Out and About: Welcome to grandma’s place

Tastes do, after all, change.

I just had to share with you my photo (above) of the entrance of a classic six-room apartment in the mid 70s on a corner of Columbus Avenue.

“All the rooms looked like this,” the listing broker confessed, acknowledging that their wallpaper had been stripped off the others and a coat of white paint slapped on.  We agreed that the co-op must have been decorated in ancient times, probably the 1960s.

Certainly the place is an estate sale — in some rooms, only subflooring exists, and the kitchen is a wreck best left to your imagination.  Yet there are loads of sun from the south and west in the 1,400-sf apartment and unlimited potential to transform the unit.

The current asking price is $1.425 million, down in two steps from the original $1.55 million in June with monthly maintenance of $1,715 and no underlying mortgage. It went under contract last month.  

The listing got me thinking about the sort of apartment that buyers may enter and immediately think of grandma.  That would not be in the sense of kitchens redolent with the fragrance of chocolate chip cookies or even of dirty jokes told with a guilty chortle along with an eye glinting with glee.

Grandma slept here? Master bedroom of someone who evidently has been watching too many questionable home-décor programs.

It would be the sort of grandma who may bring to mind chair arms draped with doilies, couches buried under pillows and horizontal surfaces that are overburdened with glass figurines, faded photos and dishes of hard candy.

In grandma’s homes, the overall impression is of overstuffing.  There may be the suggestion of an ominous mustiness, an abundance of plants needing little light and a kitchen from another era.

Grandma’s homes are hard to sell, even if it’s not a grandma who lives in them, but someone of a younger generation who is yet to evolve — arguably for example, whoever decorated the green bedroom above.

Maybe it’s my modest upbringing, but I am just unable to fathom the appeal of an over-decorated residence such as the late Brooke Astor’s (above right), the residence (not shown) of the late William F. Buckley and his wife or some of the apartments I see on my rounds of open houses.

Following is a sample of the other properties that I recently visited and that various brokers have listed:

  • A block from Riverside Park and from a subway stop on West End Avenue in the low 100s, a two-bedroom, one-and-a-quarter bath co-op on the ground floor of a 1925 doorman building that allows pied-à-terres and pets.  The narrow eat-in kitchen is dated, the floors reveal nail heads in places, the rooms could be bigger, there is a washer/dryer and the master bedroom has views into gardens inside the block.  Listed in early September for $835,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,008, this apartment should go for approximately $775,000.
  • On a corner of Broadway in Lincoln Square, a renovated one-bedroom apartment with fewer than 600 square feet.  In a 1971 dog-averse high-rise with amenities ranging from pool to garage, the condo looks into an expansive courtyard from a relatively low floor.  With new wood floors,  and decently updated interior kitchen and bath, and adequate space, this condo went under contract last month after its price went from $819,000 in October to $799,000.  Common charges are $495 and real estate taxes, $464 per month.
  • A supposedly 1,200-sf one-bedroom co-op on West End Avenue in the very low 80s.  This impeccably renovated corner duplex on the top floor of a 1935 doorman building boasts a narrow terrace accessible via the bedroom on the upper level.  There is much to commend this exceptionally airy apartment — its wonderful northwestern views that include the Hudson River, its superb style, copious closet space, a small office off the bedroom, a wood-burning fireplace and the top-end galley kitchen.  But there are drawbacks such as its single bath being off the bedroom, a spiral staircase, dining area of fewer than 100 square feet and the terrace access.  Consequently, the asking price of $1.475 million with substantial maintenance of $1,930 monthly is too steep.
  • In the high 90s near Central Park, a first-floor alcove studio that was listed in March and finally found a buyer in November when the 540-sf condo had a slightly reduced asking price of $475,000 with combined monthly costs of $526.  Facing south at a some distance from a busy street through pleasant landscaping in a full-service 1961 complex, this agreeable apartment has refinished floors, a dated wall of mirrors and even older kitchen.
  • A two-bedroom, one-and-a-half co-op with blinding sunlight and open exposures south in the high 70s between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues.  With pre-war details, high-end kitchen featuring cherry cabinets, an island and granite countertops, improved baths that are partly vintage, and new quiet windows, this apartment shows very well.  In a 1924 pet-friendly building with part-time doorman, roof deck and a policy of permitting washer/dryers, the unit was listed for $1.225 million in September and reduced last month to $1.175 million with high maintenance of $$2,026 a month.  It should sell for close to $1.1. million.

Tomorrow: Maybe the price is right

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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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