Out and About: Now you do finally see it

Apartment in search of a buyer

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t come across advice about staging.

Although this post doesn’t include any advice, I think the essentially before-and-after photos show why it’s normally harder to tempt a buyer with a vacant apartment than one that has been staged.

The condo shown in the photo is in a new development in West Harlem.  It is on the fifth floor of the building, which is across from Morningside Park, and prospective buyers could not be faulted for failing to envision its possibilities.

But show them the same apartment staged — the unit in the photo below sits in the same line on the fourth floor — and suddenly the condo’s merits shine with crystal clarity.

Same line one floor lower

Leaving nothing to the imagination is clearly worth the effort and the expense: The process transforms cold bare walls and floors into what any buyer can see as a warmly inviting home even if it may not be to their taste.

It happens that my buyer looked at perhaps a dozen or so available apartments in the building.

She’s an investor more concerned about rentability than livability and so less likely to be swayed by her emotions.  She also is rather sophisticated and self-confident.

You may by now have guessed what happened: Having seen the staged unit for the first time on a return visit to the building, she decided to purchase that unit shown at the top of this post before personal circumstances caused her to back out.

The original decision had been an easy one.

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

  • A pleasant one-bedroom corner co-op in the low 90s between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues.  This 750-sf apartment has a decently improved interior kitchen with a small space for dining, well-preserved flooring, rear views north into the block’s interior garden from a lower floor and nicely proportioned rooms.  In a 1925 building that has a part-time doorman, gym and playroom, the unit has had its price barely trimmed twice since it was listed in September for $575,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,100.  Now it’s $529,000, close to its market value.  
  • In the low 70s close to Central Park, a pleasant enough co-op with a miniaturized new kitchen and diminutive second bedroom apparently cut from the original master.  Including a 330-sf terrace not fatally overshadowed by surrounding buildings, a lone but nicely renovated bath, a so-called “dining foyer” of needlessly large proportions, and obstructed exposures from the living room and second bedroom, this apartment was priced at $1.095 million to negotiate well below the million-dollar mansion tax requirement and went under contract in January.  Maintenance is $1,851 per month in a 1929 full-service building that has a gym. 
  • A beautifully renovated corner co-op on a high floor in Lincoln Square.  This appealing unit has two “split” bedrooms, two baths, an expansive dining “gallery” at one end of the 20-foot-long living room and adjacent to the stylish galley kitchen, upgraded air conditioning, recessed lighting, built-ins and ample closet space.  Most open exposures are to the east and north, and the 1963 doorman building with permissive policies (except with regard to washer/dryers in units) includes a garage and health club.  At a price reduced by $50,000 to $1.1 million with somewhat high monthly maintenance of $2,657, the apartment represents good value.  
  • In the low 100s just southwest of Morningside Heights, a two-bedroom, one-and-half-bath co-op with partially open western exposures and one to the north.  An office has been carved out of part of what normally would be considered the master bedroom; that tiny half bath is near the small seating area in the kitchen, which has a black stove and granite countertops; and the full bath has been improved.  Closet space is minimal.  And the listing price of $885,000 with maintenance of $1,465 a month in a 1929 pet-friendly doorman building is more than anyone should pay, though it hovers near the building’s average.
  • A classic six-room apartment in a Central Park block of the mid 80s.  With two bedrooms and baths, dining room, maid’s room and a kitchen that betrays its age, this co-op in a 1931 building lacking most amenities easily could consume $300,000 in renovations.  Including closet space, the bones, as they say, nonetheless are good, though overwhelmed by the owners’ infatuation with faux-painted walls.  The views to the south are open and inviting.  The unit has an asking price that was cut last month from $1.795 million to $1.749 million, which sounds almost reasonable, with breathtakingly high monthly maintenance of $3,415.  Also on the market is a newly renovated unit in the same line one floor lower, providing excellent oversight of the tar roofs not far below and defying the setting of its original asking price of $2.5 million, now reduced in three steps to $2.29 million, with maintenance per month of $3,335.

Tomorrow: No regrets

To take your own bite out of the Big Apple, search for your new home 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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