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Manhattan Loft Guy

Aug. 22, 2013 - 104 Charlton Street loft comes (cheap!) with a nickel tour


(pssst ... no bidding war!)

You’d have to work a bit to get the full story if you start in StreetEasy, but there is a gratifyingly large amount of information available about the “2,184 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2W at 104 Charlton Street that recently sold under $1,000/ft. Let’s start with some basic details before getting to celebrity owners, magazine slideshows, and interesting (if true!) building history. The loft is a classic Long-and-Narrow, typically arrayed with 2 bedrooms sharing one end, plumbing in the middle along one long wall, with the bulk of the space nicely allotted to the public room (nearly 40 x 23 feet). The flip on tradition in this floor plan is that the bedrooms are in the front of the building, over the Charlton Street sidewalk, with the living room mid-block, facing the back of the buildings on Vandam Street in this not-very-”Soho” stretch of southwestern Soho (we are going to call it The Greater Ear Inn Micro-Nabe [TGEIMN™], as I have said before, right?)



The decor is a response to the lack of light in the main room, with very white ceilings and walls, open shelving creating separate seating areas, and very colorful furnishings (apart from the dark monochrome in the kitchen). On the one hand, all those colorful elements are professionally done and, in a sense, well thought out (the seller is a designer); on the other hand, some of the non-furnishing color would be a mortal sin to mere amateur who had audited How To Stage Your Home For Maximum Profit (the purple [??} master bath??].

the story not told in the babble

It is rather amazing that the amazing broker babble does not brag much about the loft, or give much detail, other than to use ‘amazing” a rather amazing 4 times in a short bit of babble. The kitchen is “newly done amazing Balthaup” [speaking of amazing: that is Bulthaup] and there are “tons” of built-in storage and “amazing” closets, but there are no (other) proper proper names. The babble has a link to Dwell magazine on-line but the link does not get you to the piece about the loft! (Same [bad] link is on Streeteasy and on the Town listing.) The true link from September 2010 is here, and is a worthwhile click for lots of information about why the loft looks as it does.

The rather charming story is that the family of 4 left the city for the ‘burbs just before 9/11. The wife “is a very hard-core New Yorker, born and raised. We were experiencing this event that was so personal to us, but we were removed. So we moved back in 2002.” That leads to one of the great quotes, rueful and painful in equal measure:

And we got hit with what I call the “stupid tax.” It costs nothing to move out of New York, but it costs a million dollars to move back.

Love the “stupid tax” locution; it is harsh enough that it can only be said (in public) by a civilian who paid it, rather than by real estate professionals. (We’ll get back to that [apocryphal?] math below.)

Here’s why the loft is ‘backwards’:

We inherited the layout of our place from the previous resident, and we decided not to renovate. Unfortunately, the bedrooms are at the light, front part of the house and the living area is in the dark, back part of the house, with the kitchen in between. But at that point we had two little kids, so Vanessa and I looked at each other and said, “Let’s just move in, and we’ll deal with it.”

What does a designer do in response to dark public space?

Light is perhaps the least interesting thing about my place. Not having a lot of natural light is a constant reminder of why I made the spaces brightly colored. It’s why I take vitamin D. But, as a designer, I love a challenge. The house is lit with a combination of recessed fixtures tucked between the joists and track.

Sounds like that “newly done amazing Balthaup Kitchen” [... er … Bulthaup] is not so newly done, and that the designer/owner has the confidence to call his loft “crappy”:

Our one big investment was the Bulthaup kitchen, where we spend most of our time. I like to equate the loft to a hot rod: It looks like a really crappy car, but it’s got a really expensive motor under the hood. The kitchen isn’t near any windows or light or air, but it is the central space where we live as a family.

There’s more detail in the slideshow, including a view of what those wood slats are in the extreme left in the main listing photo (the girls’ loft playhouse, which never did get transformed into an office), confirmation that the “kitchen was the only room to get a full renovation”. The most interesting detail is from the article proper, a (sorry) amazing (if true) explanation for why the floors slope 4” from one side to the other (not a bug, but a feature!):

The building used to be a stable. A big elevator would bring horses and grain to the upper floors. That’s why the floors slope, so that the pee and manure would roll to one side. There’s a four-inch difference between the east and west walls, but I hardly notice it anymore.

Silly me …. I did not know there were stables in New York with elevators to move horses and grain, let alone a natural slope built in for rolling waste. I am still not convinced this story is true, but am not prepared to call out the designer until I have done some research. If true … great story!

about that math …

Before I leave the Dwell piece, I have to wonder how successful the 2013 seller (designer) was back in the day. According to the deed record, the loft was not bought by designer and wife when they returned to Manhattan, but by the designer’s famous dad, and that they did not make the move in 2002 but in December 2003. (Memory plays tricks with us all.)

Dad paid $577,014 for the loft on December 10, 2003; add a new Bulthaup kitchen, a new floor, and gallons of white paint and there’s still no way to get to an actual “stupid tax” of a million dollars to move back to New York. Darn. I am still going to use this Stupid Tax quote, however; though it was not true in the sense of being (you know) accurate in 2002, it feels truthy enough to even be accurate in 2013. Out of the mouths of designers ….

not an easy sale

You know from the first sub-head that there was no bidding war for this loft. Maybe it was the sloping (er … crappy floors) or maybe it was the bold colors or maybe it was the lack of light, but the thing took a while to sell, at a not-impressive level for the building. Perhaps the owner/designer was more impressed with his work than outsiders were:

Jan 15

new to market


April 2



June 11



July 9




That’s 5 months to contract at $969/ft, a 10% discount from last ask, 15% off the original ask.

Other sales are higher than $969/ft and/or in markets less strong than the current one. The last sale in the building was the larger (“2,432 sq ft”) #6E, which sold on May 9 for $2.92mm, or $1,201/ft. That was both in better condition and with better light (4 exposures). I hit the two most recent but more remote past sales (#6W at $892/ft and #3E at $1,006/ft) in my March 11, 2011, 104 Charlton Street loft takes 18% hit to close. You will find there an explanation that convinced me for why #6W sold relatively low, even for a loft that probably could be updated, and why #3E sold low for a well-renovated loft. In both cases, note that the 2013 market is much stronger than the markets in which those two neighbors sold.

I have to think that the #2W seller/designer is not going to brag about how well his design sold.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013



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Aug. 19, 2013 - 152 Wooster Street loft shows that character matters, competition drives premium


War Week resumes

Some stories never get old, so here’s another one from the Bidding War Files. The cool things about the “1,360 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2C at 152 Wooster Street that just sold 12% above the asking price require me to quote from some professional broker babble: “a true downtown Artist's loft with the kind of soul, character, and warmth rarely found in today's loft market” and “this spacious & solid property truly stands out from many of the narrow rectangles or glass box ‘lofty’ apartments available in the area”. Check, and check. It didn’t last long (contract within 4 weeks), just as I predicted to my buyer who visited in that month. On the one hand, it’s nice to be proven right (“this one is not going to last; may need more work than you want, but lots of character, large space, efficient floor plan for real BR + interior room”); on the other hand, someone just paid $1,287/ft for the opportunity to spend another couple of hundred bucks a foot to bring this space up to modern standards.

Here’s why: 11 foot ceilings, 9 windows, cast-iron columns, a square footprint (with plumbing stub*), good light (for now**), “handsomely worn [!] wide-plank hardwood flooring”, at a surprisingly quiet prime Soho location, just south of Houston Street. (*That stub is the major challenge on the floor plan: no one these days puts the only bathroom at the end of a galley kitchen; I can’t remember the story about plumbing stacks, but I am pretty sure one can move that bath and add another, though it doesn’t make much sense to use the stub in any way but the kitchen.)

The bathroom placement is one hint that this loft was built out long ago; the glass brick in the curved master bedroom wall is another. I don’t imagine that a buyer bid this place up to leave it as it is; I expect the new owner to erase the lines on the floor plan and start new.

a postcard from a loft at war
Mar 15 new to market $1.565mm

April 12 contract

July 15 $1.75mm

about those double asterisks

The loft gets a lot of light for a second floor loft in the back of a building, in part because the building to the east is short (4 or 5 stories), in part because the summer sun is high (listing photo #5 gives the best sense of how close the building is and how light the narrow space can be), and in (major) part because the southern exposure is wide open over a parking lot. (The last listing photo shows an old single story structure abutting 152 Wooster that the parking lot wraps behind and next to.) Every single moderately interested potential buyer asked the agents about development plans for that lot (any development would close up the 3 south windows in loft #2C) and got this story, more or less: there are no current public plans to develop the lot but the owner has made efforts to do so in the past, any buyer should do their own diligence, but there can be no assurance that the loft won’t be developed at some time in the future. Cold comfort, indeed, but obviously not a deal breaker.

Any prudent buyer would enjoy the light while it lasts but would expect to lose the 3 south windows, sooner or (more likely) later. The loft’s principal charms are not dependent on that light, and there is no ‘view’ to speak of.

If it were my loft, I’d erase all the lines on the floor plan and build an interior master in the northwest corner; if I needed another bedroom I’d probably add another one along the north wall but still away from the windows. I’d leave the east windows open to the main space to bring as much of that light in as possible. I wish I could remember where the plumbing stacks are, but I can’t; I am pretty sure there is at least one place on the south wall but “in the square” a bath can be added, possibly two. I’d definitely build a new kitchen pretty much where the current on is, and I might well update that oddly placed bath. I’d expect to spend $200/ft or more, but if I had a partner with expensive tastes I would be prepared to pay more.

I’d end up with a $1,500/ft loft in a no-frills coop on a wonderful Soho block. (Gulp.) If I had a renovation budget a lot bigger than $200/ft I might end up with something like this, which some people would argue is worth around $2,000/ft.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Aug. 16, 2013 - oh dear! 292 Lafayette Street loft goes to war, slays famous neighbors


comps, but no comparison

The last time we visited 292 Lafayette Street together there was a somewhat primitive loft with somewhat famous sellers that sold at $1,033/ft. Today's visit is occasioned by the "1,600 sq ft" Manhattan loft #2E at 292 Lafayette Street, which sold on July 17 at $2.7mm, or ... (wait for it) ... a rather staggering $1,687/ft. Obviously, the story involves the difference in condition, thought here may also be a timing issues, as loft #4W was a current deed when I hit in my April 8, not new news, but Sonic Youth sell close to raw loft at 292 Lafayette at $1,033/ft, but the deed was stale, as the sale was in October 2012. (Fun fact: loft #2E made a cameo in that April post, "which sold for an impressive $2.255mm in a near-Peak deal in early 2008".)

The broker babble starts well, and gets better. I am not going to quote all the goodies, just the start, but you must read the whole thing and drink in the large format photos. Loft #2E is, in fact, a "rare and authentic corner loft is renovated to perfection and captures the true spirit and essence of Downtown living!" The nearly square shape helps a great deal, as does the corner location with east and south exposures. The classic loft elements of exposed brick, tin ceilings, and (especially) the timber beams and columns make it all work in a way that, for me and other Loft Snobs, the exact same shape would not without them (especially the timber beams and columns).

