Out and About: Units with too much personality always have a hard time finding the right buyer

Pumpkin, sienna, squash or terracotta--whatever you call the color of the built-ins and walls narrows the market for this $2.75 million apartment.

When an apartment shows beautifully, it always is a pleasure for me to look around.  The Upper West Side co-op shown here was no exception.

But I don’t see how it can find a buyer quickly, even with a price cut last month by $225,000, to $2.75 million, after just three weeks on the market; monthly maintenance is $3,432.

First, the pluses: 

  • The 1930 pet-friendly building (without a doorman) is distinguished, ideally situated and much desired;
  • The apartment was renovated just two years ago, and no expense seemingly was spared, whether for the top-end kitchen or the extravagant Venetian-plastered walls in the public rooms;
  • Although the places rambles a bit, the advantage is a children’s wing well removed from the main part of the unit, which combines three apartments;
  • There are three bedrooms and three baths;
  • Exposures from the living and dining rooms are to the sunny south through stylishly old-fashioned windows;
  • A separate room is dedicated to a laundry, and there is a separate interior area used as office that could double as a bedroom;
  • Even the original door frames have been refinished to reveal their former silvery luster;
  • Great location near Central Park;
  • Private storage lockers are available in the basement.

The price aside, only one attribute can be counted on to deter prospective buyers: Vivid color in the living and dining rooms.

I recently wrote about “the vision thing” in terms of the difficulty most buyers have imagining how a property could look were they to substitute their taste for the sellers’.

That’s not really the problem with this co-op and others like it. One issue for me is what a shame it would be to ruin the Venetian plaster, which is as smooth as a pane of glass and as variably colored as a black-and-blue bruise.

My greater concern is the built-in cabinets that line a dining room wall.  Of impeccable quality, the cabinets appear to have lacquer finishes that defy change.  They are unquestionably lovely and expensive, and it would be a crime to alter or junk them.

The apartment has so much personality that only a tiny segment of the market will find it compatible with its taste, and so much of the place is, or should be, immutable that only a few buyers — especially at the asking price — will give it serious consideration. The recent price cut underscores the force of its personality, I think.

This co-op’s challenge is not unlike that of a suburban house with a swimming pool: Some will see the pool as an asset, but most buyers will view it as a potential money and death trap that turns them off.

When it comes to selling real estate, too much customization truly is a bad thing.

Below are some of the properties listed by various brokers that I recently visited:

  • On West End Avenue in the high 90s, a two-bedroom, one-bath corner co-op on a top floor with generally open views from a high floor.  This agreeable apartment features an eat-in kitchen that has laminate countertops and cabinets, a large foyer that could be used as an office, through-wall air conditioners, skim-coated walls, superlative bath, excellent closet space and lovely herringbone floors.  In a 1926 pet-friendly doorman building, the asking price of $998,000 with monthly maintenance plus electricity totaling $1,737 is right.,explaining why it went under contract in six weeks.
  • A 1,300-sf apartment in a pet-friendly, full-service 1903 building lacking amenities on a corner of Broadway in the high 60s.  This three-bedroom, two-bath corner unit has an odd flow that has the open kitchen, albeit an attractive one, plunked in the middle of the co-op.  There are southern exposures, plenty of closets, 10.5-foot ceilings, blocked views from the master bedroom, original wainscoting and hardwood floors that demand attention.  At its oft-reduced price of $1.598 million (in dribs and drabs) with sky-high maintenance of $2,914 a month, this place remains seriously overpriced after half a year on the market.
  • Renovated in questionable taste in the mid 80s in a Riverside Park block, a sponsor studio in a 1947 low-rise building with a part-time doorman, a garden, private storage and welcoming pet policy. The gut-renovated co-op itself has an attractive open kitchen with breakfast island, bath with poorly installed glass tiles that should have gone into that storage area, recessed lighting, new hardwood floors and a column that someone mistakenly thought should show itself off with garish red glass tiles.  Price: $330,000, which is too much to pay even after a $15,000 cut last month, with monthly maintenance of $628.
  • In the mid 70s on a Central Park block, a renovated one-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath condo.  With nearly 12-foot ceilings, washer/dryer and an open kitchen that has butcher-block countertops, a breakfast bar and requisite stainless-steel appliances, this lofty apartment features seven oversize windows that unfortunately face the rear and the walls of other buildings.  In a 1902 building close to Columbus Avenue in which financing is difficult to obtain, this place went on the market for $929,00 in September.  After two small reductions, it has been listed for $875,000 since November with taxes, common charges and an assessment totaling $1,959 monthly through December.  The market speaks volumes: Too much!
  • A 900-sf two-bedroom, one-bath corner co-op in a 1917 doorman building that has a planted roof deck in the low 100s near West End Avenue.  With dated pass-through kitchen that has been renovated by the sponsor, newly refinished floors, good northern light, more or less open exposures, through-wall air conditioners and a washer/dryer, the unit is offered after a mere $15,000 price cut at $780,000 with maintenance of $1,160 a month.  The condition of the apartment and the ambiance of the pet-friendly building notwithstanding, that’s a tad too high.
  • In the low 90s on a corner of Amsterdam Avenue, an approximately 1,600-sf co-op in a 1928 Rosario Candela building.  The corner apartment on a high floor has two bedrooms, two baths, formal dining room, big top-end center-island kitchen, excellent flow, views of the Hudson River, plenty of closet space, recessed lighting, new oak floors and owners of exceptional taste.  It is listed for $2 million with monthly maintenance of $2,026, far more than the amount any other unit in the full-service building has sought.  (You know what that means, right?)

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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

One thought on “Out and About: Units with too much personality always have a hard time finding the right buyer

  1. As beautiful and expensive as the features of this co-op are, they truly narrow the list of potential buyers. While every home needs something unique that will attract buyers, there needs to be a balance of neutral features so that they buyer can envision the home for himself. We and have found that this is also true for rental homes and prospective residents.

    Hopefully the right buyer comes along for this co-op!


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