a tricky $1,220/ft for a most lovely gut job of 451 Broome Street loft that took 50 weeks + 3 contracts to sell

a pretty short year

This is the kind of history that is so infuriatingly rich that it is a shame not to know the whole story. The “2,400 sq ft” Manhattan loft #7E at 451 Broadway came to market a year ago at $2.7mm and was on contract within two weeks, then back on the market before Memorial Day and in contract within … (wait for it) … two weeks, then back on the market in early Fall, when it took all of 12 weeks to find yet another contract, closing (finally!) at $2,927,400. Of course, such a funny closing price (look Ma, only two zeroes!) implies a bidding war, though you already know that because the ask was only $2.7mm. Although it sold on March 11 nearly 50 weeks after first coming to market, the actual marketing time was less than 4 months. Did I mention the three contracts? (Of course I did.)


save the wood!

The listing description implies that there is a lot of work to be done by the buyer (“[a]n architectural muse for creative inspiration, this prewar loft delights and delivers intrinsic old world charm”; with the windows and baths described as “original”), with the photos emphasizing the wonderful details (“original wood casement windows, moldings, plaster corbels, glass transoms, brass letter slot wood doors”) that “will take you back in time”. The photos give you that flavor, and a sense of what 3 exposures with 21 (21!) windows can mean high-for-Soho on a wide corner (Broadway and Broome, both wide): amazing light and nearly unlimited eastern views; the south view is not pictured, but goes to Gehry. (That grey building cater corner to 451 Broome Street in that second photo is, by the way, my office [2nd and 3rd floors], from the corner windows of which one can see the Holland Tunnel traffic back up as early as 4 PM and hear the car horns from a few hours of near gridlock.)


The kitchen is described merely as “windowed”, though it may have some appliances worth recycling. The bathrooms are, of course, “original”, though in the case of this 1895 former commercial building that must mean more like “very” old than like almost 120 years ago. (See pic #7, which might show a floor from the 1930s.) The fact that there are multiple “brass letter slot wood doors” suggests these doors came from offices that used to open onto a public corridor, perhaps even in this building. In fact, looking at that 4th photo inclines me to believe that the hallway was a public corridor back in the day, with each room to the right being a separate office (hence, the mail slots). That righthand wall, with all the breaks for doors and high windows, looks much more like it was built for a string of pre-air conditioning offices (open the transoms, the high windows, and the exterior north and south windows and you’d get a great cross breeze), rather than being created for a residential use.


Look at all that wood! Wood window frames, moldings, doors, doorframes and transoms (chair rails and picture rails in the living room?). Of course the floors are wood, except in the one bathroom pictured. The new owner will be sorely tempted to retain as much of that wood as possible, though the current configuration (floor plan, here) is very different from a classic residential loft.


I will confess to being a little intimidated by this space. In a ‘normal’ loft that had a configuration I didn’t care for, I’d have no qualms about ‘erasing the lines’ on the floor plan and drawing new ones wherever. Doing that in this case would mean the displacement (at least) of that lovely and other-wordly corridor wall and the likely destruction of the ceiling detail. Ouch.


There may not be much flexibility about where to put the kitchen and bathrooms in a building like this, and you enter the loft not only a long way from the east windows (85 feet?) but there’s no sense of space from the foyer and no view of a window until you’ve gone 20 feet in and approach that second south window at an angle. Unless you can move the front door and/or the bathrooms, that is going to remain a challenge.


Soho light is expensive

Since I assume that this space will get a significant renovation (at least, a major upgrade), $1,220/ft is a healthy starting point from which to add a renovation budget. The structural feature that can justify that initial investment is the light from those 3 exposures with 21 (21!) windows. Contrast this loft at $1,220/ft with these somewhat similar in scale Soho and Tribeca lofts, also publicly sold in 2013 and recorded on the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008:


  “sq ft” sale date price $/ft
434 Greenwich St #4B 1,888 Jan 9 $2,640,000 $1,398
505 Greenwich St #505 2,761 Jan 28 $3,900,000 $1,413
195 Hudson St #3B 2,293 Feb 1 $2,725,000 $1,188
129 Lafayette St #8A 2,363 Feb 12 $3,100,000 $1,312
38 Warren St #7C 1,850 Feb 14 $2,475,000 $1,338
161 Duane St #5A 2,225 Feb 15
$3,300,000 $1,483
115 Mercer St #2B 1,998 Feb 28 $3,375,000 $1,689
458 Broadway #6 2,600 Feb 28 $3,000,000 $1,154
25 Murray St #6E 1,850 Mar 1 $2,145,000 $1,159
25 Murray St #3E 1,842 Mar 8
$2,090,000 $1,135
73 Worth St #4C 2,176 Mar 15 $2,520,000 $1,158


Hint: put a $200/ft renovation into #7E at 451 Broome Street and you have exceeded the clearing prices of all but 2 of these 11 Soho and Tribeca lofts. Even without the renovation, $1,220/ft for #7E exceeds the clearing price of 5 of the 11, 3 of which are in 21st century conversions.


financial trickery

There is a more than slight dollar sleight of hand associated with #7E that skews comp analysis. Shareholders in this coop save something like $1/ft per month, and more:


Currently there is no maintenance fee. Coop uses surplus income from commercial rent for building improvements and remainder is distributed to shareholders annually.


“Surplus income!” Not knowing what the scale of the surplus is, assume that ‘normal’ maintenance would be $2,400/mo for #7W. That represents the interest payment on about $450,000 in principal on a 5% 30-year mortgage. Some people would look at the #7E purchase at $2,927,400 as financially equivalent to nearly $3.4mm, or $1,417/ft before considering renovation. Or, perhaps, as though a $200/ft renovation were ‘free’.


stable values

The last non-penthouse sale in the building clearly needed a complete gut job. The “2,200 sq ft” loft #6W was billed as “[o]ne of the last true working artists loft[s]” when it sold post-Peak on September 10, 2008 for $2.6mm, or $1,181/ft. That one lacks a southern exposure and I can’t tell if the western light on this floor is as nice as the east light one floor above, but the dollar-per-foot value is pleasantly similar to #7E 4+ years later.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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