Out and About: All real estate is not only local

It is several months since I wrote about an expansive and expensively renovated condo in the 70s east of Broadway on the Upper West Side.

(flickr photo by Jude Doyland)

The combined 3,180-sf unit bowled me over in terms of extraordinarily sensible and stylish design.  My only complaint was the exposure from a low floor: the walls of the building opposite the apartment.

At the time, I suspected that such a deficit would be an obstacle to its asking price of $5.3 million when it was listed back on Feb. 16.  But I didn’t recognize how big a problem it would become.

It was only a matter of time before the price began to drop as the lofty apartment languished on the market.  Have a look at its history since it was offered for sale:

Feb. 15, $5.3 million

Feb. 16, $5.2 million

March 31, $4.995 million

April 5, temporarily off the market

April 13, $4.995 million

May 13, $4.85 million

Aug. 18, temporarily off the market

Sept. 7, $4.45 million

Nov. 2, exclusive listing expired

Three weeks after the Sept. 7, even that last price obviously was too high: Real estate taxes alone shot up from $1,415 to $2,667 a month.

To me, the lesson is clear that you cannot sell a sow’s ear as if it were a silk purse.

This four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath condo demonstrates again that the market always is the best judge of what a property is worth.

Those sellers who were willing to accept their own compromises when they purchased their home may well fail to understand that they and the present market are two different species.  To most buyers, the same tradeoffs that the current owners accepted are intolerable.

The market in general will not be of the same mind as any seller about a windowless room being unfit for a baby, a kitchen too cramped for a resident who loves to host big dinner parties or a layout that turns the apartment into a maze.  All real estate is not only local; it also is personal.

Only by floating prices that the market cannot sustain will sellers learn their lesson.  The hard way.  This is one situation where time doesn’t heal all.  What time does do is tell all.

Following are some of the properties that I’ve recently visited and that are being marketed by various brokers:

  • An unforgivably long hallway in search of the rest of its two-bedroom, one-bath co-op just below the southwest edge of Harlem in the low 100s.  The views south to Riverside Church in this adequately renovated apartment are lovely, albeit with mismatched floors, some of cherry.  However, those views south are accessible only from the bedrooms at the front of the apartment, where the living room should, but cannot, be; its windows face walls.  As for that hallway, it is 42 feet long, all the unit’s rooms are at the end far from the entrance, and its length does little to dampen the sound of a yapping dog in the apartment next door.  Still, this place in a pet-friendly 1926 building with few amenities offers a fair amount of space close to an elevated subway line at an asking price cut four times from the original $599,500 in May to $475,000 in October with monthly maintenance of $839.
  • In the low 70s of a Central Park block, a 750-sf co-op in which the bedroom is through French doors off a large foyer called a dining room.  The bath is outside, the somewhat dated interior kitchen is dark and small, there are lots of closets, virtually all of the exposures are into the narrow interior of the block, and a pleasant terrace is perched beneath surrounding buildings.  “She’s really wanting to sell,” the listing broker tells me, “so don’t be bashful about bringing someone at a lower price point.”  You know what that says about the awesomely high price of $899,000 (from $925,000 in September) with maintenance per month of $1,080 in a pet-friendly 1929 building with impressive lobby.
  • A grand old 3,000-sf co-op on Riverside Drive in the high 80s.  With three bedrooms, three full baths, a library that could be a bedroom, eat-in kitchen that has laminate countertops and a wonderful aged Crown stove with two ovens, maid’s room, laundry room, formal dining room, winter views of the Hudson River through the trees and an expansive gallery, this apartment last improved some 30 years ago probably demands close to $1 million worth of renovations.  In a 1925 building with doorman and fitness room, the unit was listed for $5.2 million in July, had a price drop to $4.975 million in September and fell to $4.7 million last month with monthly maintenance of $3,880.  With the lust for especially large apartments and a desirable location, that’s probably down almost far enough, though the building does require a minimum 50 percent downpayment.
  • In the very low 60s west of Broadway, a sunny two-bedroom, two-bath co-op that has undergone modest renovations.  The 1,250-sf corner apartment on a high floor of a 1957 mid-rise that has a garage and welcomes pets has had cosmetic improvements including refinished parquet floors, new stone countertops in the kitchen — where the stove is older and the solid-wood cabinets are laminated — and new double-pane windows.  Its price has bumped down four times from $1.445 million in May to $1.275 million in September with maintenance of $1,668 a month.  The seller needs to run after the market somewhat faster than to date if a buyer is likely to spring for the unit. 
  • A one-bedroom co-op that is excessively stark in the low 90s between West End Avenue and Broadway.  Among its prominent features are ebonized floors, tiny enclosed kitchen with concrete countertops plus stainless-steel appliances and exposed brick, copper fan in the bedroom, not a scintilla of ornamental detail and awkward layout.  In a pet-friendly 1898 low-rise with live-in super, the unit also has fancy double-pane windows with integrated blinds, 10-foot ceilings, hollow-core doors, gorgeous bath and exposures onto an unforgettably ugly rooftop.  Having been listed with another broker last December for $573,000, it now is offered hopefully, but with little chance of success, for $549,000 with maintenance per month of $698.

Tomorrow: Hang on to your money

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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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