Out and About: FSBO will get what he deserves

View from balcony of a condo owner who “doesn’t have to sell.”

The owner of a one-bedroom condo on a corner of Broadway in the mid 90s was telling me how he had carefully done his research before setting the asking price for his pied-à-terre in a post-war building with a health club and other amenities.

Jeff had looked at comparable prices online, checked sales in his building and decided on $669,000 for the apartment, which has maintenance of $735 and real estate taxes of $375 a month.

“But,” he volunteered, “I don’t know the condition of the other apartments. What do you think?”

Since I spend an enormous amount of time checking not only prices but a variety of other properties in person, I equivocated. That’s some of the value I bring to the table.

In any case, I noted the axiom that an apartment is priced too high if it doesn’t attract offers after a number of prospective buyers have seen it.

“I know,” he replied. “I’m an economics professor.”

“Ah,” said I knowingly, “Keynes.”

Jeff, who lives with his wife in Douglaston, Queens, smiled in response. There had been some 30 visitors to the apartment, he confessed, and some offers.  But the offers were too low for the couple.

“We’re in no hurry,” he declared. “We don’t have to sell.”

I shrugged and went on my way, thinking how foolish Jeff is. Anyone who is not motivated to sell just shouldn’t bother: That owner never will be satisfied with an offer.

Moreover, such an owner is neglecting three important precepts. The first one is that the earliest offer frequently will prove to be the best one. Second, prices in the local housing market could decline. And third, not only will the perception that a listing is stale prove detrimental to the best price, but fewer prospective buyers will bother looking at the property.

Worse for Jeff, his apartment is nothing special.

I’m somewhat doubtful that the pass-through kitchen was gut-renovated only the “four or five years ago” that they reported. Even so, the kitchen, which has black granite countertops, lacks high-end anything else.

In addition, the ceilings are at a minimum height, the bath has had minimal improvements and built-ins are limited to a couple of slim floor-to-ceiling bookcase. In its favor, the unit has exceptional closet space and a balcony.

The perch from a relatively low floor makes the balcony of questionable usefulness, however, facing as it does the noise of bus and other traffic close at hand. Some folks won’t mind the clamor, but I wouldn’t find it possible to have a leisurely cup of coffee while reading a newspaper any morning.

I have to say that the unit is not unreasonably priced, but I’ll venture that it won’t sell for anything like what the economist hopes.

Below are other units that I recent visited and that are listed by various other brokers:

  • In the high 70s on a corner of Amsterdam Avenue, a pleasant one-bedroom co-op that has an open southern exposure, dated but serviceable pass-through kitchen, picture window in the living room, parquet floors, popcorn ceilings and through-wall air conditioners.  In a bland pet-friendly 1974 building with doorman, garage and permissive pied-à-terre policy, the apartment originally was well priced at $529,000 with monthly maintenance of $964.  Why the price has since been reduced by a pointlessly paltry $10,000 boggles the mind.
  • A three-bedroom, two-bath condo in the high 80s on Central Park West.  With southern exposures that allow acceptable side views of the park and skyline at least 10 feet away from oversize windows, this beautifully renovated 1,804-sf apartment has a den, great closet space, central open kitchen with top-end finishes and appliances, washer/dryer and all rooms but the living/dining room and master bedroom on the small side.  Still, this unit is so appealing and well priced that it went under contract in a little over a month.  The asking price is $3.195 million with common charges of $2,460 and real estate taxes of $1,394 a month.  
  • On Riverside Drive a few blocks south of Columbia, a dreadful one-bedroom co-op with laminate flooring and, in its barely adequate kitchen, downscale cabinets. Renovations were done on the cheap, including the renovated bath.  Cut from a larger unit, this long and dark apartment provides views only of a courtyard in a 1907 doorman building that has a garage. Listed at $395,000 with monthly maintenance of $518, plus an assessment of $37 for the rest of the year, it went under contract at the end of May.
  • In Lincoln Square, a two-bedroom, two-bath co-op assembled from the combination of a one-bedroom and a studio apartment. Although the owners did they best they could, entry is directly into a nearly 20-foot-wide living/dining room facing at the far end an open galley kitchen that is unusually narrow.  The kitchen and rest of unit have been handsomely renovated, closet space is copious, there is a washer/dryer, and exposures are sunny to the north.  This listing in a pet-friendly 1924 building lacking amenities is priced about right at $1.24 million with maintenance of $2,085 per month.  The apartment found a buyer at the end of May.
  • A gut-renovated two-bedroom, one-bath condo on a corner of Columbus Avenue in the low 90s.  This approximately 971-sf apartment has been designed smartly, in both senses of the word, with a handsome galley kitchen that has a backsplash of clear glass tiles, a grey-and-white color scheme and expensive cabinetry.  The unit has a balcony, mostly open exposures to the east and south, and combination washer/dryer.  For buyers who can tolerate a building overlaid with an institutional ambiance, though with full service, including a garage, the offering price of $899,000, from $999,000, with combined monthly costs of $1,055 suggests that the final purchase price will not be a bad deal.  
  • On West End Avenue in the low 70s, a down-at-the-heels co-op that was designed as a classic-seven-room apartment in 1925.  The 2,300-sf unit has great bones and nothing but potential — unless the new owner has an inexplicable fondness for laminate, 80s flourishes and proximity to the avenue from a low floor.  The apartment was offered for $2.25 million in early January, had a buyer by the end of February, went back on the market soon thereafter but at $2.275 million and has been listed for $1.995 million since May with monthly maintenance of $3.573.  That last price cut did it: The unit went under contract last month.
  • On Central Park West close to the northern edge of the park, a one-bedroom apartment with nothing but courtyard views.  With scuffed floors, fair kitchen, added crown molding, improved bath and cooking odors in the public hallway, this co-op in a pet-friendly 1910 building that has a full-time doorman has been listed since early January for as much as $519,000 with maintenance per month of $622.  Now, it is at $469,000, perhaps $50,000 more than it is worth. 

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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

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