I noted in that April 8 post that the eats lofts have done better than the west lofts here. For those whom the 2nd floor location is a problem, lets hope that the windows have already been upgraded, and I have two wonderful words: Puck Building! Just lookout the east windows in the first two listing photos. Yes, you are not high off the sidewalk and there's a lot of traffic on Lafayette, but go back to those two words....

leaving 2008 in The dust

You know from the headline that there was competition to value loft #2E at $2.7mm. The details:

April 22

new to market


May 15



July 17




(Yes, Go To War Week continues.) The story was not so different in 2008, though at a different scale:

March 14, 2008

new to market


April 10



July 9



Forget the Sonic Youth folks ... there's the real story.  Loft #2E set a building record at $1,409/ft in 2008 that stood until it just sold again at $1,687/ft. (See the StreetEasy building page, here). Yes, that was a post-Peak sale in 2008, but not a very post-Peak sale. Same loft, in same condition (with a bit more Wear on its tread, in fact) just re-sold at a 20% premium to post-Peak.

Shark Week continues!

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Jul. 26, 2013 - 255 Hudson Street loft sells 19% below 2007, after 15 months, 9 prices

and now for something completely different
Ever get tired of reading about how hot hot hot The Market is? I don’t, but the recent sale of the “1,684 sq ft” Manhattan loft
#6A at 255 Hudson Street in “Soho” (I’ve expressed my preference that this little corner be dubbed The Greater Ear Inn Micro-Nabe [TGEIMN™] before) may be a tonic for some, a respite for others, or just plain weird for the rest of you.

Even in an overall Manhattan residential real estate market that is overheated, it takes a willing seller and a willing buyer to make the market; if the seller, though willing, is not realistic about value, no buyer will be willing. For example, a seller who thinks a loft is worth, say, $3.1mm may be out there a while, and have to adjust a lot, to find that the clearing price (by definition, the market value) is only $2.5mm. Even in a frenzied “seller’s market”. Even if the seller had good reason to think the value was (around) $3.1mm.

For example:


Feb 22, 2012 new to market $2.925mm
Feb 22   $3.1mm
Aug 1   $2.999mm
Oct 15   $2.95mm
Nov 19   $2.875mm
Nov 27   $2.8mm
Dec 14   $2.75mm
Mar 18, 2013   $2.675mm
May 15*   $2.6mm
May 17 contract  
June 19 sold $2.5mm


(*Personally, I doubt that the last price drop was real, in that there was almost certainly an accepted offer already based on the contract date, but that sequence is also in the inter-firm data-base so I am going to go with it here, and in the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008.)

You know this from the headline, but to recap: that is 15 months to contract and 9 asking prices. The discount from highest ask to clearing price: 19%. Market time until the first price drop: 5 months. Price drops in the last quarter of 2012: 4.

That last datum is interesting, as you can almost smell the seller’s desperation. After stubbornly sitting at $3.1mm for those 5 months, and then at $2.999mm for another 2.5 months, the seller came up with a cosmetic price drop and then a series of 5-figure price drops. Death by small cuts. Remember: this was in market conditions universally (and correctly) described as dramatically tilted in favor of sellers. A whiff of “desperation” should not matter in a deep market, as there should be enough buyers that one would recognize a price cut too deep, though in this case The Market seems to have punished the loft.

was 2007 an outlier?
I say that The Market
seems to have punished the loft for the same reason the seller thought the thing was worth $2.925mm or more: the recent seller paid $2.925mm to buy it on December 14, 2007. That so-near-as-to-be-essentially-Peak value is impossible to reconcile with the June 2013 value, so I am not going to try. (The 2007 StreetEasy listing history is incomplete, but I will not bore you with the details except to note that the inter-firm data-base shows this loft was actively marketed until a contract on October 31, 2007, with asking prices oddly and quickly bouncing from $3.125mm to $2.445mm and back; the deal was reached off that higher number.)

It is hard to conclude that The Market picked out loft #6B for punishment, as at $1,485/ft it dramatically out-performed the smaller (“1,407 sq ft”) 2-bedroom, 2-bath
#6A next door, which sold at $1.71mm ($1,215/ft) after a very long time on the market. One-bedroom units have sold in the building at $1,476/ft on April 2 and at $1,432/ft on November 8, 2012; these are the only non-townhouse sales in the building in the last 12 months, with no evidence of #6B being punished here, either.

The recent seller of loft #6A was wrong about the market in 2012 and 2013, just as he was wrong about the market in 2007. I have no way of knowing whether there was another buyer interested in #6A in late 2007, but I do have a way of knowing that the $2.925mm purchase on December 14, 2007 was an outlier for its time: a quick scan of the Streeteasy
building page tells me that this was a building record on a dollar-per-foot basis for non-penthouse, non-townhouse properties, and there’s this: the identical loft upstairs at #7A sold on December 21, 2007 for $2.6mm. Or, take the identical loft above that: #8A did not sell in 2007 while asking $2.775mm and $2.695mm, or in early 2008 at $2.6mm.

Hard cold fact: the corporation that just sold #6A at a significant loss did so because it overpaid in 2007, not because the market punished it in 2013. O. U. C. H.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013



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Jul. 22, 2013 - no thaw was good news for (eventual) penthouse loft seller at 347 West Broadway

playing with the calendar, for fun and profit

If the headline above makes sense to you, thanks for being a regular reader. (For the rest of you, thanks for stopping by; feel free to return.) The premise for the punchline involving the “2,200 sq ft” Manhattan penthouse loft at 347 West Broadway is revealed in the prior listing history, showing that the loft did not sell when offered at $3.995mm for nearly 8 months at the end of 2009 and at $3.795mm for nearly 3 months in the middle of 2010. By May 8, 2009 (when it was first offered), the overall Manhattan residential real estate market was entering the thaw that followed the nuclear winter that crashed after Lehman … er … crashed on September 15, 2008. But the loft did not attract a buyer then, or at $3.795mm in mid-2010, when the overall market was again active. You can guess the punchline by now, if not the detail: the loft just sold quickly (3 weeks to contract) after asking $4.65mm at an even $5mm. (I don’t know why StreetEasy calls this deed record “#3”, but you’ll see that same designation for obviously different units, with obviously different buyers and sellers, on the building page.)

The numbers are fascinating, and large: the recent sale was a 7.5% premium over ask; the recent asking price was a 22% premium over the unsuccessful ask of mid-2010; the recent sale was 32% above that 2010 ask.

not a lot of space until you climb the stairs

You are free to parse the two sets of broker babble, listing photos and floor plans, but take my word for it: the loft was in the identical condition when it did not sell in 2009 and 2010 as when it just sold. (The sole difference, other than the recent babble having more detail, is that the new floor plan includes the window in the den omitted in the old floor plan; hard to believe that the window was added in real life.) Of course the finishes are superb (the numbers told you that), but the loft is described as “like a romantic country cottage” as much for the (many) modestly sized rooms as much as for the country details. The master bedroom is less than 15 x 13 feet, the living room only 22 x 15 ft. A great many rooms, but not much ‘volume’ considering it is a “2,200 sq ft” Long-and-Narrow. Having the elevator in the front corner doesn’t help, and I suspect a buyer would be tempted to make that den part of the main room. (Check the photos and floor plan downstairs to see what the footprint looks like a little opened up.)

That nicely finished collection of rooms is not what drove the current market bonkers, however:

the crowning jewel of this amazing home [is] an extraordinary 1,500 square-foot private landscaped roof garden with specimen plantings, multi-level seating areas, an outdoor shower, full Summer kitchen + unobstructed views of the iconic midtown skyline

As downstairs, the space is broken up upstairs, with those multi-level seating areas, except for the obvious fact of being open to the sky (and the “unobstructed views of the iconic midtown skyline”). “1,500 sq ft” is a large terrace, of course, no matter how much broken up. So far, The Market thinks the roof terrace is worth more than $666/ft, as that neighbor (similar, without the terrace) hasn’t yet sold. It will be interesting to see what the market spread turns out to be.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jun. 27, 2013 - 103 Greene Street penthouse loft takes a (near) million dollar hit to sell below 2008

not everything is flying
They had a little trouble selling the “2,474 sq ft” penthouse Manhattan loft
#7A at 103 Greene Street in prime Soho back in the day, as the near-Peak campaign took 4 months and a big price drop to get to contract 15% off the original ask; but those buyers in 2008 no longer think they got a deal, as it just took them 17 months and two price drops to find a contract just a tad below what they spent. Here is what the full history looks like, in two volumes:

April 25, 2008 new to market $5.875mm
July 23   $5.2mm
Aug 22 contract  
Oct 10 sold $5mm
Aug 22, 2011 new to market $5.9mm
Feb 3, 2012


Mar 5 same agent, new firm $5.5mm
Sept 13   $5.25mm
Mar 1, 2013 contract  
May 22 sold $4.95mm


In terms of market dynamics, it is clear that the timing of the 2008 sellers was off, but it is not clear whether (or, to what extent) this hurt them. They hit the market a month after the quarter in which the highest prices were recorded in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market, yet they got the contract before Lehman’s bankruptcy; in fact, they were lucky in closing after Lehman, as the Real Estate Industrial Complex, Manhattan Media division was rife with stories about buyers walking away from contracts after Lehman’s bankruptcy soiled the marketplace. Had they started sooner, or started at $5.2mm, I suspect they’d have gotten more than $5mm. But that ain’t what happened.

Next time around, when the 2008 buyers turned into wannabe sellers, the charms (and value) of the loft were more apparent to the owners than to potential buyers, again. The latest sellers tried an intermediate price, but the other numbers are remarkably similar to the 2008 campaign, just with a lot more time. These sellers were rather patient, trying each price for at least 5 months before finally biting the bullet and accepting a deal at a tiny discount to their purchase price.

$2.5 million per bedroom
The size of this loft is maddeningly difficult to pin down (discussed below) but the utility is clear: the
floor plan contains exactly two bedrooms in a classic Long-and-Narrow array, with plumbing on both long sides in the middle. At nearly 36 feet wide, this is an unusually wide Long-and-Narrow, but not so wide as to permit 3 bedrooms across the back without negating the ‘luxury’ feel (the largest would then be about 12 x 12 feet).

That width provides great volume to the open space in front, aided by the long wall of east windows and moderately tall (11 foot ?) ceilings. The broker babble is relatively modest for a luxury condo new in 2002, with “open custom chef's kitchen with Sub-Zero and Viking appliances, ... gas fireplace, central air conditioning.... a custom fitted walk in closet [and] limestone master bathroom”, but the glory of the loft is what is on the roof: “a two level, fully landscaped, architecturally designed roof deck”.

in 2008, the loft was marketed with the claim that the two rooftop spaces plus the terrace off the main room (35’6” x 5’) were “1,538 sq ft”, which seems … er … generous, but at least gives a sense of the scale. (Think: massive.) This is terrific entertaining space in the outdoor months of the year, though the roof gets points off for being accessed up the (public?) stair and requiring that all food and beverages be humped up that stair.

your feet look funny
That 2008 listing that had the outdoor space at “1,538 sq ft” claimed the interior at “2,108 sq ft”, which has the benefit of looking
close to accurate, if the space really is 35’6” wide, but the deficit of not being sourced anywhere I can find. The city thinks the loft is “2,474 sq ft” (in that 2008 deed record, for example), which seems … er … ridiculous (the loft is only 35’6” wide!), but that’s what I use in the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 because I need a standard. Presumably, that city number comes from the Condo Declaration.

