25 West 15 Street loft with unusual layout + funky colors closes at rough parity with downstairs loft

fresh nearby comps should be easier to apply
I bet that the walls in the “1,800 sq ft” Manhattan loft coop on the 7th floor at 25 West 15 Street have been where they are for 20+ years. The floor plan to this Long-and-Narrow loft has an “office / bedroom” with no closet in that (very) green room that opens to the living room (pic #3 and #5), a “master” bedroom that is an unimpressive 9’10” x 13’5” (in pic #4), and both a “living room” at the north end and a “great room” at the south end. Looks to me like a loft that was set up this way when one person lived there, and now is not quite big enough with 3 or more people. And notice the modifier in the broker babble that says volumes about the finishes, if you read between the lines: the kitchen is “open”; not chef’s or gourmet or top of the line, or any of those things, just “open”.

While the floor plan suggests “dated”, the colors are fresh. That (very) green “office / bedroom” looks especially bright in pic #3 alongside the red-ish and purple-ish hallway. And they opted to emphasize the largest plumbing lines in the great room with that shiny red. Interesting choice that perhaps gives some texture to a relatively low-ceiling (9.5 feet).

But paint is easy to change, and neither the colors nor the floor plan prevented this top floor loft from selling just a tad above the loft immediately below. This one took some chopping, and some fine dollar-shaving or difference-splitting in the negotiations, but it got done at $949/ft:

Sept 14, 2011 new to market $1.85mm
Oct 14   $1.795mm
Dec 6   $1.795mm
Mar 1, 2012 contract  
April 16 sold $1,707,500

The 6th floor was the subject of my November 18, 2011, high floor low ceiling loft at 25 West 15 Street closes on 2nd contract, 2nd price, when it sold at $928/ft 6 months earlier, with no head-to-head competition (omitting a failed contract and a hiatus):

Mar 15, 2011 new to market $1.795mm
April 29   $1.85mm
Aug 3 contract  
Oct 28 sold $1.67mm

For all appearances, that was a better loft than the 7th floor, with a more typical floor plan with 2 bedrooms and a study that looks like a third bedroom, all more generously sized than on the top floor, and more brag-worthy finishes, both old (“distinctive tin ceilings … and egg and dart moldings”) and new (“kitchen has been meticulously renovated with top of the line appliances and finishes [ t]wo new bathrooms with Waterworks fixtures”). The only advantage that I see for the 7th floor over the 6th is light from the two large skylights.

As noted in that November 18 post, the 6th floor sales compared well to the last sale in the building before that: the 3rd floor had sold in July 2010 for $1.575mm (only $875/ft). That one had a still different variation on the Long-and-Narrow footprint. Hard to say that the Waterworks bathrooms and greater light justified a $95,000 premium for the 6th floor over the 3rd, but that is what The Market established.

Just as the Market established that the 7th floor was worth 2.2% more than the 6th floor, (again) despite the floor plan weirdness, colors and lack of brag-worthy finishes. Not what I would have predicted, but the range is narrow enough to be readily understood as two separate sets of buyers and sellers butting heads and shaving dollars.

beware of low maintenance
I made a point last November about a positive selling point in this building (from now 3 sets of babble: no underlying mortgage on the coop) that may be counter-intuitive, so it bears repeating:

That [low maintenance] might not be such a good thing, however.

My buyers thought the entrance and lobby were not particularly well finished or maintained. This is fairly common with more … errr … mature coop lofts, but coupled with a low maintenance I would worry about whether the 7 shareholders are being only penny-wise as far as the coop budget is concerned. Our data-base shows that 3 shareholders have been in the building at least 15 years and paid, on average, less than $350,000.

I am not saying that I know that shareholders in this small coop are worse than frugal; I am saying that these circumstances suggest a heightened level of diligence to be done, and a willingness on the part of a buyer with an accepted offer to walk away rather than sign a contract. Sometimes low maintenance is the tip of a large iceberg.

As with many things, much diligence is due in such situations. I am sure everybody did it (after all, they closed). But while low maintenance makes a loft more affordable, it may mask the possibility of large expenses down the road.

(most) lofts are not shaped in a cookie cutter
All 3 of these lofts have the same “1,800 sq ft” Long-and-narrow footprint. Look (again) at the differences in floor plans, 3rd floor vs. 6th floor vs. 7th floor. Such variation within the same small (7-unit) coop. Fun stuff!

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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