price discovery proves to be a female dog for authentic Soho loft at 66 Grand Street

history is longer than it looks on The Master List
Because I use an arbitrary cut-off of 90+ days off market to re-set the Days on Market calculation on the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008, the recently sold “1,800 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the (not street level) first floor at 66 Grand Street appears on that list as though it had ‘only’ been on the market 278 days before contract. (Until the list is updated again, this loft is on line9 of Sheet1.) But another way to look at the marketing campaign for this “[a]uthentic Soho loft” would include the more than 6 months (and 3 prices) that the loft had been a suitor before that. The full history shows that the sellers and agents had no good idea what The Market thought the loft was actually worth:

Dec 3, 2010 new to market $1.675mm
Mar 22, 2011   $1.595mm
May 13   $1.495mm
June 16 hiatus  
Sept 17 back on market $1.449mm
Nov 3   $1.395mm
Mar 18, 2012   $1.349mm
June 21 contract  
Sept 28 sold $1.215mm

That is 6 different asking prices, 15 months of active marketing (over 18 calendar months), to get a contract that was 10% off the last asking price and 27% off the first asking price. Price discovery was … difficult.

when cons beat pros, that’ll happen
The broker babble goes for the “live/work space for artist or small business” buyer pool, presumably premised on the nearly 13 foot ceilings and the first floor (but not street level) location (where do those double entry doors go??). There are other charms: concrete floors for the part of the loft buyer pool that prefers that to hardwood; exposed brick and utilities; at least one bath with character (those tiles! the freestanding red tub!); a (especially for the money) a lot of space (2 bedrooms, 2 baths, a living room and [widely separated] dining room, and an office).

“Authentic” is, of course, often babble-speak for ‘primitive’, and that seems to be the case here. No bragging about anything that has been added to the loft in the last 40 years. Did you notice what there is essentially none of in the loft? (Waiting ….)

Natural light.

The floor plan has 4 windows, but my guess is that what little natural light enters this space comes in through the transom over those double doors at the pointy end of the “windowed dining room”. That window, by the way, must be that (2’ x 3’?) aperture about 4 feet above the floor on the left wall in the second listing photo. The other windows are so subtly photographed that you could easily miss them: in pic #3 look behind the flowers; in pic #4 it is behind the [birch tree?] fabric; and the other one is not pictured. Other than the dining room aperture, the other 3 windows appear to cluster around an air shaft. No surprise that there won’t be much light down at the first floor level.

Look again at the floor plan and those pictures. I can’t remember ever having seen a loft from which you would never see outside from virtually the entire living space. Certainly not from the living room, the bedrooms, or the kitchen. I have no idea what that dining room aperture “looks” at, but it can’t be much. And whatever it is, you probably have to stand right in front of it and bend down to see.

Not sure I would have had the courage to have marketed the loft as perfect for medical residents or other people working the night shift, but this space is a tough sell for anyone else. As the 6 prices and 15 months to contract show.

“comping is _____”
Seriously, how many adjustments would you have to get to get valid comps for a (near totally) dark loft? 66 Grand Street is part of a 3-building coop, with very few recent sales to search for helpful comps. I hit the second-to-last sale in this coop in my long ago August 20, 2009, 64 Grand Street closes UP 12% since 2006, which also mentioned the third-to-last sale here. That post featured a loft sale that was (in retrospect) part of the post nuclear winter thaw in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market (hence my treating it as anomalous for closing up 12% over 2006). That was also in primitive condition (“clean canvas and good bones”), but it also had great light and Empire State Building views.

A pretty good comp to examine the difference between light and dark, but for timing to account for the thaw. It might only be a little bit larger than the first floor loft, and sold for $1.64mm in August 2009. But how to adjust (down) for light and (up) for timing? Should be do-able, but complicated.

The even older sale mentioned in that post was the “stunning” and “sun-drenched” 5th floor, which sold in “the frothy days of July 2007” at $2.23mm; similar to the 4th floor but for condition and timing, which together carry the math from $1.64mm to $2.23mm.

I’ve hinted about the most recent sale, by not mentioning it yet. Aside from street address, it is as much the opposite of the first floor as two lofts could be. I can’t even get a reliable estimate of its size (a scandal, yes) but the June 5 sale price of $3.2mm begins to tell you how different that 4th floor at 70 Grand Street is from the first floor at 66. Obviously it is in mint-or-beyond condition, but there’s also this: ”walls of windows facing south & east”. You could dress up the first floor to look like the 4th floor (the walls of windows facing south & east beside) for less than a million bucks, I bet. ($500/ft should do it.)

Would that leave another million as the difference between the walls of windows facing south & east upstairs and the small-aperture+3-air-shaft-windows below? Yes, arithmetically. I am not going to push these not-very-comparable sales that hard.

Personally, unless I could find another dark Soho loft that did sell recently, I’d probably start with 64 Grand Street #7 at $1.64mm in August 2009, then try to adjust for different light and marketing conditions. If that’s what these sellers did, they essentially treated that plus-and-minus calculation as a wash. Of course, The Market told them that that was not the right calculation.

If there is another small loft coop with the diversity of properties and values as 64-70 Grand Street, it does not come to mind.

one disorienting listing photo
Speaking of mind-blowing, I had to toggle between the floor plan and pic #5 many times before getting confident that I knew what I was looking at. I don’t think I have ever seen a listing photo with this much fish-eye ‘play’. The camera is in the corner just to the left of the entry door (see the floor plan). As if you were panning around, you see that blue entry door, the door to the bathroom that is right behind the kitchen, the blue bedroom door directly opposite the entry door, and down the long hall that leads to the living room.

That is a full 90 degree view, looking both straight and fully to your right. Kids today, with their cameras!!

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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