a bidding skirmish? 142 Duane Street loft nudged above ask

a battle fought on the fields of nomenclature
The term “bidding war” is oft-used and much loved in the Manhattan division of the Real Estate Industrial Complex, but it covers a variety of intensities and can hard to discern from the outside. The recent sale of the “1,650 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4B at 142 Duane Street certainly looks from the outside like a bidding war, as it went into contract above the $1.895mm asking price within a relatively short time (30 days), but one wonders about the violence in this “war”, as it closed at a mere $5,000 premium to the ask. Much more obviously violent bidding wars are those that are even quicker, and yield a greater spread above the ask. Even lofts that sell below asking price can appear to have been the result of bidding wars, as clearing prices that do not end in 3, 4 or 5 zeroes suggest that the buyer was motivated to pick a non-round number in a competitive bidding situation, but that (and the possibility that some people just like to pay a sentimental or lucky number) is a topic for another day.

(Another topic for another day is the very active and likely very violent bidding war that a buyer client of mine is mulling at the moment: there are 16 bids for a loft he really likes, with “most” at or above the ask, and a Best & Final bid to be submitted this week. But that is a digression too far for today, as well as being not yet ripe for detailed discussion as it concerns a currently active listing. Just saying that the topic of bidding wars is current in my real estate practice….)

These public numbers suggest that more than one bidder was interested in loft #4B:

June 14 new to market $1.895mm
July 13 contract  
Oct 19 sold $1.9mm

But only those on the inside know how hot the market response was, in terms of appointments, open house attendance, and number of bids. After all, it is possible that the buyer asked “if I give you a premium to ask, will you take it off the market while we negotiate the deal?”, even without there being another active bidder.

every picture tells a story
The loft is a classic, for loft snobs (like Manhattan Loft Guy) for whom “classic” includes high ceilings (here, 14 feet), exposed joists and beams, and cast iron columns (here, fluted); there are even brick walls and a fireplace, as well as a balcony. “Classic” is the story told in the first two listing photos, especially in large format (of course).

The footprint is the near square that can be ideal for volume, flexibility, and efficiency, but the floor plan (available only on Stribling, here) is less than ideal because there is but one exposure. Thus, the master suite takes up most of the west wall and one south window, and the second bedroom slash “office/den” has glass panels that are (note the preposition) “In a corner of the south facing 27×26 ft living room” (and thus, not so much “in” a 27×26 ft living room as adjoining an irregular living / dining area that has only two windows, one of which is a doorway to the balcony).

Those first two photos also say “volume”, even though the glass panels break the rectangle. That third photo, however …? That 3rd photo is the master bedroom, though it hardly looks masterful with the bed not quite bumping into the low dresser that is against the brick wall. (Did you find yourself sucking in your stomach as you imagined walking between the bed and dresser?) Let’s just say that I am having a lot of trouble reconciling that photo with the dimensions on the floor plan for that room (you can’t see if it is 20 feet long, but it certainly looks to be a few feet short of 11’7” wide). The “story” in that picture does not say “volume” or “classic” to me, brick wall notwithstanding; I read “cramped”, which is not a good thing, or the thing you’d expect in (what is really) an essentially square “1,650 sq ft” 1-bedroom floor plan.

I do love the picture of the kitchen, however. The cabinets not going to the ceiling give a sense of height, the oval island provides kitchen function and seating space, while the dropped ceiling and stone floor provide visual separation between the kitchen and the open living area (that much is evident even without being able to see the transition lines). One more quibble and one question: the linear kitchen stretches the frig a long way from the pantry and the wall oven, with the sink and cooktop (with other oven??) in the middle; and is the second cast iron column hidden in that sheetrocked box to the left in the kitchen photo?

every number tells a story
The Market treated my quibbles as so much cavilling, as loft #4B just sold at a 7% premium (on a dollar-per-foot basis) to the loft next door, which sold in probably better condition (“completely renovated to the highest standard”, with [classic] tin ceilings and “Original Cast Iron interior shutters anchored with elegant limestone sills”) just after The Peak (contract was before Lehman, though the closing was the day after!).

At $1,151/ft, loft #4B also exceeded the market value of the same loft downstairs, which sold (like #4A) in the post-Peak-pre-Lehman market. Loft #3B has the same footprint as #4B without the glass paneling encroaching on the living room with an added bedroom. Again, I read that broker babble as promising condition at least the equal to #4B, yet that (same) “1,650 sq ft” loft sold for $1.75mm ($1,060/ft) on October 3, 2008 (contract was July 30).

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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