9 White Street penthouse loft created $2.5mm in value after 2010


how to increase value without increasing space

I had a bit of an email conversation this week with a Manhattan Loft Guy reader about the “3,500 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the top of 9 White Street, which had been bought for $3.615mm three years ago and just had a deed filed reflecting it was resold on March 12 for $6.1mm. I didn’t catch the deed, as it exceeds the $5mm upper limit established way back when for my Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008, but it is an interesting paired sale in its own right and it is a loft I previewed for a buyer before it sold at $6.1mm. (Note to Self … maybe it is time to increase the upper limit on the Master List.)


Before getting to the respective bits of broker babble, comparing the floor plans is very instructive. The 2010 layout could not be simpler: the main space on the lower (5th) floor is a largely open classic Long-and-Narrow (in this case uncharacteristically wide, at about 35 feet) with but 3 windows north (in front, over White Street), 4 in back, and a single side window in the southwest corner; not a single interior wall broke up this vast space then, though there was a bathroom and a closet on either side of the stairway in nearly the middle of the space, and the public stairwell encroaches on the otherwise perfect rectangle, with the kitchen tucked into the southeast corner behind the stairwell; there is a terrace off the back of the 5th floor (“153 sq ft”); up the middle stairway there is a master suite built on perhaps 20% of the roof, with a roof garden to the south and a simple roof terrace to the north (“2,350 sq ft” in total). That is “2,503 sq ft” of outdoor space in total (nearly all on the roof). to go along with the “3,500 sq ft” of interior space (nearly all on the lower level), arrayed (in part) as a classic penthouse, the master being an appendage above the building proper, with direct access to rooftop terraces.


bones is bones

That 2010 babble touted the bones, of course, with little detail about finishes and a do-it-yourself invitation:


Immense open-plan space with incredibly dramatic ceiling height, along w/ central skylit stairs, leading to the upstairs Master Suite that offers a huge adjoining planted outdoor roof Terrace. … Light-filled and airy, excessive Living and Dining room has a classic wood-burning-fire-place and windowed kitchen …. Currently configured as one large bedroom suite on the top floor, but one can easily convert the entire space to a sprawling three bedroom home. You can now finally envision, and design your very own PH duplex w/ tremendous outdoor terrace space.


In the later marketing campaign we learn that the “incredibly dramatic” ceilings are 13 feet, and these other details about the bones:


tin-pressed ceilings, classic fluted columns, exposed wood beams, and wide-plank salvaged oak floors that have been waxed in ebony to achieve the perfect hue


but a well-dressed skeleton sells high

The new floor plan retains the master suite arrangement but adds five rooms and a new plus a half bathroom to the 5th floor, with a high level of finishes, of course:


gorgeous French doors constructed of steel and hand-blown glass lead to two sky-lit dens and an intimate office. … windowed chef’s kitchen … features open thick-slab wood shelving, zinc countertops, abundant glass-fronted cabinetry, a six-burner Viking stove (vented to the outside), and a large separate pantry. … sculptural sky-lit steel staircase … sun-blasted Master Bedroom Suite … features a wall of custom-fitted closets and a sumptuous windowed bathroom with deep claw-foot tub, sky-lit shower, double vanity and poured concrete floors. … south-facing, landscaped roof garden replete with mature trees, perennials, climbing wisteria, and unobstructed views of Lower Manhattan. Back downstairs are two additional bedrooms, each with fully fitted closets, and a large classic bathroom with washer-dryer. Additional amenities include central air-conditioning, custom lighting on dimmers, and an elegant powder room ….


The old pictures are not great (or large), but it appears as though the staircase is the same; can’t tell if the old ceilings had pressed-tin, but the skylights, beams and columns remain; no way to know if the mature growing stuff in the garden was recently installed as mature or has been growing since before 2010, but you get the feeling that things up there have also been improved. The rest, of course, is brand new.


hindsight is, here, a Greek canine

Yes, the current market is stronger than the market of 3 years ago. Back then, the loft had a little bit of trouble with price discovery, leading to an extended history typical of sellers who overplayed their hand even when the hand was strongest, but atypical for the tragically poor use of the On/Off switch:

June 29, 2007 new to market $4.95mm
July 16 hiatus  
April 14, 2008 back on market $4.6mm
June 5 hiatus  
May 5, 2009 back on market $4.2mm
Aug 8 hiatus  
Sept 14 back on market  
Sept 19   $4.1mm
Dec 12 contract  
Feb 24, 2010 sold  

Did you wince when you got to the 4th line? I did, as the loft was off the market for the 3 strongest and deepest quarters ever for the over Manhattan residential real estate market. So we don’t know what this penthouse of possibilities was worth at The Peak, only that it was worth exactly $3,615,000 three years ago, after having been buffeted by cruel market conditions in 4 consecutive years and after suffering from mistiming of epicly Greek tragedy conditions.

guessing numbers for my fun (their profit)

Let’s assume for the sake of round numbers that the renovation that began in 2010 cost $400/ft (interior, with any roofdeck work folded in somehow). That $1.4mm puts the 2010-buy+reno-turned-2013-sellers at $5mm or so, all in. As you know, they sold for $6.1mm, though they wanted more:

Sept 21, 2012 new to market $6.95mm
Oct 24   $6.5mm
Nov 26 contract  
Feb 28, 2013 sold $6.1mm


That’s a small seven figure gain (if they spent as much as $400/ft), 2010 to now, or at least 20%. The overall market is not up that much in these three years, but the tautology says that a very well dressed very large true Tribeca penthouse with enormous outdoor space was worth it. Ballparking the outdoor space as worth 50% of the interior space (which is pushing it with outdoor space so large), you’d get an adjusted price per foot of $1,284/ft ($6.1mm / 1/2 2,503 + 3,500). Still pretty good for a coop in a tiny no-frills building; indeed, (as I vaguely recall) one with an old-fashioned cage elevator that might freak out much of the “luxury” buyer pool.


Bump the value of the outdoor space down to 25% of the value of the interior (a reasonable way to riff with The Miller about such things) and the adjusted price per foot jumps to $1,478/ft. A very impressive valuation.


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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