personal style that is very personal might still appeal
This is a typical scenario: owner with wonderful taste renovates and decorates a Manhattan loft so that it fits her lifestyle and personality to a T, but eventually decides to sell; agent and she discuss whether some of that style should be … er … softened (if not neutered) in order to appeal to the greatest number of buyers, thus leading to the highest possible price in the shortest possible time; owner says things like “do you have any idea how much that (thing the agent wants to remove) cost?”, and sniffs things like “I am not sure you are qualified to judge my taste”; while the agent, who went to a Real Estate School with instructors such as the staging experts quoted by the New York Times (July 28, 2012, ruthless stagers, indeed! NY Times nails story about marketing apartments (and lofts!)), is thinking of ways to de-personalizing that may be impossible without a renovation. When the agent probes with “you do want to sell at the highest price, don’t you?” the owner ripostes “it only takes one buyer to sell, doesn’t it?” and (zing) “the right buyer with the right taste (ahem) will really appreciate the space in a way that your generic suburban buyer just won’t”.
By now you are hoping that I will stop the long intro and get specific. So without further ado, I present for your consideration the “1,300 sq ft” Manhattan loft #9B at 575 Sixth Avenue in southeast Chelsea, which sold on November 9 at $1.695mm, a $100,000 premium to the ask. And, yes, it has a very personal, very high style that, given it success, was perceived as a feature, not a bug.
This small coop building is home to many conventional lofts; this is not one of them. The floor plan sets the scene, as it is not so large that it is surprising as a 1-bedroom, but is certainly maximized for a single person or couple,with no space for even the occasional third person. So much so, that there are two full baths, both in the master suite, and there is no evident space for a guest bed without closing off one end of the amazing kitchen. The broker babble is enthusiastic, with a long list of quality materials, thoughtful details, and proper proper names but it is the pictures that tell you this loft is the product of a specific and refined sensibility.
While there are classic loft elements (“Hardwood Floors …, original Steel Columns and Architectural Metalwork”), this has not been dressed up in classic fashion. Starting with those hardwood floors being stained with mahogany and black ink, and including those “reflective Graphite Accent Walls”, glass pocket doors, and a kitchen with polished concrete floors and stainless steel countertops. This is one of those lofts about which there is little doubt about the credibility of this classic bit of babble: “every urban comfort has been custom-designed”. The only question for buyers is whether this custom-fitted loft fits them, as well as the seller.
reading a lifestyle from a floor plan
If you are tempted to think I have oversold the degree to which this loft design is unusual as you read the babble and click the photos, please reserve your skepticism at least until you get to the 6th photo. Although you are looking at a wall of books, that is no library. If that second master bath does not prove my point about idiosyncratic taste, I need to get out more, and see more lofts.
One more subtle point about personal design and the floor plan. The photos suggest this is a two-person loft, as does the fact that (for reasons unknown) there are two full baths within the master suite. But note how little of the floor plan is dedicated to closet space. There is one public closet opposite the kitchen, for overcoats and such; the master suite has a walk-in that is a mere 28 sq ft plus another straight closet of about 6 feet. Clearly, the loft is in a clean, minimal style; apparently the former inhabitants took that ‘minimal’ to their clothing as well, at least in quantity.
Now note how difficult it would be to add significant storage. The place is like a submarine: constructed exactly as it is for exactly the functionality that it has; changing anything would involve significant ripping out and re-doing. (Do you need two full baths in this space? Such a long kitchen??)
success can be measured in dollars and days
When a Manhattan loft marketing campaign works, it looks like this: to market on July 11 at $1.595mm, in contract by August 1, closed on November 9 at $1.695mm. That is $1,304/ft in a small no-frills coop (a lovely roof deck, however) on a very busy stretch of Sixth Avenue, with those “Sound-proofed Windows” tested by 24 hours of buses and trucks bouncing up the avenue.
That dollar-per-foot exceeds that of the last sale at the Lyla, the 2003 newly built condo just up and across the avenue at 63 West 17 Street (the “1,522 sq ft” #3A, which got $1,225/ft as bright, sunny, and “pristine” a month before #9B closed); no surprise that this value dwarfs anything achieved in the prewar apartments across the diagonal at 54 West 16 Street.
Terrific marketing sold a magnificent loft that was, most assuredly, “not for everyone”. It seems, however, to have found at least two buyers who were interested enough to put up serious money. As they say, it only takes one (to sell) and it only takes two to sell high.
© Sandy Mattingly 2013