Out and About: Love thy neighbor but not thy neighbor who is trying to sell a similar property

One of the brownstone gardens among many.

The listing sounds pretty tempting:

“. . . [A] den/dining/sunroom with skylights and large windows to the lush garden, a true Eden.”

This one seems just as nice:

“In a historic townhouse, this apartment has three levels, a beautiful, private garden, and 2 or 3 bedrooms with 2 renovated baths.”

And there’s this one:

“The living room opens to the verdant garden of approximately 500 square feet, with attractive hardwood decking surrounded by lush plantings.”

This too (albeit grammatically erratic):

“Cute Garden with grill, quiet with lots of plants and lovely brick walkway connecting kitchen Garden.”

And another.

Here’s another:

“Beautiful brownstone triplex with large landscaped garden, three bedrooms and three and a half baths, steps from Central Park.”

And the last:

“Large bright parlor floor 2 bedroom with 12-foot ceilings and classic hardwood detail  . . .  Eight-foot windows look out on a well maintained private garden.”

Although you may have surmised with some justification that I’m fixated on gardens again, my point is that these six brownstone apartments are within five blocks of each other in the 80s on the Upper West Side.  Three are in the same block, and there is a pair  in another block just five blocks away.

Worse for two of the listings is that they are actually next to each other.

In addition, there are others in the immediate neighborhood.  The ones I’ve cited here are just the ones I happened to see on a single day, and they are listed at prices relatively close to each other, except for the triplex.

The last thing a seller needs is competition, which is bound to force down the price: supply and demand.

Putting these six similar properties on the market at the same time presents them with the difficult challenge of distinguishing each from the others and offering them at a price that will land a satisfactory contract.

And yes, yet another.

Arguably, having too many choices can paralyze some buyers.  It also can make those able to make a decision hard bargainers.  It’s easy enough to imagine the negotiation:

Prospective buyer of a unit offered for $1.25 million: “I’ll give you $1 million.”

Seller: “Let’s split the difference, $1.125 million.”

Buyer: “Sorry, $1 million is the best I can do.  If you won’t accept my offer, I’ll just purchase the one down the block.”

Frankly, I don’t know how sellers and their brokers can price so many neighboring properties intelligently.  Each has its pluses and minuses, namely:

  • With only views of, but no access to, a garden, a two-bedroom co-op that has extravagantly ornate original woodwork on the parlor floor is occupies.  There are a top-of-the line kitchen that doubles as hallway, two handsome baths and two lofts, one an unforgivable intrusion into the otherwise gorgeous living/dining room, which boasts an unusually high ceiling and a wood-burning fireplace.  Price: After a $55,000 cut in October, $1.195 million with monthly maintenance of $1,848, both way beyond reason.  
  • On and off the market since May of 2010, then at a price of $1.395 million, and down to $1.1 million in October, a co-op with monthly maintenance of 1,073.  The apartment is across the street from the preceding one, and it bears the burden of an impossibly impractical layout.  Even though the place is said to have two or three bedrooms, the third one is just an expanded hallway, the kitchen is bifurcated and the garden shown above right is just a walled terrace.  It has been temporarily off the market since the holidays.
  • Next to the unit above is a two-bedroom co-op with proper flow.  Rooms are of a good size, the sumptuous garden pictured at the top is 27 feet deep, there are two dated baths, and the renovated kitchen is another of those hallways transformed into a narrow galley type, but with full-size appliances, including GE Profile and Viking.  Its asking price of $1.195 million (reduced from $1.25 million last month) is nothing if not competitive. 
  • A three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath triplex that essentially composes half of a brownstone.  Its features include a garden, some recessed lighting, a lower floor that is partly subterranean, wood-burning fireplace in the master suite, washer/dryer and central air.  This co-op needs at least a cosmetic overhaul plus udpated appliances in the expansive kitchen.  When I saw it, there was an offer being negotiated within range of the $2.5 million asking price, and it changed hands last month.  Maintenance is $1,636 a month.
  • Three blocks away, a two-bedroom, one-bath co-op that also has a space called sunroom leading to a lovely garden.  Entry is either into the kitchen from the parlor level or via a very long public hallway at ground level.  This place demands updating, starting with the worn open kitchen and the floors.  The bath has been adequately improved, and the most impressive feature except for the garden is a walk-in closet of unusual capacity.  The apartment is listed for $1.225 million with maintenance per month of $1.235, and that number seems a bit of a stretch.  It went temporarily off the market in November.
  • Another triplex several doors away is one of those with a difficult layout that includes not one, but two, spiral staircases.  The middle level has a large kitchen with older appliances, a combination living/dining room, a small bedroom and entrance to the nice garden shown above left.  But there is no bath on that main floor, though there is one on each of the other floors.  According to the listing, this dated co-op “exudes rustic charm and character,” a dead giveaway that the buyer had better be flexible and have deep pockets.  The offering price of $1.295 million with monthly maintenance of $1,760 is out of line for such eccentricity, and since early December, it has been  temporarily off the market, too.

Given the difficulty of selling just one apartment in our market, especially this time of the year, the biblical injunction to love they neighbor must be falling on deaf ears.

Tomorrow: What’s a broker to do?

To take your bite out of the Big Apple, start your home search 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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