Cobblestone Lofts seller surprised, disappointed that market at 28 Laight Street is so rational

… while fact-based outsiders smile

The folks who just sold the “3,216 sq ft” Manhattan loft #3A at 28 Laight Street (Cobblestone Lofts) in the spillway of the Holland Tunnel in northernmost Tribeca thought a year ago they were selling a $6 million loft. They weren’t, and they needed two price drops and a major negotiated discount to sell last month for 7-figures less than their first ask. On the one hand, as an empathetic human, you hate to see that happen to anyone; on the other hand, as an informed observer of the Manhattan residential loft sales market, neighbors who were offering a larger loft down the hall took a long time to sell while asking the same price as the loft #3A sellers, so there’s some comfort to the rational way this played out.

Putting the dual (and dueling) histories in the same table, we see how #3A and the “3,577 sq ft” loft #3E did in overlapping marketing campaigns:

#3A April 4, 2014 new to market $6.25mm
#3A April 26 $5.995mm
#3E May 2 new to market $5.75mm
#3E June 5 change firms, not agents
#3A Nov 22 $5.75mm
#3E Dec 1 contract
#3E Jan 12, 2015 sold $5.35mm
#3A Feb 23 contract
#3A May 28 sold $5.09mm

For similarly large lofts on the same floor of the same building, there are fascinating differences in the interiors of #3A and #3E. For now, it is obvious that the #3A sellers believed their loft to be rather superior to loft #3E, but we’ll defer that aesthetic review until we pound on the table above.

There is an old saw that listing agents sometimes use in pricing conversations with sellers who want to ask an … er … aggressive price:

you won’t sell your unit at that price, but by asking that price, you will help a neighbor sell their loft

Isn’t it obvious that the #3E sellers came to market at $5.75mm one week after the #3A sellers dropped their ask to $5.995mm in order to take advantage of the fact that the smaller #3A was priced above #3E? And isn’t it obvious that the #3E sellers were comfortable holding at $5.75mm so long as the #3A sellers were comfortable holding above that price? And isn’t it obvious that any buyer interested in one of these lofts from May through November 2014 would also have considered the other?

The Market, of course, didn’t like either of these lofts at their asking prices, but at just about the same time that a serious buyer was negotiating to drive a discounted deal for #3E, the #3A sellers decided to match the asking price. That didn’t work, at least not for some months and not until a serious change in expectations.

The result for loft #3E was a sale at $1,496/ft, a 7% discount to ask, after sitting on the same ask for seven months. The result for #3A was a sale at $1,558/ft, 11% off the last ask ($741,000 off!) and 19% off the first asking price ($1,241,000 off!!) after sitting on the market for 10 months. All the while that they competed with their #3E neighbors, the loft #3A sellers behaved as though The Market should prefer their smaller loft to the larger one even on absolute dollars. In this, they were wrong. They weren’t wrong that their loft should be worth more on a dollar per foot basis, which leads us to consider the aesthetics.

two lofts that don’t look like they are in the same building

Loft #3A has a traditional (some might say ‘classic’) loft look:

open joists, exposed electrical + sprinklers, exposed (whitewashed) brick walls

Loft #3E has a very sleek look:

dropped ceiling with recessed lighting (+ a/c?), fancy fireplace surround, modern (not very loft-y) light fixtures; I’m not seeing any brick

If not for the very similar scale and ceiling height, and the identical flooring and windows, you’d not guess these two lofts are on the same floor of the same building.

In the case of the more ‘authentic’ 3-bedroom + 2.5 bath loft #3A, it’s all about the charm of the interior:

exudes 19th Century charm, warmth and sophistication. Original architectural details include exposed, white-washed ceiling joists, original exposed whitewashed brick, an inviting wood-burning fireplace and wide plank maple floors. … open, maple & granite kitchen has a huge pantry and vented, Thermadore appliances.

Sitting just north of St. John’s Park (which I refer to more accurately as the Holland Tunnel spillways), south-facing units at Cobblestone Lofts (like #3A) get terrific light, and open views, as babbled:

Incomparable light streams in from the oversized, South-facing windows. There are additional windows on the North, West & East sides. The home has high ceilings throughout and the large windows frame direct vistas of Freedom Tower [sic; One World Trade Center] and south Manhattan from the major rooms.

yes, 4 exposures, but don’t expect much light in the north end of the loft

Instead of the light and views of #3A, the 3-bedroom + 2.5 bath loft #3E emphasizes “quiet”, as well as finishes:

on the quiet side of the building, … an elegant foyer … leads to the massive Living Room with a row of north-facing windows and a wood burning fireplace. A large recently renovated Walnut kitchen basks in light from a row of south-facing windows and features a pantry. The kitchen features Sub Zero, Miele, Thermador and Bosch appliances with White Aleutian stone countertops and Calcutta marble backsplashes, not to mention the 40-bottle Lliebherr wine fridge. … The Master Suite features huge closets, expertly fitted out with a generously scaled 5-fixture bathroom.

The floor plan is very similar:

essentially, a mirror image of #3A, no? just 316 sq ft larger (a few feet here, a few feet there …)

As noted, for the six months in which both lofts were actively for sale it is inconceivable that anyone interested in one of these lofts would not also have seen the other. A buyer might prefer the sleek look of #3E to the more classic #3A, but a dollar sensitive buyer (is there another kind of buyer??) might reasonably have inferred before November 22 that the larger loft #3E could more easily be negotiated than the smaller loft #3A.

In fact, of course, both sets of sellers were negotiable, but the #3E folks found it much easier to hold closer to the $3.75mm that they both were asking at the end of their respective marketing campaigns. Loft #3E sold for more dollars; loft #3A sold for a higher price per foot.

But it certainly appears as though the loft #3A sellers were disappointed.

it is difficult to assign value to this light and that view

The $62/ft difference between the two lofts strikes me as curiously small. All the windows in loft #3E seem to look at brick; while the three south windows in both the living room and master bath in loft #3A enjoy the long open views toward the new World Trade tower. The tunnel is a distraction from the view, or worse, but that’s a very small premium for ‘a’ view, which loft #3E entirely lacks.

Curious, indeed, for an outsider trying to figure out how the impersonal market works. Infuriating, perhaps, for individual loft sellers trying to convince individual loft buyers that the view and light are premiums worth much more.

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  1. […] lofts further west in Tribeca that have very different looks. (That’s my June 17, Cobblestone Lofts seller surprised, disappointed that market at 28 Laight Street is so rational, of course.) While those lofts had similar footprints (and floor plans, in fact), they were not […]

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