small Chelsea lofts with height ceilings use high in different ways

which do you prefer: volume or storage or …?

The “800 sq ft” Manhattan loft #9J at 148 West 23 Street (Chelsea Mews) that just sold for its (reduced) asking price of $950,000 boasts of “grand ceiling heights” (later described as “eleven-foot ceilings”) that permit “a double height foyer …, a 12’7” X 9’8” loft mezzanine directly above [the dining area, and] …. a large living room with dramatic double height ceilings and the building’s highly coveted nine-foot tall windows”. That’s a lot of broker babbling.

There’s no listing photo of the foyer or the mezzanine, but this one shows the lower ceiling opening up to the “dramatic double height ceilings” in the living room.

if the tall part is 11 feet, can this area be much taller than 7 feet? (images are from Core, thx)

The floor plan shows the relatively small area that the mezzanine loft takes up.

the mezzanine seems bigger in the photo, doesn’t it?

I am really curious about the point of that mezzanine. In exchange for (humor me for now) “double height” throughout, the mezzanine allows someone to climb the ladder and … crawl around 100+ sq ft that is open to the living room. Maybe you have guests sleep up there, or you put luggage and other ‘stuff’ up there. But it can’t be very easy to move around up there without banging your head.

An upstairs neighbors didn’t need crawl space for guests to sleep over, or to store stuff, so they had a full-height dining area:

no mezzanine tricks = ‘volume’ + no need to duck your head (Corcoran image, as per the watermark)

That is loft #12J (aka “PHJ“), which sold two months ago for … $950,000.

nothing like some neighborly competition to get a well-priced loft sold

We’ll get to comparing the interior spaces, but there’s not doubt in my mind that the #12J seller used the #9J pricing to get her loft sold quickly.

May 14 #9J new to market $1.05mm
June 7 #12J new to market $950,000
June 22 #12J contract
June 24 #9J $950,000
Aug 15 #9J contract
Sept 12 #12J sold $950,000
Nov 5 #9J sold $950,000

Now that’s how to leverage a competing listing!

In a strictly impersonal sense, the #12J seller ‘took advantage’ of the #9J sellers by undercutting their price. The #12J buyer undoubtedly was aware of the opportunity to buy #9J, but preferred to (try to) negotiate with a seller priced $100,000 lower, and reached a deal two weeks after #12J was brought to market.

Not being asleep (and being able to read tea leaves), the #9J sellers immediately dropped their asking price to match the upstairs deal (hard to believe they didn’t know the price, though it is possible), and had to sweat almost another two months to strike their deal.

It is fascinating to me that The Market considered these lofts to be worth exactly the same.

I read the listing photos as #12J having a slightly higher level of finishes than #9J, but the broker babbling is equivalent. For #12J:

renovated kitchen features granite countertops, a Bertazzoni stove, Miele fridge and dishwasher. … bathroom has been tastefully updated. … custom California Closets and designer oak and quartzite built-ins throughout.

For #9J:

newly renovated kitchen featuring top-of-the-line appliances by Bertazzoni, Fisher Paykel and LG. … recently renovated bathroom ….

While #9J boasts of light and views (“tons of blue sky, amazing natural light and views of midtown landmarks”) you have to stand at the correct angles in the living room to see blue sky. (Check the listing photos for yourself.) Go up 35 or so feet, and blue sky is evident in all the #12J windows, offering this money shot:

can we agree that #12J has better views and light?

If we assume the two lofts have similar finishes, we still have to give the higher floor loft a premium adjustment for views (light might be strictly the same, but then we are into metaphysics).

I have to wonder if the #9J buyer really preferred to have the lower ceiling dining area plus the crawl space … er … mezzanine above, rather than the fully open feel and look if the mezzanine wasn’t there. That bit of carpentry is a plus factor only for people who need a place to stash guests out of sight (but not out of hearing) or who desperately need storage space. For any other buyer, I suspect that mezzanine is at best neutral, or something not worth spending money to remove; at worst, it interferes with the sense of space.

awkward elevator chats, or the dynamics of head-to-head loft sales

Putting aside for the moment The Fact that these two lofts were worth exactly $950,000, it is likely that the attitudes of buyers and sellers at 148 West 23 Street were something like this from May 14 to August 15:

  • the #9J sellers felt pretty good about asking $1.05mm for at least 3 weeks, because the highly relevant #6J had sold 3 years earlier for $1,085,750 (in “newly renovated” condition, but with the worst listing photos I’ve seen in a while)
  • the #12J seller wanted to sell quickly, so priced under #9J (and under #6J); possibly offering a below-market price, but not giving The Market enough time to correct it via a bidding war
  • no J-line buyer would offer more for #9J than for #12J while they were both available, nor did they have to later (absent a bidding war), as the #9J sellers accepted $950,000 as the current value
  • the #9J sellers were relatively patient at the new asking price, giving it 2 months to work instead of the 2 weeks that same price needed to get a deal for #12J
  • in the face of that apparent patience, potential J-line buyers from June into August were faced with a past sale at $1,085,750 and a current contract at $950,000, so weren’t going to get the patient sellers to take less
  • all the while, the #9J sellers may have been giving the side-eye to the #12J seller in the lobby and in the elevator (perhaps as they all exited the building for overlapping open houses), while wondering if the #12J seller had undersold both their lofts

For an outsider with no skin in the game, fascinating stuff!

But I still have no answer for whether The Market prefers to use the high ceilings as ‘volume’ or as a crawl space.

crimes against loft-selling language get a slap on the wrist

Forgive me, but I cannot leave this treatment without discussing the broker babble that eventually got #9J sold. I submit to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury that there cannot be a “double height” foyer or “double height” ceilings in a living room in a loft with only 11 foot ceilings. Indeed, that’s nonsensical.

Having gone there, for the listing description to include the width and length of the crawl space mezzanine down to the last inch but not to mention the height is … weird. No one who spent any time at all with the losing photos and parsing the broker babble would be surprised at how little room there must be ‘up there’, but  that’s just … weird. (Having used the weak modifier ‘weird’ twice, I have to stop.)


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