81 White Street loft takes a year to sell as the very not-prime Tribeca loft it is

comping can be very hard in odd micro-nabes like way northeast Tribeca

The Manhattan lofts that sell over ask and in mere days hog all the headlines. “Refreshing” is certainly not the word the seller or sales team might associate with the “1,991 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4E at 81 White Street, but to a market observer that modifier is tempting. I gave away the punchline in the headline, but here’s the detail:

July 17, 2013 new to market $3.1mm
Sept 11 $2.95mm
Oct 11 $2.75mm
Dec 6 $2.7mm
June 7, 2014 contract
Aug 7 sold $2,422,681

“Painful” is probably the word the seller would use to describe a marketing campaign that took nearly 11 months to get a contract and nearly 13 months to take the money and run. (Or, slink away.) You don’t often see such a funny number (nary a zero to be found) in a sale so much below ask. (It is not unheard of to have a bidding war that ends below ask, but this history doesn’t suggest one.) Imagine how difficult that last round of negotiation must have been … fighting over every last dollar, with no reasonable possibility that $…,681 is the result of splitting-the-difference.

The loft has a classic Long-and-Narrow footprint, with windows only front and back, plumbing on both sides in the middle, and barely wide enough at 22’6″ for the classic split of two bedrooms on the back wall. The loft has enough classic loft elements to be babbled as “classic”, including lovely arched windows and exposed brick up front, and the volume from allocating more than 60% of the footprint to open living room into dining room into kitchen (“58 foot great room”!) before you open that colorful door to go back to the bedrooms and bathrooms. Not so many classic loft elements to truly be a classic loft (flat ceiling that is not so high, no columns or beams, no exposed mechanicals other than track lighting) but Your Mileage May Vary.

The babbling included top finishes in the kitchen (was it mere oversight not to include the proper name associated with the “five-burner cook top with commercial grade output”?, given the sequence of proper proper names in that classically run-on sentence) and bathrooms (the charm of “triple-thick glass tiles” escapes me, but YMMV), as well as the functionality of central air.

You saw how long it took to do the deal at $1,217/ft. That’s $1,217/ft for a Tribeca condo that was a new development in 2005. A condo loft with typically lovely finishes that was purchased by the recent seller for $1,893,945 on August 17, 2005. More pain for the seller, alas: I am pretty sure that gain (before expenses, of course) of 28% compares rather unfavorably to the StreetEasy Manhattan Condo Index over that same period (but the Index is curiously unavailable right now; will check back later).

As noted in my sub-head, the disconnect between seller’s expectation of market value and The Market’s value is likely due, in part, to the difficulties in doing a comps analysis in this extreme corner of Tribeca, a corner that simply does not comp like prime Tribeca. As regular readers know, “comping is hard”, in this case due to the micro-nabe and a paucity of building data.

no comparable sales in the building since The (old) Peak

There are only 11 units in the condo (created in 2004 by the combination and conversion of adjoining buildings, hence the “E” and “W” designations) and no useful history for estimating current values. Aside from a related-party transfer of #4W in 2010, only the two ground-floor-plus-below units have sold since the first quarter of 2008. Neither the #1W sale two months before #4E was brought to market nor the #1E sale way back in July 2008 directly supports an aggressive value for #4E, but there’s a natural temptation to alibi those very low $/ft sales as due to the ground-floor-plus-below set-up, with little light and that sidewalk level front set of windows. There’s an art to adjusting the sales history of huge spaces like those, one that I won’t attempt, simply noting that you could argue all sorts of things here.

There was a nearby pretty strong hint that The Market would not accept loft #4E at the prices asked, as they were being asked. Loft #2E had trouble selling from $2.98mm to $2.8mm from May into September 2013 and then again at $2.695mm and $2.75mm in March and April this year. That loft didn’t hit its clearing price before coming off the market (again) 5 months ago, so it shouldn’t have shocked an astute observer to see that #4E would need a discount from its 6-month asking price of $2.7mm to clear.

(The #4E seller did not have the benefit of knowing the price of the neighbor who just went into contract, but that buyer and that seller had the benefit of #4E’s closed sale; it will be interesting to see where that one closes in a month or two.)

a funky little corner of Tribeca, indeed

If you’ve ever walked this block, you know it feels more like the courthouse area than the greater Nobu area. Not at all charming, in the conventional sense at least. Bordered by the courts to the east, and hard by the moats of Canal Street (north) Broadway (west). And dark. So normal “Tribeca” pricing shouldn’t apply, and clearly doesn’t.

The last time Manhattan Loft Guy readers were taken to this block, my September 13, 2013, 77 White Street loft lacks “bedrooms” because elevator is in the wrong place, touched on a nearby sale that was relevant to #4E. That featured loft closed at (only) $1,444/ft and had some positive features (“a quality renovation, classic elements such as high ceilings, beams, columns and bricks (a ton of bricks, it seems), and windows”) that are arguably more positive than their equivalents in loft #4E. One feature in that Mudd Club loft next door is much more positive than its equivalent at 81 White Street: a sun drenched West” exposure because of the set back on the adjoining building and what I termed a “very cool view straight up Cortlandt Alley” from north-facing windows on the west edge of that loft.

If I had been asked at the time, I would have predicted that #4E would under-perform that loft at 77 White Street. The #4E buyer almost certainly beat up the seller with that nearby sale. Indeed, the fact that the #4E seller dropped the price to below $1,444/ft the month after my 77 White Street post is a concession that these two lofts were not perfect comps for each other.

To recap…. Next time someone tells you that everything offered for sale in Manhattan is flying off the shelf, point to #4E and its year-long odyssey. (And #2E, and its unsuccessful foray.) And next time someone says you can’t buy a well-dressed Tribeca condo under $1,300/ft point them to this dark corner of the neighborhood. You are not going to win any bar bets dropping these data points, but you can offer some sober perspective, a worthy public service by my lights.

You’re welcome.


Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply