imagine getting creamed on a $1,400/ft resale (46 White Street loft seller did)

does it make a difference if you know you will?
At first glance, you’d think the seller of the “2,881 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 3rd floor at 46 White Street (Woods Mercantile Building) would be thrilled selling on June 3 at $1,423/ft ($4.1mm). On second glance, same projection, as the most recent sale in the building was the 4th floor almost a year ago, on August 23 at the funny number $3,563,875. But but but, take a third glance ….

But: the recent 3rd floor sellers were buyers from the sponsor only a year ago. Look again at the 4th floor August sale price above, then read the July 12, 2010 3rd floor sponsor sale price v e r y  s l o w l y … four million nine hundred ninety-six thousand one hundred and seventy-two dollars ($4,996,172). Not only did the 3rd floor original buyers pay the sponsor 40% more than the upstairs neighbors, they just resold in a year 18% below what they paid.

O. U. C. H. and O. U. C. H.

Yet the June-2010-buyers-turned-July-2011-sellers knew they were going to take a loss, as they came to market on March 29 at $4.4mm, already 12% less than they had paid.

This is all weird enough to require some attempt at unpacking. Unfortunately, …

… the inter-tubes fail me
I have tried to figure out why there are such differences in value in this very recent (2010) conversion. It seems there was no cookie-cutter used here, resulting in these sponsor prices for what are essentially identical footprints:

Bottom line: this building is a nightmare to comp. Finishes are described in positive terms in each case, though there are certainly differences (The Market reaction proves that!). Compare the floor plans to the 3rd and 4th floors. They are very similar, with the plumbing stacks in the same places (d’oh!) and similar 3+ Bedroom and 3 bath functionality, but look again at the difference in market values a year ago: $1.4mm.

Then look at the photos in the 5th floor listing (above), an aggressively modern design, especially compared to the classic loft elements that dominate the 3rd floor (exposed brick and ceiling beams). I have to assume that the sponsor made different investments on different floors (differences that may be apparent in real life, but are not in mere pictures and prose), as the asking prices in 2009 and 2010 vary in roughly the same proportions as the final sponsor sale prices (except that i have no record of the original marketing prices for the 3rd floor).

one final oddity
Both 3rd floor sales exceed even the top floor penthouse sponsor sale 13 months ago. That “3,242 sq ft” is a duplex with a significant plus factor: two terraces that total “2,200 sq ft”. This higher floor loft, larger than the 3rd floor, with the huge terrace space sold for only $4,327,562 on June 4, 2010 … some 13% less than the 3rd floor in absolute dollars, without doing an adjustment for that outdoor space.

Which brings me back to the broker babble and pix of the 3rd floor. I just can’t find that difference, though it appears the sponsor and The Market ‘knew’ it was there (the clearing prices don’t lie, at least not at this scale of difference).

Holiday weekend head-scratching ensues…. But here’s a bonus bit of history:

plus ca change…
The Woods Mercantile Building was designated a landmark way back in 1979. The 4-page Designation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (pdf, here) is definitely worth a quick read. Some highlights: White Street was “opened” in 1806 and until just before the Civil War it was a residential street of 2- and 3-story homes; the area became a textiles center during the war (no imports from Britain because Britain could not get cotton from the blockaded American South), then “the country’s center of the dry goods trade”.

Textile firms eventually moved farther uptown (putting the clothing on the Garment District, a later-developing residential Manhattan loft area) but I don’t know if New York had a “dry goods center” after those firms left this not-yet-”Tribeca” neighborhood. Now, like this area in the early 19th Century, Tribeca is again a residential neighborhood instead of a manufacturing or warehoue district.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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