Consider the Upper West Side co-op in the low 80s described below. It is marketed as a 700-sf one-bedroom triplex at an asking price of $659,000 with maintenance of $927 a month. I happened upon the apartment while making my routine rounds to remain knowledgeable about the market and to write “Out and About” in my biweekly newsletter.
Here’s how the broker is listing the place (misspellings and all):
“Right off Central Park West, this absolutely beautiful one bedroom brownstone coop residence is completely irresistable! Youll feel instantly at home as brilliant sunlight floods through the 8 grand bay windows, offering views of the peaceful tree-lined street.
“The expansive tri-level layout with lofted 11 ceilings, exposed brick, *working* wood-burning fireplace, handsome architectural details and one and a half baths make for a truly lovely and unique place to live. The kitchen has been updated handsomely and features all stainless steel appliances, solid oak cabinetry and granite counters.
“Superb convenience, its just steps to the trains – not to mention all the restaurants, cafes, shopping and all the best of the Upper West Side. An absolute must-see, photos dont even do it justice.”
As every cynical buyer knows – and who isn’t cynical these days? – listing brokers are prone to hyperbole (and many are guilty of bad spelling and grammar). What is known as puffery is considered acceptable in the profession – for example, “river views” might mean having to crane your neck to see the water or “cozy” can mean impossibly small.
However, when puffery lurches over the line to dishonesty, the practice is unacceptable and unforgivable. I shrink from signaling out an individual broker as unethical and, thus, will leave the determination to you.
Let’s examine the marketing of the co-op, which happens to be closer to Columbus Avenue than the park, truthfully conforming to the description. But there’s the matter of one bedroom. It turns out that the bedroom is actually a loft space, reachable by a rickety spiral staircase and open to the area below. Since when does a glorified platform amount to a bedroom, which is legally defined as having a minimum of 70 square feet and a window through which a resident could escape in the event of a fire?
The question of “triplex” also is worth examining. Entry is into the lowest level, which is paved with Georgia slate and includes, on the right, a diminutive kitchen that has been smartly and inexpensively renovated. Directly opposite the entrance is an invitingly finished and decorated living room, which is raised chest-high, creating a half wall and requiring a climb up several of those spiraling stairs. (If you keep going, you come to the “bedroom.”)
Then there are those eight so-called grand bay windows, which are high and wide. Actually there are three windows, each of them with eight panes of glass. How three translates into eight is beyond comprehension. Yet sunny, the unit is, and the street is lined with trees, as are, of course, most streets.
Finally, there actually are one and a half baths. But the half bath is off that “bedroom,” and the full bath is down the staircase and through the foyer. There is one closet in the foyer and one in the loft.
So, not only do photos fail to give the place justice. Neither does the broker’s description.
As for the price, even a true 700-sf unit – one that doesn’t count a loft as a room – in a building lacking amenities is these days rarely worth as much $941 per square foot. The price of this co-op, which went on the market in mid April, suggests an absurd level optimism on the part of seller and broker.
No doubt, they would cheerfully sell the Brooklyn Bridge to anyone foolish enough to make an offer.
Do you think the broker is unethical?
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022