Out and About: How does your garden grow?

One of the houses with virtues that Barbara Corcoran extolled recently on the Today Show.

The one-bedroom, two-bath duplex I was checking out during a Sunday open house recently has two assets and many liabilities.

On the minus side are its entry almost directly into the small kitchen (in which an ancient dishwasher caught my eye), cramped living room, a spiral staircase so narrow that I had to hunch my shoulders, its bedroom (albeit one that fits the legal definition) in the basement and baths that I’d classify as ordinary.

On the plus side is its location in a Central Park block of the high 60s, a stone’s throw from Lincoln Center.  (To digress, when you see “steps from” in a listing, consider the Fair Housing Act, which bars discrimination against persons with disabilities.)

Also on the plus side — and the only conceivable explanation for the co-op’s inflated asking price of $1.35 million with maintenance of $1,456 monthly — is the garden.  That the garden is shared by two other units seems to have had no affect on the price.

As I waltzed around the apartment, I overheard a German woman who expressed keen interest in the place offhandedly mention that a garden really wasn’t that important to her.  So, she might have been willing to make an offer for a co-op that was overpriced no doubt solely because of that relatively rare amenity?

Her comment was what got me thinking again about gardens and how they seem to exert an almost irrepressible temptation to buyers.

Even ol’ Barbara Corcoran on the Today Show a few days later expressed enthusiasm for the landscaping around some houses as if the flora magically sprouted and thrived without considerable care.  About one dwelling surrounded mostly by grass, she groused that “it doesn’t have much of a garden.”

Don’t most purchasers appreciate how much time and money it takes to make that patio, planted terrace or pot-laden (no, not that kind) balcony look so appealing?

I celebrated the 700-sf vegetable patch that I once tended in upstate New York and my wisteria-covered deck and colorfully surrounded patio that I nurtured when I lived in Washington, D.C.  I confess that it is a relief to be rid of them and the time, toil and money they consumed.

In other words, I contend that many buyers, except the one I encountered in that duplex, consistently overrate gardens, and most sellers just as consistently usually overvalue them.

The answer to the question I posed in the headline is this: A garden does not grow without a mountain of care and a hillock of cash.

Following are some of the other properties that I’ve seen and that various other brokers have listed:

  • A charming co-o p that occupies the top floor of a small building with an arresting facade and no elevator in the very low 70s between West End Avenue and Broadway.  In need of refinished floors and cosmetic improvements to its woodwork, this apartment features a working fireplace and exposed wall of bricks, an adequately updated interior kitchen, skylit dining area, bedrooms of small proportions — one is just six feet wide — a single bath (with a skylight) and a steep ladder to its private roof  that has a wood-planked path to a deck.  There is no washer/dryer, and the pet friendly 1920 building’s sole amenity, a laundry room, is in the basement.  Reduced by $25,000 to $725,000 in September and to $699,500 last month with maintenance of $1,222 per month, this place is approaching the right price.  
  • Between Riverside Drive and Broadway in the low 100s, an approximately 300-sf nicely renovated studio that had been the reception room on the ground floor of a 1900 brownstone.  Facing north on a wide, quiet street, this appealing co-op has beautiful, if painted, woodwork, a lovely decorative fireplace, minuscule modern kitchen, restored floors and unusually high ceilings.  At a price that has inched down from $299,000 since March to $227,000 with monthly maintenance of $588, this unit in a building with flexible policies and public spaces that demand promised improvement represents a bargain.  
  • With two bedrooms and two baths at either end of the apartment, a bright condop that has open exposures west from a high floor of a 1989 pet-friendly building on a busy corner of Broadway in the mid 80s, .  The unit is in very good condition; has had some upgrades, especially in the kitchen, which could be opened up; a whirlpool bath; and plenty of closets.  Listed at $1.250 million with maintenance of $2,336 a month in a building loaded with amenities, this place probably should sell for approximately $1.175 million.
  • On Central Park West in the very low 100s, an 887-sf one-bedroom condo with enough closet space to satisfy an Imelda Marcos.  This spacious and totally renovated apartment facing south has a terrace with great park and skyline views to the east and south, top-of-the-line appliances, not so high-end cabinets and, unfortunately, laminate floors.  Its twice-reduced asking price of $890,000 (from $945,000 originally in January) with common charges of $506 and taxes of $308 monthly in a massive complex is comparable to what other units somehow have achieved, though not in the immediate past. 

Tomorrow: Laws honored in the breach

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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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