what is “original” about Tribeca loft that went for $1,438/ft at 109 Reade Street?

(mis) adventures in Manhattan loft babbling

Sometimes I suspect that I take this stuff too seriously. When I read the broker babble for the “1,321 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 4th floor at 109 Reade Street I expected to see a well-preserved but primitive loft. That’s because the loft was marketed as “[a]n original Tribeca condo loft” with a list of features that are a mix of new and old (perhaps even “original”):

wood-burning fireplace, 12 ft ceilings throughout, satin oak hardwood floors, recessed lighting, exposed brick, washer & dryer eat in kitchen, granite counter tops, stainless steel Bosche appliances, wood cabinets and large island custom for the space. A totally zen master bath with a 5.5 foot Kohler cast iron soaking tub with rain shower head. The 2nd bathroom is beautifully designed with Carrera marble.

From the sounds of it, the plumbing rooms are new, but the high ceiling, brick, and flooring should qualify as original. But “the loft” as original? Only in location. While the kitchen looks a bit primitive (listing pic #2), it is not even very old. You can’t see it on the inter-tubes, but our listing system shows that when the loft was purchased by the recent sellers in November 2008 (for $1.695mm; we’ll get to that story below) it was marketed as “[r]enovated and reconstructed in 2007”. The kitchen was described without much detail (Bosch appliances; strangely mis-spelled then as “Bosche” by a different agent than the one who mis-spelled that firm in the 2013 babbling) with “two elegantly designed bathrooms. … master has an oversized cast iron soaking tub with combined shower [and t]he second bathroom is beautifully designed with a wall mounted sink and a tumbled carrera marble shower”. Hardly “original”.

From then to now, the old floor plan shows one change: the 2008 kitchen had some kind of movable kitchen island (apparently more of a work station than a common island) while there was clearly a built-in island in the current version. Otherwise, the floor plan is identical, then and now, with no hint in the recent babble of other changes.

Not to belabor the point (not much more, at least) but the loft is more “classic” than original, with those ceilings, brick, and hardwood flooring, and all else “[r]enovated and reconstructed in 2007”. Also classic: the Long-and-Narrow footprint with two bedrooms splitting the rear wall and plumbing in two clusters on opposite sides of the long walls, in the middle. I’d need a consult with a more informed historian of Tribeca lofts, but I strongly suspect that the fireplace was not original to the loft as built for factory or warehouse purposes 130 or so years ago. I have a higher degree of confidence that there elevator was not part of the original building, though in this case the elevator was added to the best place on the floor plan for residential use: alongside the public stairway on one long wall, and far enough from the front windows to retain the best possible light and width in the public part of the loft.

making sense of the dollars, in Tribeca loft history

The 4th floor sold for $1.9mm on November 21 in, as noted, one island short of the same condition in which the recent sellers bought it in November 2008 for that $1.695mm. That’s a pretty good return for building a kitchen island (the StreetEasy Manhattan Condo Index is up only 3% over that same period). The recent sellers had a little bit of trouble figuring out what The Market would offer for the loft (they started at $2.195mm on August 9 and needed a price drop to $1.995mm on October 10 to get the contract by November 4 at $1.9mm that closed later last month); their sellers had even more trouble, per our listings system:

Mar 18, 2008 new to market $1.895mm
April 8 $1.85mm
Aug 22 $1.695mm
Oct 8 contract
Nov 21 sold $1.695mm

Those folks in 2008 had the right idea, they were just a bit too late and too optimistic to maximize their return, coming to market just as The Peak quarter was ending and needing that price drop to make a deal after 5 months at the new asking price. (Those 2008-buyers-turned-2013-sellers were brave in signing that contract 3 weeks after Lehman fell and roiled the financial markets.)

