Out and About: The way to a home’s heart

The argument can be made, and frequently is, that kitchens are what sell a residence.

Although I agree that the concept is fundamentally true, I also appreciate that any number of deficiencies can outweigh the appeal of the most glamorous kitchen.

Moreover, I think that a top-end kitchen — one with the inevitable Sub-Zero refrigerator and granite countertops — in an otherwise modest apartment or townhouse isn’t likely to carry the day.  Rather, prospective buyers may discount a kitchen’s worth if the rest of the dwelling doesn’t meet the same high standard.

I base my reasoning on the real estate principle of regression, which means that the lowest priced property on a block tends to drag down the value of the others.  The converse, progression, suggests the highest priced property does tend to pull up the value of lower priced ones.

Certainly, the deal-motivating kitchen in a 700-sf one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side is going to differ greatly from the sort that buyers of a 5,000-sf Tribeca loft can be counted on demand.

What brings the subject to mind is the kitchen in the photo above, which I saw in splendidly renovated 2,000-sf co-op in the mid 80s between Broadway and West End Avenue.  Aside from the adjacent breakfast nook — which you can see in the photo to the left and which charmed me beyond reason — the kitchen itself struck me as unusually inviting, despite it’s dark colors.

It happens that I enjoy cooking and baking bread, and this kitchen beckoned me like a fish to a prize-winning lure.  (Actually, I don’t fish, though I do enjoy a nicely sautéed filet of sole.)

Exceptionally well designed, this particular kitchen does boast the requisite high-end appliances and popular finishes.  But its warmth and workability held particular appeal to me.

Still, let us bear in mind, as I’ve written previously, that today’s trendy kitchen inevitably becomes tomorrow’s dated one.  An Inman News columnist recently made the same point.

As for the remainder of the seven-room apartment, it is configured to have two bedrooms, a media room, combined 36-foot-long living/dining room and a home office.  A curving hallway that leads to the master suite is an effective touch, and it has the benefit of creating space for an enormous walk-in closet.

Among the unit’s other attributes are its three distinctively styled baths (which can have almost as much impact as a fine kitchen), five-zone central air conditioning, a washer/dryer and southern exposures that are generally open from rooms where it matters the most.

Not surprisingly, the unit went under contract just a month after it was first listed last fall at $2.695 million in a 1925 doorman building that is pet friendly.  It went back on the market in December for $2.65 million with monthly maintenance of $4,404 and has stayed at $2.5 million since last month.

It happens that the affable owner was at work in his home office when I was checking out his home, and I remarked that the co-op reflected great taste.

“Of course,” I continued, “great taste means that it is my taste.”

Below are some of the other properties that I have visited and that are listed by various brokers:

  • Above 110th Street near Morningside Park, a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath co-op in need of a nip and tuck.  With a maid’s room and decently renovated kitchen, this apartment has sunny open views east only from the short end of the living room.  The unit’s 10 other windows face walls or courtyards.  But the 1,285-sf apartment in a 1905 self-managed low-rise has its charms, though seemingly not enough to justify the asking price of $1.199 million with maintenance of $1,500 a month.  Yet it now is under contract.
  • A 1,700-sf apartment between Broadway and West End Avenue in the high 80s.  On the plus side are its big windows facing south from the third of three bedrooms and the living room plus ceilings that are 10.5-feet high and a nearly high-end kitchen.  But this three-bath unit has a somewhat eccentric layout — for example, a washer/dryer off the entrance and a master bedroom suite that has been forced into the onetime dining room so that access to the bath is through a closet.   In a pet-friendly 1985 doorman building, this condo needing work was offered aggressively at $1.8 million with common charges of $1,450 and real estate taxes of $1,135 monthly until it sold a couple of weeks ago.   
  • In Lincoln Square, a 450-sf studio that has little going for it.  The exposures are to other buildings, the bath is old and ugly, there is something strange about the possibly hardwood floors, and the interior small kitchen has mini appliances.  This co-op in a 1963 doorman building that has a garage, gym and doorman at least has ample closet space and a fair listing price of $310,000, cut from $325,00, with maintenance per month of $619.  
  • A classic-six-room co-op in a distinguished 1930 full-service building on Central Park West in the very low 90s.  With three bedrooms, three baths that have original finishes in good shape, dining room, gallery, capacious closets, southern exposures and a kitchen that has original subway tiles and cabinets in need of attention, the 2,300-sf apartment on the market since November has terrific proportions and demands considerable cosmetic improvement.   Whether the spread is worth $3.25 million with monthly maintenance of $3,594 is debatable.

Tomorrow:  Don’t believe it

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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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