We’ve been here before, looking at palpably absurd and variable size claims about the same space (see my November 2, 2010,
the square footage dilemma: REBNY "leads" by protecting brokers, not buyers, as the mother of all such Manhattan Loft Guy posts). I am not going to try to do any Miller-riffing about the interior vs. exterior values, as there are no other sales in this 12-unit condo since 2010 from which to establish an interior base-line (Streeteasy building page, here); and even if there were, I’d get frustrated with having to use numbers that just look wrong. (Patient readers should be thankful for small favors.)


© Sandy Mattingly 2013



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Jun. 7, 2013 - extortion or neighborly consideration 505 Greenwich Street loft? you decide

some prices just jump out at you
You won’t find a listing associated with the deed recently filed on the May 13 sale of the “979 sq ft” Manhattan loft
#12C at 505 Greenwich Street because it was a private transaction. The sale price is a funny number, but not only because it is decidedly not a round number ($1,929,583). This is what makes that funny number funny: $1,971/ft is so far out of whack with other building sales that it proves that the seller really did not want to sell. Before looking at ‘normal’ values in the building, rest assured that I have a pretty convincing theory for why the seller was reluctant, and the buyers so eager.

The most recent sale in the building was very recent, indeed. The deed for the May 21 sale of the “722 sq ft” Manhattan loft
#10G was just filed this week, reflecting a sale at $1.13mm, or $1,565/ft. Loft #6C with the same “979 sq ft” floor plan as #12C sold for $1.45mm on April 4, or $1,481/ft. Here are all the public sales in 2013, so far, with the non-public #12C as a frame of reference:

#12C “979 sq ft” May 13 $1,971/ft
#14A “1,819/ft” Mar 18 $1,608/ft
#10G “722 sq ft” May 21 $1,565/ft
#6C “979 sq ft” April 4 $1,481/ft
#14F “812 sq ft” Mar 22 $1,478/ft
#3G “2,801 sq ft” Jan 28 $1,392/ft
#1D “1,240 sq ft” Feb 5 $1,318/ft


That is a wide variety of sizes and floor heights, of course, but a sensible split of values for low floors ($1,318/ft, $1,392/ft, $1,481/ft) compared to high floors ($1,478/ft, $1,565/ft, $1,608/ft). The non #12C average is $1,474/ft, with the top non #12C value at a premium of 9% and the bottom at a discount of 11%. The most direct comp for #12C is #6C with the same floor plan, but that $1,481/ft needs adjustment for floor height. People who know the building (or, avid readers of Manhattan Loft Guy) know that the floor height adjustment sensitivity is for view. Loft #6C bragged about “floor to ceiling windows that face west to beautiful sunset skies”.

You avid readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know that the 12th floor offers more than light to the west, but "panoramic water views”, as well, and that in my February 4, 2011,
these water views from a 505 Greenwich loft are worth $370,000 (really), I quantified the difference at $370,000 in otherwise identical “1,279 sq ft” lofts (equal to $290/ft in 2011; in that case a 24% premium). I am a little reluctant to apply that level of premium to #12C over #6C on a pure comps basis, in part because #14A has at least as good views (“including the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty, World Trade Center, and the Empire State Building”) yet cleared at ‘only’ $1,608/ft. I am inclined to think that those folks who bought the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty, World Trade Center, and Empire State Building views in 2011 really overpaid for them then.

And just did so again.

I am not stalking them (honest) but the folks featured in that February 4, 2011 post when they bought
#12B are the same folks who just bought #12C (the deed record of #12B is here; for #12C it is above). I assume that the reason they overpaid for the views in 2011 was because they really wanted those views; I assume that they overpaid for similar views in 2013 because they had to. (They already had the spectacular views from the larger “B” loft, so it was likely that adding the loft next door was more about, well, adding the loft next door than it was about getting more of a river view.)

They were dealing with a neighbor who had not put the loft on the market, so they had to go to Make My Day pricing. Paying a funny non-round number like $1,929,583, or $1,971/ft is Make My Day pricing if #14A at $1,608/ft is the previous high for 2013 on a dollar-per-foot basis. That is a 23% premium over #14A and a 33% premium over #6C.

People don’t pay that kind of premium unless they have to.

the Greeks had a word for it
The word I sometimes apply to this neighbor-on-neighbor situation is ugly: extortion. I have
tagged 10 previous posts with that ugly term; this one will be #11. Sometimes it involves a public effort to sell, sometimes it doesn’t; sometimes the buyer has leverage, sometimes the seller.

In this case, the seller of the oh-so-unique-to-#12B-owners #12C set a new building record on a price per foot basis that should last for quite a while. And sold for 48% more than he had paid in
May 2005. Without having to pay a sales fee. And now the new owners of 2,200 sq ft have to spend more money to combine the two and take out a kitchen. Money does not seem to be a problem for them.

a word of caution
Other owners at 505 Greenwich Street are thrilled with this sale, of course. It will be interesting to see if anyone tries to use it to beat up a reluctant buyer. (Oh,
wait.) Non-public transactions between neighbors are not valid comps, however.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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May. 8, 2013 - very patient (and secretly negotiable) famous seller finally sells 497 Greenwich Street loft at 17% discount


why do people do that?

The seller of the “1,661 sq ft” Manhattan loft #6B at 497 Greenwich Street (the Winka Dubbeldam-designed Greenwich Street Project) told The Market she wanted $2.35mm, but when push (eventually) came to shove she sold for $1.95mm, a 17% discount without an intervening price drop in a notoriously seller’s market. I have never understood that approach, preferring to suggest that my sellers who are willing to deeply discount announce that fact to the world by … you know ... discounting the price, instead of entertaining low ball offers. There had been a tenant in place, so perhaps there was little urgency, and perhaps the seller got more motivated when the tenant stopped paying rent. This deal took 364 days to contract at a $400,000 discount, but there’s a long history of this seller not selling. Into the Wayback Machine, Mr. Peabody:

April 2, 2008 new to market $2.75mm
May 7   $2.6mm
June 17   $2.495mm
Oct 5 hiatus  
Sept 16, 2010 back on market $2.395mm
Oct 20   $2.25mm
Mar 16, 2011 hiatus  
Jan 31, 2012 back on market $2.35mm
Jan 29, 2013


Mar 28 sold $1.95mm

market stages, stages of marketing
This is a fascinating history, even if you don’t know who the seller is. Start with the fact that she came to market 2 days after the calendar quarter that (still) represents The Peak in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market, and gave up (the first time) 3 weeks after Lehman’s bankruptcy plunged the overall Manhattan residential real estate market into nuclear winter. Opportunity missed, big time.

Next, consider the next attempt, at an initial price a little above where she started her last (successful) campaign, with a price drop below her last (most recent) ask. Unlike the first time, when she was pretty much forced from The Market, she gave up this time after (only!) 6 months.

Third time’s a charm, though not especially remunerative. She came back to market January 31 last year at $2.35mm, where she sat until accepting a deal at $1.95mm with a contract by January 29 this year. (Where must that negotiation have started, if it ended $400,000 off?) The 364 days in between (2012 was a Leap Year, for you anal types) suggest a lack of urgency, much as the 17% negotiated discount suggest boredom with the whole marketing thing.

loving not wisely, but too well
Look where she started ($2.75mm, in early 2008) and look where she ended up ($1.95mm, 5 years later). It is fair to say that she way over estimated the market appeal of the loft, right? A lot of owners do that (it is a bane of existence for selling agents). In this case, who “she” is makes it more interesting. Here’s the recent broker babble:

This meticulously designed loft, fuses cutting edge style, with sophistication and architectural detail. The Greenwich Street Project, designed by award winning architect Winka Dubbeldam, has emerged as one of the boutique condominium leaders for downtown New York. The state of the art loft, also designed by Winka Dubbeldam, consists of high ceilings, open spaces, sliding walls and the highest standard of finishes.

In case you flew by it, the building was “designed by award winning architect Winka Dubbeldam”;  the “state of the art loft [was] also designed by Winka Dubbeldam”. The deed record has the seller as an LLC, which owned the loft since only the middle of the 2010 marketing campaign (don’t look at that deed record yet). The very first marketing campaign in 2008 has the answer to this riddle (emphasis added):

Architect Winka Dubbeldam has designed a building that has changed the face of the lower west side of Manhattan. This is her loft. Housed within Dubbledam's groundbreaking 497 Greenwich Street-a stunning faceted glass curtain wall facade folds onto an existing renovated 19th-century industrial building-the loft is spacious, open, undeniably modern.

The home an architect creates for herself is the ultimate marriage of form and function, with a nuanced play of surface and detail that amplifies the clean lines that are the hallmark of this one-of-a-kind loft. Floors are of Ipe hardwood and terrazzo; walls, of artisan-quality silver-tinted plaster. The kitchen, which also contains a pantry, is Valcucine; appliances are state-of-the-art. The kitchen cabinets and counters express a dynamic geometry of wood, stainless-steel, and vibrant colored carbon fiber. Striking horizontal glass doors by Mobileffe separate the den and bedroom from the expansive great room. The masterbath is luxurious. Lighting throughout is by Artemide. This is design at its apex-fluid, simple, harmonious, breathtaking.

Whether instructed to or not, the first listing agents played up the identity of the owner and the … wonderfulness … of the building to near sycophantic levels. (“The home an architect creates for herself is the ultimate marriage of form and function, with a nuanced play of surface and detail that amplifies the clean lines that are the hallmark of this one-of-a-kind loft.... design at its apex-fluid, simple, harmonious, breathtaking”.) (Make that beyond sycophantic levels.) In this light, asking $2.75mm seems a matter of personal pride.

Did the Greeks have a word for it? (I am thinking: hubris.)

go ahead, call me sweetheart (I won’t mind)

For those of you with extreme empathy, you may feel some sympathy for a seller who wanted $2.75mm but whom the philistines in The Market would give only $1.95mm. This should help you get over that: she paid $509,125 when she bought it from the developer in 2005, a price that sticks out like s sore thumb on the StreetEasy building page. At $306/ft that was the best new development bargain in Soho, if not Manhattan, in 2005. (To pick just one, the “1,602 sq ft” #4A deed cost $1,128/ft in March 2006.)

