Out and About: 1st impressions that provoke lust

The sort of façade that pulls in potential buyers.

Most of us have a clue as to why developers pay so much attention to lobbies that impress buyers. Such lobbies can tip the balance between making an offer and continuing the search for a new home.

I often hear buyers comment on how pleasing or displeasing a given lobby is to them.

But short is the shrift they tend to give to a building’s exterior, which seems to have a far more subtle, but no less strong, influence on buyers.

I was reminded of this phenomenon on one of my recent tours of brokers’ open houses.  Going from address to address and one bland façade after another on generic block followed by generic block, I came upon the building at the top.

Jaded as I am, I couldn’t wait to see the apartment, which I rather liked, despite the climb up three flights of ill-maintained stairs.

Am I alone in walking past various buildings and wishing, “I’d love to live there.”  For example, I’ve had that thought about the Ansonia (right) just south of Fairway and some contemporary buildings such as the Harrison (above) that have sprung up nearby.

They are tantalizing — what’s that nostrum about first impressions?  Even if the apartments inside prove to be disappointing, a smashing lobby or gracious façade can lead buyers to accept the compromise of a new home that isn’t quite of their dreams.

Indeed, approaching such a memorable building can be counted on to lighten their mood, whether they consciously appreciate that an inviting façade is what can make acceptable to them a dismal kitchen or a blocked exposure.

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

  • An expensively renovated 1,360-sf condo on Central Park West in the low 60s.  With two bedrooms, two elegant baths, first-rate eat-in kitchen, washer/dryer, glowing floors, nearly excessive closet space and too much of a foyer, this apartment on a low floor lacks a dining room.  Monthly costs are the eye-opening sum of $3,010.  In a pet-friendly white glove building that is impressively evocative of its construction in 1931, this unit went on the market for $2.75 million in June and then had a $250,000 price cut last month.  That still is asking a lot. 
  • On West End Avenue in the high 90s, a shabby 900-sf co-op in which a dining room has been shamefully converted into a second bedroom sans closet.  The resulting awkward layout makes for a long haul from the renovated kitchen, which features schlocky oak cabinets that belong in a ticky-tack subdivision and unparalleled views onto a tarred roof.  Each of the cramped baths requires a substantial step up to the floor, all of the original pre-war woodwork has suffered coats of white paint, the floors cry out for refinishing and the 1912 building lacking a doorman seems to be in mediocre condition.  Otherwise, perhaps the asking price of $750,000 (reduced three times from its original $975,000 in April) makes sense.  Monthly maintenance is a relatively low $1,038. 
  • A three-bedroom, two-bath true duplex two flights of stairs up an 1895 brownstone in the very low 80s between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues.  With terrace, washer/dryer and exposed brick this 1,350-sf unit was gutted within the past year with an eye to preserving its original character while making major improvements.  The living room and open kitchen project enormous appeal, but the bedrooms are on the small side and the staircase to the master has oak woodwork that doesn’t harmonize well with the rest of the apartment.  At $1.499 million after a $26,000 trim in June with maintenance of $1,777 a month, this apartment was bound to last — which it did until the listing expired after six months.
  • On Broadway in the low 100s, a cramped one-bedroom co-op in an utterly forgettable pet-averse 1930 building with an elevator that may or may not be working and little more in the guise of an amenity.  This sad, dark apartment has an upgraded kitchenette with new cabinets and free-standing island at one end of the living room, good closet space and a 110-sf bedroom.  The original asking price of $370,000 with monthly maintenance of $667 was a good $50,000 above the unit’s value.  There was a $20,000 price cut the other day, and you can do the math too — $30,000 too much!
  • A  790-sf co-op with one bedroom and one and a half baths, that half bath unfortunately off the kitchen, in the mid 70s between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues  The amount of space and closets, the corner exposures north and west, and the 1923 building’s permissiveness with regard to pets, pieds-à-terre and washer/dryers are the high points.  The low points include an inexpensively improved kitchen, floors that give the appearance of having been painted, a renovated bath of ferocious ugliness and the absence of a doorman or live-in super.  Listed for $745,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,282, the unit should sell for around $700,000.  

Tomorrow: Shakespeare went overboard but had a point

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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

Malcolm@ServiceYouCanTrust.com
Web site

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