b) a member of the Portland, Oregon team in the National Football League

and imagine that this fictional Portland team featured a yarmulke on their helmets and their fans attended games with crudely stylized ritual symbols of Jewish religious practice and tradition (tallit, chai, and a menorah they would light every time the K*kes scored). (Don’t get me started on the food offerings at the fictional stadium.)

Of course the good people of Portland are not anti-semites, now or when the team was formed long ago. In fact, team lore is that the name is an homage to their scrappy equipment manager when the team was formed, Harry “The K*ke” Myerson, but that account is thought by some to be mere legend.

You can do this for almost any group, so knock yourself (and your imagination) out. Simple question: should such a name survive in a civilized society? Tougher question: what does the fact that this is controversial for the Washington NFL franchise tell us about our level of civilization?

To all my Chosen family and friends: I hope your fast is easy today and that you are sealed in the good book for another year. Not to mention, shabbot shalom.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Sep. 13, 2013 - 77 White Street loft lacks "bedrooms" because elevator is in the wrong place


sold for many dollars, nonetheless

Yesterday, it was dark bedrooms being switched (September 12, flipping the dark bedrooms earns 100 Hudson Street loft 20% premium over (near) Peak); today it is a funky floor plan for a Long-and-Narrow Tribeca loft that is (probably) funky because the later-added elevator takes up the wrong space in the front of the unit. Not that The Market cared (too) much, as the “2,285 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the second floor at 77 White Street just sold for $3.3mm ($1,444/ft) and took only 6 weeks to find a contract. There must be many reasons for that. They have to do with a quality renovation, classic elements such as high ceilings, beams, columns and bricks (a ton of bricks, it seems), and windows.

proper babbling in a surprisingly sunny place

I love this kind of detailed broker babble, with its sprinkling of seemingly appropriate adverbs throughout:

newly renovated and stunning ... magnificently designed ... dramatic wall of 11 windows, featuring sun drenched West and bright North exposures, 11 foot beamed ceilings, exposed brick and wide plank Brazilian cherry flooring. The chef's kitchen is beautifully appointed with Viking Professional Series appliances, including a 150-bottle capacity wine refrigerator, marble counter top, deep farmhouse sink and an illuminated polished concrete island. ... custom fabricated metal and glass floating wall separating the bedrooms. ... master bedroom has a massive walk-in closet and en-suite windowed bath, with heated slate stone flooring, dual Duravit sinks, and flush mounted rain shower. The second bedroom features its own en-suite bath with heated floors, Zuma soaking tub, marble vanity and ample storage. The ultra cool guest bath has to be seen with its walls and ceiling of silver and gun metal back-painted glass. … cast iron columns, in-ceiling speakers throughout, dual zone central air and heat controlled via Nest intelligent thermostat, museum quality lighting including custom fixtures, a vented W/D....

You youngsters will have to use The Google or The Wiki to understand the strength of the reference to the Mudd Club in the rest of the babble for folks of my generation. Cool stuff. (If the walls really could talk, the words would likely be slurred and sniffled from cocaine over use.)

When was the last time you saw a second floor unit that was not on a park or river claim “sun drenched West” exposure? This one does (obviously) and the listing photos (pix #2 and #8) only hint at the reason. While much of east Tribeca can feel dark and cramped (especially this close to the municipal and court buildings further east), this small condo benefits, ironically, from having a large residential tower just across Cortlandt Alley. As you can easily see if you click through from StreetEasy through to Google Street View and then toggle a bit to the right, that tall neighbor is set back from both Cortlandt Alley (where those trees in the left windows in pic #2 are planted) and from White Street. That is the 24-story cookie cutter condo, 376 Broadway. A shorter building on that loft would likely have been built (had likely been built) to each sidewalk, cutting out virtually all of the west light from the second floor across Cortlandt Alley.

The other exposure also benefits from a streetscape quirk: Cortlandt Alley zigs a little to the east on the north side of White Street, which is why the north-facing windows in the living room in pic #2 have that very cool view straight up Cortlandt Alley, as well as having direct “views” of the buildings across White on either side of Cortlandt Alley. Such are the many and varied charms of this loft. Did I hint of an issue about the “bedrooms”?

darn that elevator

This building has to be 100+ years old, and almost certainly built without an elevator. When time came to adopt this then-new technology, the undoubtedly mercantile activity in the building dictated the simplest possible placement: in a corner, right at the sidewalk. It probably even opened directly onto the sidewalk, back in the day. This was an inexpensive way to bring elevator service to the building without cutting into usable space much, though it proves to have awkward the consequence for the current residents in that you can’t get bedrooms with windows without using the north end of the loft for bedrooms, where all the best light is. There’d be a number of alternative layouts with “real” bedrooms if the elevator were on the middle of the long wall, or even if it had been placed away from the corner on the south wall.

