Out and About: Estate sales merge death, taxes

Flickr photo by Petra Senders

When you see the words “estate sale” in a listing, you know you’re in for a property that’s going to need a ton of work.

And when that listing omits photos, you can be sure the place will be a wreck.

It’s one thing to imagine what you’ll find, quite another to see it in person

A co-op in the low 100s between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway makes the point emphatically.

Offered for $750,000 with monthly maintenance of $730, this two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath unit, plus maid’s room, on a lower floor of a dreary 1909 building with virtually no amenities has nothing going for it but potential.

Unfortunately, even the potential is limited because of th apartment’s grim exposures into the building’s courtyard.  Only the current small living room, at the far end of a bowling alley of a hallway, has more or less unobstructed views, and those looking over a wide street.

“Bring your architect,” the listing proclaims.”  It continues with its unabashed profusion of clichés and largely invisible punctuation:

“Location location location.  Just the project you have been waiting for! . . .  Incredibly low low maintenance.  Hurry this won’t last.”

Yet alas, it has.

The condition of this estate sale is so horrendous that every wall has to be removed, the entire layout has to be realigned and, in short, nothing now existing can remain.

With 1,250 square feet and the cost of a high-end gut renovation (which would be inappropriate in a building of questionable quality) running around $300 a square foot, the new owner will have to sink in a minimum of $300,000 to transform the apartment after paying closing costs, including taxes.

The listing broker’s babble notwithstanding, this co-op assuredly will last, indeed.

Below are some of the other apartments that I’ve seen in recent weeks; they are listed by various brokers:

  • An utterly banal 550-sf alcove studio in a full-service 1963 building that has a garage and health club in Lincoln Square.  On a high floor with what is described as “nice” morning light and exposures into the interior of a block at reasonably distant buildings, this co-op is burdened by its laminate flooring as well as an outdated kitchen and bath that lack windows.  But closet space is generous in this unit, which had a monumental $10,000 reduction in April to its current level of $425,000 in transparent hopes of a nearly realistic sold price of around $400,000 with maintenance of $900 per month. 
  • Between Broadway and nearby West End Avenue in the mid 80s, a second-floor one-bedroom co-op in a 20-foot-wide townhouse.  Among the highlights of this 1,200-sf apartment are the handsome dark floors, the amount of windows and light, two decorative fireplaces and good-size kitchen with marble countertops, two windows overlooking the block’s pleasant interior and, unfortunately, poorly stripped cabinets.  In a 1910 building that has no amenities, this place somehow went under contract when it was listed at $819,000 after a reduction from $839,000 with very high monthly maintenance of $1,486.  
  • Under contract in just three weeks, a four-bedroom, two-bath duplex on Central Park West in high 90s.  Evidently well priced at $1.995 million with maintenance of $2,876 a month, this corner co-op in a 1920 pet-friendly building of substantial character features 12-foot ceilings, wood-burning fireplace, washer/dryer, high-end kitchen appliances and side views of the park.  But the bedrooms, all on the lower floor, are small, and the entire unit needs a fair amount of cosmetic improvement. 
  • On Riverside Drive in the hundreds several blocks south of Columbia, a 910-sf apartment for which the owner will never get back the cost of a gorgeous renovation.  With direct views of the Hudson River, a stunning square open kitchen that has solid cherry cabinets, top-end appliances, breakfast counter and built-in desk facing a window, separate dining area, decorative fireplace, and plenty of closet space, this co-op in a 1917 building is listed aggressively at $975,000 after a price cut from $999,500 with monthly maintenance of $1,239.
  • A 500-sf patio of unusual appeal attached to a one-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath duplex in the low 80s between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue.  There is a room in the basement of the 1894 brownstone erroneously dubbed the master bedroom, where there is a washer/dryer crammed next to a toilet: It doesn’t meet legal requirements.  A spiral staircase links the basement to the living room, small outdated kitchen and a small bedroom.  But, ah, that expansive patio, which has plenty of breathing room in the block’s interior!  The unit of purportedly 925 square feet is offered for $750,000 with maintenance of $1,728 a month and little likelihood of selling for as much as $700,000-710,000. 
  • In the high 70s between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue, a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath co-op in need of an overhaul.  With three exposures facing buildings that are not oppressively close, this ordinary apartment is optimistically priced at $989,000 (plus tax) with extraordinary monthly maintenance of $2,480 in a 1924 doorman building.  Disclosing that it is an estate sale, the broker exhorts buyers, “Make an offer.”  

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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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