Out and About: It’ll cost ya plenty to see forever

Central Park on Dec. 20, 2009. (Flickr photo by Michael McDonough)

For some buyers, nothing is more important than a view.  Although that’s not my priority, I get it.

But what is a view worth?  I make the calculation below.

Consider a pathetically dated apartment close to the top of an exceedingly tall high-rise that harks back to its beginnings in 1971.  In the Lincoln Square area, this one-bedroom, one-and-half-bath condo has been listed since May 2009.  Because it is a rarely used pied-à-terre, the condition is superb–but the style is so out of fashion.

Although some consumers might be enamored of obsolesence, others may well find fault with the laminate countertops in the kitchen, standard-height popcorn ceilings and bifold doors.

Still, those views over the expanse of Central Park north to the George Washington Bridge, east beyond LaGuardia and south to the vaunted Manhattan skyline are hard to come by!  They are spectacular, and they’ll cost you.

This 947-sf apartment went on the market for $1.725 million, then was reduced in three steps to its current $1.555 million, or $1,642 per square foot.  Common charges are $1,032 monthly and taxes, $1,031.

I dunno, but I’m guessing that this place, which is in a white-glove building that permits neither dogs nor individual washer/dryers, would have sold by now if the view were worth that much.  Duh.

The buyers are said to be in no hurry to sell, and that’s demonstrably a good thing: The price may have been lowered, but that occurred way back in June when sales activity peaked this year.

One reason for buyer resistance must be the work that the apartment will require for anyone with enough dough to buy the place.  An architect hired by the owner puts the cost at somewhere between $20,750 and $164,200, depending on what is done.

On the low side, there are merely 12 projects ranging from painting, limiting kitchen renovations to opening a new entrance, re-tiling the powder room and replacing radiator covers.  At the top end of the estimate, there are 14 additional items such as replacing the kitchen counters and backsplash, installing new cabinets and acquiring new appliances.  Other tasks would involve new plumbing fixtures in the master bath, new windows, new floors and so on.

For comparison’s sake, the cost of the sort of gut renovation not needed here might run $300-400 per square foot, or $331,450 for this apartment if at $350 per square foot.  If the high-end renovation estimated by the architect were performed, the cost per square foot of that effort would be $173.

Fair enough: The number is within the ballpark.  Add it to the asking price, and the cost of the updated condo could run the buyer $1.719 million.

To calculate the value that the seller puts on the view, I checked some relatively recent sales for which I could find actual sold prices.  One apartment 31 floors lower has three bedrooms (one created out of a dining room) and two full baths; based on other units in its line, the condo apparently contains 1,053 square feet.

It sold for the asking price of $1.45 million early this year, or $1,377 per square foot.  Nothing in the old listing refers to condition, so perhaps it is, or was, comparable to the unit on the higher floor in that regard.  By this standard, the cost of the loftier apartment’s view amounts to $265 a square foot.

A second apartment is 25 floors lower than the condo in question, has about the same square footage (934), one bedroom and two baths.  With disclosed need for improvement, it sold in July 2009 for $1.1 million, or $1,178 per square foot.  The difference between this unit and the one near the top of the building: $464.

Let’s split the difference between the two examples and conclude that, all things being equal (which they never are), the price of the view is $365 per square foot.

If you’ve stayed with me this far, then you’ll perhaps be intrigued to know that, by the seller’s estimate, the view is worth $345,655.

Subtract that sum from the asking price, and the apartment will sell.  It may even enjoy multiple offers.

Did I mention that the place also is for rent?  As for the price, don’t ask!

Other recently visited properties listed by various brokers:

  • In the low 100s just west of Broadway, a literally downtrodden co-op with poor hardwood floors, some nice but crudely stripped paneling, washer/dryer, generally blocked exposures and an inconvenient layout.  This two-bedroom, one-bath 825-sf apartment in a small rundown 1891 building lacking amenities probably has little potential to be improved to a high standard.  Therefore, its offering price of $625,000 with monthly maintenance of $951 is asking a lot.
  • An excessively colorful two-bedroom apartment that could be converted to a three in the very low 80s close to First Avenue.  With wide-open views from a corner bedroom, very good closet space and two renovated baths, this 1,300-sf co-op could well stand cosmetic improvement.  In a large 1961 pet-friendly building with a spectrum of amenities, including garage, this unit represents good value at $979,000 with maintenance of $2,209 a month.
  • In the high 70s between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, a three-bedroom, three-bath duplex that has plenty of appeal.  Rooms are on the small side, but there a handsome kitchen that is not quite high end, spiral staircase leading only to an expansive and impressively renovated master bedroom suite, and a price that is almost within reason: $1.875 million with substantial monthly maintenance of $2,716. The listing broker says a contract is about to be signed.
  • An unusually ugly and worn three-bedroom, two-bath apartment on the ground floor of a doorman building in the high 90s between Broadway and Columbus Avenue.  This repulsive co-op features lime-green walls in the main public space, other inappropriate hues elsewhere, 46 feet of wasted hallway along one side, an outsize, yet decrepit kitchen from the 70s and nothing but eyesores from the windows.  Reduced to $849,000 from its original price of $899,000 with maintenance of $1,319 a month, this sorry place has a long way to go before it will find a buyer.
  • On the market for more than a year, a 2,650-sf loft in Fashion District.  This gargantuan unit with terrific southern sunlight at one end and none at the other has but one legal bedroom and no discernible way of adding a second one without destroying the living space.  Everything is out of date, including the massive open kitchen with well-used professional stove, a granite-topped island and refrigerator at a cockeyed angle on the wrong side of the island. Possibly best used as party or studio space, this two-bath co-op in a building with no amenities (except an elevator) has been on the market for more than a year at the original price of $2.25 million with monthly maintenance of $2,095.  Need more be said?
  • A meticulously maintained apartment by its owner of 35 years in the very low 70s between Amsterdam and West End avenues.  This 600-sf one-bedroom co-op has alarmingly green wall-to-wall carpeting in the living room and plaid-covered furniture, but the bones of this unit, garden views and modestly renovated open kitchen make attractive the newly reduced asking price of $479,000 with maintenance per month of $993.

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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

Web site

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