The 2008 seller was not here very long. StreetEasy has the purchase on March 30, 2007 at $1.5mm but no details about the condition or the marketing campaign. Our listings system has hints that the loft was then in essentially the same condition then as when it sold a year and a half later, which is, of course, essentially the same condition as it just sold in. In selling for $195,000 more than they paid, these short owners also outperformed the market (at least, based on the ‘feel’ you get for the overall market from the StreetEasy Index, which was up [only] 7% in this period).

We can do this one more time. StreetEasy has the earliest sale of this loft that is also in out listings system, in June 2002 at $700,000. Our system adds the price history and some indication that the loft was not quite in the condition in which it sold in 2007: there was only a bath and a half (not two full), though it did have the brick, wood flooring and high ceilings that make this a classic Tribeca loft. No way to tell what the 2002 buyer’s renovation budget but the paired sales June 2002 to March 2007 show the loft more than doubled in value over that time, while the StreetEasy Index was up (only) 51% in that period. Not likely that the unknown post-2002 renovation budget significantly changed the impression that this loft outperformed the market in those now-ancient days.

To recap:

  • June 4, 2002 $700,000
  • March 30, 2007 $1.5mm
  • November 21, 2008 $1.695mm
  • November 21, 2013 $1.9mm

Probably not an unusual sequence for a classic Tribeca loft. I don’t see the number anywhere on the ‘net, but that 2002 seller was an original buyer in the 1989 condominium conversion, as you can see if you can access this record on Property Shark. That couple stayed 13 years; in the 11 years after they left the loft turned over 3 more times. I wonder if the loft was in “original” condition in 1989.

making sense of the feet, or not

StreetEasy thinks the 4th floor loft is “1,500 sq ft”, which would yield a value of $1,267/ft in the recent sale. My headline, however, says $1,438/ft because Property Shark says “1,321 sq ft”. I hate when this happens. (To see only one rant, see my November 2, 2010, the square footage dilemma: REBNY “leads” by protecting brokers, not buyers, as the mother of all such Manhattan Loft Guy posts.) I assumed that both StreetEasy and Property Shark used condo measurements based on ACRIS, but in this case the synchronicity breaks down. I take Property Shark in this case because I can verify where it came from, even though it runs the risk of using different size standards for different lofts: from The Shark you can click through to the Condo Declaration on ACRIS (or, go there directly), page 24/94 of which is part of Exhibit A, which shows the lofts on the 3rd and 4th floors were “1,321 sq ft”. Of course it makes a big difference for comping purposes whether this loft just sold at $1,438/ft or $1,267/ft.

I can’t do anything about that problem, except on a strict one-on-one basis, which the Master List of downtown Manhattan loft sales between $500,000 and $5,000,000 is only a beginning for. Be warned.

Not to belabor this point (also), but StreetEasy used “1,377 sq ft” as the size of the 5th floor loft when it sold for $1.3mm in July 2010. That is the same size as from Exhibit A of the Condo Dec. That floor plan is, of course, virtually the same as the one for the 4th floor; if it really has 56 feet that the two lower floors lack it must be from the configuration of the public stairwell at this height. Regardless, the similarity of that 5th floor plan to the 4th floor plan suggests that the developer delivered these lofts in 1989 with the same basic configuration: two bedrooms splitting the back wall, a half-bath with washer-dryer next to the master bath, the distinctive angled walls of the bath area and the fireplace. Somebody dropped the ceiling across the middle of the loft (presumably, the sponsor) (see listing pic #5 for where the ceiling is dropped and not, and pic #1 for the unfortunate impact on the front windows).

Fans of broker babble will prefer the 5th floor use of “authentic loft” and “original oak plank floor”, and the admonition to “[b]ring your architect/contractor”.  The record for this condominium unit on Property Shark reveals (if you click around enough) that the 5th floor was sold in 2010 by the first individual owners, who purchased the loft in 1994 from the bank that bought it from the sponsor (in a work-out??) in 1991. We have that 1994 sales price in our listings system: $203,000. That’s probably a bit more than the 4th floor sold for in 1989, but is an interesting data point for classic Tribeca lofts.

That is all.

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