141 West 17 Street loft seller takes forever to sell at 7% discount

if at first you don’t succeed …?
We’ve had two recent posts about rather long marketing campaigns that ended rather badly for the sellers. (November 6, 21 East 22 Street loft sells after long, painful price discovery, and November 10, 59 John Street loft seller takes forever to take a bath.) The marketing campaign for the “2,450 sq ft” Manhattan loft #6E at 141 West 17 Street was like those in that it was long but not in the depth of the bath taken: yes, it took nearly 11 months to get a contract, but the clearing price was less than 7% off the ask, and 17% more than the price these sellers paid to buy the loft in early 2006. What’s noteworthy here is that the seller’s stubborn reaction to the long stretch without success was correct: they eventually got a deal at a reasonable discount without having to drop the price. (A gambit not for the faint-hearted.)

a Long-and-Narrow that is wide and (only vaguely) mint-y
The floor plan is close to ideal for having a classic Long-and-Narrow footprint: nearly 27 feet wide in back provides ample width for two bedrooms ; the 3 east windows allow for a reasonable (and legal) third bedroom; the plumbing stacks on both long sides allow for an en suite master and leave significant public space up front. The two skylights bring light to the middle of the loft, especially into the kitchen, which is a good 50 feet from the front windows.

I will snark about the listing photos further along, but the strangest thing about the broker babble (to me) is the abundance of adverbs as modifiers and the absence of proper proper names or materials as modifiers. Various elements are “massive”, “authentic”, “modern”, “abundan[t]”, “dramatic”, “warm[]”, “welcoming”, “comfortable”, “grand-scale”, “enormous”, “luxurious”, and that old chestnut, “generously proportioned”. Although the “home is in mint condition”, there is no mention of high-end materials or appliances; the “authentic” loft elements are specified, however: “exposed brick walls, 11′ high tin-pressed ceilings, exposed beams and oak floors”. I find this restraint curious.

competition can be illuminating
Reading between the lines in this way, a careful consumer would not be surprised that loft #6E was offered at a significant discount to the loft next door. The “2,500 sq ft” loft #6W claimed a no-expense-spared renovation (with many proper proper names and materials) and directly competed with #6E last year. No surprise, then, that it won: when #6W sold for $3.4mm on January 26, #6E still had more than 6 months to go until contract, while asking 13% less than #6W sold for, and eventually (stubbornly) selling for 19% less than #6W.

Here is the full history of the (brief) competition:

Sept 17, 2011 #6W   new to market $3.75mm
Sept 23   #6E new to market $2.95mm
Nov 25 #6W   contract  
Jan 26, 2012 #6W   sold $3.4mm
Aug 9   #6E contract  
Oct 19   #6E sold $2.75mm

This context makes the stubborn reaction of the #6E owners even more remarkable, and no less right. They waited a full 7 months after #6W’s value was publicly known before signing a contract.

Note that The Market thought that #6W was worth $650,000 more than #6E, even though #6E was said to be in mint condition, and even though #6E had 3 real bedrooms compared to the #6W floor plan that only permitted two, plus an interior office. That’s $260/ft!

were the listing photos an experiment?
I promised some snark about the #6E pictures, so if you are not in that mood, go about your day.

Not to go into that whole staging thing again (July 28, ruthless stagers, indeed! NY Times nails story about marketing apartments (and lofts!); though I need to at some point), but what do you think about the two photos presented as “original” and as “staged”? Maybe I am not the target audience, as I look at Manhattan lofts and listings for Manhattan lofts every day. But … why??

As staged, the main living area is whitewashed (including the [authentic-in-real-life?] window frames) and the floor has been refinished. Some real-life furniture made the cut, but most has been removed in favorable of the virtual and the modern. (I was going to say the new furniture was minimalist, but the former armchair + couch + love seat + coffee table [4 pieces] have been replaced with virtual chaise + settee + couch + lounger + coffee table + long side table + small round table [7 pieces, with most of those pieces being larger than the thing they replaced].) And I get the charm of virtually adding a grand piano to any living room (few things say “spacious” the way a grand piano can), but is that a real life pool table in the real life living room?? Nothing says “spacious” the way a pool table can!

Net-net, I don’t see the sales angle here.

Worse, the value of the changes in the paired photos of the second bedroom. Again, the space is whitewashed, but the other changes are slight. Is the entire point of that arm chair by the windows to cover up the radiator??

What am I missing here?

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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