The Big Apple: Village townhouse is auctioned. More!

GREENWICH VILLAGE TOWNHOUSE IS SOLD IN MINUTES

It took only three minutes, from 6:19 p.m. to 6:21 p.m., for the successful bidder to spend $6.634 million at a court-ordered auction yesterday of a Greenwich Village townhouse that had been listed at $9.95 million not long ago.

“I’m very happy with the price I paid,” said the affable bidder, 51, who asked that I avoid naming him.  However, since his identity was published elsewhere, he is Judson Cooper of Westchester County, according real estate sources.

Cooper was the chairman of Lev Pharmaceuticals, a bio-tech company acquired by a competitor, VioPharma for $443 million in 2008.  He had been the owner of 25.6 percent of the concern, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The former executive told me he had hoped to spend no more than “in the high fives” and wouldn’t have been surprised if the price had gone into the “high nines.”  If he was carried away in going to mid sixes, I sensed that doing so would have been out of character.

The winning bidder.

In a meeting room of the midtown law office of Troutman Sanders, which represented the seller, I counted 55 bidders, real estate brokers, family and friends.

Bidding started at the minimum of $350,000. There were at most half a dozen hopefuls escalating bids in half-million-dollar increments up to $5 million. Then it was mainly down to two, a broker communicating with her client by telephone, and “Joe.”

The broker, Barbara Godson, then went to $5.7 million, and the amounts crept up $100,000 at a time, finally reaching $6.2 million after her buyer dropped out when the hammer went down. A 7 percent buyer’s premium brings the total higher, to $798 per square foot for the 8,309-sf building.

“We love the area, my kids love the area,” Cooper told me. His two offspring are 12 and 20 years old, but they’ll be based in their Westchester County community for some time.

Misha Haghani

Cooper said he is already involved with renovating a second home that he plans to retain and that, therefore, he’ll leave the property at 3 E. 10th St. as it is “for the moment.” Quipped he:

My wife would kill me I spread myself too thin.

He added that he was not now in construction. “It’s a hobby,” Cooper remarked, “a horrible hobby.”

The successful bidder said he would use one of the vacant apartments when he stays in Manhattan and remarked that he hoped to help out an elderly tenant who has to trudge up the stairs to her fifth floor unit of 55 years if she would be happier on a lower floor.

Scott Burman

This cynic believes Cooper was being sincere in wanting to help, rather than to uproot, her.  (Having met the woman, who was born in Denmark, I can tell you that she has plenty of spunk and may even enjoy the climb.)

Paramount Realty USA conducted the auction, mounting an aggressive marketing campaign in record time. Both principals, Misha Haghani, and Scott Burman, were understandably happy about having exceeded the reserve price of $5.5 million. Commented Haghani:

The buyer and seller both said they were pleased, so we’re pleased.

They made the point, with which I generally agree, that an auction is an excellent way to determine property value in a volatile market such as Manhattan’s right now.

“This sort of forum provides clarity for everyone,” he declared.

STATE MAINTAINS THAT CO-OPS, TOO, MUST DISCLOSE BEDBUG PROBLEMS

The New York State Legislature passed a law last summer requiring city landlords to disclose any history of bedbug infestation before leasing an apartment. Real estate lawyers and brokers say that even though the law was intended to address rentals, bedbug disclosure has become an issue in the sales market as well.

The law requires landlords to give renters written notice before a lease is signed indicating whether the apartment being considered, or any other apartment in the building, has been infested within the last year. Anyone renting out an apartment in a co-op or condo would also have to comply with the law.

There has been confusion in the real estate industry over the scope of the law, but Nancy Peters, a spokeswoman for the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal, says that co-ops also must follow the law when there is a sale because new buyers enter into a proprietary lease.

UNSURPRISINGLY, PRICES OF ‘FAMILY’ APARTMENTS VARY BY SCHOOL ZONES’ DESIRABILITY

Comparing median asking prices of apartments that have two or more bedrooms, one A. Ready in a BrickUnderground.com post found differences termed “stunning” among the asking prices of larger apartments in various school zones. On the Upper West Side, the amount per square foot ranged from $1,185 to $1,888.