With this challenge, the alternative chosen with the 2nd floor renovation was to put the two (interior) bedrooms at the elevator (south) end but on the dark (east) wall, but to ameliorate the no-windows problem by giving the bedrooms that “custom fabricated metal and glass floating wall”, with curtains as in listing pix #4-5. If the workmanship and materials are good enough, I believe that these glass walls can be as sound-insulated as a sheetrocked wall but the curtains used do not look like the blackout variety to me, so some light is going to bleed through unless that feature is upgraded.

what the heck happened upstairs??

The 3rd floor sold on November 4, 2010 at … (wait for it) … $1,762,500, with that telltale $500 suffix hinting at trouble in marketing and negotiating a deal. That one was also enthusiastically babbled, with a “new[]” and “beautiful[]” renovation, but it was set up with a single “bedroom” near the elevator and a single bath (floor plan, here) though the space can obviously accommodate additional (interior) rooms and additional plumbing (two alternatives are provided with the current floor plan).

I hit that sale in my November 17, 2010, gossiping about a Mudd Club beat down, as 77 White Street loft sells off 3% in 4 years, complaining that the babble use of “newly renovated” was a bit of a stretch and noting (sympathetically?) the almost epicly bad timing (and bad pricing) that (eventually; very eventually) resulted in that sale in November 2010. (You youngsters can also get some Mudd Club history in that post.)

Obviously, that layout needed adjustment for many buyers; my snark then included saying this about the layout:

The kind of thing you’d sketch out on a napkin in a bar after going to see the loft for the first time in 2005 or 2006. Especially if you are a single guy or a couple planning on remaining a duo (for my money, nothing quite says bachelor pad like a “2,250 sq ft” loft with one bathroom and a single bedroom measuring 14.6 x 27 ft).

I will leave you with pondering the 2010 3rd floor sale (at $1,762,500!!) and the 2nd floor last month at $3.3mm. That’s a lot to ponder, so that is all.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Sep. 12, 2013 - flipping the dark bedrooms earns 100 Hudson Street loft 20% premium over (near) Peak


who gets the light?

The “1,025 sq ft” Manhattan loft #3A at 100 Hudson Street that just sold for $1.535mm with some “customized elements” looks a lot like the loft when it sold in June 2008 for $1.283mm with very enthusiastic broker babbling about the kitchen and the (single) bath. Having seen them, I can’t imagine those customized elements (“a beautiful exposed brick wall[,] a custom wood panel wall with steel accents [and b]uilt-in bookcases ”) account for a  significant piece of the $252,000  premium (20%), though they are … nice. (The  brick is obviously behind the bookcases on the left in the main listing photo, with the steel-accented wood panel wall on the right.)


Yet I also have my doubts about the value added by the big layout change between 2008 and 2013: in the old floor plan the little bedroom was in the northwest corner, using only 2 of the 3 windows that the new “master suite” in the new floor plan uses; while the old master was in the southeast corner, with its own built-ins, where the (smaller) new second bedroom uses the 2 air shaft windows. (Notice in listing pic #4 that the kid’s curtains are closed? There’s very little light coming in through those windows.)

In the old layout, the grown-up bedroom was in the dark quiet corner; in the new layout, the grown-ups get the (true) west light and the noise that may bleed in from Hudson Street 25 or so feet below. I wonder if the bedrooms were switched as the main point of the renovation, which then also added those “customized elements”, or if the 2008-buyers-turned-2013-sellers decided first on a renovation that would expose the brick and generally jazz the place up and only then also decided to switch the large and small (dark and light) bedrooms. Clearly, the 2013 market likes the current layout and finishes more than the 2008 liked the other layout and finishes.

the missing babble

I mentioned that the kitchen and bath in loft #3A were enthusiastically babbled in 2008. This enthusiastically:

Kitchen features Viking, SubZero, and Bosch Stainless Steel Appliances and a Built-in Marvel Wine Refrigerator; Pietro Cardosa Countertop and a lovely Glass Tile Backsplash. The Bathroom boasts Glass Tile Walls, Limestone Countertop and Floors as well as a Lacava Sink and Chrome Shower Fixtures

