Out and About: Bob Dylan did have a point

Two apartments that are nearly identical, including kitchens, are listed at close to the same price.

Every so often I wander into an open house freighted with déja vu all over again.

As soon as I entered the two-bedroom, two-bath co-op in the mid 90s west of Broadway, I realized that I had seen the 2,028-sf apartment three or four years earlier.  (That I should have remembered by its address is a path I’d rather not travel.)

Depending on your view of the pricing abilities of three different brokers and the seller’s willingness to embrace reality, this place may well be proving to be a barometer of our dynamic housing market.

The gut-renovated apartment had bounced on and off the market since September of 2007, when the 2,000-sf unit had an asking price of $2.1 million.  Before the listing expired, it went to $1.8 million, then $1.7 million.  With a new broker in July of 2008, the co-op was offered for $2.12 million, followed (in three days) by $2.175 million and, in August, $2.225 million.

After Lehman Brothers imploded that September and the housing market tanked, the price was cut to $2.2 million, after which reduction the listing expired in November of that year.

It returned to the market last month.  Price: $1.7 million.

The unit has its high points — a dramatic kitchen with marble-topped island open to a great room created by combining the original living and dining rooms, which alone have unobstructed exposures, albeit from a very low floor.  The bedrooms face brick walls.

As for the low points, I count among them hollow-core doors; an excessively long hallway from the entrance past the two secondary bedrooms that dumps visitors into the kitchen; a hike along that hallway from the third bedroom to the second bath; lack of a double sink in the en suite master bath, which has only a stall shower; and the darkness that shrouds all of the bedrooms.

In a 1925 building of questionable quality that has a garage, welcomes pets and pieds-à-terre and lacks a doorman, this co-op has the burden of justifying its price not only by reason of its liabilities but also by the competition: The apparently identical unit on the same floor that I haven’t inspected and that has been offered for six months.  It has an asking price of $1.659 million, though differences between the two are hard to detect.

Does the current price of $1.7 million million with monthly maintenance of $2,146 reflect how the times have changed since 2007?  If the apartment didn’t sell for the same sum in that hot market, I don’t see how it will manage to find a buyer now in this era of economic woes.

Below is a sampling of some of the other properties listed by various brokers and visited in recent weeks:

  • A nicely renovated one-bedroom co-op with a 600-sf terrace of unusual appeal in a Central Park block of Lincoln Square.  Beautifully planted and featuring a gazebo, the terrace also benefits from a relative lack of overshadowing buildings around it.  As for the airy 814-sf corner apartment, there are new stainless-steel appliances, older cabinets and butcher-block countertops in the opened kitchen, a gutted bath with tiling of questionable taste and an inviting living room that has attractive hardwood flooring.  In a 1920 building with few amenities, the unit was listed for a not unreasonable $1.139 million with monthly maintenance of $1,654 and was reduced last week to $1.095 million.
  • In the low 90s on West End Avenue, an 750-sf one-bedroom apartment that suffers only from blocked exposures and, originally, its asking price.  Nicely renovated five years ago, the co-op has an eat-in kitchen with cherry cabinets, skim-coated walls, a stylish bath with walls of tumbled marble, oversize windows and pre-war details. Thrice reduced in tiny increments from $710,000 ultimately to $675,000 with maintenance of $991 a month, the unit in a permissive, pet-friendly 1920 doorman building now has a fair asking price.
  • A 600-sf co-op overlooking a busy street in the low 70s between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues.  In a 1928 doorman building, this apartment has a narrow dated kitchen with undersize appliances, a walk-in closet of gargantuan dimensions, built-ins and lots of sunlight from the south.  The reduced asking price since last month of $535,000 with maintenance of $1,133 per month is on target.  
  • A three-bedroom apartment on the top floor of a modest building with part-time doorman in the low 100s between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.  There are a decently improved galley kitchen and bath, separate wood-paneled dining room, nice floors too far gone for another sanding, and good light from exposures over rooftops toward Broadway and, from the smallish bedrooms, south to walls.  Except for the presence of a single bath, though a second one is a possibility, this co-op is almost well priced at $1.225 million with monthly maintenance of $1,446.
  • A 2,000-sf co-op that has an expanded top-flight eat-in kitchen as its best feature.  With a master bedroom created out of a formal dining room and somewhat disjointed flow, the relatively bright apartment in the mid 80s faces north on a Riverside Park block over a wide street in the mid 80s.  Its updated baths retain their vintage character, there are built-ins, and original details have been more or less preserved.  Since the 2,400-sf unit across the hall went under contract while listed for $300,000 less, the asking price of $2.75 million with maintenance of $3,301 a month suggests a heap of unwarranted seller optimism.

Tomorrow: Have we met?

To take a bite out of the Big Apple, start your search for a new home here.

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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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