all Soho is not alike: 12 Wooster Street loft sells for $869/ft after renovation

go figure (please show your worksheet)
Even a sub-market like Soho has outliers. Regular readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know why Soho and Tribeca are high-end price outliers in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market (e.g., February 2, Tribeca and Soho top the rankings in median price by neighborhood, of course), but even a high-end dominant niche has lofts that don’t make it to Lake Wobegon. I present for your consideration the “2,400 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 5th floor at 12 Wooster Street, at the top of the building but at the bottom of Soho in at least two ways.

The loft is a mix of old (“Classic cast iron Soho building built in 1880’s. … transformed into dramatic, column-less, open living space with soaring ceiling heights”) and new (“newly renovated … plus a chefs kitchen to wake your inner Batali”). The loft has 4 windows in front, 5 in back (it’s a trapezoid, not quite your typical Long-and-Narrow), and 1 on the long south wall, plus 5 skylights (“glorious light regardless of the weather”), a fireplace, and those “soaring” ceilings. With all that going for it, the loft had a bit of trouble finding its place in the market, closing at $2.085mm. $869/ft is a value far more likely for a renovated space in a fringe Manhattan loft area (parts of the Financial District or the West 40s and 50s come to mind) than for a prime neighborhood. Of course, 12 Wooster Street is too close to the geographic bottom of Soho to command prime Soho prices. But still ….

There is a funny little pricing history, satisfying one of my maxims about the market correcting too-low prices:

May 17, 2012 new to market $2.295mm
Oct 13   $1.995mm
Nov 19 contract  
Dec 6 sold $2.085mm

(See, most recently, my January 28, if robust, The Market will fix a too-low price (at least, it did, at 124 West 24 Street).)

You’d think that a loft priced at $2.295mm by a seller willing to take up to a 10% discount would have sold in a few months, if the value was really $2.085mm. Well, the value really was $2.085mm (as proven by November 19) but it took a price drop below that to wake The Market up. Five months at $2.295mm did not work, but 5 weeks at $1.995mm did the trick. Applying the razor that Occam left behind when he moved out, I suspect it has to do with a thin market for this more-gritty-than-charming bottom stretch of Soho, on top of a building that lacks one important structural element of prime loft properties.

hint: lower floor = higher value in 2010
Small buildings make for interesting comp analyses. The last sale in this 4-unit 5-story coop was the 3rd floor in early 2010, well into the thaw in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market ($2.15m on March 11, 2010). Like the 5th floor quite recently, the 3rd floor was billed as a mix of classic and new elements (indeed, a “sublime combination of modern elegance, natural woods, clean lines and old world charm. … the layout is flexible”) with, to my eye, at least, a higher level of interior finishes if fewer outstanding structural bonuses (no skylights, obviously, no south exposure, no fireplace, and probably lower ceilings).

(Curiousity question: what do you think about the narrow plank ceiling on the 3rd floor? There is enough other updating to prove that this was an aesthetic choice to leave it in ‘authentic’ condition, which is a choice more common for open beam or tin ceilings in Manhattan lofts. Interesting choice … I think I like it, a lot. Anyone else?)

If the 3rd floor sold for slightly more than the 5th floor almost 3 years earlier, in pretty comparable condition but less light, there is either a reason or the narrow spread in favor of the lower floor (3%) is simple market noise. I think there’s a simple reason, rather than market noise to account for this backwards premium from a weaker overall market (early 2010) to a stronger overall Market (late 2012): it’s a longer journey up the stairs to the 5th floor than it is to the 3rd floor. You could read the broker babble for lofts in this building over and over without realizing there is no elevator.

As with the loft I hit in prime Tribeca earlier this week (February 11, 1 Worth Street loft sells after renovation / how building values change), it is more than a little irritating when agents don’t reveal a pertinent detail like that up front, but such is life in The Big City. Sigh.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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