What’s odd is that the same agents who came up with that litany of proper proper names and materials in 2008 left the kitchen and bath out of the 2013 babble completely. Indeed, while they used a photo of the bath in the 2013 marketing (listing photo #6, obviously) they did not picture the kitchen. This is mere quibbling about a marketing campaign that took 17 days to get a contract at a near-record for the building (see below) and at a 20% premium to the last time this kitchen-bath combo sold, but quibbling offering informed opinion as Manhattan Loft Guy is what they pay me the big bucks for. (Oh, wait ….)

not quite a new (temporary?) building record

Only one loft to date at 100 Hudson Street has sold for more than the $1,488/ft that #3A just got. The much smaller, 1-bedroom only, “815 sq ft” loft #4C sold 7 months ago at $1,521/ft. That one was said to be “stunning” and gut renovated, though probably not nicer than #3A.

The prior record holder was the slightly larger, not as well finished loft #8E, which sold 17 months ago at $1,296/ft with much better light and views. These two loft sales seem rationally related in value, with #8E getting the benefit of light and views from the (real) 12 windows (floor plan, here) 60 feet higher than the 6 useful windows in #3A, and with #3A having brag-worthy kitchen and bath, those customized elements, and the boost of the stronger current market. (Don’t make me do the plus-minus adjustments between them, just accept the net-net $192/ft [15%] spread in favor of #3A. Please.)

not fitting a logical pattern

Note to self (and to readers) … I have been talking a bit about a second-bedroom-premium, here (in my September 3, jaw-dropping views provoke jaw-dropping price for 261 Broadway loft, and in my September 10, 133 West 28 Street loft sale shows the squeeze in 2-bedroom buyers) and in the Twitterverse (with @Tribeca Citizen). Note that the 100 Hudson Street sales in 2013 do not fit that theory, with the 1-bedroom-now-and-forever #4C beating the 2-bedroom #3A.

You see that sub-head above about building records? It’s possible that the $1,521/ft for #8E may be bested soon. If so, the new record-holder will sit on the same footprint as #3A, but is already optimized as a 1-bedroom-now-and-forever (without ruining the “stunning architect-designed” look and layout, with a “state-of-the-art chef's kitchen with built-in bar [that] is open to the entertaining space”, among many other “superb luxury finishes”. That will be another sale that contradicts the theory that there is a second-bedroom-premium, at least in this corner of prime Tribeca.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Sep. 11, 2013 - this day comes again, mournfully as always


why does it always catch me by surprise (and by the throat)?

Turns out that I am a broken record. In thinking about posting today I was going to start something like “As recently as this past weekend, I thought that this would be the year in which I finally spend a September 11 like a September 10, or any other day in September. Uhhh …. NO.” It started feeling just like a 9/11 last night and got worse today, perhaps because I drove a friend to LaGuardia this morning and so went up and down the BQE starting opposite lower Manhattan at precisely (you can’t make this stuff up, folks) 8:46 AM.

Then when I looked through the Manhattan Loft Guy archives to just post some past links (rather than composing something more raw at length), I came across this from last year (which sounds like the year before that, and the yeare before that …):

I am grateful that the media orgy from last year’s [2011, obviously] 10 Year Anniversary has not been repeated, but I am in the same place as I was then:

I thought this year would be different. That I would be able to read stories and look at video and images from ten years ago, and even to (finally) write something about my own experience of That Day (on That Day, and since).

But I am not, and this year turns out to be no different, except that it is much worse, with the saturation of stories and images on all media all the time. Exponentially more ‘coverage’; exponentially more heads talking.

The links to past Manhattan Loft Guy posts on this date, from [2012’s] post:

2010: same day, another year (from a mother who lost a daughter and a not-yet grand-daughter) [fixed the link 9.13]

2009: 8 years, still fresh  (one of my least favorite people channels one of my most favorite)

2008: September 11, again (New York names, as of 2008)

2007: (see 2005)

2006: September 11 / 343 firefighters (“How many cities in this country even have 343 firefighters??”)

and 2006: September 11 / read the names (all the names, as of 2006; “It turns out that I am most definitely not able to post much of anything today, and still unable to read (let alone watch) what passes for media coverage of the fifth anniversary.” and “As this is a blog about Manhattan real estate, please reflect as you read the names on the many places around the globe these New Yorkers came from (or their families came from in an earlier generation). A terribly sad, terribly potent cross-section of the global village that is Manhattan.”)

2005: (how did I not write that day? probably as in my first 2006 post, above)

Peace out.

Peace out, indeed.

Here’s what I can add this year: this nice story about the Tribute In Light from Jamie Manson, one of my favorite writers on the National Catholic Reporter. Looking forward to that tonight….

