Out and About: The allure of Hamilton Heights

View of a Hamilton Heights from top floor of nicely renovated townhouse offered for $2.695 million.

View of a Hamilton Heights from top floor of a nicely renovated 4,400-sf townhouse that is offered for $2.695 million.

For buyers accustomed to neighborhoods farther south, Hamilton Heights may represent challenges with respect to convenience, amenities and street life.

Yet on a recent tour of an even dozen open houses, I was struck anew with how vibrant the area is and how great is the value of properties in contrast to more popular parts of Manhattan.

As the New York Times has noted, the massive Columbia University development now rising to the south suggests that Hamilton Heights is on the verge of a boomlet:

. . . Hamilton Heights, largely unknown to those who have never cracked the 100s on the No. 1 train, is preparing for an influx of teachers, students and support workers. It is also anticipating the higher real estate prices that usually come with proximity to an Ivy League institution.

The Heights Continue reading

Out and About: Agent and seller at odds

A well-lighted cave is still a cave. (flickr photo by d'n'c)

Note: After my short break, normal frequency of posts resumes next week.

The agent grimaced when I asked at an open house how long her listing had been on the market.

“Forever,” was her one-word reply.

Checking out the two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath condo in Morningside Heights, I was underwhelmed by the $1,616-sf duplex.  My chief objection: The lower floor is in the building’s basement down an exceedingly narrow flight of stairs.

To her credit, the listing broker in describing that subterranean space did not glorify it as anything more than a playroom, media room or perhaps gym.

The half bath is down there, and the light from window wells is negligible.  It is a cave.

As for the rest of the apartment, Continue reading

Out and About: Welcome to grandma’s place

Tastes do, after all, change.

I just had to share with you my photo (above) of the entrance of a classic six-room apartment in the mid 70s on a corner of Columbus Avenue.

“All the rooms looked like this,” the listing broker confessed, acknowledging that their wallpaper had been stripped off the others and a coat of white paint slapped on.  We agreed that the co-op must have been decorated Continue reading

Out and About: All real estate is not only local

It is several months since I wrote about an expansive and expensively renovated condo in the 70s east of Broadway on the Upper West Side.

(flickr photo by Jude Doyland)

The combined 3,180-sf unit bowled me over in terms of extraordinarily sensible and stylish design.  My only complaint was the exposure from a low floor: the walls of the building opposite the apartment.

At the time, I suspected that such a deficit would be an obstacle to its asking price of $5.3 million when it was listed back on Feb. 16.  But I didn’t recognize how big a problem it would become.

It was only a matter of time before the price began to drop as the lofty apartment languished on the market.  Have a look at its history since it was offered for sale: Continue reading

Out and About: How does your garden grow?

One of the houses with virtues that Barbara Corcoran extolled recently on the Today Show.

The one-bedroom, two-bath duplex I was checking out during a Sunday open house recently has two assets and many liabilities.

On the minus side are its entry almost directly into the small kitchen (in which an ancient dishwasher caught my eye), cramped living room, a spiral staircase so narrow that I had to hunch my shoulders, its bedroom (albeit one that fits the legal definition) in the basement and baths that I’d classify as ordinary.

On the plus side is its location in a Central Park block of the high 60s, a stone’s throw from Lincoln Center.  (To digress, when you see “steps from” in a listing, consider the Fair Housing Act, which bars discrimination against persons with disabilities.)

Also on the plus side — and the only conceivable explanation for the co-op’s inflated asking price of Continue reading

Out and About: Location explains huge price gap

(Photo by scholl10)

When I ambled into open houses just 16 blocks apart on Central Park West, the tired old saw about location struck me as graphically evident.

In a building in the low 70s, I visited four apartments, each of them with prices that I find hard to justify.  They then ranged in price between approximately $3.5 million and $10 million.

That same day, I went to an open house in a building in the low 90s, and I was blown away by Continue reading

Out and About: It’s wrong to gild a (faded) lily

This photo of a brownstone

Because we are moving into August, there will be just one more Out and About before Labor Day.  But you’ll find other posts, published somewhat less frequently than usual, until then.

Have a look at the photo at the left and consider how much you approve of painting over antique woodwork.

Having seen that wonderfully ornate woodwork, I suspect that someone has monkeyed with the photo. In person, I was turned off by many layers of paint that obscured the detail and failed to cover up numerous underlying flaws.  (Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t do the bannister injustice.)

It seems clear that the paint, as usually is the case, was a cost-saving shortcut that, to my mind, only amplified the defects in the woodwork. How lovely that ornamentation would have looked when repaired and polished. But how expensive the project would be.

Such corner cutting is typical of what I see in turn-of-the-century brownstones that have been divided into apartments, and I think Continue reading