Out and About: A textbook case of overpricing?

Everything about this co-op is superlative. (Brown Harris Stevens photo via OLR)

When I walked into a studio apartment in the high 60s on Central Park West, the gut renovation bowled me over.

So did the price, $980,00 with monthly maintenance of $1,166.  That for a north-facing co-op of probably no more than 550 square feet on a high floor in a full-service post-war building.  From the balcony, and only the balcony unless you stand at the window, there are superb views of the park.

But $980,000, I wondered aloud? I told the listing broker that I couldn’t imagine anyone paying that much, but he told me that they had two or three serious offers in the two weeks after the apartment went on the market in mid December.  I assumed he was being truthful and that, therefore, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the high price.

To my mind, the owner did not make a single mistake in turning the place into a junior-one-bedroom unit.  He appears to have spared no expense or made a single questionable decision of taste.

There are expensive wood, cove lighting, peerless small kitchen, translucent sliding doors between the sleeping and living areas as well as between the “bedroom” and high-styled bath, and central air conditioning.  This co-op is a knockout, in no small part because of its handsome décor.

This was the classic case of an owner who bought at the wrong time, invested a relative fortune in a renovation and then sought to recover his investment, perhaps even making a profit.

I still couldn’t see how it be worth so much money, despite its allure, its prime location a few blocks from Lincoln Center and the quality of its building–especially since the amount of maintenance suggests a much larger apartment on the Upper West Side.

Without confirming with the listing brokers, I finally put a couple of things together to explain the level of interest in the unit.  First, a buyer needs to have a pretty big stash of cash since the building permits no more than two-thirds financing.  Second, one of the two listing brokers is French.

Voila! I decided.  The offers must have come from foreign buyers benefiting from the weak dollar.  To many of them looking to purchase a pied-à-terre, which is permitted in the building, the price may seem like cornichons.

Perhaps this is one of two things about which I am right.  The other: In fact, the unit still shows as being available.

Other properties listed by various brokers that I recently have seen:

  • In the very low 90s on a corner of Amsterdam Avenue, an 1,142-sf condo with two bedrooms and two marble-tiled baths.  This corner unit has separated bedrooms, a nice open kitchen with a Sub-Zero from early in the last decade, good closet space and good light from relatively open exposures.  In a pet-friendly 1928 doorman building with a fitness center, this apartment is listed at $1.2 million with common charges of $661 and real estate taxes of $716 a month.  It likely will sell for something over $1 million when it goes back on the market after being temporarily withdrawn.
  • A one-bedroom penthouse with sweeping views in three directions from its 600-sf terrace.  This dated co-op, albeit with a high-end open kitchen, has a master bedroom that is only 12’3″ square, a single bath and a living/dining area that measures 23’9″ x 16’16”.  And that’s about it.  Evocative of a beach house, the apartment has a washer dryer, high ceilings and central air conditioning.  On Riverside Drive in the mid 70s, the 1925 building has a part-time doorman.  The unit was listed back in May for $2 million, and its price has fallen to $1.645 million with monthly maintenance of $1,849.  Even with the terrace, that sum has to be wishful thinking.  
  • On Riverside Drive in the mid 80s, an expansive three-bedroom, three-bath co-op in a high-maintenance 1938 building that allows pieds-à-terre, sublets and pets.  This well-worn of unit of perhaps 1,900 square feet enjoys direct river views from a high floor, well-proportioned rooms, including formal dining room, and baths that retain original finishes.  But the large square kitchen needs to be overhauled and the floors have to be refinished.  The twice-reduced price since October of $2.395 million (from $2.695 originally) with monthly maintenance of $2,925 begins to reflect the value of being able to see the Hudson River and New Jersey beyond.  But the place does need all that work.
  • A two-bath condo with two bedrooms separated by the living/dining room.  On Broadway in the mid 60s, this 1,200-sf apartment has a dated pass-through kitchen, washer/dryer, worn six-inch parquet floors, standard-height ceilings and pleasant southern exposures through oversize windows overlooking the thoroughfare from the 11th floor.  It has tenants unwilling to move before the end of the year.  The 1986 pet-friendly building is loaded with amenities, including garage, swimming pool and sauna, and common charges are consequently high: $1,463.  Taxes run an additional $1,700 a month, and the price of $1.6 million doesn’t take into account either the tenant situation or the necessity of upgrades.
  • In Morningside Heights east of Broadway, a two-bedroom, one bath apartment being marketed as a unit that could be transformed into a three-bedroom (by carving up the wood-paneled dining room) with an added half bath (accessible through an existing bedroom that would have no closet.  The transformation would leave no closets at all–zero, zilch–an open kitchen, and the current excessively long hallway (which would dump visitors into that new kitchen).  In a modest and well-situated 1910 building lacking amenities beyond its live-in super, the approximately 1,180-sf  co-op has an asking price of $799,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,289.  Not a chance.
  • In the mid 90s between Broadway and West End Avenue, a spacious one-bedroom corner co-op with well-proportioned rooms and northern courtyard views that are not particularly unpleasant from the living room.  The bedroom has nearly open views west as well, along with very large closets.  Woodwork in the unit has been stripped, but its scruffy appearance is hardly a plus.  The eat-in kitchen has been modestly updated, but the refrigerator’s placement is intrusive.  At perhaps 825 square feet in a permissive and full-service 1925 building, this unit is well priced at $699,000 with maintenance of $926 per month.

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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

Web site

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