Out and About: What a difference a wall makes

Opening up this kitchen turned a liability into an asset.

Even those of us who are not vision challenged may not be able to appreciate fully how a modest renovation can result in a great improvement, but the outsize impact of the removal of a small wall in one of two identical apartments drove home to me the extent of that limitation.

On a visit to two co-ops a few floors apart in the same line of apartments in a 1931 landmarked building off Columbus Avenue in the mid 80s, the evidence was stark.

You can see above my photo of the kitchen in the renovated unit, which is the lower of the two co-ops.  Below is the other kitchen, with its older everything.

Same line, poor impression of kitchen in an apartment on a higher floor with higher price.  Electric cord at threshold is a bonus.

To my mind, the completed renovation transformed an unappealing kitchen into an inviting one.  And I’ll wager that the cost of the work in a room of fewer than 40 square feet was well under $10,000.

Each of the studios approaches 400 square feet.  They boast generous closet space, decent baths and unequal, but sunny western, exposures.  On the higher floor, the exposure is open, though unpleasant because of the structure it faces and also overlooks.  On the lower floor, the exposure is just unpleasant.

The price of $325,000 with monthly maintenance of $949 takes into account the exposures on the lower floor.

In the studio on the higher floor, the original asking price in April was $375,000 with maintenance of $892 a month.  (There are special assessments, too.)

The current price, reduced twice to $335,000 now, finally seems to acknowledge the apparent speed with which the owner moved out as if the object of deadly pursuit: A wall in the nicely updated bath has been only partially repainted, and streaks of white paint that could easily be removed mar lovely hardwood flooring.

Moreover, the really small kitchen, which lacks counter space, looks barely big enough to make a pot of coffee or boil an egg.  Not so the kitchen in the other unit.

In a building that has a decidedly part-time doorman and liberal pet, pied-à-terre and co-purchase policies, the co-ops are listed within reason.

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

  • A two-bedroom, two–and-a-half-bath condo with floor-to-ceiling windows on a corner of Eighth Avenue in the mid 40s.  This glam 1,391-sf apartment has sweeping views to the south and west, a stylish open kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances, two walk-in closets, washer/dryer and bedrooms a bit bigger than those commonly found in newer buildings.  The 2007 buildings offers over-the-top amenities, including valet services, golf simulator, yoga center and other spa features.  Free breakfast is available on a terrace.  The asking price for such a unit is unsurprisingly high at $1.995 million with common charges of $1,387 and abated real estate taxes of $295 per month.
  • In the mid 90s between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues, a 600-sf terrace attached to a cunningly renovated 500-sf co-op.  The apartment, which has an attractive kitchen that would fit on a dinghy, is disarmingly sleek with quality finishes, and exposures are open to the north and east.  The terrace itself adds skyline views to the south as well.  But the offering price, reduced from $675,000 to $650,500 with monthly maintenance of $1,356, doesn’t sufficiently take into account how cramped is the interior.
  • A spacious one-bedroom co-op with south-facing balcony on West End Avenue in the very low 70s.  With galley kitchen and a bath (both of which may have been updated in the 1970s), 30-foot-long living room, 88-sf dining alcove, generous amount of closet space, wall of windows with adequately open exposures from a lower floor, hardwood floors with scrapes that need attention and ceilings of standard height, this bright apartment in a 1959 building that offers many amenities is reasonably priced at $689,000 with maintenance of $1,233 a month and so has found a buyer.
  • On a corner of Broadway in the low 100s, a repulsively odoriferous and messy studio in a bulky 1929 building that has a doorman.  A walk-in closet functions as an office, complete with desk and mounds of clutter; the kitchen is impossibly small and unredeemingly out of date; the bath apparently hasn’t been touched since the building was converted from rentals in 1986; and the listing refers to a solarium/greenhouse of which there is no evidence.  Even at $299,000 with monthly maintenance of $708, this white elephant somehow went under contract last week after an earlier deal fell apart.

Tomorrow: Sad in the suburbs

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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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