height makes a small difference as Altair 20 lofts sell at 15 West 20 Street

expectations are met (mine, anyway)
The 2007 new development to residential living known as Altair 20 at 15 West 20 Street (a sibling to Altair 18 at 32 West 18 Street) faces a taller building across 20th Street, so you would not expect much light (and no ‘view’) from lower floors in the building. With such a recent conversion and marketing as a luxury condominium, you would not expect much variation in value unless a unit had been substantially improved since the sponsor sales in 2007. If you are an efficient market fan, you’d expect there to be only a slight premium for a higher floor loft in the lower part of the building over a loft one floor below, and you would be thrilled by the serendipity needed to test your fandom. Rejoice! The hyper-local market for “2,322 sq ft” low-floor lofts built out in well-appointed detail in 2007 on 20th Street west of Fifth Avenue in Flatiron has shown itself as an efficient market in 2012, with two recent sales that match up precisely as expected.

Lofts #3B and #4B are 2- bedroom 3-bath lofts with their original layouts and original finishes. They almost went head-to-head, with rather similar (and rational!) results:

#4B   April 16 new to market $2.595mm
  #3B May 25 new to market $2.695mm
#4B   June 1 contract  
  #3B July 10 contract  
#4B   July 25 sold $2.715mm
  #3B Aug 2 sold $2,665,800

That is a premium of 1.8% ($49,200) for the 4th floor over the 3rd, a little higher than I would have expected in a perfectly rational market (ha!), but well within a reasonable range of small-premium-for-higher-floor.

same lofts, different babble
The lofts are well dressed. The #3B babble is more enthusiastic than the babble upstairs:

state of the art Valcucine of Italy kitchen, … ribbed aluminum-faced Sub-Zero and Miele appliances, a wine cooler, coffee system, warming drawers, stove-top water faucet and stone countertops. … enormous master bath luxuriously clad to the ceilings with rare, imported, hand-chosen stones, … Dornbracht fittings, radiant heated floors, a double sink, a separate standing glass rainfall shower, and a soaking tub replete with a Sony flat screen television. …home office features beautiful custom cabinetry and pocket doors for privacy. Other luxuries include wide-plank dark wood floors, customized recessed lighting, 2-zone central air-conditioning, abundant customized closet space and laundry room with side by side washer/dryer

Enthusiasm gap and coyness about the proper proper names aside, that sounds like #4B, doesn’t it?

three full bathrooms with rain showers (heated floor tiles in the master bath), a full-service open or closed kitchen embellished with the finest materials and appliances, an in-unit laundry room with W/D, and extras such as a central home audio system, custom Lutron lighting, electric window shades, and custom California closets

The building description on StreetEasy reads as though it was taken from the developer’s description, and includes these finishes (lest you wonder if you should closely parse the respective babble to see if one might be in slightly upgraded condition than the other):

  • Radiant heat flooring in master bath
  • The finest selections of stone, glass, and marbles
  • Rosewood kitchens by Valcucine of Italy
  • Sub-Zero and Miele appliances, built-in cappuccino makers and double-zone wine coolers
  • Sony Wega flat panel televisions in master baths
  • Dornbracht fittings
  • Wood burning fireplaces

The developer’s kitchen description in the early marketing was so extremely over the top that I used it an ancient blog post (June 21, 2006) about loft style and kitchens, and the arm’s race. In that post, G4.2 a new generation of Loft kitchens: post-open, I referenced a New York Times review of ‘new kitchens’ that was … not entirely complimentary. As I said there, in coming up with different ‘generations’ of New York kitchens:

G3 loft kitchens reflect the arms war, especially in recent developments. As Marin says, the kitchen as fashion accessory: The “open kitchen has become a fashion accessory, the shoes or handbag of the new Manhattan apartment” and he uses the Altair condos at 15 West 20 Street and 32 West 18 Street as the archetypes, with an ad featuring a “youngish couple in matching aprons stand by an open kitchen island — more of a peninsula, really — giddily preparing dinner with five female friends who look as if they might consider spaghetti straps a food group. ‘In a 23-foot kitchen,’ the copy reads, ‘there can never be too many cooks.’”

(Oh, snap.)

not much competition, in fact (and theory)
The two loft sere in technical competition for the short holiday week after #3B came to market and before #4B went into contract. But the practical reality is more likely that #4B set the market into which #3B stepped rather than that buyers had a chance to play #4B off against #3B.

By the time that #3B came out on May 25, #4B had a great deal of activity, and almost certainly had an accepted offer after a bidding war. (The #4B clearing price was 4.6% above the ask; allowing time for even quick due diligence, the offer would have been accepted before #3B came out.) If the #3B sellers and agent did not know the precise terms of the #4B offer that was accepted, they surely would have known that there had been a lot of activity, and (building and agent scuttlebut being what they are) probably knew the approximate premium that #4B was going to get over ask.

At least, that is what the timing and #3B asking price tell me. (A) That #4B and #3B never directly competed. And (B) that the competition for #4B was probably limited to two bidders.

Doesn’t it look as though the unsuccessful bidder for #4B bought #3B? There was clearly at least one unsuccessful bidder for #4B as of June 1 ($2.715mm tells you that). Had there been more than one unsuccessful bidder as of June 1, there should have been a bidding war for #3B.

The funny contract price for #3B ($2,665,800) is the kind of number you see after a bidding war, but the #3B spread below #4B is too great for me to believe that 2 unsuccessful bidders for #4B would have stopped $50,000 below #4B. Maybe, but I very much doubt it. Look at how long it took #3B to get into contract. had there been 2 unsuccessful #4B bidder surviving to bid on #3B, the #3B auction and contract should have taken much less than 40 days.

That’s my story, and i am sticking to it. I would say it is much more likely to be accurate than any read of tea leaves, or ox entrails, or whatever other Manhattan residential real estate agents use to second-guess The Market.

Altair greatest hits
The only other Manhattan Loft Guy post about lofts at 20 West 15 Street (beside the kitchen hit, above) was from the days when I hit lofts while they were for sale, in this case (my February 18, 2008, 2 new on West 20 Street / building yin vs yang at 15 W 20 + 9 W 20) comparing two lofts head to head. I can see that some agents might not like that.

In an amusing coincidence, I hit the sibling loft conversion to Altair 20 when another pair of same-building, same-footprint lofts sold at Altair 18. That Jul. 12, 2012 – a tale of 2 lofts: did (removable) decor add $126/ft to value of one 32 West 18 Street loft? post is one of my recent favorites, as one of my very few forays into The Aesthetic World. With a serious fact-based market analysis, of course.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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