real estate sales made easy: 88 Prince Street loft sells because (some say) it is correctly located

stay classy, guy
The February 16 sale of the “3,000 sq ft” loft #7C at 88 Prince Street (the oh-so-handsome the Little Singer Building) made the news yesterday because it had once been rented for 8 months a few years ago by one of the Fugees. Wait … that’s not quite right. The sale made the news yesterday because of the PR efforts of some real estate agents who were willing to dish not only that ‘news’ but the ‘news’ that an even more impressive musical figure inexplicably did not buy the loft, although he is “a really nice guy” with a “tense” entourage. None of the principals in the deal would comment, which was irrelevant with such a gabby agent (an agent so gabby that he offered a novel explanation for why his team was successful when others before them had failed).

long history in a narrow range
The seller, an architecture firm, picked the wrong time to sell, but stayed at it, persisting with 4 firms and eventually selling off an asking price just a little bit higher than where the campaign started:

May 29, 2009 new to market $3.8mm
Sept 30 hiatus  
Feb 24, 2010 change firms $4mm
Nov 30 hiatus  
Feb 3, 2011 change firms $4.395mm
April 30   $3.395mm
June 22 change firms $3.85mm
Jan 10, 2012 contract  
Feb 16 sold $3.5mm

Only the seller and each successive set of agents knows who-said-what-to-whom, but this history reflects that seller started at the right price in the wrong market, and might well have done a deal in late 2009 had they been more patient with seeing how warm the thaw got.

Somebody had a slightly better opinion of the value of the loft in 2010. Then the early 2011 history fits a classic pattern of “we’ll start it where you want, but if it does not work we need a significant price drop”, though (again) it is unknown whether it was the agents or the seller who wanted to try the unavailable price. That last change in firms did the trick, along with a firm resistance to further price drops (but not to negotiation) in the final 7 month period.

a Soho classic
The building is one of the most beautiful loft buildings in Manhattan, not just in Soho. (Any pedestrian who looks above street level will be familiar with the building, seen [with washed-out colors] on the Broadway side in the StreetEasy listing from 2010, here, and from Prince Street from the StreetEasy listing from 2009, here.) It is a multi-hybrid coop, with an entrance at 561 Broadway and another at 88 Prince Street (it wraps around the corner building at Broadway and Prince), with both commercial office units and residential units (the phone list of occupants on The Shark is a who’s who of Soho commerce, including folks publicly identified with the Soho Artist In Residence and zoning controversies).

Perhaps some buyers were confused by the two entrances; perhaps some buyers were unsure exactly where the building is. These theories seem unlikely, what with mapping features on broker websites, StreetEasy and any other on-line portal for listing information, but that is the gabby agent’s implied story for why his team was (finally!) able to sell where the others had crashed and burned before him. The others were incompetent!

The Real Deal yesterday identified only two of the prior listing firms, for some reason omitting Corcoran:

the apartment had previously been listed with brokers from several other firms, including Lisa Verdi and Mara Flash Blum of Sotheby’s International Realty and Patty La Rocco of Prudential Douglas Elliman.

“They were doing it wrong,” [agent] said. “They had it improperly listed on the MLS with the incorrect cross streets. This is the hottest corner in all of Manhattan (so it was important to make that clear.)”

If only buyers had been told that the building was at the corner of Broadway and Prince Street, the loft would have sold in 2009! Or in 2010! Or in 2011!

But (it is claimed), it was mis-labeled (all those addresses and mapping features aside). “They were doing it wrong”. After looking at the listing history, I would have expected a PR-grubbing agent to crow about finally pricing the loft correctly in the current market conditions. That would be a positive angle that (a) fits the public facts and (b) does not attack the competence of 3 sets of highly experienced Manhattan loft agents with 3 different firms.

Perhaps the gabby agent said something about clever pricing that got edited out of the final copy, but that does not seem likely given how much ink the gabby agent was given. (Isn’t that whole Usher story weird??) I hope it is clear by now that I am not going to name the gabby agent because he does not need any Google Juice from Manhattan Loft Guy (nor does his photogenic, sexually athletic partner).

a classic Soho loft
No kidding around: this loft is a beauty. I saw it last year and recall that it shows even better than the photos. For fans of clean-and-modern melding with industrial, you can quibble with the color choices but not the materials or execution. The huge public space is enhanced (as they say in classic, but in this case justified, babble) by the 11 foot ceilings and the wall of north windows that start at the floor and extend (not quite) to the ceilings, along (almost the entire) north wall.

Personally, I love the floating kitchen island, with no cabinets underneath yet plumbing and gas (through that column??). Others may find that too severe. The Long-and-Narrow footprint is wide enough for 3 bedrooms in back and there are enough plumbing lines to run a second bath up the middle of the unit. Personally, I don’t love the glass brick in the second bath (I remembered there was something about that bath, but did not remember what until finding the 3rd photo in the 2009 listing) but these are much nicer (cleaner) glass bricks than you typically see, and others may well prefer that to a wall of masonry.

renters could find the place
If you look at the listing photos from 2009 and the 2 from 2011 you will see very different decorating choices. Personally, I think the hanging plants and patterned decor in the 2009 listing photos conflict with the clean-and-modern sensibility of the space, but the seller was, no doubt, pleased to have rented the space out at various times. But sometimes having a tenant makes it harder to sell, as a ready, willing and able buyer might not want to wait until a tenant vacates before moving in.

I can’t tell the full sequence because rental listing data is sparse, but our data-base says that this rental listing on StreetEasy was, in fact, rented out as of April 2008. For $18,000/mo. My guess is that tenant was still around when the 2009 sales campaign began (again, see those photos).

Again, our data-base shows that this rental listing was, in fact, rented as of November 25, 2009, at a (much reduced!) $12,995/mo.

The same thing happened in 2011: this rental listing was rented in August 2011, for $15,500/mo.

I can’t tell when these tenancies ended, or when the loft was vacant after the architect firm owners completed this renovation and put it on the rental market in 2007 (that first rental listing says “be the first to live in this newly renovated loft”), but it is clear that they received considerable rental income over the years. With at least 3 tenants since April 2008, the “unsuccessful” sales campaigns in the history up top take on a different context. Not many people will close on a loft purchase if they can’t move in for a while.

So props are due to the gabby agent, who both procured a tenant at $15,500/mo by August last year and found a buyer willing to close even though he can’t move in (as TRD confirms) until after July 2012. And props to the other agents who rented this loft out over the years. No props for suggesting that the other agents marketed the loft as though in a different place, of course.

irony alert
Of course, the gabby agent’s claim that “[t]his is the hottest corner in all of Manhattan” ignores the fact that this building is not at the corner. The 561 Broadway entrance is one building down from the corner of Prince; the 88 Prince Street entrance is mid-block between Broadway and Mercer. (Zoom in on the StreetEasy map to see how the building wraps around.) This would be quibbling, except that the gabby agent went off on the previous listing agents for (allegedly) “with the wrong cross streets”. (I can’t find any evidence of that, but still.)

Worse, TRD described this building as “at the corner of Mercer Street”, without directly quoting anyone. Of course, the 88 Prince Street entrance is 2 buildings away from Mercer Street. More quibblling, except for the agent bashing.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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  1. […] the building, we have to use the other entrance to the Little Singer and revisit my March 21, 2012, real estate sales made easy: 88 Prince Street loft sells because (some say) it is correctly located. Snark aside (read it: it’s good), that one dealt with a loft in the same “L” […]

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