how can a full price deal disappoint? when the Chelsea loft sells off nearly $2M from start

Manhattan loft price discovery can be slow & painful

The folks who sold the “3,300 sq ft” Manhattan loft #6F at 205 West 19 Street in prime Chelsea last month evidently hit their limit when they dropped their ask to an even $5 million back in October; not only did they hold there for the nearly six months it took to get to contract, but they refused to accept even a dollar off. That resolve was painfully bought, as the extended 17 month listing history illustrates:

Jan 26, 2015 new to market $6.95mm
Feb 25 $6mm
April 9 $5.955mm
July 31 hiatus
Sept 4 change firms $5.5mm
Oct 12 $5mm
Mar 28, 2016 contract
June 9 sold $5mm

That’s nearly a year and a half to sell, and hard selling nearly every month. Apart from the cosmetic price drop in April 2015, there were only three price changes and each one was serious: nearly a million, a half million, and then another half million. Nearly two million in total drops, achieved in just a hop, skip and a jump. The caption on this listing might be “price discovery is hard”.

While dropping the asking price by two million is clear evidence of pain (not to mention, 28%), I’ve omitted one detail from the original StreetEasy listing history: the loft was in contract off that $5.595mm asking price (the cosmetic change worked??) as of May 11, 2015. Sometimes StreetEasy gets intermediate details like that wrong, but in this case that datum is confirmed in the inter-firm database: the loft was “in contract” from May 11 until June 8, 2015 and then de-listed for two days before being brought back through July 2015. There’s no way for an outsider to the deal to know what happened, but the contract failed so (relatively) quickly to suggest this was not a coop board turndown, but some fundamental problem with the putative purchasers.

Chances are pretty good that that contract was at a higher price than the eventual deal at an even $5 million, which is another reason to suggest that the sellers were pretty firm when changing firms (with that price drop to $5.5mm) that their last price drop to $5 million would be their last. And so it was. Eventually.

trying for a home run but hitting a … double??

There’s no indication that the June 2016 sellers at $5 million significantly improved the loft after they bought it nearly four years earlier for $3.65mm. The loft then was described more for its bones than its interior finishes:

Dramatic and expansive loft with open city views in a prime Chelsea location. The open and airy Great Room has soaring 11.5′ beamed ceilings and leads to a grand, loft-style library with two walls of oversized windows that allow for brilliant southern and eastern sunlight to spill in throughout the day. The open, updated kitchen overlooks the formal dining area and living room, but also has its own large alcove for casual dining. Currently configured with 3 bedrooms plus a home office and 3 full bathrooms, the spacious Master Suite boasts an en suite master bath, a walk-in closet with custom built-ins, and 3 large windows with open views facing north. Other special features include large utility room with full-size washer/dryer, water filtration system, sound-system wiring and speakers throughout, and key-lock elevator to foyer plus separate freight elevator with direct access into loft.

The “updated” kitchen, the “custom” closet built-ins, and the water and sound systems were the only interior elements deemed worth mentioning then, and no details were added for the 2015-16 marketing campaign:

Enormous south-facing Chelsea loft in excellent condition, with open views, has three bedrooms, home office, three full bathrooms and incredibly high ceilings. Enter from your semiprivate landing into the graceful entry gallery and take in the spectacular scale of this grand space. The generous dining area leads to a large open living space with huge windows and magnificent light. Adjacent to the primary living area is a large separate media room with southeast exposure and open views. Overlooking the large living area, a generous eat-in kitchen, is perfect for those who like to entertain, featuring stainless steel appliances, two dishwashers, farmhouse sink, custom cabinets and externally vented exhaust over your eight burner range. Off the gallery leading to the master suite is a large home office, perfect for a guest room, nursery or those who need a work space. The master bedroom is truly fit for a King! With large windows and an open view to the north, there’s excellent light. A large walk-in closet will make you feel like you’re in storage heaven. Your ensuite bath has side by side sinks, separate soaking tub, shower and water closet. Secondary bedrooms are located on the opposite side of the space ensuring maximum privacy. Your private laundry room with full-size side-by-side washer and dryer

I can’t find anything different in the floor plans; here’s the current one:

still, lots of rooms, lots of doors, and that back hallway for the other bedrooms, laundry and bath

Nor do I see a difference in the listing photos, other than the filter that (probably) makes the kitchen cabinets darker in the more recent photos. (Certainly, they are the same cabinets.)

Nothing wrong with trying, but the 2012-buyers-turned-2016-sellers started out asking nearly twice what they’d paid. According to StreetEasy’s price index, the overall Manhattan residential resale market was up 29% over the nearly four years that the #6F sellers owned the loft (the damn thing is still ridiculously hard to find, and you have to hover to get the readings; I hovered for you to find August 2012 at $754,293 on the original Index, and to find April 2016 at $975,017 here; the May 2016 StreetEasy market report refers to the Index but actually cites only the Manhattan median sale price rather than the Index value … arghhh).

If you are quicker at math than I am, you’ve already figured out that the 2012-buyers-turned-2016-sellers out-performed the overall Manhattan market, as measured by the StreetEasy Price Index. You’ve at least eye-balled the result for loft #6F at more than a one-third gain (from $3.65mm in August 2012 to $5mm in June 2016), if not used the calculator to get 37%. As you know from my StreetEasy rant above, the StreetEasy Price Index was up (only!) 29% from August 2012 to April 2016.

The 17 month history and the original ask aside, out-performing The Market by that margin should have been a cause for rejoicing. But I doubt the 2012-buyers-turned-2016-sellers could turn aside so easily from the January 2015 start at $6.95mm. That’s for smart-alecky second guessers like Manhattan Loft Guy. (One of the neighbors might share a bit of their disappointment, just how much remains to be seen.)

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