disappointed seller of 121 West 20 Street loft accepts 25% below first ask


many numbers, just one sale

Facts are, of course, facts: the “1,875 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2A at 121 West 20 Street was sold on March 20 at $2.55mm by the guy who bought it 7 years later for $2.415mm. Dreams are different: back in the day he really wanted a 45% premium, but last year the ask started at $2.895mm on September 13, then dropped to $2.75mm on November 16, then made the deal on January 10 at a $200,000 discount. On the other hand, this was a better deal than if he’d sold in 2009, when he last asked $2.3mm and $2.2mm. Here is the whole chronology:

July 14, 2006 sold $2.415mm
June 18, 2008 new to market $3.5mm
July 28   $2.875mm
Aug 27 hiatus  
Jan 12, 2009   $2.3mm
Feb 27   $2.2mm
May 14 hiatus  
Sept 13, 2012 new to market $2.895mm
Nov 6   $2.75mm
Jan 10, 2013


Mar 20 sold $2.55mm


There is a world of hurt in these numbers, most painful in the spread between the first two. What there isn’t between the first two numbers is a renovation. In 2008, the loft was babbled with:

Master Suite Loft with numerous quality built-ins including a glass-enclosed Home Office, oversized walk-in custom Dressing Room and luxe Master Bath. Downstairs is a Library with rolling ladder, full Bathroom, en suite Bedroom with huge Closet, fully renovated Chef’s Kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances, W/D hookup in dedicated closet, Pantry, Gas Fireplace, dramatic open-air Living Room, and many more details that you simply must see to appreciate.


In 2012, the agent used more words, to what seems like the same effect:


oodles of light all day long, and stunning appointments throughout. … gas fireplace … over-sized chef’s kitchen adorned with all the bells and whistles including top-grade stainless appliances. … spacious master suite complete with beautiful custom built-ins, an oversized walk-in dressing room, opulent master bath and glass-enclosed home office. Among the other highlights of this luxurious loft home is abundant closet and storage space including a pantry, plus a dedicated laundry closet with a washer/dryer hookup currently configured as a wine cellar with cooler


The 2012 floor plan looks like the 2008 floor plan (unless the jacuzzi’s are new; but who added a jacuzzi in that period??). If there were improvements between the buy in July 2006 (at $2.415mm) and the ask in June 2008 (at $3.5mm), they are not evident in the photos, floor plans or broker babble.

June 2008 ($3.5mm) was, of course, just a few months after The Peak of the overall Manhattan residential real estate market; pretty much the absolute wrong time to come out above-market, as the entire market went into deep freeze 90 days later. So cold that it could not sell in the first five months of 2009 even though seller (through his agent) said he was “very realistic, and needs to re-locate. He has listed the apartment for less than he paid for it just two years ago”. Ouch.

Prices wrong, timing more wrong. Ouch, indeed.


another mezzanine

We will get back to ceiling heights, but the floor plan increases utility by adding that master suite above the kitchen on the wall opposite the run of windows, leaving the high ceilings along the window wall for the living room with split rooms opposite (one being the library / bedroom). This is the moderate way to take advantage of very high ceilings, yet still leave the larger part of the footprint with high ceilings and tall windows. (See my March 4, when beautiful things happen to high ceilings / 720 Greenwich Street loft sells big after mezzanine re-do, March 29, Lion’s Head no bedroom mezzanine loft at 121 West 19 Street closes up $25,000 since 2008, and April 29, 95 Franklin Street loft sells with new space (not just newly renovated space) for a smattering of recent posts about different mezzanine scales and values.)

The “1,875 sq ft” quoted size obviously includes the mezzanine. Even including that master suite (short ceiling, open to below) at par, the loft sold at $1,360/ft. Nothing weak about that (except, of course, compared to 2006, or to the 2008 ask).


ruler fail of the day

No way these two things go together:


    • “this close to 2,000 square foot beauty offers soaring 20′ ceilings”

    • “2000 sq ft. and 15′ ceilings this apartment is designed for living well”


The first is from the 2012-13 broker babble; the second from 2008-09. It’s a great industry, ain’t it?


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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