bold-faced names on both sides of 121 West 20 Street loft sale that beat 2008 by a million bucks

bold numbers are more interesting
There is something extremely weird about the recent sale of the top-floor duplex Manhattan loft #5D at 121 West 20 Street. Not the fact that none of the names printed in the New York Post report about the sale is actually bold-faced to me (which is more typical than weird), and not even the fact that the loft sold last in a near-peak sale, and is up 64% (and $1.075mm) in those 3+ years (which is more interesting than weird, and there was a major renovation). The really weird thing about this loft and these last two sales is that it has grown in size, not just in value. You don’t see that every day, even in the wacky world of Manhattan residential real estate.

Maybe this will get resolved one day, but at the moment you may not be able to see the floorplan on the StreetEasy listing, babbled as “Approx. 2000 sf interior, 600 sf private roof deck”. I could see it fine on SE last week, when I noted this sale, and can see it in our listing system.  (When it comes back, check here.) The 2008 listing is not in SE, but is on our listing system, with the claim that the loft was then “1,660 sq ft”. If you look at the deed record, however, you see that the City thinks loft #5D is only “1,232 sq ft”.

staring at the feet
Here is what I think happened. The loft has grown, perhaps twice since the condominium was converted in 1991. The City size is probably the lower level only, which is roughly the same size as the lower level of loft #5E (floor plan here), which City records show as “1,242 sq ft”, per this deed record. (Note that #5E was babbled as “1,716 sq ft”, compared to the old “1,660 sq ft” for #5D.) I can’t tell when the upper level of loft #5D was added, but I can tell that it was bigger after the recent sellers did the “[b]rand new, xxx-mint, exquisite renovation with no detail overlooked”, based on the two floor plans that i can see (and you perhaps can’t, alas).

Loft #5D as of 2008 was set up very much like that #5E floor plan: lower level of about 30 x 40 feet with a single bedroom and a single exposure, with an upstairs lofted area over part of the lower floor (back, towards the entry and kitchen), leading to another stair up to private roof space. The old #5D floor plan has a similarly irregular shape upstairs as #5E, with the two sets of stairs in the same places.

The new (post “no detail overlooked” renovation) #5D layout has a dramatically different upper level, extending over more of the lower level (it grew!), with the stairway between levels moved both sideways (to the wall the kitchen is on) and forward (closer to the windows). Upstairs now is much more regularly rectangular in shape, with a bathroom added up there. And it grew!

None of the #5D listings say how high those full ceilings are, but the new #5D pix show a kitchen with apartment-height ceilings in pic #3 and an upstairs lounge with similar ceilings in pic #4. Unless the perspectives are cleverly off, each level is full (apartment, not loft) height, tall enough to be counted as real square feet.

Think about that for a moment … the loft when it sold in 2008 was (probably) “1,660 sq ft”, now it is approximately “2,000 sq ft”. I will get to the current look of the loft below, but for comping purposes, this same loft sold twice in not only different condition but as different size spaces. Did I mention that comping is hard?

iSound + iLighting, oh my!
As I noted, the babble says “[b]rand new, xxx-mint, exquisite renovation with no detail overlooked” with “[c]hic and gorgeous finishes including Venetian plaster”, and the pictures bear that out. If you recognized the sell-side bold-faced name (or, cheating, looked back at the New York Post report), you won’t be surprised to learn that the “state of the art” sound system “can be controlled through an ipod/ipad” (like the lighting system).

There was a fireplace in the former space, but there is an “eco-smart clean fuel fireplace” in the new space, open to both the living room and master suite. The new space has bamboo floors, a floating stair, and “stunningly renovated baths.” Those baths show well (see pic #3), but I hope the flooring looks better in real life than in pics #1 and #2 (planks look to be at least 5 inches wide, but show as narrow strips, even stripes (maybe it is the harsh photographer flash that does that).

The question is how expensive it was to create this much additional value  (the DJ [see what I did there??] bought at $1.675mm in August 2008; after growing and renovating the space, she just got $2.75mm for it. Even if she paid $400/ft for the iPad-enabled renovation, there’s a nice gain in there.

comping is ________
I already mentioned the loft (next door?), #5E, which is also a duplex with roof terrace, also gut renovated with high-end finishes, and also grew at some point from the city measurement of about 1,250 sq ft.  Fully grown, it was sold as “1,716 sq ft” a year ago for $2,012,500. Before adjusting for outdoor space, that was $/1,173ft for #5E last June, compared to $1,375/ft for #5D on May 7. Let’s not do too much refined riffing with The Miller, but ballpark the outdoor space of both as worth 50% of the interior: that yields adjusted values for #5E of $1,056/ft (terrace dimensions show 380 sq ft) and for #5D $1,196/ft, a spread of 13% in favor of the (now) larger #5D.

I am having trouble finding that premium in the broker babble, floor plans, or pictures of the two lofts. And I really doubt that there was a bold-faced premium. What am I missing here?

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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