That must have been an interesting personal tax return in 2005, as I presume she accounted for the difference between what she paid and market value in some manner. Professional compensation? Gift?? And a complicated tax return to be done for 2013, with the (apparent) gain of $1.44mm.

funny, we were just talking about that (“west” Soho)

I don’t feel badly about identifying the seller here, not least because her name has been all over the marketing campaign and it is a very interesting factual angle to this sale. Also, because the Manhattan real estate blog of record identified her as the owner of the loft while she was began trying to sell the last time (after the LLC took title for $0). That would be Curbed, of course, in a post that discusses the glass wall between the master’s bed and the master’s throne. As always, read the Curbed comments at your own risk, but I was struck by the diversion of whether 497 Greenwich Street (1 block north of Canal and 4 blocks south of Houston) is really in “Soho” because it is west of 6th Avenue.

I sympathize with that complaint, as should be clear from my designation yesterday (May 7, 330 Spring Street loft sells near par from 2006 (an improvement)) of the nearby Urban Glass House as in “The Greater Ear Inn Micro-Nabe (TGEIMN™)”. I just don’t think that TGEIMN has the same cachet as “Soho”. Maybe what some want to call “west Soho” should be “Near Ear”?

Spread the word....


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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May. 7, 2013 - 330 Spring Street loft sells near par from 2006 (an improvement)


celeb buyer does the deed

Don’t you get tired of this relentless seller’s market stuff, with lofts closing higher, higher, and higher? My buyers certainly do! So this post is for them (and, perhaps, you), recounting the details of the “1,722 sq ft” Manhattan loft #8A at 330 Spring Street (the troubled Urban Glass House), which was recently sold for $2.65mm by the folks who paid $2,698,362 to buy it from the developer way back on December 12, 2006. I say “the troubled Urban Glass House” because the resale market has been brutal for this Philip Johnson designed “ultra-modern luxury condominium”, apparently because people drawn to the charm (and grit) of The Greater Ear Inn Micro-Nabe (TGEIMN) were surprised (nay … disappointed) that the charm (and grit) might include necessary municipal services. (Of course, I am looking at you, Tony Soprano.)

Let’s look at the present before casting back.

Not only has the “Urban Glass House [been] brought to life [!] by internationally-acclaimed architect Philip Johnson … [but it has] luxurious interiors by Annabelle Selldorf.” The broker babble is enthusiastic (as that “brought to life” poetry suggests):

exquisite finishes and long distance views of Soho and Greenwich Village …. meticulous 2-bedroom, 2.5-bath apartment with a home office is a truly stunning example of its simple elegance. ... panoramic views day or night. Floor-to-ceiling windows, 10' ceilings, French white-oak flooring, thoughtfully-placed pocket doors and a Bosch washer/dryer .... kitchen … with its Bulthaup stainless steel backsplash, black granite counters, anthracite linoleum cabinetry, convenient island with an integrated sink and premium appliances like a Kuppersbusch 5-burner cook top, oven and hood, Sub-Zero fridge and freezer, Miele dishwasher and Viking wine cooler. Kota Blue limestone and custom vanities adorn both bathrooms, with a Zuma tub, separate shower, Grohe Atrio polished chrome fittings and radiant heat floors in the master.

Believe it or not, I took out a bunch of the sales-y modifiers and intensifiers; one I just had to leave in is too hard to avoid snarking about: “thoughtfully-placed pocket doors” is a new one on me. I am struggling (failing) with figuring out what was so thoughtful about the placement of the pocket doors … they go where other (conventional) doors would have gone, no? I get the utility of using them for the office and in the large (new) entrance to the master form the living room, as precious floor space is saved from doors that would otherwise need room to swing open; but that (original) entrance to the master from the foyer seems gratuitously pocket (it is not as though there is any value to keeping the floor at that entry clear by avoiding a conventionally swing door).

(This transaction isn’t “news” any longer; Curbed was on it the day the deed was filed 3 weeks ago, outing the celebrity buyer; as usual with a Curbed comment thread, peruse at your own risk.)

a long time coming

The seller was nothing if not persistent. No … add stubborn to that, as well. He started at $2.8mm two years ago, and budged, but not much more, on his way to closing only 5% off, a delightfully round 50 months later:

Feb 4, 2011 new to market $2.8mm
April 5 hiatus  
April 27 back on market  
June 29, 2012   $2.7mm
Sept 21   $2.6mm
Feb 14, 2013


April 4 sold $2.65mm

Persistent = 2 years of constant marketing, less 3 weeks. Stubborn = maintaining a price the market did not like for 17 months into mid-2012. But that is not the strangest part of the marketing sequence.

It is something of an aphorism of mine that The Market Will Correct A Too-Steep Price Cut (here’s my most recent usage: February 25, market corrects too-low price drop at Chelsea Mercantile, just as it's supposed to), but this is ridiculous. The “too-steep” cut was from $2.7mm to $2.6mm nearly 5 months before contract. And, that $2.65mm clearing price should have been available off of the $2.7mm ask, shouldn’t it have been?

Nearly two years into a campaign that had generated no bid at an appropriate level, this loft must have found two bidders willing to pay at least the (5-month old) ask. That’s almost as weird as sitting in a museum for hours on end as the exhibit.

(mostly) looking away from trouble

Remember those brag-worthy “long distance views of Soho and Greenwich Village”? Maybe that is an acknowledgment that, like Manhattan Loft Guy, the selling agent does not consider this far-west TGEIMN a part of (real) Soho. Or maybe it is an attempt to make lemonade out of distance views that can be problematic, especially the near north view. My Tony Soprano reference should have reminded you of the controversy over (and celebrity protesters of) the Sanitation Department garage on the horizon. The almost 3 year old article from New York Magazine, Garbage In, Garbage Out, shows the degree to which the resale market in this building had evaporated. (Not just slowed, but died, as of that time.) It is a good read, and a nice bit of data-based real world reporting, so rare in the Manhattan media division of the Real Estate Industrial Complex. (Of course it quotes The Miller.)

If you are standing at the master bedroom window (as in pic #3), you’d look just a little to your left to see the other side of this view from a June 2011 Curbed feature about views at 330 Spring and the Sanitation Department. But that’s an oblique view from this unit; others have a more direct view, especially from the lower floors at 330 Spring.

With so few resales (as recapped by S. Jhoanna Robledo in NYMag), it is no surprise that I have only hit this building once. The very pleasant surprise in that December 17, 2011, New York Post scoops ACRIS with 330 Spring Street loft sale, is that I was as snobbish then about Real vs. West “Soho” and that I even then referred to this immediate area as “the Greater Ear Inn micro-nabe that I will never be comfortable calling (west) Soho”. Maybe it means I have yet to mature evolve, but I like to think of it as serendipitous consistency (not to be confused with any hobgoblins, if I may over-gild that lily).

in which Meryl Streep, meets Sally Field

In finding (again) a link to the celebrity opposition to the Sanitation Department garage, I was struck by this 2009 quote from The Villager (linked above) about the “celebrity thing ... really exploding”, meaning the PR value of high profile people who oppose a municipal plan. This bit of (in retrospect, overly optimistic) celebrity celebration made me smile:

“Meryl Streep hit the roof — she didn’t even know about this.”

That is one to quit on....

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 26, 2013 - not a seller’s market at 100 Greene Street, as loft sells under 2007 and 2005


neighbors weep

I don’t get this one: the same “2,000 sq ft” Manhattan loft in very prime Soho on the 2nd floor of 100 Greene Street that sold for $2.5mm in May 2005 and for $2.633mm in November 2007 just sold again in the same well-dressed condition for $2.425mm. With just the last two data points, the narrative might be reasonable that this lovely loft got pushed high on the near-Peak sale, but the fall off of $208,000 from November 2007 to March 2013 seems rather dramatic. The 2005 sale, however, removes any reason; there’s no way that a prime Soho loft should show a drop (of even 3%) from May 2005 to March 2013. There is no law that The Market behave rationally, but this sequence is surreal.

can’t get much more mint-y than this

I usually excerpt listing descriptions, both because I try to focus on the facts of what is in the loft and because they get even longer with the atmospherics about life-style, charm and location. But this broker babble deserves full treatment, to easily show that we are talking about a wonderful Soho loft (I italicized some of the really good stuff and added the paragraph breaks because it is too hard to read without them):

History meets luxury in this mint & minimalist full-floor loft located on the most sought-after cobblestone block in Soho! Hidden behind a 19th-Century cast-iron facade, you'll find this exquisitely renovated 2,000 square foot residence featuring grand proportions with a Zen-like tranquility throughout.

Enter to a dramatic Living/Dining room with
14-foot original tin-pressed ceilings, sleek epoxy resin floors, and striking views of the surrounding landmark district from a wall of enormous double-glazed windows. The John Pawson designed Obumex kitchen is open to the entertaining space and features a 10-foot center-island with cook-top, and a seamless wall of retractable doors which conceal endless custom cabinetry and top-of-the-line Miele and Subzero appliances. Nearby, magnificent floor-to-ceiling glass doors open to reveal two pin-drop quiet bedrooms, each with exposed brick walls and oversized windows affording bright morning light and charming views of the neighboring shuttered buildings.

The Master Bedroom Suite offers a large dressing room with
custom walnut shelving and a luxurious bathroom replete with steam shower and radiant heated floors. The guest bathroom is equally tasteful and features a custom walnut vanity and deep soaking tub with Hansgrohe fittings. The entire loft is centrally air-conditioned, has a mezzanine office, a washer-dryer, and offers custom Lutron lighting on dimmers throughout. All this, in a small boutique coop with private basement storage on arguably the best block in Soho putting you right in the heart of Downtown's most celebrated neighborhood. Not to be missed...

Since the same agent represented the 2007 seller, it is no surprise that the 2007 listing description sounds much like the recent bit of babble. (I bet he forgot to mention the central sound wiring this time around.)

You can’t tell from StreetEasy but the loft had the same finishes, materials and layout when it sold in 2005. The 2004 description in our listing system includes details noted in the current babble and this lede: “masterful blending of the awe-inspiring old architecture & proportions with a truly avant garde design produced this beautiful, luminous living space”. The loft sold in May 2003 for $1.05mm, so it is obvious that the loft got that wonderful renovation between May 2003 and May 2004. (Whatever the truly avant garde design cost, it can’t have eaten much of the way through the gain from $1.05mm in 2003 to $2.5mm in 2005; the loft is only “2,000 sq ft”.)

The loft is a classic Long-and-Narrow, 23 feet across and classicly arrayed with the bedrooms across the back wall and plumbing on opposite sides of the long walls toward the rear (floor plan, here). The front 3 windows are huge, knee to those 14 foot ceilings, while the back 3 windows are not quite as wide. The funk in the layout is the mezzanine office space that wraps around the elevator, taking advantage of the high ceilings (14 feet in this listing, 15 and 17 feet in prior listings; sigh).

Any element that might turn off a 2013 buyer pool was there in 2007 (and in 2005): all that glass can feel cold; the kitchen is a too close to the bedrooms for anyone to sleep through a party easily; it is still on the second floor; and there’s no obvious place for an additional enclosed room, such as for a nursery or guest room.

stabbing at rationality (missing, mostly)

Even the first two sale data points in my opening sequence are difficult to rationalize within the overall Manhattan residential real estate market trends: $2.5mm in May 2005 to $2.633mm in November 2007 is too small a gain (5% if you can’t find the calculator on your phone). If pushed to “just give a theory”, I’d say that the avant garde design was more fresh, more unusual in 2005 than in 2007, when there were sleek and modern new condo developments in Soho and Tribeca. Still, that premium of (only) $133,000 for a closing 6 weeks before The Peak quarter opened bothers me.

