Out and About: Same line, same result

There are two 1,000-sf co-ops on the market with identical floor plans in the same line of a 1923 building in high 80s between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive.

Their similarities don’t end there: Each has been renovated and each was offered at the same price when I saw them several weeks ago.  Yet only three floors apart, they have no hope of being sold for the same sum.

This apartment is on a floor three levels lower than the unit shown in the photo below.

The photo does not do justice to the feel of the two-bedroom, one-bath apartment on the lower of the two floors.

You don’t get the full effect of how crowded with furniture is the 257-sf living room.  In it, you’ll find a dining room table with six chairs, two stools, two couches, at least one other chair, an ottomon, an occasional table, a cocktail table and — and! — an upright piano.

Add to that collection of items, pictures on the wall and various objects and lamps, and visitors will rush to escape the suffocating clutter.  In addition, the much-improved kitchen presents itself like a shrinking violet.

Obstructed views of the building on the other side of a narrow courtyard do nothing to lift the co-op’s gloom.

Now consider the apartment just three floors higher, where reflected sunlight makes for a relatively bright apartment.

But that’s not all.  The place features clean lines, dramatic lighting, a kitchen that draws one in and nary an extra piece of furniture.

Notice the predominance of lighter colors in contrast to the somber effect of the other unit, again not so easily grasped by the superb photography in the listing.

Each of the apartments was listed for $925,000 with maintenance of around $1,300 monthly, give or take.  And there’s a story behind the pricing.

First the one on the higher floor has a history.  It went on the market in early May for $960,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,367 before its reduction to that $925,000 a month later.  

As for the lower unit, the listing broker explained that he believed the right asking price should be under $900,000.  A month later, he prevailed, reducing the amount to $895,000 with maintenance of $1,272 a month.

What took a month for the reduction was his stated desired to give the other broker a chance to come to terms with a couple of buyers who had seemed ready to make an offer.  (The theory is that buyers would snap up the co-op that shows better than an inferior one at the same listed price.)

The listing broker of the lesser unit asked me what the difference between the eventual sold prices might end up being.  He was taken aback when I suggested maybe $50,000-60,000.

But the contrast between the appearance of two apartments of similar quality seemed to me to justify such a chasm.  For his seller’s sake, I hope I’m wrong.  (It’s been known to happen.)

Unsurprisingly, the asking prices of both places have had the same result: no takers.

Below are some of the other units that are listed by various brokers and that I visited:

  • On Central Park West in the very low 90s, a classic seven-room estate sale.  This 2,650-sf unit facing south — that is, not the park — probably needs renovation on the order of $600,000-750,000.  But the bones of this three-bedroom, three-bath apartment with maid’s room above the three tops are excellent, and the potential is great.  In a prestige white-glove building constructed in 1930, this co-op is optimistically listed for $3.45 million with maintenance per month of $3,909. 
  • A one-bedroom apartment in the low 100s between Broadway and West End Avenue.  In a 1920 townhouse, the unit has been thoughtfully restored, and there is plenty of reflected bright sunlight, though no open views.  With high ceilings, built-in desk off a hallway, decent bath and a kitchen that has handsome sink, laminate and butcher-block countertop and, of all things, a Sub-Zero refrigerator complementing lesser appliances, this co-op is well priced at a reduced $480,000 with monthly maintenance of $770. 
  • In the low 70s of Central Park West, a seven-room, four-bath apartment which seems to have every surface painted.  The kitchen is big, though it could be updated, the herringbone floors are gracious, baths retain handsome original tiling, and a general cosmetic improvement is indicated.  In a distinguished 1930 full-service building, the co-op offers three exposures, with those to the west from the bedrooms especially winning.  The corner master bedroom and the living room look south, but any views of the park demand craning of the neck.  The asking price of $6.6 million with maintenance of $4,851 a month and a 3.5 percent flip tax paid by the purchaser strikes me as excessive.  Apparently only me: That was the sold price only a year ago, and the unit went under contract again in July. 
  • An appealing 825-sf co-op that has an inviting bay window (unfortunately overlooking busy Columbus Avenue in the low 80s), wood-burning fireplace, exposed brick, two split bedrooms and one bath.  This unit is clean and in very good condition, the biggest deficit being an updated, though interior, kitchen.  In an 1890 pet-friendly doorman building with strong character, the apartment went on the market in July for $895,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,805, had a $20,000 reduction last month and needs to come down approximately 5 percent more.
  • In Lincoln Square, a lovely one-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath corner condo on a high floor.  There are walls of windows with mostly open southern and eastern views, built-ins, a wood-paneled wall and washer/dryer in the 1,032-sf apartment.  In a premier 1991 full-service building that incorporates a garage, swimming pool and other amenities, the apartment is exceptionally airy and has a dated, but usable, galley kitchen.  At $1.35 million with common charges of $1,047 and taxes of $785 per month, the unit had more than one offer within a week of its being put on the market in mid August, yes August, and now is under contract.
  • An approximately 750-sf open terrace attached to a renovated co-op, though with a difficult floor plan that includes a double-height spiral staircase leading to a large room, entry to the outdoor space and no bath.  Downstairs is a standard one-bedroom apartment that is three very long flights from the street.  In a 1910 pet-friendly brownstone in the high 70s between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway, the supposed 1,100-sf apartment has a washer/dryer, pass-through kitchen (falsely marketed as eat-in) and no space that qualifies as the purported dining room.  The offering price has zoomed down from $925,000 in April lately to $799,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,195.  Perhaps the buyer who went to contract last month — the amount shouldn’t have exceeded $750,000 — is athletically inclined. 

Tomorrow: Auction news

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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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