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Sep. 10, 2013 - 133 West 28 Street loft sale shows the squeeze in 2-bedroom buyers


an enthusiastic result

I am as much a fan of broker babble as the next guy (or Guy) and I appreciate enthusiastic attempts to make linguistic lemonade out of limited assets. The babble for the recently sold and hotly contested Manhattan loft #5C at 133 West 28 Street (probably “1,300 sq ft”, like its neighbors, as we’ll see) is enthusiastic, but only about limited things, including “high(9ft)ceilings”, “original hardwood floors in great condition”, “new Bosch washer and dryer” and “the very best neighbourhood in the city for restaurants”. Other than that Bosch drop and a mention of tin ceilings, there’s no bragging about finishes, materials or proper proper names. I’ve highlighted here what is probably the key word in the description: “Two bedroom, two bathroom plus home office”. You don’t need me to tell you what the key numbers are in the history:

April 18

new to market


May 17



July 31



But you may find it useful to have this context: the loft on the same footprint just upstairs sold for $1.105mm on March 15, 2012.

The babble for loft #6C is only a little more enthusiastic about finishes than that of #5C, dropping the “chef’s” modifier onto kitchen “in the truest sense” (a 6-burner Wolfe range, helps, but whatever else that means, it is enthusiastic!), and claiming a “spa-like whirlpool bath” for the master bath. The floor plan upstairs uses the entire rear wall for the master, while allocating some of the windowed space near the entry for a (tiny!) “bedroom”. In contrast, the #5C floor plan splits the rear wall into 2 bedrooms and has that odd “gallery” up front (in listing pic #5; note that this floor has only 2 west windows; the 6th has 4).

In short, neither #5C nor #6C babbles as having wonderful finishes, each more move-in than done-up. The higher floor has a more flexible footprint because of the additional windows on the long west wall, while the lower floor has tin ceilings (if the 6th floor has them, they are covered by that dropped ceiling).

The early 2012 market was certainly a seller’s market, but not as frenetic a market as the current market. Hence, #6C cleared the market at $1.105mm.

My guess is that the #5C asking price was set in specific response to the $1.105mm at which #6C closed, further support for the supposition that the two lofts are similar in condition. Yet, 16 months later, #5C sold for $220,000 more than #6C, a rather energetic 20% premium to the neighbor and $175,000 more than the ask. That’s not all accounted for by passage of time, and I doubt that any significant part of it is accounted for by a preference for #5C’s tin ceiling but fewer windows. Having worked with a number of buyers in the 2-bedroom (“1,300 sq ft”) segment of the downtown Manhattan loft market in the last year and half, my guess is that this premium for #5C is a function of those buyers having fewer choices. Worse, I have the feeling that there are more of those buyers; or, at least, more of those buyers willing to ‘do what it takes’ to own one of these suddenly rare birds.

To repeat: there is no apparent fundamental market valuation difference in favor of #5C over #6C, other than the passage of time.

digressing on a riff (caution: twists and turns ahead)

Let’s make this worse by adding some more context. The loft above #6C sold a year earlier, in better condition than either of the neighbors, with the significant bonus of an “800 sq ft” private roof deck, at a (no surprise) much higher price. The “1,300 sq ft” loft #7C sits in the same footprint as the others (floor plan, here), with 2 bedrooms in back and only 3 west windows. I read the listing photos as showing a higher level of finishes than in the other 2 lofts, though the decor is … unusual; certainly, there is no reason to think that #7C is in any worse condition than the others. That loft sold for $1.58mm on April 28, 2011, 28 months before #5C sold for $1.325mm without 800 sq ft of private garden.

So in the same interior footprint on consecutive floors we have #5C in July 2013 at $1,019/ft, #6C in March 2012 at $850/ft, and #7C in April 2011 needing adjustment for the outdoor space. Taking a big haircut to value the rooftop garden at 50% of the value of the interior of #7C (as a ballpark way to riff with The Miller about such things), we also have #7C at an adjusted $929/ft two+ years ago; if we ballparked that garden as only worth 25% of the interior, the adjusted value for #7C goes up to $1,053/ft. I strongly suspect the 50% value is more reflective of the value I believe The Market assigned, if perhaps still conservative.

