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Manhattan Loft Guy

Nov. 17, 2010 - gossiping about a Mudd Club beat down, as 77 White Street loft sells off 3% in 4 years

music + television + art, with commerce
Curbed on Monday had the outlines of the story about the sale of the Manhattan loft 77 White Street #3 on November 4. Their angle was the (quasi?) celebrity status of the seller (“Gossip Girl writer and co-executive producer”), but I am most interested in the spread between this clearing price and the 2006 entry price when this condo was developed, the spread between his first ask and final price, and this part of  the “Tribeca East” historical district that feels pretty remote from prime Tribeca.

But this tidbit of ancient history (back when the area was just becoming branded “Tribeca”, and before anyone considered White Street between Broadway and Lafayette to be in that brand) from New York Magazine in May 17, 2009 is also interesting:

Thirty years ago, in 1978, 77 White Street opened its doors as the Mudd Club, one of punk rock’s most celebrated incubators. Bands like Talking Heads, the B-52’s, and Blondie played here after Steve Mass, the proprietor, rented the space from artist Ross Bleckner and opened up shop. (At the time, opening a grungy punk club was a major counterculture statement—the prevailing culture being disco and Studio 54.) The third and fourth floors of the building were an art-exhibition space affiliated with the club; it was curated for a while by Keith Haring.

that was Then, but Now is pretty darn similar
The “2,255 sq ft” loft (former art-exhibition space) was one chef’s kitchen and one marble bathroom away from having been a true ‘white box’ offering when first offered for residential use in 2005, as there were no interior walls and 2 additional plumbing stacks. Unfortunately,  the PruDE listing by the developer from 2005-06 has no floor plan and a single photo, but our data-base shows that the sponsor sold with no interior walls and all the good stuff you see in the recent sales listing:

Filled with light from fourteen windows per floor. North & West exposure, exposed brick, exposed beams. All new systems throughout. Former home of the famed Mudd Club. Viking Pro series kitchen w/ birch cabinets, Cararra marble countertops, farmhouse sink; Jacuzzi bath pedestal sink, Cararra marble tile floors, two additional plumbing risers, Brazilian walnut 5 plank floors, Central A/C.

The November 2010 seller at $1,762,500 was the buyer in March 2006 at $1,817,576. Those of us with a calculator know that he sold at 3% less than he paid.

2 walls = new renovation?
With the original listing description from the developer as background, the description “newly renovated” in the recent broker babble, strikes me as more specific than the typical “recent renovation” babble and as … errr … an overstatement to describe a little carpentry. The only changes I see between the 2005 and 2010 marketing are the addition of two walls to frame the single bedroom, one of which enclosed the new laundry room behind the kitchen.

I don’t read a lot of ‘art’ in the design choice of making the largest possible bedroom at the dark (entry) end of the Long-and-Narrow layout, cutting out an angle for ‘public’ access to the single bathroom, while leaving room for the laundry room to butt against the kitchen. The kind of thing you’d sketch out on a napkin in a bar after going to see the loft for the first time in 2005 or 2006. Especially if you are a single guy or a couple planning on remaining a duo (for my money, nothing quite says bachelor pad like a “2,250 sq ft” loft with one bathroom and a single bedroom measuring 14.6 x 27 ft).

in between Then and Now was a different Then
Of course the seller did not plan on selling at a slight loss when he began to market his loft. I am highly confident that you can spot the very first problem with this listing history, but if you need a hint, look at the very first date and think of the brothers Lehman:

Sept 17, 2008 new $2.695mm
Nov 5   $2.395mm
Dec 10 off  
Jan 8, 2009 back  
May 11   $2.295mm
Aug 4   $2.195mm
Jan 14, 2011   $1.995mm
May 21   $1.895mm
July 14   $1.78mm
Aug 14 contract
Nov 4 sold $1,762,500

Real estate armchair quarterbacks love a sequence like this!

It is easy to see that the original price was a non-starter, probably even without Lehman’s bankruptcy filing two days before and the ensuing tightening of credit and general Manhattan real estate market … errr … panic. But starting at your 30-month old purchase price and adding one-third was more than a bit … errr … aggressive. Then there may have been no effective price in this remote corner of Tribeca during the nuclear winter.

The seller definitely faced The Conundrum: how to respond to the market’s lack of response to your listing? Do you stay on (and on, and on) the market while dropping (and dropping) the price, or do you take a time out? [See my November 15, flight or fight? the disappointed seller’s conundrum, 30 East 21 Street and 205 West 19 Street lofts edition, for more on this conundrum].

adding insult to injury?
It may be an inconsequential insult for a seller who gets pummeled by the market, as this Mudd Club seller was, but retrospect works really well -- in a very limited sense -- on judging how well sellers react to The Conundrum. In retrospect, if they (pick one):

(a) stay on the market and sell (relatively) soon, or

(b) take a time-out but come back to the market (relatively) briefly and sell,

they win!

But if they (pick one):

(a) stay on the market and don’t sell (relatively) soon, or

(b) take a time-out but come back to the market (relatively) briefly and don’t sell,

they lose!

The problem, of course, is that they can’t know in advance whether it is better to stay on the market or to take a time-out, so the insult is that whichever one they choose, armchair quarterbacks (like me?) will say they were wrong so long as the results don’t work out for them. Actually, for Manhattan Loft Guy, I prefer to think that later facts prove only that they guessed wrong. (i wonder if I have been consistent about that editorial preference in the last; note to self ….)

selling celebrity, or not
I can’t tell if the agents did this on purpose or not, but the fact that StreetEasy splits up the same-firm-continuous-marketing listing into two pieces allows me to note that until January 8, 2010 they were trumpeting the famous owner in the marketing (“the third floor is now the home of famed Gossip Girl co-executive producer and writer ...”), but afterwards, they did not mention this. Was he embarrassed? Did they consider it no longer a selling point? Idle minds want to know....

Once, again, I must stop, or risk digressing again.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010


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

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