DEMAND IS SOARING FOR LUXURY RENTALS

The market for high-end apartments, with monthly rents starting at $10,000 and way up (as high as $100,000), is on fire. Rental units with the same super-fancy finishes and building amenities as the most desirable condos are being snapped up.

The boom is being driven by high-net-worth families who can afford to put a hefty down payment on a $4 million-plus condo or co-op but choose not to do so now. Despite a recent firming of the city’s residential real estate market, more wealthy New Yorkers are deciding that now is the time to play it safe—and rent.

That is at least partly because sales in the luxury market, the niche that has been slowest to recover from the housing crash, are unpredictable: Some sellers are getting close to their asking prices; others are swallowing huge discounts. Still others are sitting on their properties and banking on a full market comeback. Or the phenomenon may simply come down to fear of commitment.

CLOSING OF LAST CONDO STANDING AT M127 FINALLY TAKES PLACE

The three-bedroom penthouse at 127 Madison Avenue, called m127, has closed for $2.18 million. It was one of six apartments at an auction that I covered last June and into September.

NEW YORK FED CHIEF SEES ‘SEVERAL’ RISKS TO HOME PRICES BUT DETECTS SIGNS OF MODEST ECONOMIC RECOVERY IN REGION

After a recession that was milder than in many parts of the country, this region is showing signs of a modest recovery but little growth elsewhere, said William C. Dudley, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, at the institution’s quarterly regional economic press briefing.

“The housing sector played a pivotal role in the recent national downturn,” he remarked. “In the region, the fact that housing activity has a smaller weight in the regional economy helped to limit the recession’s impact on many communities.”

FORECLOSURE ACTIVITY DECLINES CITYWIDE

New data show that the number of new foreclosure auctions in the third quarter dropped 28 percent from a year earlier.

And compared with this year’s second quarter, new foreclosure activity dropped by 1 percent citywide, according to the data released by real-estate data website Propertyshark.com.

New foreclosure activity could further decline in the next few months as banks and mortgage servicers begin to halt foreclosures because of concerns of faulty paperwork and procedures, says Property Shark director Brian Scully. Monday’s data don’t reflect the recent foreclosure moratorium that state attorneys general have called for in recent weeks.

DOORMAN OF THE YEAR BRINGS MORE THAN A BIG UMBRELLA TO THE JOB

He’s an ex-Wall Street accountant, a speaker of three languages and a masterful ballroom dancer, according to the Daily News.

And 12 years ago, doorman Dominick Torres made an impressive addition to his already unusual résumé: He saved the life of one of his upper East Side tenants.

“He’s not just a great doorman,” said Cindy Friedman, 51, who survived a near-fatal asthma attack with Torres’ help. “He’s my guardian angel.”

Torres, 52, has been named the city’s top doorman by the service union Local 32BJ. The multi-talented porter was to be honored at a ceremony on Thursday.

The union will  fete Shameeza Inshan, 33, as doorwoman of the year as well.

“I’m just blown away. I never expected it,” Inshan said.

A NEW INDEX TRACKS CONDO PRICES AND SALES

My post yesterday reports on a Streeteasy.com index that is far better than Case-Shiller for detecting trends in condo activity in Manhattan.

WEEKLY PAY JUMPED 12 PERCENT IN Q1  of 2010 FROM A YEAR EARLIER

Fueled by steep increases in securities industry payouts, the average weekly wage in Manhattan jumped 11.9 percent in the first quarter of 2010 over the year-earlier period, the biggest gain in any large county in the nation, new federal data show.

In Manhattan, the average weekly wage was up $255 to $2,404, by far the highest wage in any large county in the country, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The wages rose an astounding 91.4 percent in the securities industry in Manhattan, to $12,573, and jumped 22.7 percent in the broader financial activities sector, to $7,709, according to Crain’s.

