huge 205 West 19 Street loft sells at $200,000/window, but why?

how much per book, I wonder
By any measure, the marketing campaign for the “3,500 sq ft” Manhattan loft #10F at 205 West 19 Street was a success. A full price contract in 4 weeks at $1,143/ft ($4mm) is the main measure, of course, but you could also say it sold for $200,000 for each of the 20 windows (4 exposures!), as I did in the title. Or you could say that it sold for $700,000 more than essentially the same loft on the 5th floor 7 months ago. Personally, I love a loft with books (and more books, and multiple floor-to-ceiling bookcases), but there’s not enough data to compute a dollar per book, and they took all those books with them when the left, alas.

what shape is this in?
Of course this is successful marketing:

May 14 new to market $4mm
June 11 contract  
Sept 11 sold $4mm

The broker babble has many modifiers (I will use italics for emphasis) but note that there are no proper proper names or materials, no counting of mints, no mention of finishes:

Dramatic high floor 3,500sf Loft in very good condition, with Beautiful, Sunny, Open, City and Water views. Enter from a keyed elevator to a lovely semi-private landing. There is a Grand 35ft x 38ft Living room, bookcase lined Library/Den (21’x12′). All rooms are Bright and Sunny with 11 ft beamed ceilings. 20 enormous windows facing South, East, North and West. Large Master Bedroom suite plus 3 other bedrooms (6 bedrooms possible), 3 baths. Open Dining area and large Kitchen with 2 Fridges, Laundry room, lots of closets and additional great storage in basement.

The 7 listing photos are similarly circumspect (on StreetEasy only; why does Warburg take the photos off the web after a sale??), even coy. Two living room photos, lots of books, 2 beds, but no plumbing: no kitchen, no baths.

The floor plan is a puzzle. It looks to me like it grew organically as the space needs of the owners changed, with that northeast corner bedroom the last set of walls to be built. What kind of usage did this space get to have a massive (more than 400 sq ft) “studio / bedroom” in most of the rear of the loft without a closet?? Yes, 35 x 38 ft is a “grand” living room, but the whole loft claims “3,500 sq ft”. Why so many walls in a space that large? Why close off some of that south wall of enormous windows with a library in one corner and a bedroom in another?

we can agree on a lot
Can we agree that there is nothing special about the kitchen or any of the 3 baths? Can we agree that anyone paying $4mm will employ professionals to look at the finishes and floor plan with an eye towards improving the space for the specific needs of the new owners? Can we agree that those professionals will be sorely tempted to erase all the lines on the current floor plan, note the plumbing stacks, and re-design a huge loft with massive volume to take (better) advantage of 4 exposures and enormous windows with Beautiful, Sunny, Open, City and Water views?

Seriously … someone just paid $1,143/ft for this loft ($4mm) and (almost certainly) is about to spend another $200/ft or more ($700,000; more likely more). If they do it right, they will end up with a loft that is comparable in quality and scale to two lofts of similar size at 169 Hudson Street, in a sunny but not prime stretch of Tribeca, both of which sold in June: the “3,742 sq ft” loft #6N sold for $4.925mm ($1,313/ft); the “3,584 sq ft” #5S sold for $5mm ($1,394/ft). (These are, in fact, the two most comparable recent loft sales on the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 in size and [projected] post-renovation costs for #10F at 205 West 19 Street.) But those lofts are in a condo. In Tribeca. (They also have [slightly] lower monthly expenses than #10F and at least 20 windows.)

Color me surprised.

same loft in same building but different value
I mentioned up top that there was a relevant 5th floor loft sale at 205 West 19 Street. Loft #5F sounded a lot like #10F when it sold in February for $3.3mm. As babbled by the same agents who later sold #10F (with some different modifiers in italics than you saw for #10F):

Classic … loft, with special character and flow through the rooms. Enter from a keyed elevator to a semi-private landing, 25ft x 38ft living room with open rooftop city views. Enormous master bedroom suite. Bright and sunny with 11.5 ft ceilings and 16 enormous windows facing South, East and North. 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, wonderful dining area and eat-in cooks kitchen with Sub-Zero Fridge and Bosch dishwasher. Lots of closets and great storage in addition.

There are no large format pictures of #5F available, but the fact that the kitchen and one bath are pictured at all tells me that the agents believed those were worth highlighting. If anything, then, #5F was in better condition, with views not quite as good as from 5 floors higher (“Beautiful, Sunny, Open, City and Water views” from the 10th floor trump “open rooftop city views” from the 5th floor in any rational world, even if “open rooftop city views” permit as much light as on the higher floor), and only 3 exposures at this height.

The floor plan for #5F looks very much like that of #10F, with one major exception: if you count the north windows in each you see that end of the loft is one window wider on the 10th floor than the 5th, accounting for the fact that #10F was billed as “3,500 sq ft” and #5F as only “3,300 sq ft”.

While I am not sure that anyone would miss those 200 sq ft, facts are facts. In contrast to #10F at $1,143/ft in September, #5F sold at an even $1,000/ft in February. Either the peak at the river from the 10th floor is worth at least $143/ft ($700,000!), or these sales are hard to reconcile.

I vote for hard to reconcile. Because (a) comping is … just … hard, (b) same-year same-building loft sales are (usually) good comps and (always) relevant comps, and (c) a coop at 19th Street at 7th Avenue in Chelsea should not trump a condo in sunny-but-not-prime Tribeca.

How do you vote?

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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