Out and About: Our usual spring thaw is running late

(Flickr photo by wvholst)

As wintry as it is, this is the time of year when we expect the housing market to begin to warm up. When it comes to real estate, the spring thaw starts early, especially after the Super Bowl.

According to the superb data provided on my friend Noah Rosenblatt’s Web site, UrbanDigs.com, inventory in Manhattan is up from a year ago.  But sales are lower–and trending lower at this moment.

The number of actively listed apartments fell to 6,427 on Jan. 22, 2010 as opposed to 7,211 on the same date this year.  As for the volume of sales at some stage prior to closing, there were 2,056 on Jan. 22, 2010 versus 1,881 this year.

The decline in sales activity largely seems to explain Continue reading

Out and About: Don’t be fooled with a conversion

There is nothing like a gut renovation. (Flickr photo by Asturnut)

There is a 16-story building on West End Avenue in the low 70s that has undergone conversion from rentals to condos, a situation fraught with issues that I have explored from time to time.

Among the issues: How long will it take for the conversion to be completed? How deep are the developer’s pockets?  How will lingering tenants and ongoing construction affect the ambiance of the 1924 building? How certain is the quality of future work?

When I asked the listing broker three different ways how many of the units were occupied by owners, she told me that approximately 60 percent had that status, a healthy proportion indeed.  Yet Continue reading

Welcome to the housing market’s darkest days

Pounding rain assaults Brisbane (Flickr photo by Burning Image)

No, I don’t mean that sales and prices are plunging.  We’re entering that period when you’ll see fewer new listings, fewer open houses, not so many names on sign-in sheets and more properties going temporarily off the market.

We are entering the dark days.

It’s the holidays!

You can argue both sides of the coin of whether it’s a good idea Continue reading

Sealed-bid auction set for two luxury penthouses

43 West

Two duplex penthouses with terraces and views of the Hudson River from an eight-unit building are to be auctioned via sealed bids that are due Dec. 8. The reserve prices were not disclosed.

In the a former 1920 rental building now called West 43, at 552 W. 43rd St., between 10th and 11th avenues, the condos are being marketed as a closeout auction Continue reading

September may be cruelest month since August

This graph by UrbanDigs shows quarterly average sale price trends.

When I visited 14 open houses from Central Park to the Hudson River and 62nd to 93rd streets on Sunday, I came away with the impression that our housing market was beginning to develop some strength

Buyers were out there, and a couple of brokers said they already had offers in hand.

Given that there were 461 open houses scheduled on the entire Upper West Side that day and my observations had to be skewed, I decided to see what I could learn from OLR, a prime broker database that fails to be comprehensive or otherwise completely accurate as broker, numbers cruncher and blogger Noah Rosenblatt convincingly argues.

A chief reason: Many brokers fail to update their listings in a timely manner (as anyone who searches Streeteasy.com, OLR.com and other databases knows).

It turns out that I was in for a surprise. Continue reading

Sellers dream the impossible dream in vain

Dreaming, wishing and begging cannot help stubborn sellers unload their homes. (Flickr photo by Taifighta)

Sellers understandably want the highest possible price for their homes.

But wishing for an impossible price doesn’t mean they will get it.  In fact, wishing only means they won’t get it.

In the last month, prices were cut on 810 condos and co-ops in all of Manhattan.  A total of 329 of the reductions was for one-bedroom units and 214, for two-bedroom apartments. Continue reading

m127 auction enjoys brisk bidding, modest prices

Hiding in the dark at the left is the auctioneer (thanks to my limited flash).

An estimated 250 individuals filled the room in which six new condos listed for a total of $12.25 million in a building called m127 went up for auction today.

In bidding that accelerated in mere seconds before nearly reaching the final price, the units at 127 Madison Ave. sold for $8,431,500 including a 5 percent buyer’s premium.  The total represented a discount of 31 percent.

Excluding the penthouse, the price per square foot averaged $821, which strikes me as rather low for a condo in that area, but the building’s does have its drawbacks. (Because the penthouse sale is unconfirmed, I’m pretty much leaving it out in this post.)

In fact, comparing condo sales in the building’s zip code (10016), the average for two-bedroom apartments, of which only two traded in the last month, is $1,216 per square foot, according to the Online Residential (OLR) database. But I’m not positive whether that is a contract or asking price (and there’s a big difference, as you know).

For all condos in 10016, the average per square foot is $1,116 versus two bedrooms in the whole borough: $1,223.

According to the Miller Samuel appraisal firm, the average price per square foot for all Manhattan condos was $1,154 in the first quarter.  And the median sale price of two-bedroom condos was $1.330 million.

For the five two-bedroom condos sold at the auction, the median was $1.244 million; the average was $1,276,800.

Five of the units were offered without a reserve.  They were hammered down at prices ranging in descending order of $1.417 million for the 1,554-sf two-bedroom, two-bath apartment on the eighth floor to $1.229 million for the approximately same-size unit on the second floor.  (Prices include the buyer’s premium.)

The 2,255-sf  penthouse, which has three bedrooms, two and a half baths and a 338-sf terrace, went for only $2,049,500, subject to the developer’s approval; its listed price was $3.4 million, and the discount amounts to 40 percent. Continue reading

Meet another broker whose name I won’t provide

Fordham University

The apartment: A two-bedroom co-op on a high floor overlooking Fordham University and Lincoln Center with wonderful views toward the Hudson.

The price: Nearly $2 million.

The problem: An aggressive and reckless broker who doesn’t know how to shut up.  (I didn’t catch his name and don’t know whether he was covering the open house for the listing broker or was that individual himself.)

It wasn’t so much that this broker–call him Dick–insisted on a hard sell as he pursued us throughout the unit, though that was pretty offensive.  It was that he made a promise for which he could be sued. Continue reading

This co-op studio requires strong legs, most bucks

Living room, dining room, bedroom and kitchen of the priciest co-op of its size in New York.

First, you trudge up three full flights of stairs in one of two conjoined townhouses in the mid 60s off Fifth Avenue on Manhattan tony Upper East Side.  (Your neighbors in the other cooperatively linked townhouse are spared the hike since they alone have access to an elevator.)

Then you arrive, breathless, at an unusual  apartment that might measure 450 square feet, each of them exquisitely renovated.  The unit is so small that the bed has to be suspended close to the ceiling Continue reading

Are too many buyers resorting to the Internet?

Flickr photo by twenty questions

Someone asked me the other day whether I thought the Internet was killing real estate brokers.

(The question really did come up over dinner, a situation when most sane folks would much rather be discussing the Oscars, the health-care debate or even how to save Social Security.  Such is my life.)

In fact, research has shown that nearly nine out of 10 home buyers in the U.S. scour Web sites in search of a potential purchase.  My experience in Manhattan and, even before now, in the Washington, D.C. region certainly validates the research.

To my mind that’s a good thing.  Here’s why: Continue reading