minty 45 Walker Street loft sells under $1,000/ft with no discernible big loft premium

a Big Gulp indeed
There’s a lot to be distracted by about the “4,781 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 3rd floor at 45 Walker Street in northeastern Tribeca (triple mint renovation in a classic Tribeca loft space, the scale of nearly 5,000 sq ft, the Conventional Wisdom that larger units should sell for more on a $/ft basis, the asking prices in relation to building comps), but I keep tripping over the discount the sellers negotiated to strike a deal: that $800,000 was a 14% discount from the ask. Of course I wonder if they would have done better to announce to the world via a price drop that they would entertain low-ball offers (how low must that eventually winning buyer have started, if he ended up $800,000 off the ask?).

The not-so-funny-numbers:

April 6, 2011 new to market $5.75mm
Sept 19   $5.5mm
Oct 11 agent changed firms  
Dec 16 contract  
Feb 27, 2012 sold $4.7mm

big numbers
That negotiated discount of $800,000 is a big number, but so is the size: “4,781 sq ft”. The footprint is classic Long-and-Narrow, except in this case the proportions are wonderful, the Long is very long, and the Narrow is pretty wide. I will rant about floor plans and dimensions below, but the floor plan with the later firm shows that the pretty wide Narrow sides are just over 46 feet, allowing 3 ample bedrooms in back and I count 12 windows across the front. (Of course, use the Click For Large Photos feature on StreetEasy with the later firm to see the best pix; that second photo spans the front.) With all those windows, ceilings at 11’5”, and a front room of about 1,200 sq ft, there must be a palpable sense of volume.

That front room is bigger than many 2 bedroom apartments. The kitchen, at 17 x 18 feet, is bigger than some studio apartments. The master suite looks to be almost 600 sq ft. Did I mention the volume??

I was surprised to see that the developer of this 6-unit condo was Extell. Is this the smallest development they have done in Manhattan? The initial sales were in 2003, and half of the units have now turned over since then. Those numbers make me wonder what the 3rd floor sellers thought they had, in trying to sell at $5.75mm.

asking Peak value did not work
Exhibit A is the 4th floor, which struggled to a Peak sale at $5.735mm, having started in March 2007 at $6.2mm and dropping twice before a contract a year later that closed on June 26, 2008. The broker babble describes a loft that is a twin of the 3rd floor.

The 4th floor marketing campaign followed immediately after the 2nd floor sold at $5.07mm. That loft (again) sounds like a twin to the 3rd floor and came to market in November 2006 at $5.4mm, found a contract within 4 months, and sold on March 9, 2007 for that $5.07mm. With that history, you also have to wonder what the 4th floor thought they had that was different, coming to market more than a million above the 2nd floor 2 weeks later. (Of course, they got 13% more than the 2nd floor, but it took 15 months of Very Serious Froth in the Manhattan residential real estate market to do that.)

Which brings me back to the recent 3rd floor campaign…. As noted above, the 3rd floor sellers were aggressive in asking the 4th floor Peak sale price; they were also aggressive in never dropping to the 2nd floor pre-Peak price of early 2007. Regular readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know that I view the current loft market (since 2011, at least) as broadly similar to the 2007 loft market, at least for the early part of that earlier year. (See my March 17, 161 Hudson Street closes off 2.5% since (late) 2007.)

Second-guessing is both a parlor game and cruel, but I have to wonder what price the 3rd floor might have gotten had it started closer to the 2nd floor 2007 clearing price than the 4th floor 2008 clearing price. No doubt they have wondered as well, as they must have been very disappointed to finally sell at 7% below what the 2nd floor had gotten. (Granted, they paid only $3,003,837 to the sponsor in January 2003, so they grossed nearly $1.7mm on the resale, but people do tend to look at the dollars they should (better, might) have earned, don’t they?)

penthouse discount was much higher!
I don’t usually bother with the Manhattan loft market above $5mm, but there is a natural segue here to the (still pretty recent) sale of the penthouse at 45 Walker Street, as a tale of dashed expectations and second-guessing. That broker babble describes a “6,378 sq ft” duplex interior with “nearly 1,700 sq ft” of terraces, with some finishes not mentioned in the lofts below: a “restaurant-grade kitchen” and a “floating limestone staircase with bronze custom-sculpted railing”, while the “landscaped terraces [include] a koi pond and built-in watering system”. An earlier bit of babble mentioned Empire State Building views from both interior levels.

Monday morning quarterbacks will relish this full listing history for the penthouse; more empathetic loft fans will wince:

Sept 9, 2010 new to market $18.5mm
Nov 23   $16mm
Jan 7, 2011 change firms  
Mar 30   $13.95mm
June 3   $11.95mm
Dec 10 contract  
Dec 21 sold $9.5mm

Let’s not linger over this accident scene: that’s a sale at a 49% discount to first ask, a 20% discount to last ask, and at an adjusted $1,314/ft (assuming the outdoor space is valued at 50% of the interior space, per The Miller’s rubrics). More than the 4th floor at Peak ($1,200/ft). but still….

that promised rant about floor plans
There are things about the Manhattan residential real estate market that I will never understand. One of them is illustrated by the various floor plans used to sell lofts in this pretty new (2003) new development.

You’d think that the developer trying to sell $3mm lofts in 2003 would have had high quality floor plans. If so, why is the original floor plan used to re-sell the 3rd floor a mess? Compare that BHS original to the one in the Town listing. The original (literally) doesn’t add up. I tried, in trying to understand the proportions and scale. How could you get a “4,781 sq ft” loft into a rectangular space that is only 38’9” in front? And how could the 3 bedrooms in back of the rectangle be nearly 46 feet wide? With length-wise room dimensions totalling less than 80 feet?

The 2nd floor was marketed with a very similar floor plan, with similar room dimensions but a slightly different shape (the master suite bumps out to the west a bit).

Now look at the 3rd floor floor plan on the Town listing, a listing offered by the same agent as the BHS original, after she changed firms. I assume they had someone come in and do a new floor plan, as it bears only a slight resemblance to the former, in numbers and style. In that floor plan the width is 46 feet, front and back, and the proportions for a “4,781 sq ft” loft now work. (Oddly, the kitchen has gotten a little wider.)

Taking the loft as “4,781 sq ft”, the later floor plan looks right, and the earlier one just wrong. Where did that earlier one come from? (Two firms used very similar, wrong. floorplans.) And how can you ask $5mm+ with a floor plan that is obviously off?

It’s a funny business.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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