Out and About: Estate sales challenge listing brokers

Even spiffed up, this estate listing reveals a long past.

When it comes to selling a tired old estate, don’t envy the listing broker, even for a property that will garner a healthy commission.

Estate sales are tough, not only because the properties tend to be in miserable condition, but also because the beneficiary or beneficiaries can cause complications.

One issue can be unfamiliarity with the property so that it’s often hard to know what is behind a wall, what changes were made and what the condition is of a variety of elements.

Another problem may be the beneficiary who resides elsewhere and, for any number of reasons, has no concept of the current housing market in a locality.

A third complication arises when there is more than one beneficiary–sometimes a legion of siblings, nephews, nieces, cousins and, of course, offspring.  Just try to get them to agree on a listing price and on an offer that is submitted!

As for cleaning up or cleaning out a property, or both, it also is true that beneficiaries tend to be both casual about and tight-fisted regarding the what needs to be done to obtain a good price.  It is particularly hard for them to appreciate the need to spend money on a  long-neglected property, occasionally one they haven’t seen in years or even ever.

For these and other reasons, estate sales place a special burden on the admittedly well compensated listing broker, whose skills as a quasi-psychologist, negotiator, stager, and overseer of movers, window cleaners and other contractors must exerted to an unusual degree early and often.

The estate sale of the 1,500-sf co-op (with dining room pictured above) on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is a good example.

The apartment in the low 90s is a classic five-room unit in a 1927 building that has a playroom, roof deck and private storage.  The rooms are large, the windows are new and there is much original detail.  Entry into a gallery invites guests into the living room, which has bright light from the north.

There are a dining room, kitchen in needy condition and two baths in desperate need of improvement.  But the baths are small and not likely to be expanded when necessary renovations are completed throughout.

The listing broker has asked me to withhold certain details, including price, but I am sure that the co-op is overpriced by around $100,000, given  the amount of work required.

Below are several of the numerous apartments that I have visited recently at open houses held by various brokers:

  • A lovely two-bedroom, one-bath co-op near the Museum of Natural History with a galley kitchen that has granite countertops and appliances in need of updating.  This 1,150-sf apartment on a high floor of a 1920 building that has a part-time doorman enjoys terrifically sunny northern exposures.  It has a washer/dryer in an enclosure off the kitchen that could be converted to a half bath, modernized hallway bath and excellent closet space.  But the price of $1.195 million with maintenance per month of $1,768 makes no sense to me.
  • In the low 90s east of Broadway, a one-bedroom apartment in which the

    The discreet charm of a Greenwich Village street.

    foyer is bigger than the bath and is pretty much unusable except as a home office.  There is a small outdated kitchen with nothing expensive or full size, partial views and floors in need of refinishing.  In a modest 1948 pet-friendly building in the mid 90s west of Amsterdam Avenue and oddly described as pre-war (Korea?), this 830-sf co-op with sunken living room does benefit from a dining gallery off the kitchen.  It is listed too aggressively at $575,000 with maintenance per month of $936.

  • In the far West Village a block from the Meatpacking District, a two-bedroom duplex apartment on the first and ground floors of a landmarked brick townhouse that was built in 1848.  This charmingly renovated co-op has exposed brick walls, excellent closet space, a French-country high-end galley kitchen in hues of yellow, a living room on each floor, washer/dryer and a private garden. Unfortunately, the outside space is so overshadowed by surrounding taller buildings that it feels like the bottom of a well.  In a pet-averse building, the unit is listed at $1.85 million with monthly maintenance of $1,608.
  • The Hudson River and, of course, New Jersey beyond.

  • A two-bedroom, two-bath co-op with winning views of the Hudson River (right) in the low 100s.  Attractively renovated, the apartment has an unusually large eat-in kitchen that is mostly top-of-the-line, including six-burner stove and requisite granite, merely adequate closet space and a couple of problems.  The refrigerator is about 14 feet from the sink, and French doors between the master bedroom (now used as an office) and the second bedroom (which functions as the master sans en suite bath) make them uncomfortably close to each other.  Whether the views cause this unit in a 1922 pet-friendly building to be worth $2.495 million is questionable.  The maintenance is $2,266 a month. 
  • On a park block In the high 60s, a dark and shabby two-bedroom apartment that shows poorly and needs a fair amount of work–new kitchen, new bath, refinished floors and certainly paint to cover walls of orange and other vivid colors.  This second-floor co-op in a pet-averse 1925 building with little to offer is listed at $875,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,651.  Even the broker concedes that this place, which has an estimated 850-900 square feet, should sell for under $800,000.
  • A plainly renovated sponsor apartment half a block west of Union Square.  This 500-sf co-op in a 1974 building with nearly 500 units faces a brick wall to the north, but everything inside has been newly installed and finished.  A sponsor apartment in a pet-friendly building that does not permit individual washer/dryers, this studio is listed for $475,000 with maintenance of $620 per month and room for a bit of negotiation.

If you would like to search all the listings being marketed by various brokers, please click on the link in the right-hand column or, better yet, contact me.  To keep up with a range of news and information about The Big Apple and beyond, do check out my additional  two posts today and most other Fridays.

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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 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              347-886-0248      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Malcolm@ServiceYouCanTrust.com
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