Might this loft suffer for not being The Best in the avant garde category in 2013, given that others are newly built? I don’t know, and I don’t even think that the 40 Mercer-style lofts are as nice as this one. Something dragged this value down; damned it I could guess what.

The history in that oh-so-busy 2007 shows it was not easy to beat the 2005 sale at $2.5mm:

Mar 10, 2007 new to market $2.8mm
June 4   $2.65mm
Aug 21


Nov 20 sold $2.633mm

 The recent history shows not one, but two six-month periods at what look like reasonable prices (compared to 2007 at $2.633mm; the second asking price is ridiculously reasonable):

Dec 9, 2011 new to market $2.75mm
June 1, 2012   $2.6mm
Jan 15, 2013


Mar 27 sold $2.425mm


(That’s $1,213/ft if you round up from .5.)

The second floor “view” across Greene Street can’t compare to the open views and endless light in the “2,400 sq ft” loft that sold at $1,220/ft that I hit in my April 12,
a tricky $1,220/ft for a most lovely gut job of 451 Broome Street loft that took 50 weeks + 3 contracts to sell, but that one was in non-prime Soho and requires a complete gut job. This “2,600 sq ft” loft a block down Broadway from 451 Broome (again, non-prime Soho) just sold at $1,154/ft, but while that one had 4 exposures and “streaming” sunlight it also needed updating if not renovating.

paging David Byrne
I don’t understand why this loft did not sell close to ask in early 2012, or why it did not sell above ask in later 2012. For me, it is a matter of professionally second-guessing the clear market response. For the sellers, that is money out of their pockets. O. U. C. H.

The 2nd floor at 100 Greene Street is my reigning poster child for sales sequences that make me say “wha?”. Any ideas, gentle readers?

[UPDATE 5.28.13: thanks to the Anonymous reader who caught the change in maintenance (see Comments) but I am not sure that does it. The change was dramatic, from $2,025/mo to $3,200/mo, but not perhaps sufficient to explain the drop in value, 2007 to 2013. If that is the reason, it is one of the few rational market reactions to maintenance changes I can recall]


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 12, 2013 - a tricky $1,220/ft for a most lovely gut job of 451 Broome Street loft that took 50 weeks + 3 contracts to sell

a pretty short year

This is the kind of history that is so infuriatingly rich that it is a shame not to know the whole story. The “2,400 sq ft” Manhattan loft #7E at 451 Broadway came to market a year ago at $2.7mm and was on contract within two weeks, then back on the market before Memorial Day and in contract within … (wait for it) ... two weeks, then back on the market in early Fall, when it took all of 12 weeks to find yet another contract, closing (finally!) at $2,927,400. Of course, such a funny closing price (look Ma, only two zeroes!) implies a bidding war, though you already know that because the ask was only $2.7mm. Although it sold on March 11 nearly 50 weeks after first coming to market, the actual marketing time was less than 4 months. Did I mention the three contracts? (Of course I did.)


save the wood!

The listing description implies that there is a lot of work to be done by the buyer (“[a]n architectural muse for creative inspiration, this prewar loft delights and delivers intrinsic old world charm”; with the windows and baths described as “original”), with the photos emphasizing the wonderful details (“original wood casement windows, moldings, plaster corbels, glass transoms, brass letter slot wood doors”) that “will take you back in time”. The photos give you that flavor, and a sense of what 3 exposures with 21 (21!) windows can mean high-for-Soho on a wide corner (Broadway and Broome, both wide): amazing light and nearly unlimited eastern views; the south view is not pictured, but goes to Gehry. (That grey building cater corner to 451 Broome Street in that second photo is, by the way, my office [2nd and 3rd floors], from the corner windows of which one can see the Holland Tunnel traffic back up as early as 4 PM and hear the car horns from a few hours of near gridlock.)


The kitchen is described merely as “windowed”, though it may have some appliances worth recycling. The bathrooms are, of course, “original”, though in the case of this 1895 former commercial building that must mean more like “very” old than like almost 120 years ago. (See pic #7, which might show a floor from the 1930s.) The fact that there are multiple “brass letter slot wood doors” suggests these doors came from offices that used to open onto a public corridor, perhaps even in this building. In fact, looking at that 4th photo inclines me to believe that the hallway was a public corridor back in the day, with each room to the right being a separate office (hence, the mail slots). That righthand wall, with all the breaks for doors and high windows, looks much more like it was built for a string of pre-air conditioning offices (open the transoms, the high windows, and the exterior north and south windows and you’d get a great cross breeze), rather than being created for a residential use.


Look at all that wood! Wood window frames, moldings, doors, doorframes and transoms (chair rails and picture rails in the living room?). Of course the floors are wood, except in the one bathroom pictured. The new owner will be sorely tempted to retain as much of that wood as possible, though the current configuration (floor plan, here) is very different from a classic residential loft.


I will confess to being a little intimidated by this space. In a ‘normal’ loft that had a configuration I didn’t care for, I’d have no qualms about ‘erasing the lines’ on the floor plan and drawing new ones wherever. Doing that in this case would mean the displacement (at least) of that lovely and other-wordly corridor wall and the likely destruction of the ceiling detail. Ouch.


There may not be much flexibility about where to put the kitchen and bathrooms in a building like this, and you enter the loft not only a long way from the east windows (85 feet?) but there’s no sense of space from the foyer and no view of a window until you’ve gone 20 feet in and approach that second south window at an angle. Unless you can move the front door and/or the bathrooms, that is going to remain a challenge.


Soho light is expensive

Since I assume that this space will get a significant renovation (at least, a major upgrade), $1,220/ft is a healthy starting point from which to add a renovation budget. The structural feature that can justify that initial investment is the light from those 3 exposures with 21 (21!) windows. Contrast this loft at $1,220/ft with these somewhat similar in scale Soho and Tribeca lofts, also publicly sold in 2013 and recorded on the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008:


  “sq ft” sale date price $/ft
434 Greenwich St #4B 1,888 Jan 9 $2,640,000 $1,398
505 Greenwich St #505 2,761 Jan 28 $3,900,000 $1,413
195 Hudson St #3B 2,293 Feb 1 $2,725,000 $1,188
129 Lafayette St #8A 2,363 Feb 12 $3,100,000 $1,312
38 Warren St #7C 1,850 Feb 14 $2,475,000 $1,338
161 Duane St #5A 2,225 Feb 15
$3,300,000 $1,483
115 Mercer St #2B 1,998 Feb 28 $3,375,000 $1,689
458 Broadway #6 2,600 Feb 28 $3,000,000 $1,154
25 Murray St #6E 1,850 Mar 1 $2,145,000 $1,159
25 Murray St #3E 1,842 Mar 8
$2,090,000 $1,135
73 Worth St #4C 2,176 Mar 15 $2,520,000 $1,158


Hint: put a $200/ft renovation into #7E at 451 Broome Street and you have exceeded the clearing prices of all but 2 of these 11 Soho and Tribeca lofts. Even without the renovation, $1,220/ft for #7E exceeds the clearing price of 5 of the 11, 3 of which are in 21st century conversions.


financial trickery

There is a more than slight dollar sleight of hand associated with #7E that skews comp analysis. Shareholders in this coop save something like $1/ft per month, and more:


Currently there is no maintenance fee. Coop uses surplus income from commercial rent for building improvements and remainder is distributed to shareholders annually.


“Surplus income!” Not knowing what the scale of the surplus is, assume that ‘normal’ maintenance would be $2,400/mo for #7W. That represents the interest payment on about $450,000 in principal on a 5% 30-year mortgage. Some people would look at the #7E purchase at $2,927,400 as financially equivalent to nearly $3.4mm, or $1,417/ft before considering renovation. Or, perhaps, as though a $200/ft renovation were ‘free’.


stable values

The last non-penthouse sale in the building clearly needed a complete gut job. The “2,200 sq ft” loft #6W was billed as “[o]ne of the last true working artists loft[s]” when it sold post-Peak on September 10, 2008 for $2.6mm, or $1,181/ft. That one lacks a southern exposure and I can’t tell if the western light on this floor is as nice as the east light one floor above, but the dollar-per-foot value is pleasantly similar to #7E 4+ years later.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 8, 2013 - not new news, but Sonic Youth sell close-to-raw loft at 292 Lafayette at $1,033/ft


figures, right?

You’d never see this kind of color in a listing description (darn), but the loft that was described in New York Magazine in the 1990s as “a perfect combination of total trash and sweet shine” has been sold. It ain’t new news, as the sale occurred in October, but it is new in the sense that the deed was recorded only on March 27. And (unless it was reported in the New York Observer, or Real Estalker, or Curbed and I missed it), the sale of the “1,500 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4W at 292 Lafayette Street (sometimes known as 129 Crosby Street) is news because the sellers are rock stars from the 1990s, who apparently kept the loft as home base for their Manhattan music lives even after moving to Northamptom, Massachusetts when their daughter was born, and even after splitting up a year before they sold.


Whether or not you are fans of their band, fans of Manhattan lofts should be interesting for the window the “close to raw” loft provides on gut job values in non-prime Soho: in this case, over $1,000/ft. Building history shows that this is an appropriate discount for condition.


As much as I think I would like to see a phrase like “a perfect combination of total trash and sweet shine” used to sell a Manhattan loft, the actual broker babble is, in its own way, a model of brevity. In its entirety:


On a Soho tree-lined block, this close-to-raw, 1500 SF, corner loft with 8 over-sized windows, beautiful solid old wood columns, brick walls, wood floors is a rare find.. Away from the crowds but close to best restaurants, local bookstore, public library, this wide open space offers numerous possibilities. Terrifically run coop.


The pictures don’t look “close-to-raw” to me, but I will take the agents at their word. To quibble, I’d call it more primitive than raw, especially as the floors might be in good shape, those brick walls have been painted long ago, and there is a kitchen that seems more 1980s than 1960s. But perhaps the photographer did an unusually good job in masking and smoothing more raw elements.


It certainly is not over-dressed, or even well-dressed. Moore and Gordon owned it for a long time (close to 20 years, at least), without doing much to it. The square-ish floor plan is utilitarian, with a small windowed bedroom and two interior rooms that could be for sleeping or mixing or storing equipment. There’s still a single bathroom, so however big the group that used it, they must have gotten along to a certain degree.


I am not enough of a Sonic Youth fan to know if the loft was a significant part of band lore. Certainly, the northeast corner of Soho was accessible to many music venues of the 1990s (4 short blocks over, 1 block up, to CBGBs!). If the walls could talk ….


others, nicer, and pricier

It does not appear as though Moore and Gordon were trying to impress anyone with the loft. They didn’t love the loft aesthetic enough to expose the brick or the wood beams. Compare the painted beams in loft #4W to the exposed beams in the main listing photo for #5W, which sold for $1.7mm in June 2010 (and for $1.5mm in October 2006), or the beams and columns (and pressed-tin ceilings!) in loft #2E, which sold for an impressive $2.255mm in a near-Peak deal in early 2008. (Apparently, the east view is more valuable, even allowing for #2E being in much better condition than any of the west lofts.)