That (still future) #6C comp at $850/ft for decent interior space in this building on this footprint would imply someone paid at least $475,000 for the 800 sq ft garden in early 2011, or $594/ft, or 70% of the value of the interior. While this value range is well outside The Miller’s principle that outdoor space is generally worth 25% to 50% of the interior on a dollar-per-foot basis, I continue to believe that outdoor space is something that some people will value much more highly than other people, and will pay beyond what a unicorn Rational Market would.

the importance of counting bedrooms

This coop has 2 buildings, 131 West 28 Street and 133 West 28 Street. I hit the #131 side in my August 15, Flower District mini-loft sells above ask but flat to 2007 at 131 West 28 Street, which considered the “900 sq ft” loft #3A. With an April 17 contract and July 15 closing, let’s say that that mini-loft was in the same market as the larger #5C (May 17 contract, July 31 closing). See that post for details about #3A but the key for present purposes is that it was in better condition than #6C yet sold at $939/ft (8% lower than #6C at $1,019/ft).

I have to believe that this 8% spread (understated as it is due to differences in condition) is entirely allocable to scale: #6C easily accommodates 2-bedrooms (plus a work space in that odd gallery), while #3A does not.

I noted a much larger premium for larger space in my September 3, jaw-dropping views provoke jaw-dropping price for 261 Broadway loft, which featured next door lofts with almost exactly the same light and views, both in well renovated condition, that closed with a 34% premium to the larger space on a dollar-per-foot basis. If you visit the Twitterverse, you may have seen my dialogue with the estimable Tribeca Citizen (@TribecaCitizen, of course) that afternoon. He’s not wrong (“Premium in Tribeca for a room for the kid(s)”) but the scale in that case is excessive. In this case, something north of 8% seems a more reasonable premium for having that extra room for kids, drums, crafts, whatever.

Presumably, the overall Manhattan residential real estate market is experiencing this preference for 2-bedrooms over 1-bedroom units. That will have to be a Note to self … rather than a further digression, as this has gone on (and on) enough.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Sep. 8, 2013 - Sunday diversion is spiritual but from an exceedingly political (and contentious) source


making strange bedfellows

Skip this post if you get antsy when someone talks about Spirituality (as in “that weird stuff is not for me”) or if reading anything on an oh so lefty politics forum like the (infamous) Daily Kos will do bad things for your blood pressure. Personally, I am rather left in my politics, but try not to let that be a problem in how I relate to people (in real estate, and in general). Sunday is a church day for me (as well as, often, a work day), and a day in which I seem more receptive to considerations of the divine.

I’d already come across a few worthwhile essays in the inter-tubes this morning appropriate to my Sunday head before unexpectedly coming across a beauty on Daily Kos. As noted, I am an old lefty; also, a long-time lurker and daily reader (6 years?) on Daily Kos, though I don’t think I have ever registered and certainly have never commented or diaried there. Whatever your view of Daily Kos, you need only understand that comments there can get very heated to understand this post.

If you are with me this far, I will not spoil the punchline, but go to this after midnight diary, I Am Not Fighting With Anyone on Daily Kos Anymore, for an elegant, thoughtful, generous and (to me) spiritual essay about the costs and ethics of argument and our responsibilities to ourselves and others. Wonderful grist for Sunday reflection, or reflection on any day, by any (thinking) person.

Be good to someone today. (If that advice is not overly pious for you.)

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Sep. 7, 2013 - TYAToMLG: a great counter counts summer contracts + listings


old market trends never really get old

On Thursday I used The Miller’s new way of cutting the 20-year Manhattan residential real estate market into 8 eras in service of a post about a particular Tribeca loft with a long history of its own (September 5, 90 Franklin Street loft history more like a moving picture than a market snapshot). Today I look back at another of my favorite Manhattan real estate data geeks as a kinda sorta diversion from the daily grind post about recent loft sales as a Three Years Ago Today on Manhattan Loft Guy retrospective about using contracts and new listings as market indicators.

In my September 7, 2010,
visualizing The Market / Manhattan real estate fun at Urban Digs, I used a post by the essential Urban Digs:

[in his] (The August Lull) look[ed] at monthly data for contracts signed and new listings, back to 2008. What he's focused on is the Very Slow Summer we've had (for both contracts and new listings, both starting to slow down in May this year), but what struck me visually was The Lehman Effect.

Look especially at the way contracts signed fell off the cliff from October 2008 through January 2009, then slowly (very slowly) increased during February through April 2009. Nuclear winter, indeed. Of course, you may find other things here that will grab you.

For you folks who want current data (can’t we just live in the past once in a while??) I can’t help you much, but there is this helpful June 1 post from Digs looking at contract volume by month 2009-2013. While it (obviously!) does not contain this Summer’s contracts, your consolation is that you see that every one of the first five months of 2013 had higher contract volume than any of those months 2009-2012. To keep it apples-to-apples I will look for future Digs data for this Summer’s contracts, but expect that trend to continue.

