funky loft at 55 White Street with funky history sells quickly in misleading fashion


not all of Tribeca is in a frenzy

I am not saying that the full recent listing history of the “2,221 sq ft” triplex Manhattan loft #1C at 55 White Street is intentionally misleading, but the explicit part of the StreetEasy history shows a quick sale that was not, in fact, very quick. Yes, the loft came (back) to market on April 3 at $2.899mm and found a contract 3 weeks later, closing at a small discount ($2.825mm) on July 1. Others may draw their own arbitrary lines about how to handle periods in which a loft, actively offered for sale for some time, goes off the market for “a while”, then returns to active marketing. The arbitrary limit I use in my Master List of Downtown Loft Sales is 90 days, so this sale appears there (as on StreetEasy) as a 3-weeks-to-contract sale. But in this case the reality is that the owners had been trying to sell for a long time, so this is more an early Chicken Little sale than a data point that says everything in Tribeca will move quickly, so buy now!!!!!

The full history is … full:

Mar 21, 2012

new to market


May 7



Sept 10



Jan 2, 2013



April 3

back on market


April 24



July 1



That hiatus as hallmarks of being a strategic re-set: same brokerage, same agents, same listing photos, with broker babble that (while rewritten) emphasizes the same elements. In other words, it does not appear as though the sellers made a decision to not sell, and then were persuaded to return to market; rather, my interpretation as an outsider is that they made a strategic retreat at New Year’s, always intending to return to an active Seller’s Market, perhaps intentionally waiting long enough to trick new-to-market buyers that the listing was fresh.

If that was their intention: nicely played, Sir and Madam; nicely played.

Having not sold in a very active 2012 Seller’s Market while asking $2.85mm for nearly 4 months following nearly 4 months at $2.995mm, the market snapped up the loft at $2.825mm this past April. That’s an insignificant 2.5% “discount” from last ask in 2012 and less than 6% off the May into September 2012 ask. If $2.825mm was perceived as fair market value in 2012, they should have gotten it. Again: nicely played, Sir and Madam; nicely played.

highly functional loft with some serious challenges

I had buyers who looked at every available Tribeca 3-bedroom loft around $3mm during the entire long marketing period for loft #1C, and they will confirm that this segment was an especially strong Seller’s Market. (Note to self … blog one day [soon] about their search and its happy conclusion.) Unlike much of the buyer pool focused on Tribeca, this location east of Church Street was a positive rather than a negative. Like much of the 3-bedroom buyer pool focused on Tribeca, they were quite pleased with the layout as a true 3-bedroom, with great separation between the 3 bedrooms in the floor plan. They were so intrigued by loft #1C that they visited twice, but (like much of the 3-bedroom buyer pool focused on Tribeca, I suspect) there two deal-breakers, one of which is obvious in a between-the-lines sort of way from the marketing materials, and one of which is not.

First, the good news: the loft is beautifully appointed, certainly “both functional and architecturally distinctive” as claimed in the broker babble, with the classic loft elements of (very) high ceilings in the main room (emphasized by those tall bookshelves in the living room) and Corinthian columns, with the kitchen presenting the choice of being opened or closed (behind those 4 white wood-framed panels in the second listing photo). Apart from the jarring carpet downstairs and wallcovering in that master bath photo, the loft is very close to move-in condition for much of the 3-bedroom buyer pool focused on Tribeca.

But the should-be-obvious deal breaker for them (and, likely, for much of the 3-bedroom buyer pool focused on Tribeca) is on the other side of those very tall windows: nearby buildings and very little light. A click on the Google Maps view of the location confirms that the single very tall east window in the living room “looks” across the very dark alley Franklin Place, from just above sidewalk level of course. Worse, all those south windows on all 3 levels face the back of the nearby building on Franklin Street, providing no view and little light. Any buyer who looks at a lot of listing photos would guess this from the listing photos of the master bedroom and family room, both with blinds strategically drawn.

The less obvious deal breaker for my buyers may not have been a problem for shorter people in the 3-bedroom buyer pool focused on Tribeca: in order to access that upper level you climb those lovely stairs at the east end of the living room, then walk around the mezzanine office, then walk down that lovely open catwalk. While the master suite (pictured in pic #4) has a low-for-lofts ceiling, that space is manageable for most buyers; the problem is that transition around the office, as hinted in the main listing photo: even I felt I had to duck while crossing in front of (or standing in) the office, and anyone taller than 6’2” might brush the ceiling if they had a healthy head of hair. (That covered my guy, who would feel cramped every time he went to or from the master suite; i.e., multiple times of each day if he lived here.) Deal, broken.

The response of the 2012 buyer pool was like that of my buyers: this was an intriguing option in the anemic inventory of true 3-bedroom buyer lofts in Tribeca, but … even in the $2.8s, no deal.

By Spring of 2013, however, with inventory no less anemic, the loft quickly found a willing buyer at a price point demonstrably unavailable not very long before. Go figure.

living to fight another day, from a stronger position
Again, only the sellers and their sales team know what their thinking was in taking 91 days off the market to start 2013, but it certainly looks to me as a tactical decision that, in retrospect, worked like a charm. I dubbed that decisionmaking context the fight-or-flight conundrum way back in my November 14, 2010, flight or fight? the disappointed seller’s conundrum, 30 East 21 Street and 205 West 19 Street lofts edition. (Six other Manhattan Loft Guy posts tagged “fight or flight” are collected here.)

If sellers tired of beating their heads against the 2012 market wall and took flight from that market to reset in 2013, it worked. It surely looks to me as though they actively chose to take flight rathern to continue to flight. Whatever … nicely played, Sir and Madam; nicely played.

Manhattan Loft Guy still [hearts] Christopher Gray, and
If you are a fan of the Streetscapes feature in the New York Times by Christopher Gray, or if you have taken any time to pick your head up while walking in Tribeca, you probably know that Gray loves this building. Way way back in my November 9, 2008, 55 White Street #4C closed, finally, around $1,000/ft, I linked to his column about this block, in which he called 55 White Street "the most architecturally imposing work on the block”, ironically in a column about Soho. (Note that that post was about a loft sale 3 floor directly above loft #1C, the babbling for which I appreciated “(I particularly like the helpful specificity of ‘very good light but NO views’)”. I wonder if there is still good light up there, what with

I hit this building only one other time, in my October 18, 2010, another late bidding war, as 55 White Street loft sells at 104% of (reduced) ask, in which I found still more internet love for this beautiful building. Click through there for the links from, “which is in danger of becoming a Manhattan Loft Guy fave” and from the Landmarks Preservation Commission report on this building from 1988.

I will close with repeating what I said in 2010 about this less-than-prime Tribeca block:

Yes, this is part of the historic district “Tribeca East”, but this eastern fringe block (between Broadway and Church) is among the gritttiest Tribeca blocks extant and feels like a world away from the prime blocks of Tribeca further west.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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