a tale of two 2nd floor lofts on Thomas Street


one sold, one not

It was the best of times for the 2nd floor loft at 86 Thomas Street, as it just sold for $1,325/ft; it was the worst of times for the 2nd floor loft next door at 84 Thomas Street, which failed to sell despite being offered $1,081/ft. (It is confusing times for StreetEasy, which thinks that these two lofts are the same.) Start with the good news, because it is a sunny (fall?) day: the “2,000 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 2nd floor at 86 Thomas Street came to market on December 2 at $2.808mm (Hong Kong pricing??) and found the contract by January 23 at $2.65mm that closed on April 25. That loft featured a “brand new” and “brilliant” renovation, resulting in the loft doubling in value since being purchased by the recent sellers on June 8, 2007 at $1,311,300 (when “rare opportunity to purchase an authentic loft” must have meant total gut job).

Follow with the other news: the “2,544 sq ft” loft next door on the
2nd floor at 84 Thomas Street was on the market for 4 months until February 27, last priced at $2.75mm. These erstwhile sellers bought the loft on July 27, 2006 for $1.925mm, then tried to sell at $2.695mm on September 3, 2008 just as Cinderella’s clock was about to strike midnight Lehman was about to bring the financial markets to a halt, before accepting the severely reduced market and giving up (for then) 3+ months later. You can’t tell, but our listing system shows that this loft was in substantially the same condition when purchased in 2006 as when recently offered for sale. In other words, having bought at $1.925mm 18 months before The Peak, these owners were just a little late to the party when they came out in September 2008, and they are yet to get the big gain they thought they were entitled to. (That loft claims a “chef’s kitchen with state of the art appliances and custom cherry cabinetry” and “[n]ew Miele washer/dryer, cedar closet, hardwood floors and equipped with central heat and air conditioning”, though the kitchen, cedar closet and central air are definitely not new.)


These side by side neighbors went head to head from December 2 until the contract at 86 Thomas 8 weeks later. My buyers saw 84 Thomas but not 86 Thomas (explained below) but even without seeing the lovely renovation at 86 Thomas in person, I have no doubt that anyone seeing both would feel that 84 Thomas was ‘tired’. The floor plan just reeks of a sense that it was created by someone who had more space than they knew what to do with; they obviously never thought they’d need two real bedrooms. (This is also confusing: the floor plan surviving with the unsuccessful marketing campaign is not the actual floor plan, but a proposed 3-bedroom 2.5 bath plan [note the broker babble: “Convertible 3 bedroom(currently 1 bedroom)”]; the actual as-is floor plan is not quite this one from the 2008 listing; since then, the windowed walls creating a stairwell foyer have come down, as have half-walls around the raised living platform, and that wall just to the left at the elevtor entry.)


I feel old in that space, and not in a good way
Rather than leave a massive (65 foot long) open space (accentuated by 12 foot ceilings), an owner put that raised platform in up front, sometime before 2006 (probably well before), creating a “living room” without walls, separated (in altitude) from the (still long) dining / den / play area. Rather than mess around with plumbing stacks, an owner used 4 back windows along a 30 foot wall for a single bedroom, a huge bathroom, and a corridor leading to both, probably long ago. (You don’t
need a photo of Madonna over your black jacuzzi to screem “1980s!”, but it helps; see listing pic #5.)

Nice as the cedar closet is, nice as the kitchen is, very few buyers would walk into this space and feel it is set up exactly as they would inhabit it (hence, the alternate floor plan with the StreetEasy listing). If you start ripping up the raised platform up front and messing with the plumbing in back and in the middle to get 3 bedrooms (as in the alternate plan), you are looking at a gut renovation, or a clever near-gut. Add another $500,000 (or more!) to a purchase around $2.75mm and the math becomes rather daunting.

For my buyers, it was tempting (12 foot ceilings! [count ‘em] 7 cast iron columns down the middle of the loft! a log tall brick wall! big windows on Thomas Street!) but just not worth the trouble at this price. And … they did not love looking at the Western Union building across Thomas, with a row of vents at about eye level from this floor. Which is why we never got to see the lovely renovation next door that went head to head with 84 Thomas and kicked its butt.

looking through the eyes of a hotel visionary
The babble is exceedingly enthusiastic about the finishes and design of the smaller (“2,000 sq ft”) but more efficient loft at 86 Thomas (3 bedrooms plus den, 3 full baths), leaving nearly the entire front half of the loft open. I will leave that babble to you to parse, with the comment that anything nice about 84 Thomas is nicer at 86 Thomas, columns and ceiling height aside. It’s not that I am unenthusiastic about the space, just that I have gone on too long deconstructing 84 Thomas to spend more of your time on what are the obvious charms of 86 Thomas.

The Market loved 86 Thomas: contract within 8 weeks at $2.65mm for only “2,000 sq ft”. The Market could not handle 84 Thomas, asking $2.75mm for 4 months for “2,544 sq ft”. In the one case, an owner vastly improved the space after buying in June 2007, doubling the value by 2013 no matter what the renovation budget was. In the other case, owners who bought in July 2006 at $1.925mm didn’t do much to it, so one hopes that they were not surprised that The Market ignored it at a 43% premium. (In that latter case, you never know, but for an owner
comping is hard … unless a much nicer loft is for sale right next door.)

looking through the eyes of Samuel F. B. Morse
As I mentioned, both of these buildings look across narrow Thomas Street at Western Union, at a low enough level that I’d need to do noise diligence on that long run of vents above the loading docks before I’d enthusiastically recommend even a loft as nice as the one at #86. In each case, the listing photos bleach the bricks visible across the street, which are much more red than white in real life (Google Street View has the color, the loading docks, and the vents,

need a hotelier’s vision (one that “oozes chic and sophistication”) in these spaces, as these are both the odd lofts that are better suited to a purely interior experience, turning one’s back (if you will) on the windows, and the pre-”Tribeca” industry just across.

StreetEasy, call your editor
If this discussion of the two 2nd floor lofts in adjoining buildings has gotten convoluted, any consideration of the two lofts will start from the fact that StreetEasy has jumbled the two sales and marketing histories as though they were one and the same loft. #84 and #86 appear to be separate coops, but maybe at one time they were owned in common, or even shared a tax lot ID. I can’t imagine, otherwise, how StreetEasy could confuse these two. (Again,
this is 86 Thomas 2nd floor, this is 84 Thomas 2nd floor; different listing descriptions, floor plans and photos but the same common history.)

As if it were not difficult enough already to track Manhattan loft sales ….


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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