All these charts from Urban Digs make up a diverting way to spend some time if you have to be inside on this beautiful weekend. And … if charts are diverting for you.


Note to self ... harass The Digs to blog more, preparation for his new website be damned!

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Sep. 6, 2013 - funky loft at 55 White Street with funky history sells quickly in misleading fashion


not all of Tribeca is in a frenzy

I am not saying that the full recent listing history of the “2,221 sq ft” triplex Manhattan loft #1C at 55 White Street is intentionally misleading, but the explicit part of the StreetEasy history shows a quick sale that was not, in fact, very quick. Yes, the loft came (back) to market on April 3 at $2.899mm and found a contract 3 weeks later, closing at a small discount ($2.825mm) on July 1. Others may draw their own arbitrary lines about how to handle periods in which a loft, actively offered for sale for some time, goes off the market for “a while”, then returns to active marketing. The arbitrary limit I use in my Master List of Downtown Loft Sales is 90 days, so this sale appears there (as on StreetEasy) as a 3-weeks-to-contract sale. But in this case the reality is that the owners had been trying to sell for a long time, so this is more an early Chicken Little sale than a data point that says everything in Tribeca will move quickly, so buy now!!!!!

The full history is … full:

Mar 21, 2012

new to market


May 7



Sept 10



Jan 2, 2013



April 3

back on market


April 24



July 1



That hiatus as hallmarks of being a strategic re-set: same brokerage, same agents, same listing photos, with broker babble that (while rewritten) emphasizes the same elements. In other words, it does not appear as though the sellers made a decision to not sell, and then were persuaded to return to market; rather, my interpretation as an outsider is that they made a strategic retreat at New Year’s, always intending to return to an active Seller’s Market, perhaps intentionally waiting long enough to trick new-to-market buyers that the listing was fresh.

If that was their intention: nicely played, Sir and Madam; nicely played.

Having not sold in a very active 2012 Seller’s Market while asking $2.85mm for nearly 4 months following nearly 4 months at $2.995mm, the market snapped up the loft at $2.825mm this past April. That’s an insignificant 2.5% “discount” from last ask in 2012 and less than 6% off the May into September 2012 ask. If $2.825mm was perceived as fair market value in 2012, they should have gotten it. Again: nicely played, Sir and Madam; nicely played.

highly functional loft with some serious challenges

I had buyers who looked at every available Tribeca 3-bedroom loft around $3mm during the entire long marketing period for loft #1C, and they will confirm that this segment was an especially strong Seller’s Market. (Note to self … blog one day [soon] about their search and its happy conclusion.) Unlike much of the buyer pool focused on Tribeca, this location east of Church Street was a positive rather than a negative. Like much of the 3-bedroom buyer pool focused on Tribeca, they were quite pleased with the layout as a true 3-bedroom, with great separation between the 3 bedrooms in the floor plan. They were so intrigued by loft #1C that they visited twice, but (like much of the 3-bedroom buyer pool focused on Tribeca, I suspect) there two deal-breakers, one of which is obvious in a between-the-lines sort of way from the marketing materials, and one of which is not.

First, the good news: the loft is beautifully appointed, certainly “both functional and architecturally distinctive” as claimed in the broker babble, with the classic loft elements of (very) high ceilings in the main room (emphasized by those tall bookshelves in the living room) and Corinthian columns, with the kitchen presenting the choice of being opened or closed (behind those 4 white wood-framed panels in the second listing photo). Apart from the jarring carpet downstairs and wallcovering in that master bath photo, the loft is very close to move-in condition for much of the 3-bedroom buyer pool focused on Tribeca.

But the should-be-obvious deal breaker for them (and, likely, for much of the 3-bedroom buyer pool focused on Tribeca) is on the other side of those very tall windows: nearby buildings and very little light. A click on the Google Maps view of the location confirms that the single very tall east window in the living room “looks” across the very dark alley Franklin Place, from just above sidewalk level of course. Worse, all those south windows on all 3 levels face the back of the nearby building on Franklin Street, providing no view and little light. Any buyer who looks at a lot of listing photos would guess this from the listing photos of the master bedroom and family room, both with blinds strategically drawn.