Ballparking off the #5W sale in 2010 at $1.7mm, it appears #4W went right in line at $1.55mm 28 months later.


for more on Thurston Moore …

Consult The Wiki.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Mar. 28, 2013 - 115 Mercer Street loft could not sell in 2010, sells 16% higher

what a difference 3 years make

It is no longer unusual to see this kind of history, but I remain fond of individual lofts that show in hard data how at least their hyper-local market has changed since 2010. In the case of the “1,998 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2B at 115 Mercer Street, the hard data includes the recent sale (February 28 at $3.35mm) and a not so recent non-sale (9 months on the market in 2010 at $3.25mm and $2.895mm). Same loft, in same condition, same agents even, in different markets. It failed to sell, then it sold. It sold 16% above where it had failed to sell in 2010.

Yes, Virginia, this is not your older sister’s market any longer.

a nice and wide Long-and-Narrow

This was a 2007 new development, with two penthouse units with outdoor space, and 3 pairs of side-by-side floor-through units on the lower floors. At 24 feet wide at each end, there is just a bit more width to the #2B floor plan than to many similarly shaped classic lofts, with the hapy result that no one gets a back bedroom that is only 8 feet wide, and a front room that (with the 11 ½ foot ceilings on the 2nd floor) has great volume. The finishes sound like the industry standard for 2007:

wide-plank white oak floors, and a kitchen equipped with French Walnut paneling, Crema Royale countertops, a Wolf oven, range, and microwave, Sub Zero refrigerator, GE wine cooler, and Kitchenaid compactor. ... en suite bath ...features a frameless, glass-walled shower, Zuma soaking tub, Calacatta Marble vanity with double Kohler basins, and heated limestone floors & towel rails. ...a Miele Novatronic washer and dryer.... Climate controlled with individual thermostats, all rooms are wired for phone, cable, and high speed internet

With plumbing on both sides in the middle, the second (public) bath and washer-dryer sit behind the stairwell, which is opposite the run of master closet, master bath,  a “work room” that must be a very temprting space to stick a kid or a guest, and the kitchen., which is, of course, open . That “work room” is an especially interesting use of space, and gives more flexibility than is typical in a new development Long-and-Narrow.

Obviously, The Market loved the loft (given that it had been bought in the new development sale at $2.7mm), though it took some time to express its love:

July 7, 2012  new to market $3.695mm
Sept 17   $3.495mm
Jan 11, 2013 contract  
Feb 28 sold $3.35mm

(Note the seller confidence that market conditions were
very different than in 2010.)

not funny ha-ha

The Market for this building was odd (“funny peculiar”, you might say).  You have already seen the lack of response to #2B in 2010, though offered for 6 months at $2.895mm. Particularly faithful readers of manhattan Loft Guy may remember the sad tale of loft #4A (the first resale in the building, in 2010), which I recounted in  my  June  18, 2012,  hard to comp loft at 115 Mercer Street closes up 10% over 2007 sponsor sale, about the essentially identical #3A selling last year at a 14% premium to #4A in 2010. That has the look a trend, from 2010 to 2013, adding the #3A/#4A pair to the #2B sale/non-sale pair.

The recent #2B resale is the fourth resale in this small building. You know of the first two; the third is a headscratcher (“funny peculiar”, you might say).

Loft #4B is essentialy identical to lopft #2B (same finishes, same floor plan), though it is fair to say that The Market much preferred #2B to #4B. Compare the #2B chronology above to this for #4B:

Sept 6, 2012 new to market $3.695mm
Sept 23   $3.495mm
Dec 4 contract  
Jan 28, 2013 sold $3.225mm


The two lofts went head to head at the same asking price from the September 23 price drop for #4B until #4B’s contract 72 days later. The #4B sellers were willing to take $3.225mm; the  #2B sellers waited another 5 weeks to get $125,000 more. On the one hand, that’s only a 4% premium; on the other hand, that is $125,000.

This may be nothing more than one set of sellers being more motivated to sell and the other more “stubborn”. Or it might reflect a market preference for higher ceilings rather than a higher floor. Or it may be that buyers did not want to take down a world map that may be as large as 8 x 15 feet (see  the 6th listing picture for #4B).

Fans of StreetEasy building pages will note one set of owners at 115 Mercer Street who believe  The Market has dramatically improved, quite recently. (Note the same  map!)  If they are anywhere  near right, I can’t imagine how to explain it....


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Mar. 21, 2013 - OYAToMLG talking about gabby PR seeking agents and beautiful loft off Prince & Broadway


figuring why this thing finally sold ain‘t easy

Another pure (actual day) One Year Ago on Manhattan Loft Guy post from N’Awlins.... A year ago today I was snarking about the Public Relations efforts of Some Real Estate Agents who are very good at PR and were successful at selling a lovely classic loft in prime Soho, but who deserve to be nipped for telling a strange story to try to explain why 3 teams of earlier agents had been unsuccessful in selling the loft. If this sounds like a bit too much inside baseball among Manhattan real estate agents, but you can be confident that I walked through the marketing campaigns of 2009, of 2010, and of 2011 into 2012, so there is some substance to the post.

The post is my March 21, 2012, real estate sales made easy: 88 Prince Street loft sells because (some say) it is correctly located, of course. I confess to having enjoyed The Real Deal article as a kind of guilty pleasure; yes, it got me so irritated because TRD gave voice to a ridiculous bit of agent-bashing, but the anecdotes and editorial choices in the article were just so weird (an ancient Fugees name check, Usher didn’t rent it but he really liked it??). I can’t say I understand the motivation of the agents or TRD, but there must be some serious back-scratching going on there to merit that kind of silly story-telling, and it is fascinating to see a ‘professional’ PR apparatus at work.

On the substance, the short story is that the “3,000 sq ft” Manhattan loft #7C at 88 Prince Street was offered at $3.8mm in early 2009, and at higher prices in each year thereafter, before (finally!) selling at $3.5mm 13 months ago. I described the building (the Little Singer Building) as “one of the most beautiful loft buildings in Manhattan, not just in Soho.”

It is, of course, hard to say why this loft did not sell earlier, in part because an outsider never knows if the seller was as willing to negotiate at the beginning as at the end. You’d think the thing was in range of a reasonable offer throughout much of the listing period. One thing I am highly confident about: a sale was not prevented because listing agents failed to let potential buyers know where this building is.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Feb. 13, 2013 - all Soho is not alike: 12 Wooster Street loft sells for $869/ft after renovation

go figure (please show your worksheet)
Even a sub-market like Soho has outliers. Regular readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know why Soho and Tribeca are high-end price outliers in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market (e.g., February 2, Tribeca and Soho top the rankings in median price by neighborhood, of course), but even a high-end dominant niche has lofts that don’t make it to Lake Wobegon. I present for your consideration the “2,400 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 5th floor at 12 Wooster Street, at the top of the building but at the bottom of Soho in at least two ways.

The loft is a mix of old (“Classic cast iron Soho building built in 1880's. ... transformed into dramatic, column-less, open living space with soaring ceiling heights”) and new (“newly renovated ... plus a chefs kitchen to wake your inner Batali”). The loft has 4 windows in front, 5 in back (it’s a trapezoid, not quite your typical Long-and-Narrow), and 1 on the long south wall, plus 5 skylights (“glorious light regardless of the weather”), a fireplace, and those “soaring” ceilings. With all that going for it, the loft had a bit of trouble finding its place in the market, closing at $2.085mm. $869/ft is a value far more likely for a renovated space in a fringe Manhattan loft area (parts of the Financial District or the West 40s and 50s come to mind) than for a prime neighborhood. Of course, 12 Wooster Street is too close to the geographic bottom of Soho to command prime Soho prices. But still ….

There is a funny little pricing history, satisfying one of my maxims about the market correcting too-low prices:

May 17, 2012 new to market $2.295mm
Oct 13   $1.995mm
Nov 19 contract  
Dec 6 sold $2.085mm

(See, most recently, my January 28, if robust, The Market will fix a too-low price (at least, it did, at 124 West 24 Street).)

You’d think that a loft priced at $2.295mm by a seller willing to take up to a 10% discount would have sold in a few months, if the value was really $2.085mm. Well, the value really was $2.085mm (as proven by November 19) but it took a price drop below that to wake The Market up. Five months at $2.295mm did not work, but 5 weeks at $1.995mm did the trick. Applying the razor that Occam left behind when he moved out, I suspect it has to do with a thin market for this more-gritty-than-charming bottom stretch of Soho, on top of a building that lacks one important structural element of prime loft properties.

hint: lower floor = higher value in 2010
Small buildings make for interesting comp analyses. The last sale in this 4-unit 5-story coop was the 3rd floor in early 2010, well into the thaw in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market ($2.15m on March 11, 2010). Like the 5th floor quite recently, the 3rd floor was billed as a mix of classic and new elements (indeed, a “sublime combination of modern elegance, natural woods, clean lines and old world charm. ... the layout is flexible”) with, to my eye, at least, a higher level of interior finishes if fewer outstanding structural bonuses (no skylights, obviously, no south exposure, no fireplace, and probably lower ceilings).

(Curiousity question: what do you think about the narrow plank ceiling on the 3rd floor? There is enough other updating to prove that this was an aesthetic choice to leave it in ‘authentic’ condition, which is a choice more common for open beam or tin ceilings in Manhattan lofts. Interesting choice … I think I like it, a lot. Anyone else?)

If the 3rd floor sold for slightly more than the 5th floor almost 3 years earlier, in pretty comparable condition but less light, there is either a reason or the narrow spread in favor of the lower floor (3%) is simple market noise. I think there’s a simple reason, rather than market noise to account for this backwards premium from a weaker overall market (early 2010) to a stronger overall Market (late 2012): it’s a longer journey up the stairs to the 5th floor than it is to the 3rd floor. You could read the broker babble for lofts in this building over and over without realizing there is no elevator.

As with the loft I hit in prime Tribeca earlier this week (February 11, 1 Worth Street loft sells after renovation / how building values change), it is more than a little irritating when agents don’t reveal a pertinent detail like that up front, but such is life in The Big City. Sigh.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Jan. 31, 2013 - prime Soho loft needs imagination, but only $1,091/ft to buy

3 exposures help
A numbers guy would just focus on the price at which the “2,200 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 3rd floor at 345 West Broadway sold at year end, but an aesthete like this Manhattan Loft Guy is intrigued by those ceilings. The loft is billed as a project, using the word “imagination” rather than “primitive” or “gut”, which are two words that come to mind in looking at the photos (use large format, of course!). Hard to tell how long ago this space was last “updated”, given the absence of any photos of the kitchen or baths (artful marketing, that), but my guess is 30+ years. The flooring looks in good enough shape it may be younger (bamboo?), but the flat walls without character and the dropped ceiling strike me as Early Residential Soho.

