Out and About: Walls always speak volumes

Portion of a wall that needs help

Clean windows, polished floors, organized closets and sleek kitchen all communicate positive aspects of any home being considered by buyers.

One characteristic that is not usually noticed at once also can have a decided impact on first impressions and subsequent appreciation of properties on the market.

That is the walls, especially in pre-war apartments and townhouses. The shape they are in speaks volumes.  They thereby affect prices in ways that can elevate or depress the selling price.

Consider the photo above. Perhaps you can Continue reading

Out and About: Some tradeoffs hard to take

Lovely apartment. . .

Lovely apartment. . .

An unfortunte epidemic seems to have befallen an unusual proportion of new listings.

Of course, it has been just the luck of the draw on my routine tours of 10-15 open houses on most Sundays.  I keep stumbling upon (into?) homes with painful exposures onto rooftops cluttered with mechanicals.

Among the compromises some buyers are willing to make are unsightly exposures in return for otherwise desirable apartments.  But Continue reading

Out and About: Battery Park City has many fans

Looking north from foot of Battery Park City's South End Avenue on a Sunday.

Looking north from Battery Park City’s South End Avenue on a Sunday.

There is nothing quite like Battery Park City, that enclave built on landfill at the southwest tip of Manhattan.

Among its characteristics is a large concentration of playgrounds, parks and promenades,\; astounding views of the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey (for what that last perspective is worth); proximity to the Financial District; and its remove from the overwhelming bustle and hustle found elsewhere in New York City.

Like Roosevelt Island and some other areas on the fringes of Manhattan’s centers of energy and commerce, Battery Park City (which, of course, is practically on Wall Street, is not for everyone.  To me, Battery Park City feels remote.  To other folks, the pace could not be more agreeable.

Compared with other areas of the city, Continue reading

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: A walk on the upper high side

Chef's kitchen -- owner actually is a chef -- is open to living area and enjoys views through 12-foot-high windows to terrace and beyond.

Close to Fairway but far from contemporary, this beautifully renovated co-op in superlative condition has a $3.535 million asking price.

What do buyers of multi-million-dollar apartments get for their money?

Answer: Both more and less than you might imagine.

Virtually the only commonality among the apartments that I visited up and down the Upper West Side to focus on the question is, with few exceptions . . . space.

Chef's kitchen -- owner actually is a chef -- is open to living area and enjoys views through 12-foot-high windows to terrace and beyond.

Chef’s kitchen — owner actually is a chef — is open to living area and enjoys views through 12-foot-high windows to terrace.

But whether listed for $3 million, $4 million or more than $5 million, none of the condos and co-ops was without drawbacks, proving one of my persistent observations to buyers: No one fails to make compromises at any price level.

One of the units I saw was just about perfect, but Continue reading

Out and About: Unavailable for half a century

It is not even an estate sale, but the Upper West Side co-op in the high 70s on West End Avenue apparently hasn’t been improved in the half century since the owners purchased the place.

Defining “vintage,” the apartment is typical of one that has aged in tandem with the owners.

The situation is understandable and not all that unusual, except for the number of years that have passed.  More often than not, it seems, owners grow comfortable in their homes and fail to notice the need for updating.

I suppose the feeling is not unlike the pleasures of an old pair of slippers, a well-worn cardigan or a hardcover book that has been losing the test of time.

The challenge for any broker is Continue reading

Out and About: How about Riverside Drive?

A view of Riverside Drive last fall.

In some circles, Riverside Drive has never quite measured up to the desirability of Fifth Avenue or Central Park West, even though it was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead.

But residences on the tree-lined serpentine roadway, which runs from 72nd to 181st streets along Riverside Park and the river beyond, are much in demand.

Lobbies, like this frosted beauty at 180 Riverside Drive, were designed to impress.

With many of them selling at a premium, the apartments in stately pre-war apartment buildings and converted mansions, for the most part, have boasted among their occupants notables such as Damon Runyon, George Gershwin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Hannah Arendt, Saul Bellow, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Paul Krugman, according to Wikipedia.  My former sister-in-law and brother-in-law live there, and my first home in Manhattan was there as well, at No. 425.

Fictional characters have included the leads of 6 Rms Riv Vu by my late friend Bob Randall, the Will & Grace mainstays, Liz Lemon of 30 Rock, copywriter Freddy Rumsen of Mad Men and White Collar‘s Neal Caffrey.

When I checked one day last year to see how many apartments were available on Riverside Drive, I found Continue reading