The less obvious deal breaker for my buyers may not have been a problem for shorter people in the 3-bedroom buyer pool focused on Tribeca: in order to access that upper level you climb those lovely stairs at the east end of the living room, then walk around the mezzanine office, then walk down that lovely open catwalk. While the master suite (pictured in pic #4) has a low-for-lofts ceiling, that space is manageable for most buyers; the problem is that transition around the office, as hinted in the main listing photo: even I felt I had to duck while crossing in front of (or standing in) the office, and anyone taller than 6’2” might brush the ceiling if they had a healthy head of hair. (That covered my guy, who would feel cramped every time he went to or from the master suite; i.e., multiple times of each day if he lived here.) Deal, broken.

The response of the 2012 buyer pool was like that of my buyers: this was an intriguing option in the anemic inventory of true 3-bedroom buyer lofts in Tribeca, but … even in the $2.8s, no deal.

By Spring of 2013, however, with inventory no less anemic, the loft quickly found a willing buyer at a price point demonstrably unavailable not very long before. Go figure.

living to fight another day, from a stronger position
Again, only the sellers and their sales team know what their thinking was in taking 91 days off the market to start 2013, but it certainly looks to me as a tactical decision that, in retrospect, worked like a charm. I dubbed that decisionmaking context the fight-or-flight conundrum way back in my November 14, 2010, flight or fight? the disappointed seller’s conundrum, 30 East 21 Street and 205 West 19 Street lofts edition. (Six other Manhattan Loft Guy posts tagged “fight or flight” are collected here.)

If sellers tired of beating their heads against the 2012 market wall and took flight from that market to reset in 2013, it worked. It surely looks to me as though they actively chose to take flight rathern to continue to flight. Whatever … nicely played, Sir and Madam; nicely played.

Manhattan Loft Guy still [hearts] Christopher Gray, and nyc-architecture.com
If you are a fan of the Streetscapes feature in the New York Times by Christopher Gray, or if you have taken any time to pick your head up while walking in Tribeca, you probably know that Gray loves this building. Way way back in my November 9, 2008, 55 White Street #4C closed, finally, around $1,000/ft, I linked to his column about this block, in which he called 55 White Street "the most architecturally imposing work on the block”, ironically in a column about Soho. (Note that that post was about a loft sale 3 floor directly above loft #1C, the babbling for which I appreciated “(I particularly like the helpful specificity of ‘very good light but NO views’)”. I wonder if there is still good light up there, what with

I hit this building only one other time, in my October 18, 2010, another late bidding war, as 55 White Street loft sells at 104% of (reduced) ask, in which I found still more internet love for this beautiful building. Click through there for the links from nyc-architecture.com, “which is in danger of becoming a Manhattan Loft Guy fave” and from the Landmarks Preservation Commission report on this building from 1988.

I will close with repeating what I said in 2010 about this less-than-prime Tribeca block:

Yes, this is part of the historic district “Tribeca East”, but this eastern fringe block (between Broadway and Church) is among the gritttiest Tribeca blocks extant and feels like a world away from the prime blocks of Tribeca further west.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Sep. 5, 2013 - 90 Franklin Street loft history more like a moving picture than a market snapshot


1 loft, 13 years of activity and inactivity

If you wanted a Big Picture review of the overall Manhattan residential real estate market over a bunch of market cycles, you’d do well to play with The Miller’s latest 3 Cents Worth chart for Curbed (Manhattan Puts Best [Square] Foot Forward), in which he looks at Total Square Footage sold in Manhattan as a market measure going way back to 1989, delineating 8 different market periods. If you wanted a set of pictures from the vantage point of a single Tribeca loft in 5 of those periods, you’d be interested in the full history of the “1,895 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2N at 90 Franklin Street (Franklin Tower), one of the 2000-era new developments that were sold in the Dot-Com Boom (in The Miller’s taxonomy of eras).


Buying from the sponsor in the Dot-Com Boom ($815,000), that original owner tried to sell before that Boom ended (failed from $1.495mm to $1.195mm), then succeeded in selling in the Bubble (at $1.575mm; the Bubble was earlier than you think); the second owner re-sold in the era of New Dev to someone who tried to sell twice in the Rebound (from $2.695mm to $2.15mm) then finally sold in the current era, No Supply, at $2.45mm. That’s a long trip down memory lane, with many signposts.

