288 West Street loft up 11% over 2011 instead of 15%

does the Index owe this Tribeca loft $90,000?

You know I do this only in part to remind you, gentle readers, and more so to remind me: the StreetEasy Manhattan Condo Index is a tool (a very useful single-number tool) that “gives a feel” for the overall Manhattan residential real estate market at different points in time; it does not predict or tell you what a given downtown Manhattan loft even should be (should have been) worth at any point. (Speaking to self ….) Got that? The recent sale of the “2,200 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4E at 288 West Street in the extreme northwest corner of Tribeca is yet another reminder. The loft was just sold for $2.55mm by the guy who paid $2.3mm for it in August 2011. Had this pair of same-loft sales fit perfectly into StreetEasy’s Index, the resale would have been just over $2.64mm. Life doesn’t work that way (speaking to self …).

The loft is a beauty, with massive beams and columns, exposed brick and sprinklers / piping, and long picture windows to frame the Statue of Liberty and river views. The recent broker babble claims the loft is “newly renovated” but you know how it is with babbling … it is hard to know how recent a “new” renovation is, or how extensive a “renovation” is. In this case, we have the benefit of the more detailed babbling and photos from 2011. While it is no sure thing to make these assessments from such sources, it appears to me as though the 2011-buyer-turned-2103-seller put a different stain on the columns and beams (I like the grey!), replaced some kitchen cabinets (and range hood!) with a shelf, and changed marble counters for poured concrete. The kitchen is otherwise the same as before, as is the master bath, as are any identifiable things I can see in the two sets of photos, including the nicely distressed floor boards. There is no current floor plan, but I see nothing to suggest that the 2011 floor plan has been changed.

That ain’t what I would call “newly renovated”, but there you have it: some cosmetic changes to the kitchen and a new color tone for the beams and columns. The 2011 buyer lived much less fussily in the loft than his sellers, however. The 2011 listing photos play up a rustic charm, but show an awful lot of furniture and just … stuff. The 2013 photos have fewer (but larger) pieces of furniture, fewer distracting things on the walls, and no rugs. The loft looks (to my eyes, at least) much better in 2013 than in 2011. (The former rustic columns and beams look great to me in grey.)

But as we already know, the concrete counters instead of marble and the colored columns and beams, and even the clean staging,  resulted in a resale that was somewhat below expectations. Some $90,000 short of the Index increase, before considering that the recent seller also put in some “renovation” money with the few changes I noted. (The counters look like the only significant expense, but none of it was recouped.) I suspect the guy planned to live there longer than 2 years, as it is an uneconomic move to replace marble counters with poured concrete for resale in such a short time. (Indeed, I am not sure such a change is ever an economic move, but more a matter of personal style or even simply gilding the lily.)

serendipity is nice, but getting same Tribeca building loft sale pairs twice is simply beyond

Sharp-eyed readers of Manhattan Loft Guy will remember the views from this loft, as I hit it when it sold last time in my September 16, 2011, why did 288 West Street lofts close with such a wide spread? (in the new blog platform). Back in the day, my post was about the comparison between the sale of #4E at $1,045/ft and the contemporaneous sale of the slightly smaller loft #2W at $1,386/ft. With lofts in similar condition and with similar views it was obvious that The Market knew something about those two lofts that I could not see in looking at the respective broker babble and listing photos. Of course there was, and a very helpful agent from a family of loft aficionados clued me in in the comment hyped in my edited text. At this point, alas, my new platform does not (yet!) have the comments from the old platform but that bit of functionality awaits further coding by my oh so helpful geek pal. In the meantime, that key comment on the old platform is here, but that is a balky platform so the gist is: the “E” line has lot line windows both north and south, putting at risk most of the windows in #4E and all of the windows with those Statue of Liberty and river views.

Hence, #4E at $1,045/ft and #2W at $1,386/ft, both in August 2011. Makes a great deal of sense, right?

It was delightful to have those two sales 9 days apart to drive home for me the fact that there was something going on between these two lines in this 2-lofts-per-floor classic loft building. Imagine my surprise, then, on seeing that #4E has once again been paired with a “W” loft sale. The “1,800 sq ft” loft #3W sold on October 9 (the day after #4E sold for $1,159/ft) for … (wait for it) … $2,117,000. That’s $1,176/ft for those of you too lazy to find the calculator function on your smart phones, which is (even without a calculator) essentially flat to #4E.

Wait … what? Loft #3W just sold for $1,176/ft two years after #2W sold for $1,386/ft. There’s got to be an explanation, right?

the more I know about some lofts, the more confused I get

The good news is that we know what condition #3W was in when it sold last month. The bad news (for those, like me), persuaded about the Lot Line Window explanation for the 2011 spread between #4E and #2W is that #3W was in pretty nice condition. See the full babble for details, but the headline is that it has been “[r]enovated and restored to retain the original character”, very likely the equal of the condition of loft #4E. Worse, for fans of efficient market analysis, it does not appear as though loft #3W was being actively marketed publicly immediately before its sale at the surprising $2,117,000.

Sorry to get into the weeds of Manhattan real estate listings systems, but this gets a little complicated. I take the inter-firm data-base that feeds our listing system as more reliable than StreetEasy on listing history. Both sources agree that loft #3W had been offered for sale from August to December 2011 at prices ranging from $2.485mm to $2.25mm. They also agree that the loft was brought back to market at $2.25mm from June into October 2012, but they disagree about what happened a year ago October. StreetEasy has “listing sold” and a closing 49 weeks later; the REBNY data (for what was a REBNY firm listing) has it as “expired” in October 2012, with a (non-public) sale recorded in October 2013 at $2,117,000.

I have to go with the REBNY inter-firm data on this, and conclude that the #3W sale last month was not the direct result of public marketing, so is not necessarily reflective of market value. Certainly, the fact that #2W sold for $2.495mm in August 2011 suggests that #3W in October 2013 at $2,117,000 is below fair market value. Except that #3W failed to sell while being professionally exposed to the public market at (only) $2.25mm from June into October 2012. Ouch. Even with lower ceilings on the 3rd floor than the 2nd, with the same views and similar condition, loft #3W should have sold for more than #2W a year earlier … but it failed to sell at a lower asking price.

Sometimes my brain hurts. This sequence makes my brain hurt:

  1. August 15, 2011 #2W $1,386/ft
  2. August 24, 2011 #4E $1,045/ft
  3. June – October 2012 #3W not worth $1,250/ft
  4. October 7, 2013 #4E $1,159/ft
  5. October 8, 2013 #3W $1,176/ft

One unsuccessful campaign aside, willing sellers parted with those lofts on those dates to willing buyers, at those values. If I accept that the lot line windows versus protected views accounted for $341/ft in value between the two lofts that sold in 2011, how to account for the much smaller value differential involving those same windows and views in 2013? If some of the ‘gap’ is due to #3W selling in a non-public sale, we have to struggle to deal with the 2012 non-sale well below where #2W had sold.

In a rational world, this can’t be rationalized. I hate when that happens.

is this that celebrity?

I don’t usually notice such things, but the deed record for #4E contains a trustee with the same name as a successful-in-dollars actor, with an address in the right zip code. (And I didn’t realize until Using The Google that the other trustee is his wife.) That’s got to be them, though it doesn’t mean the trust bought the loft for their personal use. If you see them in the neighborhood, let me know.

That is all.

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