The Black Loft finally sells at 213 West 23 Street, 1/3 off

Manhattan loft beauty, like many things, is in the eye of the beholder

To say that the fully renovated layout and finishes of the “3,750 sq ft” Chelsea loft #6S at 213 West 23 Street is not in everyone’s taste is a ridiculous understatement. At most, it is in the taste of few; at least, it is in the taste of one. The loft is the famous all black loft, much loved by Curbed, by Law & Order, by fashionistas, and by the Notorious B.I.G. (even the Wall Street Journal got in on the love train). If you are a spectator in the sport known as Manhattan residential real estate, you know the loft; the rest of you can click on any of the links above. Prepare. To. Be. Amazed.

I don’t believe that I know a single person who would be comfortable living in a loft like this, but …. But I truly respect the integrity behind the design. And the attitude of the seller, as expressed in comments on the first Curbed link above (“I create [sic] the home I want to live in, not what I think someone else will want to buy, and am happy to live with the consequences”; and bless her for engaging with the denizens of CurbedLand). She bought the space for $1.5mm in 2005 ($1,510,037 on December 19, 2005, for you completists), spent another million on the renovation (a relative bargain, that, in view of the scale of the changes), and didn’t care what a future buyer thought.

We’ll consider below how much The Market penalized the loft for the renovation (there is an interesting and highly relevant data point), but for now let’s review the (long!) history and enjoy the pimped out loft.

Sept 27, 2013 new to market $5.995mm
Mar 2, 2014 hiatus
Oct 23 back on market
Nov 12 $5.25mm
Jan 14, 2015 $4.995mm
May 27 $4.5mm
Aug 12 contract
Oct 8 sold $4mm

That’s four prices over two years (less one long hiatus), with all the market activity in the last year. Price drops of $745,000, then $255,000, then $495,000 evidence a certain regard for the (lack of) market response, and the final push to negotiate a $500,000 discount from last-ask (I wonder where that bid started…) evidences a respect for the (only?) serious buyers that emerged. The seller’s Curbed-comment above (I “am happy to live with the consequences”) followed the contract, so let’s take her at her word. She was happy with $4mm, after certainly testing The Market for a higher price.

if Dick Wolf thinks it’s a pimped out loft …

I was not going to post any interior photos, as they are all over the inter-tubes, but if any reader hasn’t clicked through yet, here’s one to wet your whistle:

black gloss, on black gloss, on black gloss (though the [black!] floor has a matte finish)

The floor plan is almost conventional (and easily adapted), though the master suite presents some … issues.

not many walls, including in the master bath

Imagine standing in the middle of the loft (say, at the middle window, looking back between the two walk-in closets) … you’d be looking across (over) the tub and behind the wall at what you cannot see in this photo:

the view from the great room includes the shower behind the stone wall but (presumably) not the toilet

To emphasize the point, note the reflection of the windows on the mirrored north wall of the bathroom. Those windows are, of course, in the great room. I can’t find it right now, but I read somewhere that the seller was amused that guests didn’t realize there are other bathrooms with doors (the two half baths, east and west in the middle of the north-south axis), presumably meaning that guests used that master toilet … more visibly when standing, but likely still visible when sitting.

As the alternate floor plan suggests, the footprint allows relatively easy adaptation to a conventional layout. But that “simple” is still a rather extensive renovation; indeed, a full gut unless some part of the kitchen and nearby half-bath might survive. With “3,750 sq ft” of flooring and ceiling to include, and much moving about of plumbing, that is a not-cheap opportunity.

Hence, $1,067/ft in a condo with monthly expenses under $1/ft. Yikes.

how did StreetEasy get this wrong??

Of course StreetEasy has the closing price in the Sale Recorded link in the listing history: $4mm. What’s odd is that the StreetEasy blog reported as fact on August 13 that the contract price was a half million dollars higher:

After a series of price cuts, the listing has now entered contract for an even $4.5M.

