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Manhattan Loft Guy

Feb. 14, 2011 - more loft love from the New York Times for expanding small lofts / 250 Mercer Street edition

lucky guy breaks through
The love affair of the New York Times for loft design -- especially small loft design -- continued on Sunday with the Habitats feature by Constance Rosenblum, The Accordion Apartment in NoHo. This week’s hero began renting a “450 sq ft” studio loft with 12 foot ceilings in the greater NYU area in 2003, was able to purchase it in 2005 (for “slightly under $500,000”!), fell in love in 2008, and was able to triple his space by buying roof rights and expanding up in a renovation that cost (only) $275,000. Pretty intrepid!

Anyone familiar with the area would have little trouble identifying the building from the Mercer Street location near NYU, the 16 story description, and the photo in the Slide Show. (Compare the building pictures on StreetEasy and in the New York Times.) Mercer Street in Noho only runs from Houston to 8th Street, and that building has a pretty distinctive look.

As always, Manhattan Loft Guy is most interested in the loft design and opportunity aspects of a feature article like this one. This article has an interesting solution (literally, out of the box, as opposed to the Bond Street bento box loft renovation I hit on November 4, the Lego construction when combining 2 lofts on West 15 Street that I hit on January 24, or the expanded shoe closet renovation on East 12 Street that I hit on November 7, all of which got New York Times Manhattan loft love.)

a very inexpensive renovation, considering
The loft went from a “450 sq ft” studio with a bump-your-head sleeping loft to a “1,350 sq ft” triplex with 2 roof decks for $275,000 (not including purchase of the roof rights). It is hard to find all "1,350 sq ft" in the slide show, but the baby pix are cute.

That renovation was a little more complicated than most, going up through the roof, adding the necessary 2 flights of stairs, creating new space, and building 2 roof decks. Yet, at $275,000 for “1,350 sq ft”, this came to just over $200/ft. That’s pretty inexpensive work in light of my (now 3 year old) benchmark of $250/ft, which matched the West 15 Street combination+renovation, and in light of the $200/ft it cost to construct that bento box; given the work involved, it even compares favorably to the 400-shoe loft at about $100/ft.

deconstructing the deal(s)
Our hero was lucky that this building is a condop. In this case, it is a true condop (a 274-unit residential coop is one unit in a 2-unit condo) and satisfies the loose definition commonly (mis)understood (a coop with condo rules, e.g., about subletting). So he was able to rent the small loft from 2003 to 2005.

Did his landlord take advantage of the fact that our hero was “a busy single man with a taste for downtown life, [for whom] the space was ideal”? After all, he paid “slightly under $500.000” to buy the space from his landlord in 2005, or about $1,100/ft. I am pretty sure there are no lofts in this building smaller than this one at “450 sq ft”, yet StreetEasy shows 8 sales in the building in 2005 under $500k, half of which were under $400,000. The last sale was the “875 sq ft” #D703, on January 24 at $740,000 ($846/ft). Before that, #B1205 was said to be “550 sq ft” when it sold on December 29 for $507,500 ($923/ft).

On the one hand, he was able to stay in this “ideal” space; on the other hand, I bet he overpaid in 2005. But it all worked out for him when he was able to break through the roof. I wish I could find a record of him buying the  roof rights from the building. (Did Rosenblum not ask? boo!) That should be a significant part of his total investment: $500,000 (original purchase) + $275,000 (renovation) + ??? (roof rights) = his total price for “1,350 sq ft” plus 2 roof decks. It looks like his all-in price is pretty reasonable, unless he got squeezed by the building for the roof rights. Inquiring minds want to know.

I am going to have to satisfy my curiosity (and yours, if any) by engaging in some stalking. Our hero’s next door neighbors just moved out (to a hot hot hot new loft development 11 blocks north), while his new neighbors moved up by moving 90 blocks south. Follow me through some property records....

everyone seems to be moving up in the world, somehow
I bet these are the neighbors who suggested buying the roof rights. They just sold the loft next door for $2mm (with “private sundeck on the roof with 360 degree views”) on December 16, as they decamped completely to 29 Union Square West. They probably are the ‘helpful’ neighbors, as it looks like they were our hero’s landlords until they sold to him in December 2004 (not 2005!).

head-scratching broker babble of the day (year??)
By the way, does this listing description lede for the $2mm loft make sense to anyone? (It doesn’t to me.) “Unbelievable & Livable”.

moving up by going downtown
Sometimes moving up in the world is a function of space improvement, like our hero and his new family. Sometimes it is a function of moving from a prosaic building like 250 Mercer to a brand-new uber-loft, like his old neighbors. In the case of the new neighbors who paid $2mm next door, they seem to be holding onto this small apartment near Gracie Mansion, which they’ve owned since 2005.

Here is one picture of moving up in the world: buying a “670 sq ft” 1-bedroom in a quintessential Upper East Side ‘dorm’ for $388,500 in 2005, then being able to buy a $2mm loft in 2010. At that scale, being able to hold on to the UES dorm is pretty much irrelevant.

I am going to stop now, for fear of launching another digression.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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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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