old news, as build-a-loft takes 2 years to sell for $646/ft at 129 West 22 Street

breaking news, from March
The reason that the March 23 sale of the “2,400 sq ft” Manhattan loft #5A at 129 West 22 Street for $1.55mm is news is that the deed was just filed last week. No, that’s not right; that makes it new. The reason it is news is that it sold for $646/ft. And that this long-delayed (no longer new) news capped only the most recent effort to sell, an effort that lasted two years (this time; the last time they gave up after a year). But is that $646/ft really ‘low’?

If you crave a tale of gritty perseverance, or of bottom-fishing, today is your day, and this is your blog.

the little loft that couldn’t, until it could
Loft #5A was offered for sale for 51 weeks in a hot market, without selling into February 2007 at prices starting at $2.2mm but ranging from $2.4mm to $1.999mm. When they tried again two years later they bounced around again but found success just over 104 weeks later:

Mar 19, 2009 new to market $1.725mm
Dec 3   $1.599mm
Mar 18, 2010 (failed) contract  
April 23 hiatus  
June 21 new firm $1.75mm
Sept 8   $1.625mm
Dec 14 contract  
Mar 23, 2011 sold $1.55mm

Of course you wonder about that failed contract off an asking price of $1.599mm given that they ended up at 97% of that ask a full year after that first contract. Leap year is not until next year, so from launch to close this marketing campaign lasted 734 days. But at least they started anew in 2009 at different prices than they’d failed at during 2006 and 2007.

faint praise for the condition
Our data-base has a description of the condition of this “2,400 sq ft” loft that  you can’t see. You don’t often see this word in this context, but it is “Condition: Fair”. Inexperienced shoppers might not have read between the lines of broker babble to get to that same point, but the point is hardly subtle. The second sentence of babble highlights a claim to fame:

Having both "Trader Joe" and "Whole Foods" this close to your apartment is almost impossible.

The third sentence tells why an ‘almost impossible’ loft (location) was last offered at $677/ft and why it eventually cleared at $646/ft:

Don’t miss this extraordinary opportunity to create your own LOFT in Chelsea.

“Opportunity” costs, of course; just a lot less than its realization. Not to mention, one-third off what they wanted for the same opportunity for 6 weeks in Spring 2006.

Just after the #5A ‘sellers’ gave up in February 2007, the neighbors upstairs in loft #10A found where the market valued one of these lofts in “excellent” location. That loft is a little larger, at “2,525 sq ft”, and closed on August 18, 2007 (2 quarters short of The Peak for the overall Manhattan residential real estate market) at $1.995mm, or $790/ft. That value highlights how far from The Market the #5A sellers were, stuck (persisting) at $1.999mm from June 22, 2006 to March 14, 2007 with their only “fair” loft, at $833/ft.

primitive floor plan and floor
Yes, the floor is beaten up in this loft, as is evident especially in the second (of only two) interior pix. But what I mean by ‘primitive floor’ in the sub-head is the fact that it is raised across the whole middle of the footprint, to accommodate plumbing no doubt. In the floor plans for #10A (in our data-base) and #12A, the kitchens and baths are almost in the same position as in #5A, but without the raised floor. In those cases, the kitchens and baths are at the east edge of the loft, apparently where the waste and water lines are.

Probably long ago, an owner (these sellers?) put in that huge master bath and what was probably a very fashionable kitchen for a Chelsea loft for its day, on west wall. Fro whatever reason, they put them on that far wall, away from the plumbing lines, needing a raised floor to get the necessary pitch back to the east wall, and that awkward raised floor extending to in front of the public bathroom.

You don’t see that very often any more.

This floor plan has the look of one that started out as a 1-bedroom layout, with just those two small windows in the rear of the ‘master’ bedroom. There are only 6 large windows facing south in the loft, and four are taken up by bedrooms. I will bet you a quarter that those bedrooms were not part of the original layout, that first the corner one was added, and later the oddly shaped third bedroom. You are left with a “2,400 sq ft” loft with exactly two windows in the public areas and a ‘living room’ 13’6” x 16’. That floor plan is neither efficient nor spacious.

surprise, surprise
Net-net, the sellers fully expected the eventual buyers to “create [their] own loft in Chelsea”. One surprise for the sellers was that it took such steep haircuts (and so many months, and years) to sell. One surprise (to me) is that The Market did not exact a larger discount.

The difference between #10A in August 2007 at $790/ft and #5A in March 2011 at $646/ft is barely enough for a low-end renovation (assuming that market conditions at those two times are more or less the same; work with me here, because if you suspect that The Market 2 quarters pre-Peak was a stronger and deeper market than in early 2011, you would expect the spread between #10A and #5A to be much larger).

This is one of those sales that is interesting at first blush because it is at such a low dollar-per-foot value, but ends up as interesting because it was not lower, once you get to know it.

Did I mention that the Manhattan residential real estate market is not observably rational, in (many) specific cases? Or, that … (say it with me) … comping is hard?

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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