loft at 217 West 19 Street dances to 13% gain over Peak


another Beat The Peak contestant, not an April Fool’s Day fool

The “2,400 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 9th floor of 217 West 19 Street is a worthy Beat The Peak, as it was sold for $4.4mm on February 5 by the woman who bought it on April 30, 2008 for $3.9mm. A quibbler might note that the prior sale was not quite The Peak, as you all know that the highest prices in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market were observed in deeds signed during the First Quarter of 2008, but such narrow parsing is defeated by two numbers: $3.9mm and $4.4mm. If the $3.9mm is truly post-Peak for being 30 days too late in early 2008, it is close-enough-to-Peak that the subsequent $4.4mm renders the March v. April issue academic.


A skeptic might wonder if the magnificent loft, so enthusiastically babbled for the recent sale, had been improved since last selling 5 years ago. After all, the StreetEasy data associated with the recent sale does not show the prior listing, and the recent broker babble is quite enthusiastic:


3 bedrooms (one currently configured as a state of the art home theater) and two designer tile baths with steam shower, soaking tub and Dornbracht fixtures. 104 Feet of wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows display breathtaking Midtown views crowned by the Empire State Building. A 52 foot long terrace runs along the southern side of the apartment. Designed for the most discerning buyer this home showcases non structural interior walls, maple floors, and an open Bulthaup kitchen with center island, Sub Zero and Viking appliances, Vantage programmable lighting and electronic blind control system, prewired audio/video system and a flexible layout with glass pocket doors. Other features include a private vestibule entry, separate laundry room with washer/dryer, 2 zone A/C, walk in closets and central security system


I [heart] skeptics

A useful thing to be skeptical about, of course, given the half million dollar “gain”. But you can take those quotation marks down and be frustrated about StreetEasy’s inability to match the recent “#9” listing (with a history of prior sales in 2008 and 2002) with the 2008 listing for “#9FL”, which contains this bit of now familiar babble:


3 bedrooms (one currently configured as a state-of-the-art home theatre) and 2 designer tile baths with steam shower and soaking tub. 104 feet of wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows display breathtaking Midtown views, crowned by the Empire State Building. A 52 foot long terrace runs along the southern side of the apartment. Designed for the most discerning buyer, this home features ebonized maple floors, Bulthaup Kitchen with Sub Zero and Viking appliances, Vantage Programmable Lighting Control System, prewired audio/video and electronic blinds throughout. Other features include a laundry room, 2 zone A/C and central security system


Not much daylight between the two listing descriptions, after all. And not much honor in the plagiarism very sincere flattery of the first broker babble in the second. If there are any changes in condition between 2008 and 2013, such changes did not merit mention in the second babble or a claim of “recently upgraded [anything]”. So we come back to two numbers: $3.9mm and $4.4mm.


I would wonder, seeing a two-sale sequence that doesn’t fit the conventional narrative, if there was something about the earlier campaign to suggest the prior value was artificially low. Not in this case, as that 2008 seller pushed The Market for more but didn’t get it:

Jan 12, 2008 new to market $4.1mm
Feb 9   $3.995mm
Feb 29 contract  
April 30 sold $3.9mm


Again, we come back to two numbers: $3.9mm and $4.4mm.


The same loft that The Market deemed worth only $3.9mm very very very close to The Peak just sold for $4.4mm. That’s impressive. Much more impressive, in fact, than the last Peak-to-now Bright Shiny Object on the next block I highlighted in my March 29,
Lion’s Head no bedroom mezzanine loft at 121 West 19 Street closes up $25,000 since 2008, where the title tells how small a story that was. In contrast, this loft tells a big story in one number: $500,000.


I would also wonder, seeing a two-sale sequence that doesn’t fit the conventional narrative, if there was something about the building or the micro-nabe to suggest a reason for the half million dollar spread. Can’t think of a damn thing. The block is as prime Chelsea now as it was then. If anything, the sparse sales history in this small (12-unit) building built in 2003 suggests the recent sale is rather robust, rather than the prior sale having been anemic for mysterious reasons.


spare history makes comping hard, of course

The last sale in the building was way back on May 31, 2012, only 10 months ago in calendar but seemingly a long time ago in market time. The “2,027 sq ft” #7S lacks the Empire State Building views, has only a small terrace, and has lower utility in line with its smaller footprint (2 bedrooms, a study, 2 baths). It sold for a paltry $2.5mm. Worse (for people who like their data points to line up “rationally”), the sale before that really was a long time ago, when the “2,400 sq ft” 8th floor sold for $4.65mm on October 5, 2010. More than the 9th floor, yes, but it has much more outdoor space: the babble claims “2,035 sq ft” in two terraces, one north, one south (floor plan, here), compared to the mere “205 sq ft” for the 9th floor terrace, as noted in our listing system.


There are several ways to ballpark the value of the outdoor spaces for these 3 lofts, the best being to allocate a large premium to the smaller spaces of #9 and #7S (50% of interior value) and a smaller premium for the over-large #8 twin terraces (say, 25% of interior, to make the math simpler). #7S comes to an adjusted $1,204/ft (assuming that terrace is 100 sq ft) in May 2012. The 8th floor in October 2010 yields an adjusted $1,599/ft. And the 9th floor 8 weeks ago … (wait for it) …an adjusted $1,759/ft, and an adjusted $1,559/ft back in April 2008.


I am going to stop playing with these numbers, as the near-Peak adjusted $1,559/ft for the 9th floor is (again) looking to me as somewhat low (especially compared to the 8th floor at an adjusted $1,599/ft in October 2010), but I am inclined to chalk that up to the difficulties of directly comparing loft without (much) outdoor space to lofts with a great deal of outdoor space. But that’s another angle for (perhaps) another day; it is certainly one digression too far for today.


So let’s (almost) end by coming back to two numbers: $3.9mm and $4.4mm; and two dates: April 30, 2008 and February 5, 2013. I will be scratching my head over this for a while.


a short trip down memory lane

I am surprised to see that I have hit this building with beautiful lofts only once, and that was more a drive-by hit than an extended analysis, from back in the day when I blogged about then-current listings. And it was the then-new listing for the 9th floor that caught my eye in a paired analysis in my January 18, 2008, dueling $4mm open houses at 217 West 19 Street + 32 West 18 St. That is all.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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