Out and About: You can’t always get what you want

Staged living room of a mid-level apartment at 535 West End Avenue.

Brokers are no different from you in an important way.  Given the opportunity to view exceptionally costly properties, especially when lunch is served on a broker tour, they’re bound to show up.

I was one of those brokers yesterday, when open houses were held for several units at 535 West End Avenue, at the corner of 86th Street, a vaunted new condominium evocative of a pre-war building inside and out.  (Lunch alas had disappeared by the time I arrived.)

I made a beeline for an apartment that occupies the entire nineteenth floor, and I have to say that I was bowled over by the extraordinary quality of the finishes and design, by architect Lucien Lagrange.  For example, consider the stunning kitchen below.

The rest of the apartment meets the high standard of the kitchen, whether the mahogany floors in intricate patterns, high ceilings, two (!) breathtaking master baths all in marble and glittering mosaics, wood-burning fireplace, eight-zone central air conditioning, traditional moldings, smart-home wiring, and oversize windows that admit panoramic views in all directions, including, of course, the Hudson River.

The 6,637-sf condo contains six bedrooms and six and half baths.  The dining room alone consumes nearly 500 square feet, as big as a good-size studio apartment.

At $18.9 million with monthly common charge of $6,839 and abated real estate tax of $803, the apartment will not fit many pocketbooks, certainly not mine now or if I were to inherit a hedge fund.  That comes to $2,848 per square foot, which contrasts with numbers often in the $6,000 range in the last couple of years for 15 Central Park West.

I asked a couple of brokers what they thought of the price.  One averred that no apartment was worth that much money, while a second one maintained that this one certainly was equal to the asking price.

There is no way for me to put a fair value on the place, though it seems likely in this environment and in the light of other sales in the building that the contract price will be for less than the listed one.

Among others available to be seen were the only two units on the ninth floor.  Naturally, they didn’t quite measure up to the impression that the nineteenth floor made, but the quality (La Cornue in the kitchen) was just as high.

Master bedroom of the apartment in the top photo.

One difference was the exposures, which necessarily were obstructed.  The second big difference is the dropped ceilings in the kitchen and adjoining rooms (family, den), required to accommodate recessed lighting and ducts.

Hey, I’d live in either of them if I could, but they were listed at $8.8 million for the one with 3744 square feet and $9.7 million for the one with 4,396 square feet.

As for the building’s amenities there are an indoor pool, two saunas, fitness center, game room with billiards table, party room and garage.  The exceptionally stylish, but not flashy, lobby reeks of high expenditures, among them the cost of a floor of inlaid marble reminiscent of the Taj Mahal, though, of course, considerably more modest.

A few other properties that are listed elsewhere by various brokers:

  • In the low 70s close to Riverside Park, a pleasant two-bedroom, one-bath co-op with southern exposures over a wide street.  In a pet-friendly doorman building of 1908 vintage, the apartment has a high-end galley kitchen that adjoins something called a dining room, which might better be dubbed a dining niche.  There exists the possibility of restoring the space devoted to a washer/dryer into a half bath at the far end of the kitchen.  Listed at $1.395 million with considerable monthly maintenance of $2,172, this renovated 1,300-sf unit aspires to much more than any buyer on meds should pay.
  • A forlorn studio just west of Columbus Avenue in mid 80s.  Having been renovated on the cheap, the unit has going for it unobstructed views to the west from the seventh floor.  However, the apartment has nothing in the way of panache, though it has been fluffed up.  A boxy Murphy bed that goes with the place overwhelms the 400-sf space.  Is it worth the $345,000 asking price with maintenance of $749 a month?  In a forgettable 1931 pet-friendly mid-rise, the answer lies in the amount of time it has been on the market: 47 weeks.
  • In the low 100s a block and a half from Riverside Park, a thoughtfully renovated two-bedroom, two-bath co-op that enjoys open exposures, including partial views of the river.  This apartment in a 1928 doorman building with little in the way of additional amenities has high-end appliances in the attractive eat-in open kitchen with marble countertops, washer/dryer, built-ins and handsome new woodwork.  It is listed within range of a fair deal at $1.345 million with monthly maintenance of only $1,179.
  • A FSBO that failed to sell now in the hands of a broker.  This beautifully renovated co-op with two-bedrooms, a single bath and an lovely eat-in kitchen has a washer/dryer, excellent light and eight custom closets is on the top floor of a pet-friendly 1928 Rosario Candela doorman building in the low 90s on Amsterdam Avenue.  What it doesn’t have is the right price, now at $1.045 million with monthly maintenance of $1,515.
  • In the high 90s on West End Avenue, a three-bedroom 1,700-sf co-op that demands cosmetic improvement.  With built-ins, en suite vintage bath, one and a half additional baths that have been updated, worn wood floors that cannot stand any more sanding, an inviting gallery that has black-and-white marble tiles, and a modestly renovated yet dated open kitchen, the apartment lacks anything in the way of decent exposures.  Although the price was slightly cut from its original asking price of $1.625 million in April to $1.575 million in July, with maintenance per month of $1,770, that’s not nearly enough of a reduction.

NOTE: You’ll find this feature here every Friday, along with the news of the Big Apple and a weekly roundup of developments in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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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
F: 347-438-3201

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