It is possible that those ceilings are much older, and that in real life they may look more ‘authentic’ even if not tin. I can’t remember seeing Manhattan loft ceilings quite like that before, but they appear (at least, in the photos) as … er … cheap. The sprinklers are pretty close to the ceilings, suggesting that there may not be much space above, and the fact that the electrical is affixed to the ceiling suggests it was easier (cheaper) to install ‘upgraded’ service at some point (when?) that way than to go into any dead space above. This is all pretty standard for Early Residential Soho, but I do wonder what is above and I am pretty certain that the buyer will invest some time and money to find out.

Read between these lines (and around the edges of listing photos) for the scope for the project:

Prime Soho sunny loft ... awaits your imagination. The floor plate gives you ultimate flexibility. … 2 separate units, one with w/d.. Keep it divided for your own personal needs, or open it up and create a wonderful 2 or more bedroom/2 bath living environment designed to reflct [sic] your own style and taste

In other words, plan on taking down all the walls, replace the existing bathrooms, and build a new kitchen. Unless you don’t have the budget to do a half million dollar renovation, in which case you should not have bought a loft for $2.4mm.

no bones about it
In a lot of primitive lofts of this vintage there are classic loft elements to be preserved or enhanced in a renovation, sometimes babbled as “great bones”. Not in this one, so far as the photos and broker babble tell the story. The outstanding structural elements present are the “high” ceilings and 3 exposures in a classic Long-and-Narrow footprint, 22+ feet wide with windows front and back, plus 6 windows on the long south side, with plumbing stacks seemingly widely separated along that south wall. But there are no columns needed to hold up the building, or to add authentic Manhattan loft character. And likely nothing of particular interest on or above the current ceilings.

In other words, there is nothing to preserve or restore, so let the demolition begin!

The Market was pretty enthusiastic about the prospect, as it took only 6 weeks to find a contract at a nominal discount, closing on December 28 at $2.4mm (ask had been $2.495mm). Perhaps too enthusiastic, in a rational market sense.

making the new neighbors happy, and the old neighbors mad
Look again at timing and prices in the last paragraph. The history of the loft downstairs bears an eerie resemblance:

Feb 24, 2012 new to market $2.495mm
Mar 15 contract  
May 9 sold $2.4mm

Same ask, same clearing price, but only 3 weeks to contract for the 2nd floor loft instead of the 6 weeks that the (laggard!) 3rd floor took later in the year. In a rational market you’d expect this parallel treatment for same building, same size lofts in the same condition. But there’s nothing rational about this pair of data points because the 2nd floor was billed as a “classic, mint condition, full-floor Soho loft with understated architectural character” (my italics, of course).

Compare the imaginary babble for the 3rd floor up top with this enthusiastic babbling about the 2nd floor:

four banks of double-hung windows with 10-foot ceilings and recessed lighting playing down a wall of exposed brick. ... kitchen's centerpiece is a 6-burner commercial gas stove for the culinary enthusiast, plus stone counter surfaces, glass cabinetry, and a walk-in pantry. The master suite is truly oversized (20' x 14') with over 26 linear feet of closets and quiet exposures. The classical dcor [sic] of the master bathroom includes double vanity, honeycomb white tile, glass shower, and claw-foot tub. The second bedroom also features 2 closets plus a jack and jill entrance to the full guest bathroom. Modern touches include central air conditioning and a laundry room with full-sized washer and vented dryer. Throughout the intimate loft building, you'll find authentic details from its turn of the century provenance, like knotty pine floors and French Second Empire wrought ironwork.

The footprints are exactly the same (but the 2nd floor plan is presented upside down, compared to the 3rd), with the 2nd floor having 3 fewer south windows, critically missing those two windows in the living room corner that look down West Broadway from the 3rd floor. (Note that the 2nd floor shows there are plumbing stacks on both long walls; an ideal canvass!)

The 2nd floor as built-out tells us some things about the 3rd floor project. First, there’s not likely to be much of interest above those weird ceilings on the 3rd floor, given that the 2nd floor chose to drop the ceilings to fit recessed lighting and central air conditioning. Second, the 3rd floor flooring that I guessed as bamboo is either on top of or (gasp) replaced the “knotty pine floors” that the 2nd floor babble thought was “throughout the … building” (note that it includes many wide pieces on #2, and is laid sideways; the 3rd floor flooring is uniform in width and oriented north-to-south). Third, if the 3rd floor buyer is a fan of exposed brick, there’s probably a lot of brick behind the 3rd floor sheetrocked walls.

before there was Before, there was After
What an interesting pair of lofts! Pricing aside (for the moment; only for the moment), you have two lofts that are not only same-building but share a ceiling/floor, that sold in the same year, with one as post-renovation and the other as pre-demolition.

The 2nd floor shows what little classic loft character there is in this building, exposing some bricks and preserving the knotty pine flooring, and also shows the sophisticated look one can build out in a Long-and-Narrow footprint unencumbered by loadbearing elements.

The 3rd floor shows what the 2nd floor looked like (more or less) before it was turned into that serene space. The new owners on the 3rd floor could simply engage the 2nd floor architect and contractor team and … voila! More likely, of course, the new 3rd floor owners will do their own thing, with their own people, crafting a loft that resembles the 2nd floor only in shape. That’s what makes Manhattan lofts so interesting, of course.

But what makes comping Manhattan lofts so hard?

firm data points in an irrational world
I don’t have to beat this horse much at this point, right? The Market thought that a “2,200 sq ft” loft just above Grand Street on West Broadway in mint condition was worth $2.4mm 10 months ago, when the 2nd floor went to contract. The Market also thought that a “2,200 sq ft” loft just above Grand Street on West Broadway needing a gut renovation was worth $2.4mm 2 months ago, when the 3rd floor went to contract.

Both of these things are facts. Neither fact makes sense in relationship to the other.

On a micro and emotional level, I have to think that the 3rd floor seller and 2nd floor buyer are doing a happy dance, while the 3rd floor buyer and 2nd floor seller are renewing antidepressant medications. (The 2nd floor pair might well be surprised; the 3rd floor pair did this on pupose.) On a macro and emotional level, Manhattan Loft Guy is merely resigned to this asynchronicity, yet also guiltily thrilled that there are such inexplicable Market Facts in close calendar and geographic proximity.

Such is life in the big city. Take your fun where you can, which is easier to do as a spectator than a participant.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Jan. 24, 2013 - second floor loft empire at 66 Crosby Street increases at $946/ft

a curiously low price for a curiously configured space
Remember that loft in the charming West Village that sold near $1,200/ft while needing a complete build-out? Of course you do: January 22, West Village loft that needs a total build-out sells at 59 Barrow Street for $1,190/ft. That one beat the total gut job in charming Soho that I hit in my January 18, working artist loft at 121 Mercer Street sells just under $1,000/ft, and it also walloped another loft in chic Soho that is soon to be made over, the “1,690sq ft” Manhattan loft #2F at 66 Crosby Street, which sold on December 28 for $1.6mm. That one was not marketed as a renovation project, but it sold as though it was, didn’t it?

mezzanine living can be intimate
The classic elements to the loft include 12 foot (!) windows, original columns, exposed brick walls and 16 foot ceilings. The limitations of the loft include there only being 4 of the huge windows (concentrated in one corner) and a mezzanine over perhaps half the loft, allowing for sleep areas and a second bathroom upstairs, but making the dining area below “intimate”. (“Intimate” must be in the babble dictionary to describe low-ceilinged areas in high-ceilinged lofts; space with less than 8 foot clearance in a loft is not very loft-y.)

Adding an upstairs and downstairs to a high-ceilinged loft certainly adds utility, but at great aesthetic cost. Notice particularly, how the stairs and mezzanine in the main listing photo block the 3rd and 4th windows. Notice also the cost in sound transfer: even the “bedroom” on the mezzanine (presumably so-called because it has access to windows) is open to below for sound, as the floor does not reach the ‘wall’ of windows. If you want a quiet room here, you’d need to close the door in the downstairs TV room / office. Or close a bathroom door.

So the loft is intimate not just because the dining area (and kitchen) are so enclosed by that low ceiling; life is intimate in this loft in that anyone in one bed can easily hear anyone in the other bed. (Unless those sliding screens up top are more sound-proof than they look.)

The space has some modern touches, though how deluxe the finishes are is hard to say. The kitchen is “chef’s”, without specifying any materials or brands; the baths are “renovated”, again without specifying any materials or brands. The HVAC system is “new”! Some of this stuff, at least, is not likely to last very long.

the buyers have renovated before
The deed record reveals that the buyers are very local: they live in loft #2CD in the same coop. I have to assume that they are prepared to renovate #2F by integrating it into #2CD, just as I have to assume that they renovated #2CD after buying it in “very tall project” condition nearly two years ago, as I explained when I hit that sale in my April 15, 2011, 66 Crosby Street loft sells for $868/ft as a very tall project. That post has a full description of that loft (in largely primitive condition), and it is nice to see that I was also impressed then with 12 foot (!) windows. That was a much larger space, also mezzanined, with a “2,300 sq ft” footprint.

I compared the 2011 #2CD purchase ($868/ft) to that of #4CD way back in 2006 ($980/ft), which sold with slightly lower ceiling and no mezzanine for a 13% premium on a price per foot basis. Given the time difference, it was clear that The Market did not fully value the #2CD mezzanine on a par with #4CD as a tall simplex loft. With #2F now selling at $1.6mm for what looks like “1,690 sq ft” of footprint (apparently measured in some way but without the mezzanine), or $946/ft ,a few things are apparent. If you count the mezzanine as covering only one-third of the total footprint, the price per foot drops to the low $700s. If you measure that adjusted price per foot against the #2CD $890/ft (with mezzanine), then #2F is a bargain, at least for these specific buyers. If you compare #2F at $946/ft (as a simplex) last month to #4CD in 2006 at $980/ft (sold as a simplex), #2F looks like even more of a bargain.

Really long-time readers of Manhattan Loft Guy may remember, if they have encyclopedic memories, that I hit loft #4F here when it was a live listing way back in my September 6, 2007, new at 66 Crosby / $1,000/ft central Soho bldg. The hook for that post was the realization that this coop did not enjoy typical Soho loft premiums, even in that oh-so-frothy market, two quarters shy of The Peak in the overall residential real estate market in Manhattan. If you clicked on the listing link already (or if you remeber my September 24, 2007, 66 Crosby in contract under 3 weeks), you know that #4F sold quickly in the froth (contract in 3 weeks) at a nominal discount to ask ($1.675mm, off $20,000 from ask).

You are already ahead of me here, right? You’ve already noticed that #4F in December 2007 sold for more than #2F in 2012. Which leads me to wonder ...

did they wait until market softened up the neighbor?
The folks who just bought #2F already own #2CD. Appreciating the advice of Reader Laura from 5+ years ago that #2F and #2CD are in the same coop but two different buildings, I have to believe that the non-window walls of the two lofts back up against each other, and are about to be pierced as the two lofts are combined.

