Out and About: It’s that vision thing

(Flickr photo by gerios)

If you’re a typical buyer, you believe you can look at a property and easily imagine how it can be improved to meet your standards

But if you’re a typical buyer, chances are you are wrong.

I well remember a buyer some years ago who rejected a house that met all her requirements.  She never even made an offer for what she said was one reason: The horrid paint color in the living room.

I also heard recently of an apartment with yellow walls that failed to sell in six months. A second broker then listed the place, had the walls painted white and had an accepted offer–without changing anything else including the price–within a week.

So much for the vision thing.

What I’ve noticed is that over-the-top properties tend to be listed at premium prices, not just because they are well renovated, but because they impress.  In other words, they conform to a phrase I use occasionally: They show beautifully.

I’m not talking about staging a property well, though of course it helps.  I’m referring to properties that have a combination of stunning décor, expensive and trend-setting finishes, extraordinary views and an impression that is unforgettable.

One reason they are listed for a premium is that vision thing or, more accurately, the blindness thing: Rare are the buyers who truly are capable of imagining how a property can become the home of their dreams.  Those afflicted will pay handsomely for a property that “shows beautifully,” such as one on a very high floor in the low 70s on Central Park West.

That penthouse drew oohs and ahs from usually cynical brokers as they entered the unit during the weekday\ open house that I attended.

Listed for $2.75 million with monthly maintenance of $2,739 in a building that limits financing to 50 percent, the apartment was designed by highly regarded architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.  (They were among finalists of a selection panel I convened to do a project at the New School when I was director of communications there.)

Floors of Indian sandstone, an asymmetrical cement wall, a white L-shaped couch, large paintings of indisputable quality, a layout so open that the master bedroom has no door, a top-end (though well used) galley kitchen, and unparalleled views of Central Park and much of the city in three directions added up to a collective “wow.”

That’s all well and good, but, without having paid attention beforehand to the size of the unit, I walked through it twice–it didn’t take long because of its relatively small size–in search of at least one other bedroom for the price.  No luck.

On a low floor without the dramatically contemporary design and spectacular views, I can’t imagine that the place would warrant an asking price of even a million dollars less.  Now that I think of it, I’d market the apartment as one with a million-dollar view and possibly list it for even less than $1.75 million. Still, I probably underestimate the value of high impact.

It is clear to me that buyers lacking the vision thing, will be willing–perhaps even happy–to pay a premium for their limitation.  So be it.

In addition, I have previously written that renovated apartments tend to be priced for disproportionately more than unrenovated ones.  One reason is that many buyers these days are unwilling or unable to come up the cash, energy or resilience to undertake renovations themselves.  Bunother key reason is, as you might now well appreciate, the vision thing.

Some of the other properties that I have seen recently and that other brokers have listed:

  • In Lincoln Square, a  thoughtfully renovated two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath condo that shows beautifully.  With an open kitchen that that has a breakfast bar, granite countertops that don’t quite match and handsome cherry cabinets; stylish baths; added crown molding; and mostly obstructed western exposures through oversize windows from a low floor, this apartment boasts great condition, excellent closet space, cherry floors, built-ins and new through-wall air conditioners.  In a 1965 doorman building, the 900-sf unit is burdened by having air conditioners on a roof just outside the windows.  It is listed at $999,000, reduced from,$1.05 million, with common charges of $635 and real estate taxes of $744 monthly.  However appealing this place is, even $1,000 per square foot would be pushing it. Yet it’s under contract.
  • An 800-sf one-bedroom co-op on Central Park West in the low 80s.  In a full-service 1929 pet-friendly building, this unit on a low floor close to traffic noise has a pleasant interior kitchen with older appliances, expansive bedroom nearly as big as the living room, plenty of closet space and direct park views.  There is only a stall shower in the lone bath, which has a woefully dated black color scheme.  The apartment is offered for a highly optimistic $1.125 million with monthly maintenance of $1,469.
  • In the mid 90s close to Central Park in a 1931 pet-friendly doorman building, a one-bedroom co-op with 211-sf added solarium, terrace and sensational views of the green expanse to the east.  But. . . this 1,400-sf space needs a cosmetic overhaul along with a rearrangement of its rooms to overcome awkward flow.  Nevertheless, the price of $1.395 million, cut from $1.625 after just two weeks, with maintenance of $1,806 per month is in the ballpark.
  • A vacant classic-six-room condo being marketed as needing a total renovation.  In a 1927 doorman building in the low 100s on West End Avenue with few amenities, this 2,100-sf sponsor unit is on a low floor facing east.  The price was reduced from $2.3 million to $2 million with monthly costs totaling $2,149, representing the owner’s pipe dream.
  • In the high 60s on a corner of Broadway, a gorgeously gut-renovated two-bedroom, two-bath co-op in an acceptable 1903 doorman building with permissive policies.  This apartment has no acquaintance with a cookie cutter, but its three bedrooms and kitchen have been jammed into a space too small to accommodate them comfortably. There are three full baths, decent closet space, wasted hallway space, two juliet balconies and a splendidly designed, if cramped, interior kitchen that is open to guests on their way to the living room. The asking price of $3 million with monthly maintenance of $2,886 is beyond the pale.
  • A lovely, but lilliputian, studio apartment on Riverside Drive in the low 100s.  There is a tiny Pullman kitchen in a hallway with essentially a two-burner hotplate for a stove and no oven.  But there are bamboo floors, a vintage bath and north-facing terrace from which the Hudson can be seen.  In good condition, this co-op would function well as a pied-à-terre, office or studio.  The building has a full-time concierge, bike storage and permissive policies regarding purchaser arrangements. At $325,000 with maintenance of $568 a month, this unit is well priced.
  • Subscribe by Email

    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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s