Out and About: Bad karma exacts heavy price

Another unit in the same line of a Murray Hill condo that has been stigmatized by suicide.

The one-bedroom condo in Murray Hill was originally listed last August for $699,000.  Monthly common charges are $525 and real estate taxes $397.

The asking price was cut, pointlessly, to $690,000 in October and then two weeks later, to $679,000.

In early December, the apartment was taken off the market and now is back.

Before I bring you up to date on the reason for the gap, which had nothing to do with the holidays, let me say that I liked the 725-sf unit quite a bit.

Nicely updated with new hardwood flooring, attractive decorative columns, stylish bath and modern, though not top-end, kitchen, this condo has excellent closet space, recessed lighting and nearly unobstructed exposures north into the quiet interior of the block.  Minor deficits include standard-height ceilings and hollow-core doors, but there is a common laundry room just outside the front door.

The pet-friendly doorman building itself was constructed in 1950, providing a garage, roof deck and private storage.

All good, except for what I learned in an elevator conversation on the way down to the lobby.

The consequence of that conversation: The lovely apartment gives me the creeps — I, a cynical, hard-bitten former mainstream journalist who, for example, had witnessed an execution at San Quentin in his relative youth.

Apparently, I’m not alone.

It turns out that one of the former occupants, who jointly owned the place with his father, kicked out the living room window on Thanksgiving, roughly a week before the condo was taken off the market, and leaped to his death.

The result, at least in terms of the unit’s marketability, has been a sharp reduction in the price as the surviving owner seeks to rid himself of burdens we can only imagine.  When it was listed again in January, with a new broker, the price was a rare bargain: $619,000.

But what price, literally and figuratively, is the purchaser who has gone to contract paying for bad karma? Too soon to know.

Such a property is termed stigmatized under New York’s Real Property Law, as is one in which occupants have AIDS or other illnesses not transmitted through occupancy.

Under the law, sellers and their agents do not have to disclose existence of those illnesses or whether the property was the site of death from natural causes, accidents, suicide, homicide or other crime.  Even if buyers or their agents make a written request for information about any stigmas, a seller’s agent may disclose the information only with permission of the seller.

One way or another, properties burdened by known stigmas certainly exact a heavy price. 

Some other East Side one-bedroom condos that are listed by various brokers and that I recently visited:

  • In the same building as the stigmatized unit in the 30s, a unit with a small windowless room.  At the near end of the living room, which remains nearly 18 feet long, that extra space does little harm to what remains and can serve a number of purposes.  The 725-sf unit has an improved bath, parquet floors, a modestly updated kitchen and big windows, which have the misfortune of views obstructed by a building that is not oppressively close.  Reduced price since October: $639,000 with common charges of $505 and real estate taxes of $379 per month.
  • An apartment that the sellers never occupied and never rented out in their 20 years of ownership.  On a corner of Third Avenue in the high 50s, this 735-sf condo has great new hardwood flooring in the public areas, solid-core doors and the possibility of opening up to the alcove dining area and modernizing the unattractive interior kitchen.  Although the unit faces south, it is hard to tell because of the towers that surround the rear of the 1960 pet-friendly doorman building.  It has been listed since December, not unreasonably, at $699,000 with monthly common charges of $805 and taxes of $736.
  • In a glitzy 1988 high-rise with an excess of amenities, a 707-sf apartment in the high 70s at First Avenue.  With winning views of the East River and Queens beyond, this freshly painted unit has a pass-through kitchen in which new moderate-price appliances have been installed and sturdy original cabinets cry out for cleaning.  Closet space is ample, the parquet floors are in excellent condition and the bath is marble tiled.  At $699,000 with costs totaling $1,297 a month, this apartment was offered for just a tad too much before it was raised to an unaccountably optimistic $725,000 in March and then taken temporarily off the market a week later.
  • On a corner of Second Avenue in the low 60s, a condo in fair condition in a pet-friendly 1986 high-rise that has a doorman and garage.  There are a 72-sf balcony, oversize windows, mostly bamboo floors that reveal mismatched repairs, an uremittingly ugly bath, an unremarkable pass-through kitchen with window, exposures that are only partially obstructed and central air conditioning.  This 840-sf corner condo represents good value at $549,000 with monthly costs totaling $1,520, so now is under contract.
  • A 675-sf apartment with generally open southern exposures in the low 30s west of Lexington Avenue.  This unit could be spruced up, but it has a decent pass-through kitchen, unusual amount of closet space, a bath that needs updating and plenty of light.  In a 1987 high-rise with unusually friendly lobby personnel, garden, sauna and fitness center, the condo carries an asking price of $700,000 with costs per month amounting to $1,420.  That probably is approximately $50,000 more than a buyer should pay.

Tomorrow: Speak softly

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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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