161 West 15 Street is nothing special, other than priced right for the market


not everything is a gut project, or done to the 9s

I mean no disrespect to the “1,170 sq ft” Manhattan loft #6B at 161 West 15 Street (Jensen-Lewis Building) by saying that it is nothing special. It is your basic loft, with tall ceilings, a kitchen slapped against a wall, a tight corner exposure “offering dramatic city views and great light”, an interior sleep area, a jacuzzi and shower stall, and no bragging whatsoever about finishes. There is no obviously required upgrading, so it works for the 1-bedroom Chelsea move-right-in loft buyer pool in the low $1s. The market got it, quickly: for sale on January 21 at $1.275mm and in contract within 10 days, meaning that the full price deal that closed on March 12 was reached almost immediately on the loft coming to market.


The recent sellers bought the place in 1996 for $347,500, according to our listing system, and the chances are very good that it was in the same shape then, as now. (Maybe the appliances were updated, but I doubt it.) Any listing description with the word “jacuzzi” always suggests 1980s to me, so that bright brassy bath may predate even the recent sellers’ ownership.


When was the last time that you saw a kitchen with no cabinets, other than in a very primitive loft? Obviously, some of those metal shelving units could also serve as working counter space (otherwise, there’s just the top of the dishwasher) in addition to meeting all of this kitchen’s storage needs. See what I mean by “nothing special”?


what a difference a year makes

This nothing-special loft just sold for $1,090/ft. This compares very favorably to the last loft sold in this building, which is a wonderful comp as it is the loft below, with the identical footprint. The (yes) “1,170 sq ft” loft #5B was much more enthusiastically babbled about when it sold 13 months before #6B:


open cook’s kitchen this artistically designed home is a true gem. Custom resin counter tops and appointments throughout. The maple and cherry custom kitchen cabinets are fitted with Bendheim glass panels adding warmth and a luxurious touch. The same woods have been laid on both the foyer and bedroom floors with custom maple cabinetry in the bedroom carrying through


The photos are only thumbnails, but the 4th picture shows a real kitchen, and the 6th a well-finished (more modern) bath. Maybe the contrasting wood flooring patterns in the foyer (pic #1) and bedroom (#5) killed the market, or maybe this history is just yet another reminder of how different the current market is from only a year ago:

Sept 8, 2011 new to market $1.295mm
Nov 12   $1.249mm
Jan 3, 2012 contract  
Feb 16 sold $1.15mm


That’s $983/ft for a pretty well-dressed loft with essentially the same light and views as #6B. That’s an 11% premium for the inferior loft in the same building, 13 months later. Loft #5B has essentially the same layout (floor plan, here) as #6B, with essentially the same utility. (What’s up with the curved “bedroom” walls in this building?)

There was another sale in the building 13 months before #6B. I hit the “1,440 sq ft” Manhattan loft #5A in my March 16, 2012, spectacular renovation does not prevent 161 West 15 Street loft from closing down 7% since 2006, in which the title told an interesting story, but not the part relevant to #6B and #5B. Yes, loft #5A was well renovated (beyond even #5B) and it sold for a loss to its purchase in 2006, but for present purposes it is interesting that it sold after a long time on the market (18 months), with many (6) price drops. It had a bit of a challenging floor plan, but the clearing price of $1.375mm on February 6, 2012 was not only devastating to the sellers (see 2006 reference) but surprising to Manhattan Loft Guy. I didn’t have the #5B sale at $983/ft when I wrote about #5A last year, but $955/ft for a better-dressed #5A doesn’t seem right. (Or, at least, not rational.)


Loft #6A at $1,090/ft is yet another sign that buyers are getting squeezed in 2013. Not that active buyers need any reminders ….


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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