The first quarter is typically when Wall Street bonuses are paid out, and last year’s haul—$20.3 billion—was 17 percent higher than in 2008. That increase was spurred by near-zero percent interest rates and government bailouts, resulting in record profits for the industry.

“It provides confirmation of what people were saying about bonuses—that they were very, very good,” said Martin Kohli, regional economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

RATE OF UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS TO 16-MONTH LOW

New York City’s job market improved ever so slightly last month, even as the national economic recovery faltered.

The city’s unemployment rate dipped to 9.3 percent in September, its lowest level in 16 months, the Labor Department reported. That improvement widened the gap with the national unemployment rate, which rose to 9.6 percent last month.

Employers in the city added just 8,200 jobs during the month, about one-third of the usual gain in September, said James Brown, principal economist for the Labor Department. Hiring by schools, which usually accounts for the bulk of new jobs at the end of the summer, was weak this year, Brown said.

ON A CANDID SURVEY, MOST CITY RESIDENTS SMILED ABOUT LIVING HERE

A new survey has found that 84 percent the Big Apple’s residents are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the city as a place to live. Only 4 percent said they were not at all satisfied.

The grins were almost as wide when they were asked if they liked the specific part of the city they call home: 82 percent said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their neighborhood. Good addresses everywhere, it seems.

Vin Cipolla, the president of the Municipal Art Society of New York, which commissioned the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion to do the survey, sounded happy that everybody was happy.

Still, approximately one out of four respondents said they’d move if they could.

FOR CONDO DEVELOPERS, ILSA HAS PROVED TO BE A FOUR-LETTER WORD

The buyers–some wealthy, some not–are successfully using a 1968 federal law intended to protect buyers of out-of-state land from unscrupulous developers or brokers. But in many of these cases, the properties have been built as advertised.

Titled the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act, or ILSA, the law now is being used for transactions within states as well.

Buyers’ attorneys are finding fault in wording that technically violates the law in contracts or other paperwork–language to which few developers or lawyers paid much attention during the long real estate boom.

Lawyers have won back deposits for errors as simple as failing to give buyers a legal description of the property or to register the building with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a basic requirement that many companies nonetheless overlooked.

THE HAMPTONS MARKET SHOWS TYPICAL WEAKNESS IN THE THIRD QUARTER

Median prices in the Hamptons fell 22.7 percent between the second and third quarters and 14.1 percent from the third quarter last year, to $696,000, according to a report by appraiser Miller Samuel and Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The third quarter is typically a slow time of year in Hamptons real estate.

The average sale price in the Hamptons stood at $1.48 million in the latest quarter, down 5.8 percent from a year earlier. The number of sales rose 4 percent from a year earlier, and homes sat on the market for an average of 169 days, down 20.6 percent from a year earlier.

A similar Hamptons report by Brown Harris Stevens showed a 16 percent drop in the median sales price to $753,750 and a 13 percent drop in the average sale price, to $1.5 million, in the third quarter from the same period in 2009.

LOCAL LAW 11 ENFORCEMENT COULD RAISE YOUR MONTHLY COSTS

The New York City Department of Buildings is creating a fine mess for co-op boards and condo associations, reports Habitat magazine. The agency is making surprise visits, giving out “failure to maintain” and other violations, and charging buildings fines ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 under Local Law 11, which is the cause so much scaffolding on sidewalks.

“It appears the enforcement of the site-safety plan management regulations are being strictly enforced,” says Gene Ferrara, president of JMA Consultants, which advises contractors and others.

WHEN BUYING NEW CONSTRUCTION, HERE ARE FIVE WAYS TO AVOID COSTLY MISTAKES

It’s time for condo buyers to re-evaluate their checklists and priorities when it comes to making a decision about whether to buy a condo in a project that is less than five years old, says real estate lawyer Ron Gitter.

Gitter, who writes a blog at coopandcondo.com, details five rules to consider before and after signing a condo contract in a new construction building.  The first one involves the offering plan.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201

Malcolm@ServiceYouCanTrust.com
Web site

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