Hence, one very long table, in this case supplemented with the beginning dates of the relevant eras, under The Miller’s taxonomy (the dates not on StreetEasy are taken from our listing system):

2Q 1999

Dot-Com Boom


Mar 22, 2000

sponsor sale


Oct 22, 2001

new to market


May 13, 2002



May 24



May 28



Aug 12



4Q 2002



Nov 6



May 6, 2003

off the market


July 19, 2004

new to market


Aug 18



Oct 1




1Q 2006

New Dev


Jan 28, 2007

new to market


Mar 23



Aug 8



Nov 27

new to market


Jan 3, 2008



Feb 14

change firms


Mar 10



June 17

off the market


4Q 2008



June 16, 2010

new to market


Dec 10



Mar 16, 2011

back on market


April 26



Sept 15

off the market


4Q 2011

No Supply


Mar 20, 2013

new to market


April 12



June 13



Get your Three Cents Worth from The Miller as to why he cut the market this time by total square footage sold rather than by price. I can’t be as precise as The Miller (or as well-supported by data) but if you were to use the eras I often use (based on prices and sales activity), regular readers of Manhattan Loft Guy will know that I generally talk about The Froth (2006-07), The Peak (1Q 2008), the post-Lehman Nuclear Winter (September 15, 2008 through 2Q 2009), and the Recovery (3Q 2009 …) as being conventional market eras based on activity and values.

Looking at the #2N history, you see that Franklin Tower as a new development was part of the Dot-Com Boom, which that original purchaser tried to take advantage of for a year and a half, without success. But look at the difference between 2004 and 2002-3: sold at $1.575mm; unsold down to $1.195mm … quite a turn in The Market. That first owner enjoyed a gain of 93% in 4+ years, but it was a lot of work.

That second owner anticipated The Peak, got a quick contract and closed just 5 months pre-Peak. That was a 32% gain in 3 years.

The third owner is the recent seller, gaining (only!) 18% in 6 years, also having put a great deal of effort into it. The attempt to quickly flip into The Peak to gain as much as 30% didn’t work; that series of unsuccessful prices in the 7 months right around The Peak is a tantalizing suggestion that the recent sale at $2.45mm compares very well to what might have been available at The Peak. And the unsuccessful efforts in 2010 and (especially) 2011 show how much stronger the current market is than those markets.

I doubt very much if anyone likes staring at market histories like this as much as I do, but if you are inclined, this long history is very rich. (Look, for example, of how soon after each sale the owners tried to cash out.)

enough with those numbers … to the loft!

The loft is nearly square, with a floor plan that is less than ideal (nearly) square for having just one exposure.  As a result of the single exposure, layout options are limited, though the 2-bedroom, 2-bath layout is efficient in a (sigh) blandly cookie-cutter, uptown “apartment kind of way.  Extend the kitchen to the north wall and this floor plan would look just like one in a new condo in the 80s, on either side of town.

If the listing descriptions can be believed, the loft sounds as though it is in the same condition as when the sponsor sold it (state of the art at the turn of the century), though the floors seems to have been changed from maple to walnut at some point. Original Boffi kitchen;though perhaps the master bath has been upgarded (always Waterworks, though the newer babble has more detail, including “custom Carrabianco marble and white lacquer vanity, marble subway tile, . .. Phillipe Starck for Duravit commode“.

The babble claims some lemonade from the single exposure on the second floor: “western light and classic city views”. There’s no picture supporting the classic city view claim, but the loft sits exactly where 6th Avenue and Church Street split, so it is a double-wide avenue, angling toward a view (possibly) that includes the Tribeca Grand and the American Thread Company. With low buildings across that double avenue, there’s probably as much western light as you are going to get anywhere on a second floor that does not sit on a park or the Hudson.

more numbers

You can fill out the already pretty detailed market review from the long #2N history by looking at recent past sales in the building. Apart from the monster full floor sale this year, the last sales here were a year ago.  The “2,633 sq ft” #7S sold on August 16, 2012 for $3.3mm ($1,253/ft) and the “1,895 sq ft”  #5N sold on August 1, 2012 at $2mm ($1,055/ft). At the 5th floor, this line gets 3 north windows in the living room, yet a year ago, #5N asked $2.5mm and $2.395mm before settling at $2mm , 22% less than #2N two months ago. (Someone might prefer the finishes of #2N to those of #5N, but that is one heck of a spread from a busy market in 2012 to the current [very] busy market.)

broker babble that makes me laugh

I also doubt very much if anyone gets as much enjoyment out of broker babble absurdities as I do. A rough sum of the periods in which loft #2N has been actively offered for sale (counting to the closings ) reveals that the loft has been offered for sale since being sold by the sponsor 13 years ago at least 6 different times for a total of more than 4 years (51 months).  Granted, that’s only about a third of the time, but  you wouldn’t see me saying the loft was “rarely available”.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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- 'nuff said


What more can I say? (THX to hugh at Gaping Void http://www.gapingvoid.com/ )
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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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