11 West 20 Street sells after fits and starts

etymologically speaking
The most interesting thing about the recent sale of 11 West 20 Street #8 is not that this Manhattan loft has been described as "prefect" by one agent and as "stunning" by another yet only sold for $975/ft. The more interesting thing is that the successful marketing campaign was the third campaign since late 2007 and that each stage was followed by about five months in which the loft was off the market. It is much more typical to have a sales history that has only short gaps, even if multiple firms and agents are involved.

(Merriam-Webster provides the derivation of the term "fits and starts" as idiomatic expression referring to "sudden" attacks, as from disease (an epileptic fit), morphing to "sudden" burst of activity. I never knew that, but that sense fits [no pun intended, honestly] what these sellers did.)

This "2,205 sq ft" loft was offered for sale in October 2007 by one of the heaviest hitters in PruDE’s line-up at $2.85mm, then described as "2,300 sq ft", "spectacular", "stunning", with "[d]istinctive luxury details" and a "top-of-the-line kitchen". It came off the market for 2 months starting in February, before coming off the market again in June 2008, with no price change in this whole time.

The sellers sat with this off the market from June 24 to December 12, 2008, when they came back with a new firm (Corcoran) and a new price ($2.495mm). It even had a new size ("2,100 sq ft"). The broker babble was short on hyphens (the kitchen was "top of the line") but certainly enthusiastic: "Perfect as is but endless possibilities!"

Again, the sellers were stubborn on price, as they held steady throughout this second listing period, from December 12 to June 12, 2009.

wound-licking ensues? lessons being learned?
It is impossible to know what these sellers were thinking when they sat off the market for a significant period again, from June 13, 2009 to November 23, 2009. It does not appear as though they made any changes to the physical space, but it is definitely odd that someone who wants to sell would stay off the market these five months, especially having been off the market six months at the end of 2008.

I hope that they were not waiting in the wings and hoping that the market would move favorably. It does appear that they wanted to sell.

When they came back to PruDE on November 23, 2009 (with yet another big hitter) the price was dropped to $2.25mm, the size was back up to "2,300 sq ft", the kitchen was described more briefly as "chefs", but the neighborhood gained a space (becoming "the Flat Iron District"). This price found a buyer, who signed the contract by December 29 that closed with the February 11 deed filed this week.

That’s three sets of agents, with none of whom the sellers dropped the price (only between listings did the price change). But they eventually got down to where The Market is.

The December 29, 2009 contract establishes The Market Price for this unit, as of that date. The last time The Market established a price for this loft was when these 2010 sellers bought it; they signed their contract to buy by December 18, 2006 when the loft had been on the market all of 6 days. (They were very decisive then!) That price was … wait for it … $2.15mm … the exact same price on the way in as they got on the way out, 3 years and 11 days later (measuring contract to contract). The babble-word then was "spectacular", by the way.

Back then, something happened to these folks. Something that caused them to (try to) sell 10 months after they closed in February 2007. It surely seems a stretch for them to have asked $2.85mm in October 2007 for the loft the’d just paid $2.15mm for; yet perhaps they believed that they really got a steal by snapping up the loft so quickly when it was offered in December 2006.

Recall that The Market was still on the way up when they came out in October 2007.

cold, cruel hindsight
In retrospect, they had only three or four months of About To Peak market conditions when they started asking $2.85mm. In retrospect, coming off the market for 2 months to close the First Quarter of 2008 did not help; nor did returning to market in April 2008 at the same $2.85mm.

In retrospect, staying off the market from June 25 to December 13, 2008 did not help, as Lehman filed for bankruptcy after Labor Day that year. Then coming back reduced to $2.495mm (still $345,000 more than they’d just paid) burned more marketing time during the dog days of Manhattan real estate in early 2009.

When they came back a third time, on November 23, they chose the same $2.25mm price that had been offered in December 2006 when they snapped it up. It took them only five weeks to negotiate to $2.15mm, the same price they’d paid three years earlier.


those feet
The "2,205 sq ft" figure comes from StreetEasy’s deed page, which I understand to come from city records (this loft is a condo, and I have always assumed these are the numbers in the condo declaration for unit sizes). The agents described it variously as "2,300 sq ft" or $2,100 sq ft", which is — of course — odd. Our listing data-base has loft sizes in this building of "2,205 sq ft" for three floors, and sizes of "2,100", "2,200" and "2,300" for various listings over the years. Odd, but less fascinating.


© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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