high floor low ceiling loft at 25 West 15 Street closes on 2nd contract, 2nd price

strange history
The “1,800 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 6th floor at 25 West 15 Street took 5 months to find a contract that stuck, using two asking prices (the second higher than the first), but until August all the action was in the first 6 weeks. This history is unusual (with one date added from the inter-firm data-base):

Mar 15 new to market $1.75mm
Mar 28* offer accepted  
April 9 contract  
April 29 back on market $1.85mm
Aug 3 contract  
Oct 28 sold $1.67mm

Note that the loft was quick to find a buyer in March, but that the loft sat from May through July before getting another. Note also that the sellers expected the momentum of March to continue, even at a higher ask. (Oops.)

I saw this one with buyers in those heady days in March. The buyers liked the finishes, hated the ceilings. This loft was marketed as a blend:

Original details include distinctive tin ceilings (9 foot) and egg and dart moldings. The master suite with study faces a quiet garden. The kitchen has been meticulously renovated with top of the line appliances and finishes. Two new bathrooms with Waterworks fixtures.

Of course, my buyers did not mind that the ceilings were of distinctive tin; they minded the height. That public space in the loft is rather long, and even with what is essentially a front wall of glass, there is surprising little volume in the loft — less than the numbers generally imply.

“high floor” is relative in a 7-story building
There was a fairly recent and nearby comp when the 6th floor came to sale in March: the 3rd floor had sold in July 2010 for $1.575mm. That loft has a dramatically different floor plan than the 6th floor, with a true master suite across the back and the second bedroom fit into a front corner (near a weird closet). With the plumbing in exactly the same places and very similar functionality on both floors (2 bedrooms plus a “study” or “den”), I imagine these two lofts have very different ‘feels’. (This is why I find lofts so fascinating; apart from some new conversions that over-used the cookie-cutter, there can be tremendous diversity even in a small building like 25 West 15 Street.)

I have not seen the 3rd floor, so I do not know if there are differences in the quality of finishes in these two lofts. 3rd floor bragging concentrated on the kitchen (“open kitchen features a Sub-Zero refrigerator, Miele dishwasher, Thermador oven and granite countertops”), with no mention of baths, so perhaps the Waterworks on the 6th floor make a difference. But probably not much of the difference between the 3rd floor in July 2010 at $1.575mm and the 6th floor last month at $1.67mm.

Neither set of babble talked about views or light, which is not surprising with much higher buildings across 15th Street and only “a quiet garden” in back. I am hesitant to project form these sales that being 3 floors up should be worth almost $100,000, but that is the way the numbers work. My provisional approach is that the higher floor accounts for some small amount of the spread, that the improved market from 2010 to 2011 accounts for a small amount of the spread, until the difference is small enough to be considered customary market ‘noise’.

is low maintenance always a good thing?
Both sets of babble mentioned that there is no underlying mortgage on the coop, and the 3rd floor marketing specifically called attention to “a notably low monthly maintenance”. That 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.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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