Out and About: Unavailable for half a century

It is not even an estate sale, but the Upper West Side co-op in the high 70s on West End Avenue apparently hasn’t been improved in the half century since the owners purchased the place.

Defining “vintage,” the apartment is typical of one that has aged in tandem with the owners.

The situation is understandable and not all that unusual, except for the number of years that have passed.  More often than not, it seems, owners grow comfortable in their homes and fail to notice the need for updating.

I suppose the feeling is not unlike the pleasures of an old pair of slippers, a well-worn cardigan or a hardcover book that has been losing the test of time.

The challenge for any broker is to impress upon the sellers how difficult it can be for many prospective buyers to see beyond the skin and appreciate the bones of such a property.  Another challenge is get the sellers to agree to an appropriate price.

I’ve long been a fan of kitchens and baths that retain their vintage appeal.

However, kitchens that cling to all of their vintage appliances — cabinets, countertops, flooring and design — leave something to be desired.

So it is with the kitchen in question, which has rumpled floor tiles, cabinets probably furnished by a precursor of Ikea, a stove that is practically antique and a design that is neither quaint nor charming.

Too, the two baths reek of outdated style, those pinkish tiles that have bedeviled my own baths in the past and a sink that bespeaks days long gone by.

I haven’t even mentioned the shower curtain and wall covering that perhaps might have pleased my late grandmothers and no one else.

As for the sunken living room and the bedrooms, time seems to have stopped in them years and years ago; they are memorable, though not in a good way.  Lovers of taupe and mauve would shrink from changing a single detail.

In other words, to my eyes “vintage” has its limits and provides a whole new dimension to “aging in place.”

But I am not suggesting that the co-op has little to laud.  Walking into it is like leafing through an album of old sepia prints.

Indeed, the hardwood floors won me over from the start.  I also much appreciated the layout.  The bedrooms are what we call “split,” separated from each other by other spaces.

In this case, the separation is a dining area (called “room” on the floorplan), which is a commodious extension of the foyer and visible in the photo to the left.

(Someone is standing in the doorway to the kitchen, one bedroom is to the right and the master is at the opposite end of the apartment, to the extreme left in the photo on the way back into the foyer.)

The 1,400-sf corner co-op, which is on a lower floor, has generously proportioned rooms, and there is ample closet space.

In a pet-friendly doorman building constructed in 1935, the apartment has an asking price of $1.4 million with monthly maintenance of $1,863.

At $1,000 per square foot, the listing price is slightly below the average of two sales that closed in the building over the 12 months prior to its going on the market.

Given the amount of work that the place needs, I’d say that’s pretty optimistic, especially because the apartment’s vintage aspects hardly merit keeping.  Yet a contract was signed a month after the co-op went on the market.

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

  • In the high 90s on West End Avenue, a renovated co-op with unimpeded views of the Hudson River from its two bedrooms and side views from the living room.  With an appealing high-end eat-in kitchen that has white wainscoting, a formal dining room, the opportunity to add a washer/dryer and just one bath, which was modestly improved, the apartment in a pet-friendly 1915 doorman building is offered for $1.395 million with monthly maintenance of $1,924 and should sell for a good $100,000 less.
  • A charmless little studio in a luxe Lincoln Square high-rise.  Once used as office space, this 397-sf condo has its original kitchenette with two-burner stovetop and laminate countertop, original windowless bath, wonderful views east from a high location, washer/dryer and laminate flooring.  In a 1994 pet-friendly building that has a full-time doorman and gym, this apartment is listed for an unrealistic $629,000 with common charges of $416 and taxes of $358 per month.
  • In the low 80s on West End Avenue, a nicely renovated co-op with four bedrooms and three and a half baths in its approximately 2,800 square feet.  This lovely apartment has beautiful flooring, formal dining room, good flow, library with a wall of built-ins and pocket doors into the living room, a laundry room, good exposures and an eat-in kitchen too small for such a grand space.  There is the potential to create easily an exceptional master bedroom suite.  In a pet-friendly 1928 doorman building, the combined unit is aggressively priced at $4.295 million with monthly maintenance of $4,935.
  • An intriguing two-bedroom apartment on Central Park West in the low 100s.  With an odd layout suggesting that the unit may have been chopped from a larger one and should be reconfigured, a kitchen that demands top-to-bottom improvement, a single bath of unmistakably original vintage and captivating views above the treetops into Central Park, this co-op is filled with potential.  But the asking price of $879,000 with maintenance of $1,061 a month fails to account for the eccentricities of the apartment in a 1925 doorman mid-rise that permits pets and washer/dryers.

Tomorrow: Your money or. . . no mortgage

To take your own bite out of the Big Apple, you have the option here to search all available properties privately.

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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

Web site

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