32 West 20 Street loft flies off shelf, into war, contra 31 East 21 Street loft

not enough for a speed week, but still…
I had the sale of the “1,350 sq ft” Manhattan loft #8N at 32 West 20 Street on my For Posting pile since I noted last week that the deed for $1.6mm (dated September 7, filed last week) was a fairly quick sale and that it sold above the $1.495mm asking price. A 7% premium over ask is impressive, particularly given that the loft has some challenges (addressed below) and that it sold last for $1.23mm (June 23, 2005). And it is always nice to give some give some Manhattan Loft Guy props to a modest pricing strategy, as the loft was offered in the thawing market of August to December 2009, without selling at $1.749mm.

With a contract that took (as long as) 33 days, it just missed the cut for the (arbitrary) limit for quick contracts that I used yesterday (September 22, revisiting velocity, as 132 West 22 Street loft sells near a world land speed record) and in the August 2 post referenced yesterday (velocity in the Manhattan loft market / 72 Mercer Street sale was not the fastest). I have commented before that 30+ days is a long time to contract for a loft that has a bidding war, but I need to stop doing that (As recently as August 29, 4 terraces = 1 bidding war for penthouse loft at 144 West 18 Street, with this: “It took 6 weeks to get to contract (May 10 to June 20 contract), which is kind of a long time for a hot-property-war, but you can’t argue with the result.”). Loft #8N is another example that corrects that incorrect impression.

layout + location??
For my buyers who saw this place the biggest drawback was the “busy” street, with the latest iteration of The Limelight on one end and a bunch of restaurants up and down the block. That surprised me a bit, but maybe only because the same block on West 21st Street and on West 22nd Street feature more noisy restaurant / bars / clubs than this one.

To me, the major limitation is that second bedroom. I applaud the ingenuity in the floor plan, by stealing only one window, but the usable space in that room that is left over is … kinda small. Especially for a space that is as large as “1,350 sq ft”. (I have seen larger second bedrooms in cookie-cutter floor plans under 1,000 sq ft.)

But net-net, The market did not mind the block or the layout, paying $1,185/ft for #8N.

how much for a new kitchen and baths?
I am fascinated by the spread between this month’s $1.6mm and the $1.23mm price these sellers paid on the way in six years ago. You can’t see the prior listing (I hate when that happens), but the listing description is below (and I can see the pictures and floor plan in our data-base) (sorry for the CAPS, honest):


Basically, they re-did the kitchen and baths without doing anything structural, and reconfigured the living space and second bedroom by removing some closets and moving the bedroom walls. the bedroom stuff was mere carpentry, while the plumbing stuff involved new appliances and fixtures, plus new custom cabinetry and lighting, to result in ‘spa-like’ baths and a chef’s kitchen. None of these spaces is large, so they probably did this for less than $150,000.

If I am in the right ballpark on renovation costs (I think I am conservatively generous) they got a good bang for that buck in six years, not to mention the use and enjoyment of the plumbing upgrades. Nice work, all around.

separated at birth listing on East 21st Street?
The size, layout, condition, and history of #8N at 32 West 20 Street presents a nice contrast to the nearby “1,500 sq ft” loft #8A at 31 East 21 Street, which sold for (only) $1.675mm on September 2. While #8N was racing through The Market (albeit after testing higher in 2009) at $1,185/ft, #8A took 4 months and a price drop to get the contract at (only) $1,116/ft.

Loft #8A is at least the equal of loft #8N in condition (they even both have outside kitchen venting), much better light and views (“open city views and floods the space with sun”), and a floor plan that is (to me) much more efficient than #8N’s, with a larger kitchen (though only one bath). Whereas #8N sold in June 2005 at $1.23mm (with those old baths and kitchen), #8A sold in its current condition in June 2004 at $1.45mm.

The relative change in market value over 6-7 years clearly favors #8N, even allowing for the renovation costs.

another contrast
I often feel that The Market does not pay sufficient attention to the difference in carrying costs for otherwise comparable lofts, but in this pair that factor alone may explain the difference in current market valuations. The maintenance on the “1,500 sq ft” coop #8A is $2,572/mo, while at the “1,350 sq ft” condop #8N it is $975/mo (ignoring the $246/mo assessment that runs out next month). One is relatively high for a no-frills no-amenities coop, the other is relatively low for a no-frills no-amenities condop. That difference represents a huge amount of buying power: about $240,000 with a mortgage at 5%.

That would explain a lot, and flip the question of why was #8N valued so much higher on a $/ft basis? to why didn’t #8A suffer a larger market hit?

It is nice to see The Market paying (some) attention to carrying costs.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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