Now note not only the #4F price in 2007 compared to the #2F price at the end of 2012, but note the #2F listing history:

June 15, 2012 new to market $1.85mm
Oct 26   $1.75mm
Dec 16 contract  
Dec 28 sold $1.6mm

Either this was a purchase of opportunity, or I don’t want to play poker with the #2CD buyers, now also #2F owners. They waited to let the entire marketplace take a shot at buying #2F for nearly 6 months. Can’t you just imagine the #2CD owners Thanksgiving table conversation:

  • Did you notice our neighbor (around the corner, but through that wall) is having trouble selling?
  • Maybe we can help them out.
  • How much was your bonus again, dear?
  • (scribbling)
  • Let’s see if we can steal it, hon!
  • I know ... we can tell them that we are already shareholders and can close right away; that's gotta be worth ... oh ... $175,000 or so

Remember, whether measured on a footprint basis or a with-mezzanine basis, the #2CD owners bought #2F for less than #4F on a dollar per foot basis, or than what they paid for #2CD. Nicely played, folks. Nicely played.

Not to mention, at less than the two loft sales in my opening paragraph. A curiously low price, indeed, but consistent with the low-value status of the coop.

gotta go one more digression here
You remember that #4CD sale at $980/ft in 2006 (7th para). If you are such a fan of MLG as to still be reading, you probably remember I hit that one when it re-sold in pretty darn WOW condition, at a
pretty darn WOW price. If you love beautiful lofts, you must click through to the photos in my August 30, 2012, WOW, indeed: "wow factor" loft at 66 Crosby Street has late bidding war to close up 60% over 2006. I still like what I said there: “my first reaction was to use a bad word in a good way: “holy [crap]”, said more as benediction than scatology

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Jan. 18, 2013 - working artist loft at 121 Mercer Street sells just under $1,000/ft

it doesn’t get any more arty than this
There are artist’s lofts and then there are artist’s lofts. The “2,000 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 2nd floor at 121 Mercer Street deep in the heart of Soho is recognizably an artist’s loft on the floor plan and in the pictures. Start with the 16 foot ceilings, the (not quite) floor-to-ceiling windows, the extremely primitive “kitchen” in that main photo, then note the floor plan with the few walls that separate the studio from the living space, the ancient heater hanging from the ceiling in front of the middle front window, then appreciate some of the details (the even-more-ancient gas meter high up on the front left wall, the fan with one blade missing, the way the wall alongside the steps leading to the loft is supported against the wall).

This has the look of a loft colonized by an artist in The Beginning Of Soho and outfitted with that front bath and “kitchen” and the sleeping loft then, and untouched except for the addition of a larger bathroom in the back, probably long after. Still in all, the floors and tin ceilings (preserved only in the front?) look to be in remarkably adequate condition, given the usage and passage of time.

sometimes a gut is just a gut
It doesn’t matter much that the space is largely untouched for 40+ years, or even that the mechanicals and utilities are probably closer to 75 years old. The loft will be rebuilt 100%, just as it would have been if the baseline condition were 1980s state of the art. In either case, even the electrical service is likely in need of a modern upgrade, and any buyer would anticipate rebuilding the plumbing systems back to the risers, at a minimum.

Personally, I suspect that this loft is more valuable in this (nearly prehistoric) condition than it would have been with a bad 1980s re-do, as it is certifiably authentic. (Demolition costs are probably less, as is, than if there were more walls, plumbing, tiling, and other [now useless] “improvements”.) And perhaps there is a way to incorporate that old gas meter into a modern renovation.

While the deal was not immediate, the market reaction was very positive:

June 30 new to market $1.995mm
Oct 10 contract  
Dec 17 sold $1.995mm

the elevator helps
Granted, it hasn’t been fully updated in a while (Note To Self …), but you can parse the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 to try to find lofts in similar condition that sold near $1,000/ft. Hint: you will have trouble finding any.  The primitive loft-with-photographer studio that I hit in my January 3, walking up is hard to do: primitive loft at 37 Walker Street sells with 4 flights of stairs down 5% since 2006, sorta, is kinda sorta close. But: despite 15 foot ceilings, that duplex lacks the character of 121 Mercer Street (not to mention, the elevator), and it sold at (only) $800/ft. That’s a far distance from 121 Mercer Street, despite being only 5 blocks.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Jan. 16, 2013 - market corrects an over-correction on price of quintessential Hohner loft at 475 Broadway

funny how that works
The November 20 sale of the “1,925 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4E at 475 Broadway (Hohner Building) shows up on the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 as an above-ask sale because … well … because it sold above the asking price. The final chapter of the marketing history has that happy ending (asking $2.95mm since September 13, in contract by October 5, and closed on November 20 at $3.01mm). But the earlier chapters show that the loft had been offered since April 17 until September 13 at $3.2mm, obviously without finding a buyer. Although it sold at only a 6% discount to the long-time ask of $3.2mm, the loft did not sell until dropping the price to $2.95mm; and, of course, it then sold quickly.

if the 2 was magic, it did not last
This is the kind of history that drives efficient market fans crazy. A price that is (only) 6% too high for 5 months does not attract a deal, but a single price drop did the deal in 3 weeks.

I have to wonder if it was all about the first number. A buyer with a hard ceiling of “under $3mm” might not even look at a loft at $3.2mm (I would, but that’s a different story). Suddenly, on September 13 to be precise, the unattainable loft that had been $3.2mm became available at $2.95mm. Somebody went after that almost immediately as a listing under $3mm, and probably more than one set of buyers. In the event, somebody felt compelled to offer more than the asking price to stop someone else from buying.

If I am right about the potential for a price like $2.xxmm to open the loft up to a new pool of buyers, the irony is that it closed with a price that starts with a 3.

history as a (misleading) guide
It is not hard to guess how the opening price for #4E was derived in April, as the very similar loft upstairs at #6E went into contract on XXX and closed on May 7 at … $3.2mm. I used that sale as the fulcrum for a discussion about looking at past histories of lofts as a distraction in considering present values in my May 23, 2012, playing with 475 Broadway loft comp that is up +58% over 2004. Though I snarked about some of the decor (“Personally, I don’t view wainscotting and crown moldings as “improvements” in a classic Soho loft [it looks rather UES to me], but to each her own”), but that loft was done. (I also used that #6E sale for a rant about square foot measurements; you should probably only read my June 26, 2012, how to make sense of 475 Broadway loft sale, at $1,280/ft or $1,608/ft??, if that is also a subject that bothers you.)

I am going to guess that loft #6E was rather more done than #4E. from the difference in enthusiasm and detail in the broker babble as well as in the finish details in the photos. But there was a reasonable argument about value parity to be made, I guess, based on #4E’s “modern, tasteful renovation”. It’s just that The Market rejected that argument.

fraternal, not identical, twins
The contrast between these two lofts, separated only by loft #5E, is fascinating. While #4E is a proud member of Team Quintessential (even though it mixes classic loft elements with minimal elements; notably, the kitchen), #6E is the downtown captain of Team Prewar (Apartment), with the snarkable “wooden inlays, wainscoting, crown moldings” and other elements from the uniform you’d see 4 miles north on Park Avenue. The contrasting kitchen pictures tell that story, though not as well as the contrasting living room photos.

If one sign of a sophisticated loft is that it comfortably sleeps all the adult residents in the same bed, then loft #4E qualifies. The Long-and-Narrow footprints of the two lofts are identical, but the floor plans differ. The #4E floor plan shows lots of places to sit, with a master suite that includes a “sitting area” and a den into which guests and children can be stashed, but which lacks a window. The #6E floor plan is rather similar, but uses that “sitting area” as a second bedroom, and takes advantage of a window on the long north wall to change the #4E den into a #6E third bedroom.

One of the hallmarks of a classic Manhattan loft that has permeated the general Manhattan residential real estate market, for better or for worse, is the open kitchen. Classic (prewar) “apartments” tend to have closed kitchens; lofts and modern hybrids tend to have open kitchens. I can’t tell from the #6E pix and plan if there is a pass-through in that kitchen, but if there is that would be inconsistent with the overall feel of this loft-as-apartment; it certainly appears as though the kitchen is open only to the gallery leading back to the private space in #6E. In other words, the only way to see into the #6E kitchen is (probably) on purpose, walking in to it or passing by.

The #4E kitchen is classic loft kitchen, fully open to the loft, with an entirely different feel from the materials in the cabinets and counters (sleek and [yes] “minimal”, compared to the traditional materials in #6E). And note one other floor plan difference: #4E has a much longer kitchen and two full baths, compared to the utilization of all those plumbing stacks in #6E to squeeze a full third bath behind that smaller kitchen.

Net-net: #4E and #6E would appeal to different buyers, both because of the diametrically opposite finishes and because of the different utilities (sitting area + den vs. 2nd and 3rd bedrooms; huge open “entertaining” kitchen vs. contained traditional kitchen + 3rd bath). In this paired competition, Classic Prewar (uptown) Apartment clearly won over Quintessential Soho Loft.

I grieve.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Dec. 7, 2012 - 12 days to contract 8% over ask at 284 Lafayette Street loft with 8 skylights

I included a shout-out to the “3,000 sq ft” Manhattan loft #6D at 284 Lafayette Street, in my recent post about a total gut job opportunity at the other end of Soho (December 5, if gut renovation loft at 33 Greene Street went for $1,188/ft the roof rights were free), not because it zoomed through the market, but because it sold as a “meticulous” renovation at $1,433/ft, and so was a benchmark for post-renovation value of that south Soho gut job. Today, let’s look at loft #6D on its own merits. Let’s start with the brief marketing campaign:

Sept 4 new to market $3.995mm
Sept 21 contract  
Nov 15 sold $4.3mm

Zoom! indeed.

what “meticulous” looks like to an artist
Perhaps there are other working artist lofts that have sold with “meticulous” renovations, but I can’t remember one right now. Loft #6D is clearly a working loft, with the southern third of the floor plan segregated as a studio with its own bathroom (the work is shown in the 3rd pic), leaving this a “3,000 sq ft” Manhattan loft with but one bedroom.

I read the broker babble as being light on bragging for a “meticulous” renovation. I see “ten new superbly designed and constructed oversized windows”, and a chef’s kitchen with properly named appliances, but I kinda hope the “lavish bathroom” does not look as lavish in a photo as it might in real life. Note that much bragging is about the bones: the ceiling height, the skylights, the “handsome” cast iron columns. When was the last time you saw a $4mm listing without a kitchen photo?

The most meticulous element I see in the photos is the inside paint job on the bookcase in the 4th picture. The rest looks like a conventional nearly square classic loft with a single exposure that will need some renovation. 98 buyers out of 100 would remove the studio wall, at least. If the 2 other baths are not “lavish”, they probably need updating.

But I quibble. This loft found a contract within 17 days $305,000 above ask. The campaign found more than one buyer who appreciates it for what it is, whether it fits an outsider Manhattan Loft Guy’s notion of what is or is not meticulous.

Hard to argue with 17 days to a contract at $1,433/ft that needs (at least some) work.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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

Recent Posts

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