Curbed used that “fact” reported by StreetEasy in the link way above, which is where I saw it back in the day. I remember then being a little surprised that StreetEasy did not identify a source for the contract price (even an anonymous “source with knowledge of the deal”); after all StreetEasy knows that not all contracts are signed at the asking price. Right??

No biggie (see what I did there?) except for the anal among us.

But $500,000 is a healthy negotiated discount off the last ask. Not to mention, the sale was almost exactly one-third off the first ask, or a discount of $1.995mm from that 2013 try. Which brings us back to considering how much the … er … idiosyncratic design choices in The Black Loft cost the owner was discounted by The Market.

$725,000 is a big discount for so personalizing a loft, no?

The best way to estimate how much The Market punished discounted The Black Loft for being black (and for not having that wall in the master bath) would be if there had been a recent sale of a loft with the same footprint but a more conventional design. Life isn’t that good to me (alas), but we do have the loft just below The Black Loft that sold three years ago.

Loft #5S was billed as “3,500 sq ft” in 2012 marketing, but it sure looks to be the exact same footprint as loft #6S. (Granted, listing floor plans are not to scale blah blah blah disclaimers.)

do you see a difference between this and #6S above? I don’t. 5 South windows, same cut-aways (+ windows) in the east and west south corners.

The anal among you will keep in mind that #5S might be 7% smaller than #6S when we adjust for the different markets of August 2012 and October 2015. For the rest of us (ha!), we will ignore the issue and use the new StreetEasy Manhattan Price Index. That darn thing isn’t so easy to find (or use … what’s up with that??), but here is the most recent one I find, in an August 27 StreetEasy blog post about the Brooklyn and Manhattan market values. (The thing is easier to use if you look only at Manhattan [All].) In August 2012 the Index was $776,659, in July 2015 (the most recent month available??), $979,619. In other words (and after using a calculator), the overall Manhattan residential real estate market was up 26% from August 2012 to July 2015, as measured by StreetEasy. [UPDATE 10.30.15 The Index as of September can now be accessed through a StreetEasy blog post about 3Q15; the September Index value is $982,958, up just a smidge from July.]

If you’ve already clicked on the #5S listing, you know that #5S sold on August 2, 2012 for $3.75mm. Adjusting only for time (and only until July this year), you’d expect #5S to be worth about $4.725mm if sold this year in exactly the same condition as when it sold in 2012.

It is interesting that #5S did not quite have a conventional layout for a loft this large. The floor plan above reflects the 2012 sellers used the loft as a single bedroom plus office / guest room, kinda sorta like the way the #6S 2015 seller used her loft. The difference is that #5S is much more easily given a true 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom layout (it was originally a 3-bedroom), requiring less than 75 linear feet of carpentry, as in the original 3-bedroom layout.

It is also interesting that #5S also embodied an eastern design philosophy, just one that is opposite to the Shanghai bordello look upstairs.

With a design philosophy based on serenity & simplicity, large open spaces and clean contemporary lines, the home has been transformed into an urban sanctuary steeped in the art of Feng Shui.

(Whatever few words you would use to describe #6S, they surely are antonyms for “serenity & simplicity”.)

Back to the cold cruel numbers ….

The theory of the StreetEasy Manhattan Price Index is that it encapsulates past markets in a single number. If the logic holds (it is the best we have, I think), The Black Loft was penalized about $725,000 (more, if the October 2015 Index turns out to be higher than the July 2015 Index) for being bordello black instead of being serene and simple.

That’s not nothing, yet the seller said (on Curbed) that she was happy with the consequences after she signed her $4mm contract. Good for her, and her serenity. While she made some money (her 2005 tax basis was something like $2.5mm), she didn’t make as much money as you might think selling for $4mm, as she had some serious transaction costs and the expense of living somewhere else while the loft was pimped out way back when.

If she’s happy, I’m happy. And I’m thrilled to have the #5S comp to work with. (Her mileage may vary, of course.)

(If you want to be that anal, and consider that #5S might really be a little smaller than #6S, the comparison obviously gets a little worse for #6S.)

 

 

 

 

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