152 Wooster Street loft shows that character matters, competition drives premium


War Week resumes

Some stories never get old, so here’s another one from the Bidding War Files. The cool things about the “1,360 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2C at 152 Wooster Street that just sold 12% above the asking price require me to quote from some professional broker babble: “a true downtown Artist’s loft with the kind of soul, character, and warmth rarely found in today’s loft market” and “this spacious & solid property truly stands out from many of the narrow rectangles or glass box ‘lofty’ apartments available in the area”. Check, and check. It didn’t last long (contract within 4 weeks), just as I predicted to my buyer who visited in that month. On the one hand, it’s nice to be proven right (“this one is not going to last; may need more work than you want, but lots of character, large space, efficient floor plan for real BR + interior room”); on the other hand, someone just paid $1,287/ft for the opportunity to spend another couple of hundred bucks a foot to bring this space up to modern standards.

Here’s why: 11 foot ceilings, 9 windows, cast-iron columns, a square footprint (with plumbing stub*), good light (for now**), “handsomely worn [!] wide-plank hardwood flooring”, at a surprisingly quiet prime Soho location, just south of Houston Street. (*That stub is the major challenge on the floor plan: no one these days puts the only bathroom at the end of a galley kitchen; I can’t remember the story about plumbing stacks, but I am pretty sure one can move that bath and add another, though it doesn’t make much sense to use the stub in any way but the kitchen.)

The bathroom placement is one hint that this loft was built out long ago; the glass brick in the curved master bedroom wall is another. I don’t imagine that a buyer bid this place up to leave it as it is; I expect the new owner to erase the lines on the floor plan and start new.

a postcard from a loft at war
Mar 15 new to market $1.565mm

April 12 contract

July 15 $1.75mm

about those double asterisks

The loft gets a lot of light for a second floor loft in the back of a building, in part because the building to the east is short (4 or 5 stories), in part because the summer sun is high (listing photo #5 gives the best sense of how close the building is and how light the narrow space can be), and in (major) part because the southern exposure is wide open over a parking lot. (The last listing photo shows an old single story structure abutting 152 Wooster that the parking lot wraps behind and next to.) Every single moderately interested potential buyer asked the agents about development plans for that lot (any development would close up the 3 south windows in loft #2C) and got this story, more or less: there are no current public plans to develop the lot but the owner has made efforts to do so in the past, any buyer should do their own diligence, but there can be no assurance that the loft won’t be developed at some time in the future. Cold comfort, indeed, but obviously not a deal breaker.

Any prudent buyer would enjoy the light while it lasts but would expect to lose the 3 south windows, sooner or (more likely) later. The loft’s principal charms are not dependent on that light, and there is no ‘view’ to speak of.

If it were my loft, I’d erase all the lines on the floor plan and build an interior master in the northwest corner; if I needed another bedroom I’d probably add another one along the north wall but still away from the windows. I’d leave the east windows open to the main space to bring as much of that light in as possible. I wish I could remember where the plumbing stacks are, but I can’t; I am pretty sure there is at least one place on the south wall but “in the square” a bath can be added, possibly two. I’d definitely build a new kitchen pretty much where the current on is, and I might well update that oddly placed bath. I’d expect to spend $200/ft or more, but if I had a partner with expensive tastes I would be prepared to pay more.

I’d end up with a $1,500/ft loft in a no-frills coop on a wonderful Soho block. (Gulp.) If I had a renovation budget a lot bigger than $200/ft I might end up with something like this, which some people would argue is worth around $2,000/ft.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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