Out and About: Half a measure isn’t enough

This photo makes my point that the kitchen looks fine at a glance. But the cabinets, countertop, floor and appliances are wanting.

Surely your parents and teacher suggested that there was no point in doing something if you didn’t do it well.

I have to wonder whether some sellers ever got that message.  They’ll slap on a coat of white paint, install low-grade appliance and add cheap cabinets to, as we say, fluff up a property.

Who do they think they are fooling?

While I am sure that what they have replaced was pretty objectionable and that the property looks superficially more saleable, I have to wonder about their judgment.

Contemplating perhaps the costliest purchase of their lives, buyers are nobody’s fools.  They’ll study a place, consider imperfections and nourish a healthy skepticism about any improvements.

The elevator in the building leaves way too much to be desired, and its condition is typical of the lobby, hallways and exterior.

At the same time, I have to concede that renovating a property with a level of luxury that exceeds the building itself is folly.  The quality of the building invariably drags down the value of a property with pretensions.

What motivated these musings were two virtually identical one-bedroom co-ops three floors apart in the 1920 pet-averse building (left) with few amenities that strikes me as down at the heels.  Yet the listed units — being sold by the low-rise co-operative itself in a Central Park block of the mid 90s — turned me off.

Certainly, their original offering price of $549,000 with monthly maintenance of approximately $900 in a market bloated with one-bedroom apartments begging for buyers was unjustified.  Perhaps that explains a reduction of $80,000 for the unit on the lower floor and of $50,000 for the other one in October.

My point is this: Give the buyer some credit for seeing through the veil of a cheapskate’s illusory upgrades.  

Following are some of the other apartments that I have visited and that are listed by various brokers:

  • A beautifully maintained two-bedroom, two-bath co-op in a Central Park block of the mid 60s.  With northern exposures through glorious leaded-glass windows, this 1,200-sf apartment in a 1928 pet-friendly building with part-time doorman and free basement laundry was renovated half a dozen years ago.  It has immense appeal, though the unit is burdened by a dining room that measures only about 81 square feet, access to the stylish baths only through the bedrooms and an oddly designed high-end kitchen in which the stove juts forlornly from a wall.  But there are good closet space, built-ins, a wood-burning fireplace, an inordinate amount of charm and a price that is unfathomably out of sync with the co-op’s advantages: $2 million with monthly maintenance of $2,496, though it is temporarily off the market, probably because of the holidays.
  • On Riverside Drive in the low 100s, two nearly identical adjoining studios, one of them tastefully renovated, that are easily combined.  Together, the units enjoy a 25-foot long terrace with terrific views north and west, including the Hudson River.  The improved apartment  of approximately 625 square feet boasts solid maple flooring, restored bath and kitchen with glass-tile backsplash and quality appliances.  In a 1929 landmarked Art Deco building with generally permissive policies, garage and. . . maid service, these co-ops are offered for a total of $725,000, within range of their market value.  Maintenance is $1,136 per month.  
  • A wraparound terrace in search of an apartment worthy of the asking price in the low 90s on a corner of Amsterdam Avenue.  Redolent of grandma’s taste, the two-bedroom penthouse has a living room that is too narrow, kitchen and two baths (which show off towels from a Ritz-Carlton) that are too old, and floors that are too worn.  Although the terrace does have sweep, only the north side is wide enough to be useful.  At $2.5 million with monthly maintenance and assessment totaling $2,565, this 1,300-sf apartment will be available for quite a while.  
  • Between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, an otherwise lovely one-bedroom co-op marred by its exposures only to brick walls.  With nicely renovated bath and compact kitchen (Silestone and GE Profile), plus huge walk-in closet, small dining room and good-looking hardwood flooring, this 800-sf apartment on a very low floor of a 1927 pet-friendly building with few amenities is priced appropriately at $550,000 with maintenance of $893 a month. 
  • A 920-sf apartment on a low floor of a 1925 doorman building with flexible policies and dreary halls on a Central Park block of the low 70s.  This two-bedroom, two-bath co-op, which is listed with shamelessly wide-angle photos, provides a washer/dryer, modestly improved baths, decent, if cramped, kitchen and worn hardwood floors.  It is offered at least $50,000 too high for $1.195 million with untoward monthly maintenance of $2,125.

Tomorrow: Dinosaurs

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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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0 thoughts on “Out and About: Half a measure isn’t enough

  1. Malcolm, so many owners ask for the global market as purchasers. Your point about renovations is well taken. The global markets wants new appliances in a kitchen, not a coat of paint over the old. You can’t have it both ways…if you want a higher price, you must make the higher priced investment. “You get back what you give”…my New England grandmother told me that. Something to think about!


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